Walking through the streets of Bali’s southern cities, it’s hard not to be swept up in a flurry of mixed emotions.
On one hand, you’ve got the stunning surf-battered beaches that could be straight off a postcard or desktop screensaver; and on the other, you’ve got a wash of waste atop its shores.
Lashings of plastic plague Bali, the rest of Indonesia, and the world beyond.
We’ve now become all too familiar with the horrifying statistics of plastic particles outnumbering fish in the oceans over the next 2-3 decades; the studies showing the alarming number of sea creatures that have tragically died from ingesting plastic waste that they mistook for food. And that’s before we get started on the microplastics that are inadvertently leaking into our waterways from our shower gel, toothpaste, and washing machines.
At this stage, the prognosis isn’t just unsettling; it’s downright terrifying.
But it’s not all doom and gloom:
Any of you who follow along with our work at Maria Malo will know that we’re hell-bent on finding practical, actionable ways of improving things when it comes to our environmental impact.
We use only sustainable materials (like organic bamboo and tencel lyocell made from eucalyptus) to create our clothing. We work with local producers to make sure our production practices uplift the community--without taking advantage of them.
And that’s just the beginning.
Some of the things that we feel often gets overlooked when it comes to conscious clothing have nothing to do with the clothes themselves--but externalities like how they’re transported, what they’re packaged in, and how the carbon (or other types of waste) that are created during the production process are offset.
We care a hella lot about all of the above, and in this post we want to dive deep and tell you exactly what we do to show up for the environment on all these fronts.
Eliminating plastic packaging with cassava bags
Let’s hop back to our chat about Bali’s plastic problem:
It’s no secret that our tropical home-away-from-home is fighting a big battle when it comes to waste management. Though there are a whole pile of fantastic community-led movements seeking to tackle the plastic problem in Bali, when you see how quickly the piles of waste reappear after a clean-up, it can often feel like it’s a losing battle.
As such, it comes as little surprise to us that some of the most interesting possible solutions to the plastic problem are being pitched right from Bali as well.
At the forefront of the war against plastic in Indonesia is Kevin Kumala, Chief Green Officer of the eco-tech company Avani.
Kevin spearheaded the development of a plastic-free material which serves all the same purposes as its petrochemical counterpart, but is 100% biodegradable.
Cassava bags are made from bioplastics, so instead of being composed of oil or gas, they’re made using vegetable oils and cassava--a fast-growing starchy root vegetable.
By using cassava bags (as we do at Maria Malo) you not only offset the use of nasty petrochemicals in the production phase, but you also prevent the possibility of another plastic bag being added to a landfill, the ocean, or a pile on the side of the street.
Cassava bags break down with the help of a little bit of water; they can be composted; and just to convince us how safe and toxic-free they are, Kumala himself even ingested one.
Minimising our carbon footprint by streamlining transport
With our production base in Bali and retail base in Tarifa, it goes without saying that our products do a fair bit of travelling before they reach their forever homes.
As anyone who strives towards sustainable travel will know, airplanes are one of the worst culprits when it comes to carbon emissions--but we’re constantly on the lookout for ways to cut back and improve.
Take our recent dilemma this month:
Our collection launch was a little bit behind schedule due to reasons beyond our control (check out our Instagram post to hear the full story). In turn, we had to decide whether to ship a portion of the collection on time and make a second shipment with the remainder when it was ready, or hold off and make one shipment at a slightly later date.
With carbon emissions on the brain, we decided that choosing to do just one shipment was the right choice; the one that reflects our values and commitment to protecting Mama Earth. It required a leap of faith--not just in our own judgement but also in the understanding of our customers. But being the awesome tribe that they are, everyone has been as supportive as we could possibly hope for (big love to you guys for that!).
Sometimes, it’s these tough decisions that really define us. And in this case, we’re proud that we were capable of choosing the difficult route in order to stay in alignment.
Making the world a little more green with our seed tags
With each purchase, we now slip in an extra little gift for our customers: seed tags.
Just about the size of your average postcard, these special lil’ babes just need to be popped straight into some fertile soil, sprinkled with water, and left where the sun’s rays can reach them--and soon enough you’ll have yourself a tomato plant, a bunch of carrots, or a fresh patch of marguerites.
It’s just a simple way of us reminding you that we care--about you, the environment, the earth, and how we all interact with it while we’re here.
We hope it adds an extra sprinkle of light and love to your day.
With muchos peace and gratitude,
Maria & crew