“Indonesians refuse to give up rice for other food products, despite rice shortage.”

 (Indonesian Investments, 2015).

Indonesian cuisine is a direct reflection on the country’s diverse culture set and traditions, with no commentary on Indonesian lifestyle complete without such a reference.

Let me rephrase.

No commentary on Indonesian food and culture would be complete without mentioning rice, white rice.



Available from <https://memecrunch.com/meme/2RY6D/have-a-rice-day&gt;

Joviality aside, rice is one of the world’s most important staple food products,  described as one of the most economically and culturally important food crops, in conjunction with its production being regarded as the single most important economic activity on the planet (IRRI, 2007).  With more than 2.7 billion people world wide relying on rice as their major food source (IRRI, 2007), rice provides 21% of global human per capita energy, and 15% of per capita protein (IRRI, 2007).  To contextualise this consumption, Indonesia has the largest per capita in the world, with Indonesians consuming approximately 140kg of rice per person per year (Indonesia Investments, 2015).

Nasi Putih, Javanese for ‘White Rice’.

Indonesia is the world’s third largest rice producer (Indonesia Investments, 2015).  Despite this, Indonesia is still a rice importer, and simultaneously striving to solely become an export nation (Indonesian Investments, 2015).  Indonesia does not have enough rice to suffice for a multitude of accounts.  Firstly, Indonesian rice farmers are engaging with non-optimal production techniques, which when coupled against a backdrop of prolonged drought due to the El Nino weather phenomenon (Jakarta Post, 2015), leaves Indonesia struggling to reach its goals of rice ‘self-sufficiency’ (Indonesian Investments, 2015), for which Indonesia has been struggling to attain, continually falling below the mark.  In recent years, the nation has needed to import roughly 300 million tons of rice in order to safeguard their rice reserves.   Henceforth, the Indonesian government has put into place a number of measures in order to assist in reaching goals pertaining to self-sufficiency, including the introduction and stimulation of technological innovations pertinent to and in correlation with, encouraging increased agricultural production by local farmers.  The increased allocation of state funds for the development of infrastructure in the agricultural sector is another measure, as is the repair and re-storement of over three million hectares of irrigation facilities (Indonesian Investments, 2015).  An approach by measurable contrast, the government has also attempted to curb the consumption of rice by the Indonesian population, through the instigation, production and promotion of campaigns such as ‘One day without rice per week” (Indonesian Investments, 2015).

rice fields

Rice fields, Yogyakarta


With the world expected to reach a population growth exceeding 9.6 billion in 2050 (UN, 2013), the Indonesia Chamber of Commerce and Industry has realised the significance of this, joining in partnership with small rice farmers to develop programs with the intention of increasing rice production (Indonesian Investments, 2015).     The International Rice Research Institute acknowledges this challenge,  cognisant of the need to increase food production to meet future food security needs.  Heightened production rates however must be sustainably accomplished, equally minimising and offsetting potential negative environmental impacts, whilst providing reasonable income to those employed in the production phase.

This is me, riding through rice fields at Festival Mata Air 2016.

There is more to rice in Indonesia however, despite the impending shortage.   Every May at the end of the rice harvest season, there is a Rice Festival which has been occurring for many years past.  Rich in colour and tradition, villages are decorated and painted, flags hung, and small straw dolls placed around the houses in commemoration and tribute to the rice goddess, Dewi Sri (Bahrayni, 2014).   Farmers offer their gratitude and praise to Dewi Sri, and as one would expect, many rice dishes are cooked.   Alluding back to the rice goddess however, Dewi Sri figurines are placed in fields to protect and promote the fertility of wet rice agriculture, illustrating the cultural importance of rice production in a culture where Gods and Goddesses are revered (Indonesian Food Culinary, 2004).

From rice shortages, to innovative production and farming techniques, festivals and rice gods, it is henceforth difficult not to appreciate the importance of this humble food staple in the Indonesian culture, and its overarching infiltration into everyday Indonesian economic, political, social and cultural life.


