Changing Roots


Changing roots is a non-profit organization of young environmental activists. We have a vision in educating children and young adults about the positive effects of waste management in the home across Indonesia. Our purpose is to focus on educating the younger generation of ways to achieve sustainable waste and resource management through providing educational workshops and resources.

We drew inspiration from designers and environmental activists who have educated us on how to use sustainable design to motivate change in communities, showing the importance of environmental awareness.

Singgih Karton from Kandangan village reinforced the concept of building a sustainable future in the village through the idea of combining modern knowledge and concepts with traditional ideas and materials. We researched further into the concepts about educating lower demographic communities about sustainability and waste management.

This led us to Dr. Michael Ricos, a medical researcher who developed a method for educating Indonesian communities about the health effects of dioxins from openly burning off rubbish (Ricos, 2010). We used this knowledge of educating within a small community or kampung to establish the foundations for our non-profit organization.

After spending a week learning and participating in upcycling workshops with sustainable design initiative Sapu, we learnt how to give new purpose to obsolescent products. We saw how effective this process could be and sought to apply it to our own design concepts.

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‘Upcycle’ sign at Sapu Workshop

We developed a concept reflecting the cycle of growth and rejuvenation. In conversation with permaculturalist Aji Sudarmaji, we were surprised to find out that many people in Indonesia have lost interest in growing their own produce at home. Farmers now use the fastest and most cost effective solutions, regardless of the hazards to the environment and their own health.

XS Project is a non-profit organisation who’s mission is to improve the quality of life for Jakarta’s trash pickers and their families (XS project, 2015). Their manager Retna discussed the difficulties in educating older generations who have little regard for the environment. She expressed that teaching a younger generation is more effective in creating change. For this reason we have decided to target our concept towards children and young adults who are able to reinforce these sustainable practices.

The observations we made during our travels throughout Indonesia made us increasingly aware of the day-to-day issues regarding the availability of clean water and waste disposal. The attitude of this local culture suggests there is a lack of awareness and education as well as segregation between social classes. This in turn has a detrimental effect on ecosystems, the environment and especially people’s health.

Reflective of the large consumerism lifestyle in Indonesia, we found many products are excessively packaged creating unnecessary waste, which will inevitably end up in landfill.

Drawing from this knowledge we pursued the idea of upcycling products for the garden to educate people about healthier and more environmentally friendly practices. To relate our concept to local culture we chose to focus on upcycling household products through a range of DIY projects. These focus on building the skills of workshop participants broadening their knowledge about sustainable waste management.

Our organisation produces a zine like magazine that raises environmental awareness through workshops in small communities and reaches a wider audience through social media campaigns. Maintaining relationships with elders and communities is also vital for the reinforcement of environmental awareness in these areas. ­­­

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our first zine featuring 6 design products focusing on gardening.

Through this organisation we are confident our work will create a positive cycle of knowledge that is able to be passed down to future generations.

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the Changing Roots team before the presentation with all of our products.


Dr. M, Ricos, 2010, Burning Rubbish Poisoning Your Community, Indonesia Matters, <>, viewed 12 July 2015.

XS project, 2015, Help Two ”At Risk’ Teens Learn Organic Farming, Global Giving, <;, viewed 11 July 2015.

Post C – Interview

“Modern, chaotic and traffic-jams!” a fellow fashion design student at UTS, Agnes described Jakarta, the largest city of Indonesia using these words. Agnes was born in Indonesia and lived in Jakarta for 12 years until she moved to Australia. I interviewed her and asked her some casual questions about Indonesia and her takes on how her culture background changes her design style.

the traffic jam in Jakarta source:
the traffic jam in Jakarta source:

“Indonesia has a very rich culture. From fashion, food, places. It is made up of a lot of islands and each of the islands would have their own cultures.” Agnes told me when I asked her about what does she think is the most fascinating thing of Indonesia from a culture perspective. Different traditional food, clothes, houses and conventions from each of the islands make Indonesia’s culture very dynamic and interesting. Being born and raised in Jakarta, Agnes holds the city close to her heart and says it is her favourite city comparing to some of the other places she visited in Indonesia. She also thinks Solo (Surakarta) is a beautiful side of Indonesia that is more traditional and also has amazing food. I had to ask her about her favourite traditional dishes when food was mentioned. Agnes answered “Martabak” immediately.

traditional Indonesian food - Martabak
traditional Indonesian food – Martabak

Martabak is a stuffed pancake and has different ingredients depending on the location. She thinks people are trying to westernise the dish by making it into other flavours and it loses the originality so she strongly recommends getting original flavours such as cheese or peanut butter.

“I love its culture, I feel blessed to be one because I guess the way I design would be different to anyone here if I give a touch of Indonesian culture into it.” Emotions and innovative ideas sourced from cultural background, grasping differences between cultural values of the society often result in amazing designs (Debeli & Zhou, 2013). Agnes believes having a different background influences her when she works and the culture rooted in her reflects in her designs if she puts a touch of Indonesian in it. Batik inspires her the most and she thinks it’s interesting and challenging trying to make it modern and more accessible to wear in different part of the country.

