Riz Romauli talks sustainable practices in fashion and everyday life, and sheds light on her vision for Sumbu, the platform she has created to encourage greater environmental awareness among young Indonesians such as herself.
Environmentalism is a cause late to reach Indonesian consumers, but environmentally friendly practices are becoming increasingly important, the awareness of which issues relies somewhat on fads and trends. As the trend of purchasing individual metal straws or restaurants converting to paper straws, to name one, is taking hold and such products being promoted online with the help of social media influencers, protecting the environment is slowly becoming more of a daily consideration to more Indonesians.
Such environmental practices have also extended to the world of fashion. The idea of sustainable fashion is not new, but Indonesians actually have a unique advantage on this front, considering the abundance of natural resources available. Some brands have begun using these resources to create all-natural products, and it goes to show that environmentalism has become a kind of overlap or link with an Indonesian sense of national pride: they embrace all that is natural around us in a country that many would only ever dream of visiting or know primarily for its natural resources, and not the sometimes politically fragmented country that lags behind many others. Sustainable fashion has in itself become a movement within a movement as we catch up with those who have had a headstart.
And one 22-year-old is trying to play her part in this movement. Riz Romauli, a blogger, has used her influence to kickstart Sumbu, an online platform aimed to share what she’s learned on the environment and the myriad of little ways we’re able to live more sustainability, not merely to our own benefit but to that of our community. We sat down with her to learn more about Sumbu and her vision for cultivating better practices within her community. Sumbu highlights the importance of being aware of the impact that your everyday actions have on your environment, and perhaps more alarmingly, what it means for us and the world that we live in.
It’s clear from the get-go that Riz’s philosophy of living more naturally and organically, in every sense of these words, pervades other aspects of her life aside from fashion. At home, she creates her shampoo bars from scratch as a substitute for the store-bought kind that are also less healthy for our hair and scalp due to the number of chemicals often found in them. To gauge people's interest in this alternative, she had experimented with making them available for purchase on Sumbu. She also currently sells merchandise, such as tote bags and reusable straws, to promote and fund her platform. The straws read, "I stand for what I stand on," a motto to capture Sumbu's mission. She had even chosen to meet in RAMU in South Jakarta. RAMU is a newly opened juice bar with an extensive menu of cold-pressed juices, blended smoothies and light snacks. “My friend is holding a garage sale here today,” she says. Said friend and the owners of RAMU teamed up to sell used clothes, a common practice in sustainable fashion.
Speaking on how her friends have responded to her passion for environmental protection, she admits, “it’s hard sometimes to watch my friends’ lifestyle, but I think that little by little they understand more of what I do and why I do it. They become more interested.” On being a conscious consumer, Riz is pleased about having given up high street brands. “I don’t remember the last time I shopped at ZARA or H&M,” she says excitedly. She goes on to explain, “I shop at vintage stores a lot.” Buying secondhand, while there currently is a shortage of brands that are simultaneously environmentally friendly and affordable, is a habit that she hopes for many other people her age. In an attempt to live more minimally and to avoid her unused clothing going to waste, Riz also sells those clothes that she no longer wears on Instagram, hoping that they go to individuals that then end up buying one less piece of clothing from international brands and are helping to reduce waste.
Alternatively, she buying local brands is also an option for people who insist on buying new clothes. “Buying from local brands reduces your carbon footprint, because imported clothes have to travel greater distances to reach Indonesian customers.” Riz is also adamant about encouraging the swimwear company she works for in Bali to be more accountable for their carbon footprint. “I talk to my boss about it, and I try to get her to see that there are ways we can be more environmentally friendly. I think it’s a challenge, but she’s becoming more and more open to what I have to say about it.”
When asked about her long-term vision for Sumbu, Riz thinks about much more than people simply knowing more about their carbon footprint and impact on the planet. Despite successfully selling merchandise, she has a much bigger picture in mind. “I would like Sumbu to grow into a community of environmentally-conscious people. There isn’t one for that yet, here.” As Riz continues to fight for a cause that affects us all, she hopes that she can reach as many individuals as she can, for them to be environmental ‘converts’ like she has, for her to collaborate with people who are equally dedicated to standing for what we stand on.