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November 7, 2019

Kiana Mays“I’m passionate about the intersection of food and sustainability, as well as the beauty and fashion industries,” said Arizona State University student Kiana Mays. “The way we care for our bodies, on the inside and out, is truly a reflection of how we view and treat the outer world.”

Mays has manifested her interests in social responsibility, restaurants, food waste and wellness in a number of ways during her tenure at ASU, including a stint as a report writing assistant for the Project Cities program in the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability. As a former restaurant employee, she became aware of numerous social, environmental and economic issues that the industry faces on a daily basis.

As an outgrowth of that knowledge and experience, her Master of Sustainability Solutions Culminating Experience Project with The Bodhi, a fast-casual restaurant north of ASU’s Tempe campus, seemed like a logical next step. With her project proposal in Spring of 2019, she set out to create measurable sustainability improvements in restaurant operations and provide a template for sustainability strategies at future restaurant locations. Read more about her Culminating Experience journey in the Q&A and find additional details about the project on Sustainability Connect when her project is completed in December 2019.

Question: Can you tell us a little bit about your background and your passions in sustainability?

Answer: I am a 4+1 student in the Master of Sustainability Solutions program. I pursued MSUS because it felt like a great opportunity to dive deeper into topics and sustainability challenges that resonated with me the most.

I’m passionate about the intersection of food and sustainability, as well as the beauty and fashion industries. The way we care for our bodies, on the inside and out, is truly a reflection of how we view and treat the outer world. One of my favorite quotes is “beauty is the language of care” by Alice Waters, who is one of my greatest inspirations. When we put our hearts into what we do, whether that’s our careers, hobbies, or even something as simple as what’s for dinner or a skincare routine, we are living consciously and creating purpose, and that is why sustainability is important to me.

assortment of healthy, colorful food and juiceQ: Tell us about your project and the trends that you are seeing.

A: My love for the restaurant experience and understanding of the impact of restaurants has led me to pursue this industry in my applied project. Restaurants have a major responsibility to operate sustainably. Fast-food and fast-casual establishments in the U.S. contribute significantly to plastic pollution, diet-related health problems, food waste and unsustainable agricultural practices. Apart from these challenges, restaurants can serve as spaces to ignite positive change in the world, shaping consumers into stewards of their bodies and their communities.

These ideas are what inspired me to work one-on-one to advance sustainability initiatives with a client restaurant. For my project, I have teamed up with The Bodhi, a fast-casual restaurant in Tempe, to provide consultancy and develop a sustainable business plan. The Bodhi is a fast-casual restaurant that focuses on delivering healthy, delicious meals and nutrition education to its customers. The goal of this project is to create measurable improvements in the restaurant’s operations, educate customers about sustainability, and establish practices that can easily be replicated as the company expands.

What we’ve noticed throughout this project is that there is a connection between The Bodhi’s clientele caring about personal wellness and having a natural gravitation towards environmental stewardship. Similarly, it’s become increasingly apparent that sustainability goals can be more effectively met when employees and customers are directly involved, giving them a stake in the process. We strongly believe stakeholders can become just as passionate about the pursuit of sustainable business practices as they become more involved in the process and begin to see tangible results in their actions.

Q: What advice would you give to someone who is looking to get involved with a sustainability project?

A: My advice to someone who is looking to get involved in a sustainability project, but might not have a clear direction or maybe a lot of varying interests, is to just start saying “yes!” to all the opportunities they can. If you know people working on a project that aligns with your interests, see how you can get involved. If there’s a networking event or a talk on a subject that interests you, make a point of going to it — and don’t be shy! There is so much good work happening locally, and when we share our ideas, they become stronger visions as they get shaped by every unique perspective you encounter.