Batik taking over on modern fashion world. Dries Van Noten, Spring 2010.
Batik taking over on modern fashion world. Dries Van Noten, Spring 2010.

When I asked her about fashion in Indonesia, Agnes said she is not a big fan of modern Indonesian fashion as it is too busy and she is a firm believer of ‘less is more’ but Indonesia culture does influence her. Her favourite designer from Indonesia is Biyan Wanaatmad, the most prominent high-end fashion designer there. He integrates between the traditional culture and modernity, which is something she is aiming to do in her designs.


D, Debeli. & J, Zhou. 2013, Analyzing the Cultural Background of Textile Designers’ On their Innovative Thinking, ICETMS, viewed 29 April 2015, <>

Post A – Indonesia Architecture and Its identity

“The context determines the architectural style, building material selection, site layout, which is very important in creating an effective design. “   – Mohd Firrdhaus Mohd Sahabuddin

A vast variety of cultures formed distinctive styles in many things across Indonesia. Cultural, religious, political and environmental matters shaped Indonesia’s unique culture and it appears in a variety form of mediums, such as art, music and social conventions. These mediums over time, reflects the cultural, economic, historical and technological context of the area.

Climate and cultural aspects formed residential architecture (Prianot et al, 2000). The extreme environmental conditions are taken into considerations during architectural design in Indonesia. Many houses are built on stilts to allow breezes during hot tropical temperatures. The elevating design prevents the houses from flood and mud. The steep roofs allow rain to quickly drip off during tropical storms. Many of the elements are designed to deal with the local surroundings and its style is something that you may never encounter in Western countries as it is designed to specifically fit the local context. The architecture cleverly appreciate climate, which in turn become part of the cultural understanding in creating built form (Ahmad, 2005).

house built on stilts with black bamboos as material. Sturdy, inexpensive and comfortable for the humid weather. source:
house built on stilts with black bamboos as material. Sturdy, inexpensive and comfortable for the humid weather.

Diversity is the outstanding feature of Indonesian architecture (Sadali, 1979). It has been strongly influenced by their traditional and also foreign cultures during colonial period. Indonesia’s polymorph culture lies in its ability to absorb foreign or regional influences and adopting these into new forms and expressions (Herrle, Wegerhoff, 2008). While under administration of Dutch people, a lot of their building types and construction methods were imported and adapted to Indonesia. By the end of the nineteenth century the traditional style of Indonesia’s architecture has started being influenced by European style (Prijotomo, 1996). The emerging of indigenous architecture style and Dutch influences formed a style of architecture that became suitable for the local tropical humid climate. European elements such as arch and tower were joint with traditional designs, which responded well to the Indonesian climate. Ventilations in walls, larger windows solved the lightness and airflow issues.

The Dutch colonial style as seen in an East Javanese Bank Office in Surabaya.  source:
The Dutch colonial style as seen in an East Javanese Bank Office in Surabaya.

A design often associates with many elements and its background gives it identity that differs the design from others. The artistic aspects and functions of one design are shaped by cultural and social phenomenon. Indonesia’s architecture style is a result of thousands of years of tradition and mixture of imported elements from foreign countries that resulted something works perfectly for the local environment.



Prianto, F. Bonneaud, P. Depecker and J-P. Peneau, 2000, Tropical-Humid Architecture In Natural Ventilation Efficient Point Of View- A Reference of Traditional Architecture in Indonesia, International Journal on Architectural Science, Volume 1, Number 2, p.80-95, 2000, viewed 26 April 2015, <;

P, Herrle. & E, Wegerhoff. 2008, Architecture and Identity, Transaction Publishers, London.

Prijotomo, J. n/a, When West Meets East: One Century of Architecture in Indonesia (1890s-1990s), Architronic, viewed 26 April 2015, <;

Sadali, A, 1979, In Search Of An Islam-Initiated Architectural Identity in Indonesia, Architectural Transformations in the Islamic World, October 9-12, viewed 25 April 2015, <>

Post D – The Shadow Puppets

There is a great relation between art and culture. Culture influences art and allows it to evolve into something unique whereas art also promotes culture as it spreads and showcases the value and belief of its culture.

Wayang means shadow in Indonesian and it is one of the best-developed story telling methods in Indonesia. Beautiful and exquisite Wayang Kulits (leather shadow puppets) are created and used behind a large screen. Light will be lit from behind to cast shadows on the screen and the performers, called Dalang will control and voice for the Wayang Kulits to tell stories to the audiences. Wayang is not just considered as a show but ‘represents an abstract world in which ideas take human shape and imagination becomes reality…something that can not be adequately expressed in words becomes comprehensible.(Wagner, 1959)’.

A Dalang performing with wayang kulit.