Bahrayni, N. 2014. Harvest Festivals from around the world. Shareable. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at: http://www.shareable.net/blog/6-awesome-harvest-festivals-from-around-the-globe

United Nations. 2013. World Population projected to reach 9.6 billion by 2050. United Nations. Viewed 8th April, 2016, available at: http://www.un.org/en/development/desa/news/population/un-report-world-population-projected-to-reach-9-6-billion-by-2050.html

Indonesian Food Culinary. 2004. Indonesian Rice. Indonesian Food Culinary. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at:  http://indonesianfoodculinary.blogspot.com.au/2009/06/indonesian-rice.html

Indonesia Investments. 2015. Rice. Indonesia Investments. Viewed 8th April, 2016, available at: http://www.indonesia-investments.com/business/commodities/rice/item183

International Rice Research Institute. 2007. Rice Production Course. International Rice Research Institute. Viewed 8th April 2016, available at: http://www.knowledgebank.irri.org/ericeproduction/bodydefault.htm#Importance_of_Rice.htm

* All images on this blog have been taken by the author, except Image One which has been referenced underneath the visual. 



In 1986, New York academic Langdon Winner quoted that, ‘what matters not is technology itself, but the social or economic system in which it is embedded’. For in understanding and conceding that technology can provoke, challenge and necessitate a better quality of life, it can also contribute to a ‘persistent and troubling presence’ (Winner, 1986). We have the capacity to explore and experiment with, the recurrent emergence of innovative technologies, extending and adjudging their success and failure in experimental and unprecedented contexts; in doing so, we can begin to ‘consciously take responsibility for the Earth’s system, acknowledging that nature is not just what created us, it is also something we create, and that we can help sustain’ (Harris, 2012).

And in 2016, we can observe conscious environmental and sustainable responsibility being integrated with fervor in a multitude of domains, equally exaggerated and subtly understated. From urban planning and city living, to the agricultural field and architectural design, there has been a shift in the way emerging technologies are interposed.

grGreenhost’s inner courtyard.

Yogyakarta’s Greenhost Boutique Hotel in Indonesia is one such example, with the hotel and architectural industries by large being significant undertakers and integrators of environmental redesigns. In an interview conducted face to face in February 2016 with hotel manager Albert Yonas Kusuma (2016, pers.comm., 26th February)  I was able to discern how the Greenhost group have designed a ‘responsible hotel that meets Greenhost’s obligation to minimise its ecological impact towards the environment’ (A.Y.Kusuma, 2016, pers.comm., 26th February). Kusuma’s expression is a purposive one, that reflects on the notion that ‘the human population can resonate and identify within themselves on how they are the major natural force shaping planetary development’ (Harris, 2012). Furthering the discussion, Kusuma (2016, pers.comm., 26th February)   elaborated on the holistic nature of the hotel. Materials are sourced second hand and up-cycled, the hotel kitchen sells surplus crops to other retailers and restaurants, details were given regarding the frugality of the hotel in reference to its energy usage, and there is the development of Greenhost’s own Social Corporate Value program, which empowers the local Yogya community through the transference of knowledge on city farming, ‘supplying them with the information they need to become more independent’ (A.Y.Kusuma, 2016, pers.comm., 26th February).

That Greenhost is focusing on the communal education of city farming and reducing food waste is important. For ‘as much as half of all food grown is lost or wasted before and after it reaches the consumer’ (Lundqvist et al, 2008), with this set to increase due to the proliferation of individuals living in high density, urban environments. Statistics forecast this to reach 70% of the world’s population by the year 2050 (United Nations, 2008), and with this rapid onset urban inhabitation comes the escalating concern for ‘avoiding food waste in all parts of the food chain…which is crucial for the food security agenda’ (Global Food Security, 2012).


hydroGreenhost’s hydroponics on its rooftop garden farm.

The increasing social awareness with which the importance of self-reliance and self- sufficiency in food production is realized, is an appreciation that Greenhost has considered in its structural, aesthetic and holistic integrity, with the most visual example being the hydroponic set-up running through the inner courtyard, for which pickings are harvested and taken straight to the restaurant. A follow up interview with Kusuma led to additional information being shed on Greenhost’s architect and designer, Paulus Mintarga, who interestingly is also a co-owner of the hotel. Mintarga’s body of work is increasingly peppered with sustainable projects, however he is quoted as saying that he ‘does not want to by trapped by the concept of eco-sustainability’ (Galatio, 2014), elaborating that he perceives Indonesians to now hold ‘a forced awareness’ (Galatio, 2014) on the subject. In summation however, Mintarga’s integration of environmental technologies such as the hydroponic scheme and turning it into a core part of the hotel’s framework, is a clear example of the changing composition of global food distribution (and further the changing realm of architecture), whereby it becomes increasingly localised and a reflection of small social movements that align themselves with the justification and rationale that ‘humanity and the environment can learn to live in harmony’ (Harris, 2012).

