Potato Head strikes a balance in sustainability in Bali

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Skift grip

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

Dawit Habtemariam

For Potato Head, you don’t have to combine customer experience and sustainability. The hotel brand’s choices for its designs, amenities, partners, practices and philosophy all reflect its focus on providing a unique experience while integrating culture, community and environmental preservation.

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 the culture of Bali. “Bali believes in duality. Everything has to be a balance,” Potato Head founder Ronald Akili told the Skift Global Forum on Wednesday during a discussion with Skift On Experience columnist Colin Nagy. “Black always accompanies white, joy always accompanies sorrow.”

This is why the brand offers the possibility of practicing a variety of activities, from music production to meditation, including accommodation and restaurants. “In Bali, music, design, well-being come together,” Akili said. “They came together to learn and share.”

Duality also mixes the old with the new. It brings together the wisdom of traditions and guests mingle with young creative talents of the new era. Even at the brick level, the brand will go a long way. Each of the 1.8 million bricks in one of its original hotels was handcrafted in collaboration with a designer and local artisans. Additionally, Potato Head actively works with local farmers, villagers, students, restaurants and other community stakeholders on other sustainability-focused projects.

The brand has gone to great lengths to aim for zero waste. In fact, the chairs in his hotels are made from plastics pulled from the ocean. He brought one to the Skift forum to present it from the stage.

At the forum, Akili recalled a horrific first-hand experience with the litter pollution problem in Bali. While swimming, Akili and her son encountered litter up to 500 meters from the beach. At the beach, “the trash was knee-high,” he said. The problem was so serious that Bali declared it a national emergency to be dealt with. Tractors had to be used to move the rubbish as it was too much for the locals to handle.

“It was a wake up call and I couldn’t sit still,” Akili said. “I pledged to be a solution rather than a problem as we wanted to go zero waste.” Potato Head does not rely on local waste management, which will put carbon-emitting landfills. The company is committed to reducing the waste it puts into landfills each year. Today, “only five percent” of its plastic ends up in landfill, Akili said.

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