The mix of religious and culture heritages in Indonesia shaped a society with traditions that can be seen as a fusion of foreign and indigenous. Wayang is believed to be imported from either India or China. The most told stories in a Wayang performance are Ramayana and Mahabarata, two of the epic noble tales in Hinduism. The art form developed into its own unique system influenced by the religious, political and cultural phenomenon. The beautifully carved and made puppets can be seen as arts but the entire performance is what makes Wayang influential and educating. The stories of Wayang contain a profound philosophy applicable to contemporary life (Suswantoro, 2014). Wayang in deeper understanding also represents primarily about the conflicting good and the evil characters inside humans (M, Hum, 2013). The story telling and performances are merely for entertainment but also holds spiritual connections as it conveys and spreads values and religious beliefs. Criticisms of contemporary social and political events are commonly being added into Wayang performances nowadays by the Dalang as they narrate for the puppets. The adaption of Wayang for educating people has rendered traditional values and concepts in a new form (Poshyananda, 2011).

making of wayang kulit

For thousands of years, Indonesians developed complex agricultural societies and cultural traditions. Wayang is maybe the most interesting art form and watching the performances is a great way to learn about Indonesian culture. Its unique way of storytelling breaks down the boundary of language difference. The craftsmanship of Wayang Kulit and the act itself are important cultural heritage that should be valued and indoctrinated by more people.

an on-going wayang performances. the delicate and beautiful kulit casted shadows on the screen and all the detailed work shows through.

References, 2003, Warrior Kings and Divine Jesters: Indonesian Rod Puppets, Asian Art Education Org, viewed 22 April 2015, <;

A, Poshyananda, 2011, Playing with Shadows, Contemporary Aesthietics, Special Volume Issue 3, 2011, viewed 23 April 2015, <–playing-with-shadows?rgn=main;view=fulltext&gt;

A, Suswantoro, 2014, Wayang Museum: Of Heroes and Grand Tales, The Jakarta Post, viewed 22 April 2015, <>

Dr. S, M.Hum. 2013, Leather Puppet in Javanese Ritual Ceremony, ResearchersWorld, Volume IV, Issue -3, July 2013, viewed 23 April 2015, <>

Post B – Buy Less, Buy Smart, Buy Better

Our demand on new clothing is slowly making fashion industry one of the biggest polluters in the world. Chain stores are considered as Fast Fashion Stores as they change the clothing on their shelves as fast as every month. ‘Trends run their course with lightning speed, with today’s latest styles swiftly trumping yesterday’s, which have already been consigned to the trash bin.’ (Joy et al, 2012).

The amount of waste produced throughout the process of garments making is enormous but because of the cheap price, poor quality and mimicking of the trends taken from luxury brands, the clothes from fast fashion stores are becoming more disposable. The fast changing of trends and cheap price makes mending or tailoring clothes no longer a popular option as consumers can just go to any store near them to purchase something new with affordable price. To make it more profitable, the use of sustainable textile or workers’ condition are rarely taken into consideration especially for big retail shops on the lower end.

Sustainable fashion has been a trend for the past decade and a lot of brands are taking into account the environment, health and working conditions of people of the industry(Challa, 2010), however, the real innovations are often in small brands as they don’t have the burden of a history or a production chain (Moulds, 2015). Zero Waste Scotland, an organisation funded by the Scottish Government to support and help the Scottish society towards a low-carbon and sustainable economy. The organisation recently announced their newest funds to all Scottish textile and fashion designers to create zero waste clothing ranges. It is to help Scottish designers to reduce the waste produced in garments making by adopting sustainable design methods (Kane, 2014). The campaign offers not only up to $10000 fund but also mentoring from industry experts for all successful applicants. Sustainable fashion designer Orsola de Castro commented ‘We need to look at waste as a resource, and inspire young designers to its immense creative potential and help the industry to understand its viability, scalability and role in the future.’ By providing support and fund, the campaign truly encourages and helps designers to be innovative and creating methods and materials that are eco-friendly and beneficial for the fashion industry. With affordable and good quality sustainable fabrics, fast fashion stores may consider using them on their garments, which would help reduce the waste and harm caused during production. The better quality and slowly updated contents in store could also lead buyers into buying less and buying better.

Instead of continuing having small brands as the main supporters of sustainable fashion, developing new design methods and materials that are environmental friendly could maybe take chain stores on board on the journey of building a eco-friendly industry and bringing more attentions to environmental issues.


A, Joy. & J F, Sherry. & A, Venkatesh. & J, Wang. & R, Chan. 2012, Fast fashion, Sustainability and The Ethical Apparel of Luxury Brands, Fashion Theory, Volume 16, Issue 3, pp.273-296, viewed 20 April 2015,

A, Kane, 2014, Zero Waste Scotland Announces Fund For Sustainable Fashion, Resource, viewed 19 April 2015, <;

R, Godelnik, 2014, Can Fast Fashion Really Be Sustainable?, TriplePundit, viewed 20 April 2015, <;

Challa, L. 2010, ‘Impact of Textiles and Clothing Industry On Environment: Approch Towards Eco-Friendly Textiles’Fibre2Fashion, viewed 20 April 2015, < >.