Zeroing In on Potato Head’s Zero Waste Kit

by Julius Kensan
20th December 2021
Potato Head Studio's effort in aiding hotel guests to travel light and stamp out waste manifested itself through their Zero Waste Kit, further solidifying the establishment's ethos of "Good Times, Do Good".

Those who have had the privilege of spending their holiday at Potato Head Studio in Bali would most likely be won over by the charming compound—studio rooms in a warm wooden palette that radiates in intense glow during sunset, to the outdoor foyer that resembles an open plaza, extinguishing the distinction between hotel guests and walk-in visitors. But to solely focus on the aforementioned attributes would be to overlook the notable element of Potato Head Studio, for experience at the luxury resort is essentially buoyed by the well-thought-out, yet deceptively simple Zero Waste Kit.

Before being shown to their rooms, guests are ushered to the Circle Store where they get to pick a stainless steel tumbler and a reusable tote bag for the purpose of eliminating single-use plastic during their stay in the resort. It may seem unorthodox to be commencing the stay with a conversation on waste, but the hospitality group Potato Head Family isn’t one to shy away from such a pressing topic. (In fact, the entire Desa Potato Head compound, in which the Potato Head Studios is located, practices a zero-waste program with sustainability firmly rooted in their DNA.)

Of course, the effort to eliminate single-use plastic is not limited to just the tumbler and tote bag. But what was left unsaid regarding the establishment’s zero waste practice at the Circle Store is conveyed more intimately within the room. Guests will soon find bamboo cutlery and straw, along with face masks and ointment pots for after-sun care and sunscreen (which is refillable at the Circle Store), rounding out the Zero Waste Kit among other amenities.

“All of the kits are made in-house with our sustainability production team. The items are locally sourced and made from organic and upcycled material,” said Lauren Blasco, the Director of Sustainability at Potato Head. It’s a thoughtful gesture with a significant impact. The presence of the Zero Waste Kit means a single guest can cut down at least five single-use plastic wastes during their brief stay at the resort. Waste, which would’ve gone on and left its imprint on the environment for decades to come. 

As a jumping point for the creation process, Lauren and her team also observed guests’ behaviours before deciding on the types of products to include. “Since we are a single-use, plastic-free Desa, we wanted to invite our guests on the same journey. That said, we observed what single-use items guests were bringing or purchasing during their time in Bali and provided them with those items, with a Potato Head-spin,” she explained.

And the unique Potato Head-spin is not limited to how it looks, but also how it integrates into the rooms that are designed by the famed architecture firm, OMA. To wit, the smooth, round ointment pots contrast nicely with the textured wall that is cast in ironwood. The bamboo straw and cutlery also draw a parallel to the furnishings by designer Max Lamb, such as the bamboo chair and lamps with ijuk (dark fibrous bark from feather palm) shade. “Being zero waste is important to us as a company, so we wanted the kit to be positioned so that it’s visible and easy to locate or used by our guests, but also at the same time making it flow within the space,” said Lauren.

 Still, the journey of creating the Zero Waste Kit is not without its challenges. Lauren recalled being faced with styrofoam waste after the delivery of the televisions for the rooms. “The funny moments are always the stories that stick out… We knew we needed to research a solution for the styrofoam, so we liquified the styrofoam and mixed it with shredded oyster shells, ground limestone, along with some HDPE plastic pieces for the design to create a terrazzo-like material,” she recalled.

The unexpected hurdle gave birth to the tray carrying the Zero-Waste Kit, in which the pink hue adds an offbeat, tongue-in-cheek vibe to the brutalist charm of the room—the bins and tissue boxes in the room are also created similarly. The innovative solution also allows them “to eliminate styrofoam from a majority of Bali’s waste collectors for almost a year.”

The success of the Zero Waste Kit has also brought a different kind of issue for the Potato Head team: guests frequently taking the kit home even though it was only meant to be used during their stay (with the exception of tumbler and tote bag). When asked, Lauren embraced it positively. “Part of having the zero waste kit is to start the conversation and to get people to think about their everyday choices in terms of single-use items and zero waste. The good news is people are taking our stuff. If they weren’t, we would know we have an issue!”

The Zero Waste Kit also signifies how this top-down approach can be effective in guiding consumers to make the right choices. And in the case of Potato Head, sustainable decisions are made for you. When for the most part, the responsibility of being eco-conscious is pinned on the consumers themselves, how often does one have the luxury of that? It’s little wonder then that Potato Head’s ethos of “Good Times, Do Good” is so contagious, even if it means prolonging the memories by bringing the Zero Waste Kit home.