We want to start off by saying that nothing will ever be 100% sustainable. But we feel it is our duty to strive for the best we can, and give back to mother nature. We often get questions regarding our sustainability measures, and what it is we do to ensure ethical working conditions and minimal impact on the environment and animal species. We’ve run through the many areas we practise sustainability in and outlined them below. If you have any questions feel free to message Eva at info@sooka.com

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working conditions

When it comes to the working conditions, we work exclusively with Indonesian crafts -men and -women on both Bali and Java. All of our workers, despite background, sex or religion, get paid a living wage which is according to Indonesian Law with which they can afford shelter, food, education and more.

Bali is one of the Indonesian islands where our workers reside. It is one of the last remaining islands in Indonesia where the Hindu religion is predominant in relation to the otherwise prominent Muslim religion throughout the rest of Indonesia. And in the Hindu religion there are many deities and ceremonies. For both our workers in Bali and Java, their religion defines their working hours.

On a daily basis, the Hindu people worship the deities as well as their ancestors, and depending on the month there will be other ceremonies throughout the month. They worship the spirits, their ancestors and many deities but also celebrate natural occurrences such as the full moon, as well as occurrences that we too hold ceremonies for in the Western culture such as birth and death, marriage and graduations.

With all these ceremonies rooted in their tradition, our suppliers don’t work a traditional Western nine to five, five day work week. Instead, they rise with the sun at 6AM, might go to a morning market to collect food for the day, and start their work days around 8AM. Sometimes they work a full work week without many interruptions, other times they are busy with ceremonies for 2 weeks.

The Balinese family and living structure is a very close one, where they live in a compound with 4 – 6 houses on them. Each house is for a family lineage. During the day, men and women work from home in the communal area. This way, they can take care of the kids from home, cook and use their own facilities without having to spend money on a babysitter, commuting and office rentals. Instead, the elderly women and men take care of the children whilst their parents take care of finishing orders. This way of working is intrinsic to the Balinese, and from what we know this is the most comfortable working method for them, at least our suppliers.

Sooka Interior Bali Journey

raw materials

Next, we have our raw materials. Most of our raw materials are sourced from Indonesia itself. Indonesia is the worlds largest archipelago counting over 17,508 islands which span more than 5000 km. Enough islands to source raw materials from!

The materials we source and use in our products are mainly timber, bamboo, bone, bronze, brass, steel and shells. Sometimes we also work with coconut husks and Ata grass!

All of the wood used in our products is V-Legal certified. This means that the wood is sourced from certified Timber manufacturers. It is tested and treated for termites and rot to ensure only the highest quality wood is used in our products.

Our bamboo is sourced from Java, where it grows in the wild and along roadsides like a weed. Bamboo is one of the fastest growing grass kind on our planet, with some subspecies growing up to 4 cm an hour! It has a higher specific compressive strength than wood, brick or concrete, and a specific tensile strength that rivals steel. This makes it ideal to use in our bamboo design lamps! We prefer to use fast-growing cellulose materials such as bamboo over other wood types as we don’t want to contribute to rainforest deforestation.

We also work with various bone (keratin) products, including Buffalo and Cow skulls and Swordfish Tusks. Our Buffalo and Cow skulls are byproducts of the meat industry in Indonesia. Even though Hindu people generally don’t eat much beef, the rest of Indonesia does. Years ago the animal skulls were thrown away in most parts of Indonesia as they weren’t seen as having any value. It wasn’t until they discovered that people were interested in re-purposing the skulls as a decorative object that they realised they could also sell these. Instead of simply selling plain buffalo or cow skulls, Balinese craftsmen did what they can do best: engrave and carve. These craftsmen started carving their religious stories and traditional patterns into the skulls, telling stories of their deities such as Ganesha, the story of the Ramayana, Dharma and Siddharta, just to name a few.

In Sumba, Indonesia, the Buffalo skulls have been worshipped and appreciated for much longer. Here, having a large Buffalo skull above the entrance of your door meant you were protected by the spirits from negative energies and spirits. Some homes even have a dozen or more skulls hanging on the front.

What might come to a surprise to many is that our bronzes are actually made from upcycled pipelines and other parts. Our craftsmen collect these leftover materials and put them in an oven with temperatures so high that they melt to create the raw material, which we can use again for our bronze sculptures. As bronze is a very eco- and labour- intensive material to mine, we feel it makes much more sense to reuse the material that has already been created than to extract it – again.

That was it! As we are a developing company, we are open to any suggestions and recommendations you might have. Do you know a raw material supplier that produces more sustainable wood or bamboo – feel free to drop us a message. We want to hear what you have to say!

Sooka Interior Bali Journey
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One of the areas we are working on improving is the traceability of our raw resources. We source raw materials from all across Indonesia and beyond, and sometimes the spiderweb of channels and middlemen makes it challeging to trace exactly where our raw materials come from. This is something we want to create more transparency about.

This is one of our future goals that we aim to work towards. However, at our scale, and as a growing company we don’t necessarily have the buying power (yet) to demand other conditions.

This does not mean that we do not always choose more sustainable alternatives to what we can initially, and more easily access. For example, we are already actively choosing to use more sustainable alternatives to wood and animal sourced materials. Ideally, we would like to eliminate as much animal based raw materials as possible and transition into plant-based raw materials.

Explained: For centuries, tribes in New Guinea have used their local resources to make traditional attire and ornaments. A very common traditional object made and worn during ceremonies, are ceremonial necklaces. These necklaces are made of tree bark, jute, shells, feathers, bones, stones, corals and fossils. The feathers used to decorate these necklaces often come from endangered species such as Birds of Paradise or Cassowari birds.

