In July 2018 my husband and I travelled to Bali for 5 weeks with our two daughters - then aged around 6 months and 2 1/2 years old. Prior to having our daughters, we had spent a considerable amount of time in Bali and we were married above Padang Padang beach in 2013 so it's safe to say we are huge fans of this island paradise.
However, this trip was different (and not only because we were travelling with two young kids - that's a story for another day). It had been roughly 5 years since our last trip here and it was absolutely mind-blowing how much this beautiful island had changed during this time. While it was still absolutely beautiful with friendly people and delicious food, we noticed a massive increase in construction, in the number of people (both tourists and Indonesian workers), in how much more Westernised it was and the rubbish. Oh my, the rubbish was truly eye-opening.
It's hard to escape the rubbish in Bali. It is everywhere and it’s really confronting. It’s a very complicated issue, and it truly does make you realise how privileged we are to live in New Zealand.
The day that everything changed for me was after a particularly big swell that hit at the same time as a very high tide. We took the girls for an afternoon drive which we did most days - hopping in the car and driving with no destination in mind is one of our favourite ways to explore an area.
We were driving around an area north of Canggu on Bali’s south-western coast and we ended up on a reasonably deserted beach. It was beautiful, so we parked up and got out for a walk.
However, as soon as we hit the sand, we could see it; rubbish everywhere. The huge waves had covered the beach in plastic and debris. I walked along the high tide line looking at it. Straws, nappies, plastic bags, Styrofoam, food packaging, disposable cups, jandals, medical waste and more. It was absolutely heartbreaking. All I could think about was how much I didn’t want my daughters to grow up in a world like this, that surely there has to be a way that we can help.
That’s when I decided two things, firstly that I was going to learn about how we as a family could reduce our impact on our environment, and secondly that I wanted to develop a platform that allowed me to help on a larger scale. And that’s when the concept of Stowaway was born.
So why towels? We love the beach and during our holiday we were using similar towels every day. Not only as beach and bath towels but as blankets, play mats, sun shades, changing mats, baby wraps and more. They were practical but also beautiful and as they rolled up so small we always had at least one with us at all times.
This inspired me to develop a range of similar towels that were produced ethically with minimal effect on the earth. And to establish a company that would enable me to donate a proportion of the sales to charities that help to preserve New Zealand beaches, oceans and marine life so that our children can grow up enjoying our beautiful planet just as we do.
The plastic pollution problem is a global crisis, and it is very complicated. However, I believe that together, if we all do our part, we can make a difference. As conservationist Jane Goodall says "What you do makes a difference. And you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make." I want my difference to count.