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Small Steps to Sustainable Living – Podcast Episode 6

Maria Alexandra Iskandar, Sustainability Associate
The Body Shop Indonesia

At the very young age of 22 Maria Alexandra Iskandar, known often as Alessa, is the Sustainability Associate at The Body Shop Indonesia. She helps to track the company’s ecological impact. Prior to that, Alessa grew up in Bandung, Indonesia. She became familiar with living an ecologically friendly life through her mother: Ibu Sherly.

Seven years ago, Ibu Sherly started an NGO called Eco-Camp. The organization educates roughly 4,000 people yearly on living how to live a sustainable lifestyle. They continue to thrive now with their programs, waste management system, and organic garden. In this episode, Alessa shares the basic philosophies of living a sustainable lifestyle. She also gives tips for those of you who want to live kinder to yourself and to our planet.

I myself am so inspired by her youth and clarity of mind! I hope listeners of my podcast will be encouraged to take a small step towards an earth-friendly way of living. For me, it began by composting through the pandemic. What will it be for you?

Happy Earth Day!

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Composting Through the Pandemic

The great lockdown of 2020 no doubt shocked everyone and forced a cataclysmic change of lifestyle whether you were ready or not. I chose to spend the lockdown with my then-fiance Cung in his house in Bogor, right next to a huge organic farm called Kuntum Farmfield. There are worse places to be locked down in, so no complaints from me about location.

We walked daily to the farm to visit the horses, cows, sheep, goats, and many other farm residents. In addition to the animals, Kuntum also grew fresh produce, so we did not tire of fresh organic produce. The price? 1 bunch of fresh organic bokchoy for less than 2$. And only a 3 minute walk away. Glorious.

One of my future dreams is actually to be able to grow my own food, so I took advantage of the situation to start gardening. Well. experimenting really. With seeds, media, and compost being sold only a step away, it was the perfect situation.

Gardening Experiments

My gardening experiments started with garlic. Lo and behold, all the bulbs ultimately died because garlic is not a native herb to Indonesia (it needs cold winter months to hibernate before its growth will be stimulated). Silly me! I then tried everything from mint, rosemary, potatoes, sweet potatoes (got stolen by a rat! URGH), onions, and even avocadoes.

I had a lot of fun, but no success except for the avocadoes. The avocado babies bloomed, and there were so many in our backyard that it inspired me to name avocado as the theme of our wedding in August 2020. But to be fair, it takes about 7 more years before I can judge whether the avocado is a success or a failure so I probably should just hold off my big mouth.


Bins filled with organic food waste and dried leaves.

One thing for sure that was a success was composting. Yes, we made soil!!! From our food waste during the lockdown! At first, we both thought oh god, we’re just collecting trash in the garden. Cung stared helplessly at his stone garden which was I was demolishing with pots and pots of organic trash.

Most of the gardening blogs I looked at suggested a composting recipe of “greens” and “browns”. Greens are the food waste. Browns are dried leaves. So the compost bin should not stink, and if it is smelling bad that means there are not enough dried leaves in it. Simple enough!

We started about mid-March 2020, and religiously composted our organic trash until it became a habit and we didn’t even think twice about it. Fast forward 1 year to March 2021. Cung decided to peek into the pots. For him, the sooner the better to get rid of the pots.

Ta-DA! We have SOIL. Life-giving, food growing, brown earthy stuff. With long, fat, slimy wormies-major sign of fertility! It’s a one-year miracle. I never “made” soil before and simply knowing that I finally gave something back to my planet and mother earth instead of just taking and defiling her made me feel so much better about myself.

Rolling up my sleeves, getting my hands dirty, and composting is the life.

That’s one of my special memories from the 2020-2021 lockdown. We composted through the pandemic 🙂