For some six decades now, MINI has been an intrinsic part of city life, as much a city dweller as the humans that live within them. The reasons, of course, are multiple.
Owing to their premium compact nature, MINIs are easy to drive in tight urban confines and best of all, are easy to park. Of course, a healthy dose of irreverent charm and effortless chic in said car is no doubt a very welcome thing to any urbane urbanite.
But let’s not forget one of the key reasons why a MINI exists is because of the Suez crisis of the 1950s. A sudden dip in the supply of oil and the subsequent need for fuel rationing meant big gas-guzzlers were out and small fuel-sippers were now in.
With that, it could be said that sustainability has been a part of the MINI ethos since day one, something that will be brought even more to the fore with the upcoming MINI E electric vehicle.
However, MINI wants you to know that living a sustainable life is more than just about the car you drive, it should extend to just about everything you touch, which is where the second edition of MINI Extraoddinary comes in.
The cultural trail builds on the success of last year’s event, though unlike the inaugural edition’s theme of community, the spotlight this year will be firmly on sustainable urban living.
And where better to do it than in the very quaint, heritage district of Singapore’s Chinatown, with the location also serving to underscore the need for cultural sustainability and preservation.
But with 16 fascinating stations dotted throughout Chinatown’s centre, from People’s Park Complex to Smith Street from 22 to 24 November, there’s a lot to take in at MINI Extraoddinary.
Never fear, though, because here’s Esquire Singapore’s guide to the most, well, Extraoddinary things you can see and learn there.
Mushrooms aren’t just for eating…
No, seriously. The delicious fungus can grace so much more than your dining table.
Believe it or not, Mycotech is using mushrooms to make the building blocks of the future, and you can see an example of it right here at the Guardians of the Future station.
If you can’t seem to find what we’re talking about, don’t worry, and that’s entirely the point. Made from mycelium, the root structures of mushrooms, Mycotech has made a pair of traditional ‘stone’ gateway lions flanking an arch out of mushrooms.
Eschewing traditional stone building materials, whose quarries cut great scars in the face of the earth, a mycelium-based stone replacement might be making its way to a home near you very, very soon.
…They also can clothe you…
This shouldn’t exactly be news, since you’re probably already wearing some plant-based fabrics right now. Yes, that’s right. In case you forgot, cotton is a plant fibre, but what is new at MINI Extraoddinary is how those mushrooms we talked about earlier can be made into a leather replacement material.
To show just how versatile mycelium can be, Mycotech will also be showing off some myleather at Mushroom Style Pte Ltd. This is a leather-like material made from the aforementioned mycelium. Looks like leather, feels like leather but far, far more sustainable than the animal- or petroleum-based hides we’re using today.
Speaking of leather alternatives, how about some made of pineapple leaves? The aptly-named Pineapple Trading Store will be showing off some footwear and accessories that are made out of Pinatex, which is derived from the fibres of pineapple leaves.
Making Pinatex doubly sustainable is how those leaves are normally discarded during the pineapple harvesting process. Waste not, want not, as they say.
Since we’re on the topic of waste, it’s probably no secret that the textile industry is one of the most polluting around, consuming huge amounts of water and releasing said water, now heavily contaminated with pollutants, back into rivers.
But there’s a better way of doing things, as Arane will show. At the Changing Room, it will be displaying fabric dyed and printed using only natural ingredients. Utilising plants and leaves, you’ll be able to try your hand at dyeing fabric the natural way for yourself at Arane’s other station, Verte Couture.
… But you can still eat them too
Naturally. And we mean that in the literal and figurative senses of the word. ComCrop, through an oversized art installation at Veggie Might in the shape of the Chinese character for “life”, will be showing you how urban farming can be a viable way to fully utilise rooftops, an area that’s often overlooked.
As for the aforementioned mushrooms? You can make building and clothing material out of them, but what of their ‘original’ purpose of being a menu item? Well, Bewilder will show you through its Kopi Gu station that they can be farmed even more sustainably, by using discarded coffee grounds as a substrate to grow them in.
And you know what your parents told you about eating your greens? In the future, they might need to change that to eating your blue-greens. The Scum & Scrumptious and Fortune in a Cookie stations use spirulina, more commonly known as blue-green algae (actually, they’re a biomass of single-celled cyanobacteria) to make cookies.
For the carnivorous ones, MINI Extraoddinary has something for you as well. At the Meatless Packing District, you’ll be able to taste the future with Brawn & Brains’ meatless bak kwa, a far more eco-friendly and just-as-tasty alternative to the treat we’ve come to love.
Wash that all down with some Craft & Culture kombucha at the Cha Cha Cha station, which melds the health benefits of Chinese tea with the oh-so-hip goodness of kombucha.
Wrapping things up (pun very much intended) on the food front is Evoware, which has a novel solution for the mountains (unfortunately, this isn’t a pun) of plastic waste we generate. With a station billed as Soup for the Eco-Soul, it takes biodegradability to a whole new level.
Evoware’s plastic wrapping can be dissolved in water, or because it’s seaweed based, it can even be eaten along with the food it’s protecting.
Up, upcycling and away
As we live our lives, waste is inevitable. And no matter how we try to reduce how much waste we produce, we still will generate it, and it’s only going to get more as global population increases. To the tune of 3.4 billion tonnes of waste per year come 2050, apparently.
The solution, of course, is to recycle, but if that isn’t enough, there’s always upcycling, which is a fancy term for turning what’s normally seen as trash into something entirely new… and useful. And we don’t just mean reusing your plastic bags and using a reusable bag to go shopping with.
Truly, upcyling begins at home, but if you needed more proof of that, Robries Gallery will provide it. At What Goes Around, it will be exhibiting a homeware collection created from discarded plastic that’s at once stylish and eco-conscious.
Robries Gallery will also be displaying some other upcycled items, and you can bet they’ll be trashy, though they won’t exactly be what you’re thinking of. At All I Got Was This Trashy Souvenir, a whole host of upcycled trinkets will be shown, though sadly, they aren’t for sale. Not yet, anyway.
But if you really want to declare checkmate in the war on waste, you’ll definitely want to check out Wits Vs Waste. There, you’ll be able to see a chess set with accompanying tables and stools all made out of reused plastic. Where some people see trash, some see an opportunity to go green.
And as you can see from everything here at MINI Extraoddinary, sustainability requires a good deal of creativity, and the future certainly isn’t written yet, if we have anything to say about it.
If it is, however, it will be with Sum Waste ink, which is processed from sewage. At the Rewriting Our Fate station, calligraphy masters from the Nanyang Calligraphy Centre will be conducting demonstrations using ink that’s dark, but thankfully, if this keeps up, the Earth won’t be.
Don’t take our word for it, or the words at miniextraoddinary.com. What you’ll want to do is head down to Chinatown from 22 to 24 November to see for yourself how bright (and green) the future can truly be.