Thus we come full circle, returning to Winner’s (1986) quote that ‘what matters not is technology itself, but the social or economic system in which it is embedded’.


ghView from the top. Looking down from the rooftop garden.


Galatio, M. 2014. Holistic Design with Paulus Mintargus. Whiteboard Journal. Viewed 08/04/2016, available at: http://www.whiteboardjournal.com/interview/15867/holistic-design-with-paulus-mintarga/

Global Food Security. 2012, The smart way to reduce food waste, United Kingdom, viewed 25th October 2015 <http://www.foodsecurity.ac.uk/research/impact/reduce-food-waste.html>

 Harris, S. 2012, Pushing the Boundaries: The Earth System in the Anthropocene, The Schumacher Institute for Sustainable Systems, Bristol, United Kingdom

 Ihde, Don 1993, ‘Technology,’ Philosophy of Technology: An introduction, New York: Paragon House, pp.47-64

Lundqvist  J.de Fraiture  C.Molden  D, 2008, Saving water: from field to fork—curbing losses and wastage in the food chain, SIWI Policy Brief, Stockholm, Sweden

United Nations2008,World Urbanization ProspectsThe 2007 Revision Population Database, viewed 25/08/2015, available at :<http://esa.un.org/unup/>

Winner, L. 1986, “Do Artifacts have Politics?” in The Whale and the Reactor: A Search for Limits in an Age of High Technology, University of Chicago Press, Chicago and London, pp. 19-39.

* All photographs used in this blog post are the author’s own.


The power of design to transcend contexts lends itself to a perennial state of innovation and education to both designer and end-stage user.

The notion of sustainability in regards to its correlation with the fashion industry is one such example. With over ‘70 different definitions’ (Holmberg and Sandbrook, 1992), sustainability as an area of design is becoming an increasingly saturated social concept, with differences in the application and immediate reasoning for sustainable design highly dependent on direct environmental and social contexts, with congruence existing however between such differences through the all-embracing global intention for a cleaner, greener world.   From sustainability extends the concept of Slow Fashion, an abstraction that encompasses a ‘philosophy of attentiveness mindful of its various stakeholders’ needs’ (Pookulangara, 2013), further to being a means ‘of incorporating social responsibility and improving business practices’ (Fletcher, 2010).

And keeping this in mind, a mini case study presents itself, that of a brief comparison outlining sustainable practices in Indonesia, a developing nation, and Italy, by contrast developed, and how sustainable design is divergently accounted for in the respective fashion environments.

Batik is derived from an ancient textile tradition in Java and is an increasingly important player in the contemporary Indonesian (and global) fashion industry.  The many processes involved in manufacturing such garments with this resist wax technique present a multitude of environment considerations, with the foremost concern associated with water usage, including residual dyes, toxicity, colour waste, and heavy metal contamination (Azlin, Rahman and Shaari, 2011).  The use of paraffin wax and fume emissions are also of concern due to the discharge and release of harmful chemicals.  Much is being done to work with local batik SMEs to improve the environmental outputs of the practice, with the Clean Batik Initiative established in 2010 (Booth, 2010) being one such component.

batik_designTraditional batik. (Rohman, 2015)

A heavy polluter of CO2 emissions, keeping one of Indonesia’s most developed art forms in synergy and balance with the environment is important in ensuing the longevity of the tradition, with programs under the Clean Batik Initiative assisting batik SMEs ‘in implementing cleaner, safer and more efficient production…[through] reducing water and electrical consumption…as well as excessive toxic chemicals’ (Booth, 2010).

In linking back to the concept of sustainable design, an expanded definition of it sees the notion as pertaining to ‘the relationship with ourselves, our communities, our environments’ (Seidman, 2007), an apposite connection to the batik industry in it being a wholly traditional process, a practice intertwined in Indonesian lifestyle, economics and modern culture.

By contrast in Italy, a large component associated with sustainable design is the management of the fast fashion industry.  Here we can immediately see moreover, the differences in the contextualisation of sustainable design, with batik a reflection of traditional, Javanese culture, as yet largely uninfluenced by loss of tradition and skills, and Italy, struggling with the impact of globalisation and the cheap commercialisation of the fashion industry.   The fast fashion industry, with chains such as Zara and H&M, presents with it many ethical and environmental issues all falling under the umbrella concept of sustainability.  From worker conditions, to materiality, to the increasing ‘throw-away culture’ (Birtwhistle & Moore, 2007), there is much to expand on when considering sustainable design and management in this developed nation, and the various changes, procedures and campaigns being implemented to target such areas.

factoryClothes being made in Bangladesh for nations as varied as Italy, London and Australia. (Smith, H. 2013)

Sustainable design is ‘paired with social responsibility’ (Aguilera et al, 2007), and it is becoming increasingly clearer to comprehend how these two exceedingly different cultures use the core understandings and principals of sustainable design, a valid design branch, to improve and work towards a cleaner, healthier and for lack of a better word, sustainable world.


