Potato Head offers a deeper approach rooted in Bali traditions of "duality" when it comes to its sustainability efforts. Take notice, travel industry.
For Potato Head, you don’t have to comprise guest experience and sustainability. The hospitality brand’s choices for its designs, amenities, partners, practices and philosophy all showcase its focus on providing a unique experience while bringing in culture, community and environmental preservation.
Originally a restaurant, the Indonesia-based company expanded 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 originates from Bali culture. “Bali believes in duality. Everything has to be a balance,” said Potato Head founder Ronald Akili said at Skift Global Forum on Wednesday in a discussion with Skift On Experience columnist Colin Nagy. “Black always accompanies with white, joy always accompanies sorrow.”
It’s why the brand provides opportunities to do a variety of activities, from producing music to meditation to lodging to restaurants. “In Bali, music, design, wellness come to gather,” Akili said. “They got together to learn and share.”
Duality also blends the old with the new. It brings together the wisdom of traditions and customers blend with creative young talent of the new age. Even at the brick level, the brand will go to great lengths. Each of the 1.8 million bricks of one of its older hotels was by made hand in collaboration with a designer and local artisans. In addition, Potato Head actively works with local farmers, villagers, students, restaurants and other community stakeholders on other projects centered around sustainability.
The brand has went to great lengths to pursue zero waste. In fact, the chairs of its hotels are made from plastics pulled from the ocean. He brought one to the Skift forum to showcase from the stage.
At the forum, Akili recalled a horrific direct experience with Bali’s trash pollution problem. While swimming, Akili and his son encountered trash as far as 500m out from the beach. At the beach, “trash was knee high,” he said. The problem was so bad Bali declared it a national emergency to deal with it. Tractors had to be used to move the trash because it was too much for locals to handle.
“It was a wake up call and I couldn’t sit still,” Akili said. “I made commitment to be a solution rather problem since then we wanted to go to zero waste.” Potato Head doesn’t rely on local waste management, which will put in carbon-emitting landfill. The company committed to reducing the waste it puts into landfills every year. Now, “only five percent” of its plastic end up in landfill, said Akili.
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Photo credit: Ronald Akili, founder of Potato Head speaking at Skift Global Forum on September 21, 2022 in New York City, with a chair from his Bali resort made from plastics pulled out of the ocean. Neil van Niekerk / Skift