Leaders Of The Nu Skool


The environment is “hot” these days—both literally and figuratively and the environment is definitely an issue for Nu Skool thinkers. Climate change has been a hot topic amongst environmentalists for quite some time, while zero waste lifestyle is the postings du jour on social media…

Compared to other regions across the archipelago, Bali has indeed become a sort of mecca for the eco-movement due to it being a melting pot of nationalities. Leading the charge in the sustainable hospitality business is the Potato Head Family.

Under the Potato Head Sustainability Initiatives (also happening in their Singapore and Hong Kong branches), they were able to implement sustainable and zero waste measures across their properties, which includes Katamama and their new restaurant Ijen.

They’ve been successful in minimizing waste by 98% through proper waste separation, banning single-use plastic, and composting; plus they’ve set up a lab called Sustainism in the so-called Desa Potato Head where they recycle their non-organic waste into valuable materials, such as plastic bricks. You can bet more measures will be out in full force with the upcoming launch of the Potato Head Hotel.

For more on their sustainable effort, read more of our interview with PH Creative Director, Dan Mitchell.


YOU GUYS HAVE BEEN LEADING THE WAY WITH YOUR NEW INITIATIVES TO MAKE THE ENTIRE POTATO HEAD FAMILY AND ALL ITS VARIOUS ESTABLISHMENTS AS SUSTAINABLE AS POSSIBLE. WHAT ARE THE KEY ASPECTS OF THIS, STARTING WITH THE CONSTRUCTION AND USE OF RECYCLABLE MATERIALS? 

We are building towards a circular economy and over the past few years, we have worked hard to set up the infrastructure, both internally and externally, with suppliers to make this work.

The key aspects include reducing waste as much as possible and carefully managing the waste that we do have. We want to completely ban single-use plastics in all our outlets and we are currently at about 98%. We have also set up a lab in Desa Potato Head, our experiential art village, called Sustainism. This is where we send inorganic waste, which is then recycled into products or valuable materials.

WHEN KATAMAMA WAS LAUNCHED YOU WERE VERY PROUD OF THE FACT THAT THE BRICKS WERE ALL HANDMADE BY LOCAL CRAFTSMEN, BUT NOW YOUR FOCUS IS ON BRICKS MADE FROM RECYCLED PLASTIC AND CEMENT, TELL US MORE ABOUT THESE BRICKS... ARE THERE ANY NEGATIVES USING THESE VERSUS TRADITIONAL MATERIALS? ARE YOU PLANNING ON ENCOURAGING THEM TO BE USED IN PROJECTS OUTSIDE OF YOUR OWN? SURELY THE HUGE REBUILDING PROGRAMME REQUIRED IN LOMBOK, FOR EXAMPLE, WOULD BE A FANTASTIC OPPORTUNITY TO PROMOTE THIS...

With Katamama, our mission was to work with local craftsmen of Bali to try and save this dying art of craftsmanship, but in our own way. We want to showcase the value of all the beautiful things that are made here in Bali from natural local materials by such skilled hands. We want the younger generation to understand the value and continue the traditions. We ordered almost 1.8 million bricks and restored the failing economy of an entire village in North Bali, which, they have told us, has since generated a bigger interest in the bricks.

For our next projects, we are addressing the local and global issue of plastic pollution. Our oceans, landfills and streets are full of plastic and it has nowhere to go. As designers and creatives, our solution is to take waste and make it into beautiful and functional products.

We need 100,000 bricks for a new project in our Desa, so we have been experimenting with plastic waste mixed with natural local sand. It is as strong as concrete and a great solution.



HOW COST EFFECTIVE IS ALL OF THIS BUSINESS SUCH AS YOURS AND FOR SMALLER INDEPENDENT OPERATORS WHO MAY BE INSPIRED TO FOLLOW YOUR LEAD, AS UNFORTUNATELY ECONOMICS ARE OFTEN THE LEADING MOTIVATING FACTOR FOR MANY OVER THE ENVIRONMENT?

There have been some setup costs. Solar panels have been our most significant investment with a 5-10 years payback, but making lots of small changes can make a massive difference to energy consumption. Waste separation does not cost much and is something we should all be doing.

WE UNDERSTAND YOUR LATEST DINING EXPERIENCE, IJEN, OPERATES A ZERO WASTE POLICY, WHICH IS FANTASTIC, BUT BEFORE WE TALK ABOUT THAT, WHAT ARE YOU DOING ON THE OTHER END OF THE FOOD CHAIN WITH REGARDS TO WHERE AND HOW YOU ARE SOURCING YOUR INGREDIENTS? 