Aguilera, R. V., D. E. Rupp, C. A. Williams and J. Ganapathi. 2007. Putting the S Back in Corporate Social Responsibility: A Multi-level Theory of Social Change in Organizations in Joy, A., Sherry, J., Venkatesh, A., Wang, J., & Chan, R. 2012. Fast fashion, sustainability, and the ethical appeal of luxury brands, Fashion Theory, Vol. 16, Issue 3, pp. 273-296

Azlin K, Rahman A and Shaari N. 2011. Batik : Design for a Sustainable Environment. Working Paper. Universiti Malaysia Sarawak, (UNIMAS)

Birtwistle, G., Moore, C. M. 2007. Fashion clothing–where does it all end up? in Farrer, J and Fraser, K. 2011. Sustainable ‘v’ Unsustainable: Articulating division in the fashion textiles industry. Antipodes Design Journal, November 4 2011

Booth, A. 2011. ‘Aiming for clean, green, batik’.  The Jakarta Post. Accessed 30/03/2016. Available at: http://www.thejakartapost.com/news/2010/03/11/aiming-clean-green-batik.html

Fletcher, K. 2010. Slow Fashion: An Invitation for Systems Change. Fashion Practice: The Journal of Design, Creative Process & the Fashion, 1 November 2010, vol. 2, no. 2, pp. 259-266

Holmberg, J., & Sandbrook, R. 1992 ‘Sustainable Development: What is to be Done?’, Holmberg, J. Ed. 1992 Policies for a Small Planet, Earthscan, London

Pookulangara, S. Shepard, A. 2013. Slow Fashion Movement: Understanding consumer perceptions – an exploratory study. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 20 January, 2013, vol.20, pp. 200-206

Rohman, K. 2015. Batik for my world. Change Makers. Accessed 30/03/2016. Available at: https://www.changemakers.com/discussions/entries/batik-my-world

Seidman, D. 2007. How We Do Anything Means Everything in Joy, A., Sherry, J., Venkatesh, A., Wang, J., & Chan, R. 2012. Fast fashion, sustainability, and the ethical appeal of luxury brands, Fashion Theory, Vol. 16, Issue 3, pp. 273-296

Smith, H. 2013. Work, garment work and safety: clothes to die for? Triple Pundit: People, Planet, Profit. Accessed 30/03/2016.  Available at: http://www.triplepundit.com/2013/09/women-garment-work-safety-clothes-die/

Waste Less, Recycle More [POST B]

An adverse by-product of today’s urban and all-consuming lifestyle, solid waste presents pressing environmental consequences as we plan for the future, with the global generation of solid waste set to increase 70% by 2050, exceeding more than 6 million tonnes of waste per day (Bhada-Tata and Hoornweg, 2012).

World wide, cities are embracing tactics that target waste reduction (Masaru, 2013),  with considerable disparities in societal attitudes, behaviors and strategies towards rubbish disposable evident amongst developed and developing nations.  Geographically and politically relevant, NSW government initiative Waste Less, Recycle More (WLRM), was designed in 2013 in direct response to the immediacy and severity of issues concerned with post consumer waste in a multitude of areas, and the challenges they engender in designing for the future.

Waste less, recycle more: a 5-year $465.7 million Waste and ResoEPA, 2015.

Specifically, WLRM is a $465.7 million package that is government funded with the intent to transform waste and recycling in NSW from 2013 to 2018 (EPA, 2015).   This transformation has been orchestrated and plans to be continued to be orchestrated through the individual funding of a collective of separate ‘children’ programs, all of which fall under the WLRM scheme.  These are programs such as Love Food Hate Waste, Resource Recovery Facility Expansion and Enhancement, and Improved Systems for Household Problem Wastes.  Furthermore, WLRM has in place an education strategy designed to support the key cause (reducing waste) and the ensuing programs it oversees, a strategy whose aim and vision is to ‘optimize the use and quality of education in all WLMR programs so that they promote positive behaviour change….and improvement in the environment and community wellbeing’ (EPA, 2015).

