the unfortunate reality of Bali’s trash crisis

Unfortunately, this is one of the cleanest beaches we’ve been to. Throughout the past couple of days, we’ve heard stories from a lot of you about everything from bobbing syringes to mass burnings of plastics in rice fields (of which the fumes can be extremely toxic!).

The two things that we’ve continued to see at every single beach are plastic bottles & flip flops. Because they float, these items wash onto Bali’s shores especially during the monsoon season (which we’re on the tail end of now).


 
I don’t want to call this week an existential crisis, but our first few days in Bali left Porter and I feeling somewhere between discouragement and guilt. If you’ve been following along on Instagram you’ve no doubt seen our posts this week about the traumatic amount of trash washing in on the beaches here. It’s been, to say the very least, heavy. Heavy because we know we’re witnessing a small sample size of a much bigger issue, heavy because statistically our children and their children will likely view images like the ones above as the rule and not the exception, heavy because we didn’t even think to explore how sustainably responsible a visit to Bali would be (our naive thought process being: “it’s a yogi and vegan and surfers haven, it’s got to be so green!”)
 
The heaviest thing of all though has got to be the realization of the plastic crisis. You hear about it in the news and know you’re meant to recycle, but the concept of all that plastic we use & where it ends up is still so abstract, so distant. Being here brings that crisis into a visual reality, and it’s scary and twists your stomach a bit and makes you want to go back to the beginning and never use a plastic item again. But we’re here & this is the reality of our planet now. There’s a garbage patch three times the size of France floating in the Pacific and Americans toss 185 pounds of plastic away per person each year alone. I get how we got here, but I don’t truly understand how no one has thrown up a red light just yet & taken this suffocating material off our shelves and out of our refrigerators. We have iPhones, for goodness sake, surely there’s a better alternative to plastic.
 
500 years is a long time, and when you imagine all the plastic you’ve ever used shackled to you and trailing you around, then trailing your children (& their children & their children) five generations down, it really starts to sink in just how long it takes for this stuff to disappear.
 
So what now? What next? Porter and I have sat on trash-ridden beach after trash-ridden beach asking those questions and posing the pros and cons of what feels like a thousand directions to go from here (both metaphorically and literally). We’ve thought about leaving Bali, about cutting this travel leg short. We put so much time into planning our travels and the shoots for sustainable brands we love sharing with all of you that it’s more complicated than just booking a ticket to a new destination, though. What’s more, we feel obligated to talk about this issue now that we’re in the thick of it, and to continue show how places that can appear so pristine online are suffering & in dire need of change & voices championing those changes.
 
For now, we’re going to continue finishing out the next two and half weeks here, but our focus on what we share and how we share is shifting dramatically. We’re going to be using our time in this country to talk about this problem, share solutions that have worked elsewhere, share how all of us in our day to day lives can do more to resolve the plastic crisis, & keep the conversation going.
 
For a long time now we’ve been committed to sustainable and ethical fashion and the degree of sustainability in our travel was secondary. We almost always stay and work with eco hotels and properties pushing the hospitality industry toward sustainability, but we rarely thought about whether the countries we were visiting were championing sustainability, and I think that was a huge oversight on our parts.
 
We want Recess City to be as distant from the handfuls upon handfuls of accounts out there showing beautiful places with a quote along with them but no real meaning beyond being “inspo”. We love feeling like we’ve curated an Instagram and blog that have an element of something more, that’s targeted toward effecting the planet positively, not just increasing our own success. Our travels need to reflect this going forward as much as our wardrobes.
 
The destinations we’ll be heading to after this leg are going to reflect our commitment to motivating others to live, dress, and travel in a way that benefits the lives of as many people as possible. We’ve already begun digging deeper and deeper into where in the world is ahead of the game when it comes to global solutions for sustainability, and those are the places from here on out we want to head to. Porter and I don’t quite believe we’re large enough in the Instagram sphere to truly be influencing people’s decisions on where they visit next, but if we do ever arrive at that day, we want to get there knowing that we’ve spurred people to “vote with their dollars” toward a better, greener, planet, the kind we want for our children someday & you, no doubt, want for yours.
 
Strangely enough, we’d been in kind of a “meaning slump” this past week or two, wondering if contributing to the ethical fashion sphere was enough, but as tough as seeing the true state our planet has been, it’s, on the flip side, motivating. With every message and comment we received sharing a personal story about their own experience in a place expected to be clean & stunning only to be (in reality) inundated with garbage or sharing articles about solutions enacted in other countries (in Beijing there are reverse vending machines that accept plastic water bottles for subway fares) we’ve felt more determined to put our commitment to sustainable travel into overdrive.
 
We’d love to continue to hear where you’ve been impressed by on your own travels, articles you’ve read on plastic reduction and solutions you’ve found inspiring, and everything from beach clean-ups to locations you’ve found disappointing. We admit we have a lot to learn, but being willing to do so & wanting to do so, surely has to count for something.
 
We’ve just arrived on some much smaller islands off the coast of Bali and are working with an eco hotel this week and are excited to share how some hotels are fighting back.
 
Thank you for being here, for following along with us, for being patient with our rants on plastic pollution, & for being forgiving of our shortsightedness when it’s come to sustainable travel so far.
 
More so than ever, we feel we have a job to do, & more so than ever, we’re committed to doing it.
 
xx
 
Anna Lisa & Porter

One comment

  1. Christine says:

    This is shocking and very disheartening to read. Thank you for the excellent post and bringing awareness to the impact of plastic and waste deeply impacting our planet. The city of Seattle, where I live, banned plastic bags years ago and now we’re focused on plastic straws but we still have a long way to go!

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