We only work with local fishermen who practice the traditional line method, which is one of the most sustainable ways of catching fish. Our team worked hard to find them, and not only is it great for the environment, but it is the best-tasting fish we have ever found in Indonesia.

Once the fish is cooked over wood fire, a primal cooking technique, the waste is either composted or made into items using fish bones, or even into eco-friendly fish leather from the skin. The possibilities are endless, which is what makes models like zero-waste and a circular economy very exciting and not just work!

MOVING ON TO THE ZERO WASTE ASPECT OF THE RESTAURANT, WHICH IS VERY IMPRESSIVE, AS WE UNDERSTAND THAT FOOD WASTE IS ONE OF THE MOST SIGNIFICANT ISSUES ACROSS THE GLOBE RIGHT NOW, TELL US MORE ABOUT THAT...

Food waste and food manufacturing are huge environmental issues. We have designed our menu around strictly local items for a while now, which minimises waste. We separate all waste and have set up composting facilities in Pereranan. We are even creating products for our new hotel and life store from our waste.

YOU ARE IN THE PROCESS OF BUILDING YOUR BIGGEST PROJECT TO DATE, THE NEW HOTEL IN BALI ADJACENT TO THE BEACH CLUB. ARE THE SAME VALUES BEING EXTENDED TO THAT PROJECT? ARE THE PLASTIC BRICKS TO BE USED IN THAT BUILD FOR EXAMPLE?

Yes, absolutely. Ijen was both a pilot and demonstration of what we have always wanted to achieve in the area of sustainability, and the PH Hotel project is committed to these same concepts and principles. PH Hotel embraces a zero-waste philosophy, energy and water efficiency as critical importance and the education of our guests of these principles as a core hotel concept.

ARE YOU WORKING ON YOUR CARBON FOOTPRINT? ONE THING THAT WE IMAGINE WILL PLAY A HUGE PART IN THE NEW HOTEL IS THE LAUNDRY THAT WOULD BE ASSOCIATED FOR EXAMPLE? TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR PLANS FOR THAT ASPECT OF THIS INITIATIVE...

We have committed to lowering our carbon footprint every year using projects like LED lighting replacement for all current and new properties, the latest technology heating and cooling systems and rigorous maintenance for all plant and equipment. We are also committed to using the latest in sustainable building standards and designs, that is integral to achieving a low carbon footprint.

We have only limited laundry processed on-site and this will be the case with our properties for the near future. We know there is an price of being a business, which is why we’ve pledged to the United Nations’ Climate Neutral Now initiative and established energy targets. In collaboration with the organisation, we measure, reduce, and compensate for greenhouse gas emissions in an effort to help the world meet the goals of the Paris Agreement on Climate Change. We hope this will inspire others to take action to support local and global solutions to climate change.

HAVE YOU BEEN ABLE TO GET ANY SUPPORT FROM THE GOVERNMENT OR INTERNATIONAL BODIES FOR ANY ASPECTS OF WHAT YOU ARE DOING?

Up until now it has all been self-funded, but the government is currently looking into these issues and I am sure they will start supporting organisations who are serious about making creating change.


ARE YOU WORKING ON ANY EDUCATIONAL PROJECTS TO GET THIS KIND OF THINKING INTO THE EYES AND MINDS OF THE LOCAL COMMUNITY? OTHERWISE IS THERE NOT A DANGER THAT DESPITE YOUR INCREDIBLE AND WONDERFUL EFFORTS YOU ARE SWIMMING AGAINST THE TIDE IF YOUR NEIGHBOURS ARE NOT FOLLOWING YOUR LEAD AND IN TURN FACE ACCUSATIONS OF THIS BEING A VANITY PROJECT RATHER THAN A CATALYST FOR WIDER CHANGE?

In 2018, we focused our efforts on educating our staff and their families on the issues of sustainability and prompting them to set the same standards in their homes as we do in our venues. We also partner with the Green School and we have sponsored full educations at the Green School for local Balinese children as part of our Change Maker Programme. We also host our monthly event, Sustainable Sundays, which is a free event for all children from or in Bali.

Another focus is supporting One Island, One Voice and all of the organisations they support including organisations dedicated to community education and awareness. We were instrumental in the creation of the One Island, One Voice Komitmen, asking businesses to commit to sustainability standards. In the coming year, we have significant plans to work with local organisations for the education and awareness of the public on the issues of sustainability.

Round of applause for Potato Head Team and their Sustainability Initiatives! We wish you all the luck, and may this initiatives inspire others to be more eco conscious.