As we are intrinsically against using any products deriven from endangered species in our designs, we go out of our way to alter traditional products and designs so that we can make them without any feathers or bone of endangered species. We are a firm believer that something that was once tradition does not always need to, or even can, stay the same in order to remain beautiful. In this changing global climate we need to take our responsibility as a company and adapt our designs.

If we encounter craftsmen that still use these products, we take our time to educate these craftsmen on the urgency and importance of preserving these species. To create a more sustainable design, we ask them to replace the Cassowari feathers with Goat hair trimmings, and the Bird of Paradise feathers with upcycled chicken feathers. We realise that some people might not like our necklaces since they do not include the traditional materials. That’s alright with us, because we truly believe that these minor alterations have little impact on the beauty of the objects, and is worth the large impact it has on preserving nature’s biodiversity.

Together we create a beautiful more ethical alternative, with local shells, goat hair trimmings and upcycled feathers. Our craftsmen are generally pleasantly surprised to see the results are just as beautiful and have less of an impact.

Join us on our journey to redefine sustainable luxury as we know it.

packaging materials

One of the most difficult area for us to find sustainable alternatives, is definitely packaging. When it comes to shipping our product, we want nothing more than for our designs to arrive intact and in perfect condition at our customers address. Because in the end, there is nothing more unsustainable than a product which arrives damaged and cannot be used anymore. This is a waste of resources and energy.

We currently wrap our designs in plastic bubble wrap and Natron Kraft paper. The latter is a 100% recyclable and biodegradable product. It is made from natural ingredients such as wood pulp. The pulp is made from long virgin fibres of maritime pine and is not bleached, to ensure minimum chemical processing and to retain the wood’s natural colour.

Kraft paper biodegrades entirely naturally. Just like the leaves from the trees, kraft paper decomposes naturally within a few weeks, returning to its initial form of cellulose fibres, which can be fully assimilated back into its original natural environment, with no adverse impact on nature or human health.

That being said, we are currently looking into alternatives to plastic bubble wrap as we feel there should be a better, more easily biodegradeable option. We are looking into recycled paper, bioplastic and Cassava plastic as options to eventually replace our current conventional plastic bubble wrap. The reason we haven’t switched to bioplastics already is because it isn’t the most sustainable alternative, at this moment in time. There are several reasons for this, let’s dive right into it!

Why bioplastics are not be as sustainable as you think

  • The most affordable, widespread bioplastics are made from corn – and naturally, “using a substance like corn for plastic instead of food is at the centre of debate over how resources should be allocated in an increasingly food-scarce world”
  • Other factors that need to be taking into consideration when deciding whether bioplastics are ‘more sustainable’ are: “Where is it grown? How much land does it take up? How much water is needed?”
  • Another problem with bioplastics and conventional plastics is disposal. Bioplastics specifically, need to be industrially composted in order to biodegrade. What?! Yes – this came as a major shocker to us too. And as you might expect, unfortunately these facilities are not already present in every country.
  • Next is the ‘human’ factor that comes into play. Consumers are human, which means that not all consumers (including our customers) are aware of the fact that the wrapping paper needs to be industrially composted in order to biodegrade, let alone are willing to make this effort to dispose of their trash in the right manner. We see this as a great opportunity for us to educate our consumers!

At this moment in time, bioplastics are only 100% sustainable in an idealistic world. So until industrial compost facilities are present in each country, the majority of consumers dispose in the right manner, and the production doesn’t overtax the land and our food production system, we need to look beyond bioplastics.

Luckily, there are already some amazing ongoing research projects trialing more naturally biodegradable bioplastics. “In the U.K., one boutique is growing fungus into lightweight furniture, and in the U.S., the Department of Agriculture is using a milk film to create packaging that keeps food fresh.”

The verdict: The best option would be naturally marine-biodegradable bioplastics.

Click here to read more about Bioplastics and whether they are truly sustainable at National Geographic online.

closing the loop with waste management

Recycling Trash in our office

Believe it or not, but we recycle all of the trash our office produces in The Netherlands. This includes the waste that our packing & logistics department produces. We separate our conventional trash into paper, plastic, residual waste into designated containers which are picked up and emptied by the ‘GAD: grondstoffen en afvalstoffen dienst’, also known as the Raw Materials and Waste Service on weekly basis.

All of the other trash we produce, such as hard plastics and carton boxes which cannot be disposed of in conventional trash are brought to the GAD Seperation Stations. This is a station where trash is separated and disposed of in a specialised manner. At the “dump”, which we refer this station to in Dutch, large trash materials such as household furniture, hard plastics, gardening waste and electronics can be brought for specialised trash disposal.

We do this because we believe that trash is valuable and it is our duty to dispose of our trash in the most ethical, environmentally friendly manner possible. Trash is already such a big problem that not recycling it only makes this situation worse than it already is.

By recycling our office trash, we are trying to contribute a circular economy by closing the loop in one of the areas of our business.

shipping & transportation

Another area where we are still trying to figure out what our best options are, is our shipping. We currently ship with DHL and DPD.

Our office car is an electric Prius car. Since it is a hybrid, the car generates its own electricity allowing for it to move using less biofuels.

In Bali, we decided not to use buy an office car as this would be redundant. We carpool with members from our local community when we need one to pick up stock from our suppliers, instead.

Our stock is however still shipped to the Netherlands by ship freight. This is one of our worst offenders.

Last edited: October 2019

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