The effectiveness of the WLRM initiative is up for debate.  It is a tiered initiative,  and  its ultimate success is exceedingly dependent on the continued support of the NSW and federal government budgets and their overseers.  The Institute for Public Policy Research (a leading UK think tank), is against such tight government control over waste management, recognising and acknowledging that government foundations are key but that social enterprise policies can be considerably more effective and engaging, further summarizing that ‘our approach to resources [and by extension the wastage they generate] should be circular’ (Rowney, 2014).  By this, biological resources, such as foods, should be reused to their full extent before being returned to the Earth’s ecosystem, and non-biological resources such as metals, should be continually reused and recycled (Rowney, 2014).

Großer Stapel alter PET-Flaschen Large stack of old plastic botPlastic Waste. (Von Euen, 2013).

Many businesses worldwide are expanding on their own versions of circular reuse. H&M offers discounts in exchange for old clothes, which are then resourced for their materials, or directly outsourced to countries and situations where clothing is needed (Chegwyn, 2014). Supermarket chains are doing their part to redefine the way consumers approach food and avoid the potential for wastage to occur through such campaigns as Australia’s The Odd Bunch (Woolworths, 2016) and France’s Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables (Intermarche, 2015),  which both sell cheaper, non-calibrated and imperfect fruits and vegetables that would otherwise be thrown away.

foodwasteFood waste, primarily from grocery stores and food processors. (Sullivan, 2012).

It is not just household businesses redefining and challenging perceptions of waste. In Cateura, Paraguay, a youth orchestra plays with instruments manufactured entirely from waste materials sourced from the rubbish landfill from around which the community has built and developed basic living infrastructure, for ‘garbage is not garbage. If you have creative ideas you can do anything with it’ (CBN, 2015).

ORCHESTRAManufacturing.  (CBN, 2015).

The WLRM initiative is well supported, well documented and to date has been well received.  Its overarching success however, has yet to be concluded, and full judgement  and analysis of data can only be ascertained at the conclusion of the 5 year implementation.  It is refreshing however, to bear witness to alternative waste management schemes both large and small, with funding and a lack there of,  that unanimously agree on the detrimental effects that human waste disposal has on the multiplex layers of society and the environment, and that action is needed.  Not tomorrow, not today, but yesterday.  


Bhada-Tata, P. Hoornweg, D. 2012. What a Waste: A Global Review of Solid Waste Management. The World Bank.  Accessed 25/03/2016. Available at: http://siteresources.worldbank.org/INTURBANDEVELOPMENT/Resources/336387-1334852610766/What_a_Waste2012_Final.pdf

CBN News.  2015.  ‘Recycled Orchestra’ Turns Trash into Music. CBN News Corporation. Accessed 26/03/2016.  Available at: http://www1.cbn.com/cbnnews/world/2015/April/Recycled-Orchestra-Turns-Trash-in-Music

Chegwyn, Emma. 2014. A Fashion Paradox. Thesis major work.  University of Technology, Sydney, Australia

Environment Protection Authority (EPA). 2015. Waste Less Recycle More Initiative. NSW EPA. Accessed 25/03/2016.  Available at: http://www.epa.nsw.gov.au/wastestrategy/waste-less-recycle-more.htm

Intermarche. 2015. Inglorious Fruits & Vegetables. Intermarche. Accessed 26/03/2016. Available at: http://itm.marcelww.com/inglorious/

Masaru, G. 2013. Global Waste on Pace to Triple by 2100.  The World Bank. Accessed  25/03/2016. Available at: http://www.worldbank.org/en/news/feature/2013/10/30/global-waste-on-pace-to-triple

Rowney, M. 2014. The wasteline: Redefining ‘waste’ and improving resource management policy.The Institute for Public Policy Research.  Accessed 25/03/2016. Available at: http://www.ippr.org/read/the-wasteline-redefining-waste-and-improving-resource-management-policy#


Sullivan, D. 2012. New Jersey Composter Taps Food Waste Opportunities. Bio Cycle: The organics recycling authority. Accessed 26/03/2016. Available at: https://www.biocycle.net/2012/02/27/new-jersey-composter-taps-food-waste-opportunities/

Von Euen, N. 2013. Plastic Waste. Global Waste. Accessed 26/03/2016. Available at: http://www.global-waste.de/plastic.html

Woolworths.  2016. The Odd Bunch.  Woolworths, Australia.  Accessed 25/03/2016. Available at: https://www.woolworths.com.au/Shop/Discover/our-brands/the-odd-bunch