Potato Head Finds a Balance in Sustainability in Bali

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Potato Head offers a deeper approach rooted in Balinese traditions of “duality” when it comes to its sustainability efforts. Attention, travel industry.

Dawit Habtemariam

For Potato Head, you don’t have to combine guest experience and sustainability. The hospitality brand’s choices for its designs, amenities, partners, practices and philosophy all demonstrate its focus on delivering a unique experience while embracing culture, community and the environment.

Originally a restaurant, the Indonesia-based company has grown into a lifestyle brand with locations in Singapore, Hong Kong and other destinations.

A key tenet of Potato Head’s lifestyle brand is ‘duality’, which stems from Balinese culture. “Bali believes in duality. Everything has to be a balance,” Potato Head founder Ronald Akili said Wednesday at the Skift Global Forum in a discussion with Skift On Experience columnist Colin Nagy. “Black always accompanies white, joy always accompanies sorrow.”

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Because of this, the brand offers opportunities for a variety of activities, from music production to meditation, accommodation and dining. “Bali is where music, design and wellness come together,” said Akili. “They came together to learn and share.”

Duality also mixes the old with the new. It combines the wisdom of traditions and customers mixed with creative young talents of the new times. The brand will also make great efforts at the brick level. Each of the 1.8 million bricks in one of its original hotels was handcrafted in collaboration with a designer and local artisans. In addition, Potato Head actively collaborates with local farmers, villagers, students, restaurants and other community stakeholders on other projects focused on sustainability.

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The brand has made great efforts to pursue Zero Waste. In fact, the chairs in his hotels are made from plastics pulled from the sea. He brought one to the Skift forum to present from the stage.

At the forum, Akili recalled a horrific direct experience of Bali’s garbage pollution problem. While swimming, Akili and his son encountered rubbish up to 500m from the beach. On the beach “trash was knee high,” he said. The problem was so bad that Bali declared it a national emergency. Tractors had to be used to move the rubbish because it was too much for the locals.

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“It was a wake up call and I couldn’t sit still,” Akili said. “I made a commitment to be a solution rather than a problem because we’ve wanted to go zero waste ever since.” Potato Head doesn’t rely on local waste management that creates CO2-emitting landfills. The company is committed to reducing the waste it sends to landfill each year. Now, “only five percent” of plastic ends up in landfills, Akili said.

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