Today we talked with Laura, Raph and Duc, the founders of Karma Diving & Yoga in Nusa Penida. If Karma Diving is first a diving center, it’s also a place where a lot of interesting things take place.
Where it all started
Karma Diving was born when Raph, then a dive instructor in Thailand and Laura, a yoga teacher and manager, met Duc, webdesigner and yoga instructor.
In 2014, they launched a crowdfunding campaign to make their dream come true. They chose the Globedreamers platform as it supports socially and environmentally engaged projects. From the beginning, the focus was on the development of sustainable tourism. Six months later, a record time for this kind of venture, the center was open!
The three French founders are realistic and know that diving is a leisure that puts a lot of pressure on the environment : people travel by plane from far away, and use dedicated equipment and boats for their trips. Nonetheless, their motto has always been:
“Rather than staying there doing nothing, we think about how we can reduce our impact on the environment as much as and wherever possible!”
And that’s precisely what we’ll talk about in this article! Take a deep breath, and dive with us!
A full immersion
The concept behind Karma Diving & Yoga is to offer customer a full-on experience. In other words, one shouldn’t be in a rush to leave after a dive without having tried a relaxing session of yoga the next day.
Yoga is indeed the perfect activity to complement diving, especially when it comes to breathing and staying calm underwater. There, you’ll learn to consume less oxygen, in a better way.
This could also be a striking comparison with our society: by learning how to enjoy the present time, one can fully enjoy simple things. This in turn is a possible starting point to live a less consumerist life.
In Nusa Penida, there’s not much to support that lifestyle anyway. Rather, it’s all about the wonders of mother nature, with the unmissable beaches of Kelingking or Diamond and their striking views.
And of course, the ocean flora and the coral reefs are truly exceptional here, amongst the best in the world. There you’ll meet a multitude of diverse and extraordinary creatures, ranging from manta rays to colorful fish banks and of course, the impressive Mola-mola!
Despite the recent infrastructure development due to an increase in tourism, Nusa Penida successfully manages to retain this cool island vibe, far away from its buzzling sister Bali.
And for it to remain that way, the three friends first focused their effort on maintaining the water quality.
The ocean, source of life
Karma Diving & Yoga is a member of the Refill My Bottle network, an organization offering free bottles refills in Bali, other islands of Indonesia and a few other countries. Refill My Bottle is a movement created by Alex Tsuk, the founder of BGreener. Indeed, diminishing the consumption of plastic bottles is certainly a first step towards reducing the global plastic production.
On the other hand, most organizations today in Indonesia rely on bottled water in the so-called “Gallons” of 19L. If these are reusable, they are still transported by trucks across the country. As a result, the folks at Karma Diving decided it was best not to use them at all. Rather, they opted for the water filters developed by the brand Nazava.
Nazava is an Indonesian company, producing water filters based on active charcoal. In addition, these come at an affordable price for the locals and last for a long period of time. This is a way to rapidly and drastically decrease the water consumption at the center’s level.
A 100% natural soap to avoid contamination in the sea.
The founders are now focusing on the washing tanks in order to reduce the water usage. More precisely, they keep the rinsing water at least 2 days, which is already 1m³ of water saved each time.
Although the ideal situation would be to recover that grey water by filtering it, this option would be very expensive to set up, notwithstanding the fact that the current infrastructure aren’t appropriate for that. At the moment, the underground water comes at a cheap price, but, how long will that be the case? In Bali, problems due to extensive drainings of the underground water have been around for a long time already.
Since the rinsing water is discarded directly in the sea, it was of utter importance for the founders to use a natural soap, which comes in the shape of a dry bar. They then dilute and use that soap for everything in the center: cleaning the dishes, washing the dive equipment and even for cleaning the masks while on the boat.
Next to other dive centers which are still using industrial soaps or toothpaste for cleaning the masks, it’s a serious step forward for the coral, very sensitive to all industrial products.
As we can see, there are numerous ways to reduce the consumption of water. According to Raph, “Bali is a great source of inspiration”. Indeed, many entrepreneurs there set up innovative solutions to environmental issues. On the other hand, it’s easy today to turn on YouTube to find out and replicate amazing solutions to these problems.
The education, at the core of their strategy
Education is too often neglected when it comes to the adoption of more sustainable practices, and that often leads to resistance to change.
This is exactly what happened when they introduced the new bar soap. At the time, the staff members didn’t quite trust the quality of the soap, for it didn’t have the smelly fragrance of its industrial counterpart.
Other examples include buying commodities and food stocks by bulk rather than in small quantities. The issue here is that even though bigger quantities are ultimately cheaper and cause less packaging, they cost more money to buy upfront.
In the kitchen and in the lunchboxes, MSG’s (flavor enhancers) have been banished. That’s also a way for them to shed light on healthier culinary practices.
When it comes to communicating about all these changes, the best approach, according to Laura, Raph and Duc is to show the example. This led them to purchase themselves Nazava’s water filters for their staff, in order to overcome that resistance to change.
Furthermore, the customers are encouraged not to bring any plastic bottles on the boats and rather fill their own containers thanks to the Refill My Bottle initiative.
Finally, on the dive boat itself, the guides and instructors know what they’re talking about. They raise awareness for the protection of marine life and concerns about plastic pollution. This is particularly useful in Indonesia where the lack of waste management facilities and the growing population put the environment under pressure.
Waste ? Nope !
Here is an another main concern of the center: dealing with the existing waste. We’ve already mentioned education as a way to show the best practices. In addition to that, availability of alternatives is also a key element. This is why stainless-steel bottles are sold directly at the venue.
At the end of their dive trainings, the divers receive one of these, stamped with the Refill My Bottle logo. The bottles also showcase a QR code in order to download the app, pretty handy when it comes to find out where the closest refill stations are.
On the boat, the meals are offered in reusable boxes. This seems trivial, but Styrofoam boxes are still widely used in the country.
« You need to do the first step. »
Finally, when shopping groceries, the employees are incentivized to bring reusable tote-bags with them, in order to avoid plastic bags.
« This is a fight we are winning. », said Raph.
Putting in the work on a daily basis
When it comes to sustainable development, the most crucial is to maintain the efforts on a daily basis at the operation level. This reminded us of the words of David Katz, founder of the Plastic Bank: one needs to “close the tap before mopping up the floor”.
The social enterprise also takes part in local beach clean-ups organized by Trash Hero. They try to host the event once a month. Nonetheless, as Laura points out, this kind of action is only effective if sustained for a long-term duration. It could also be improved by involving a larger crowd, notably school pupils, in a larger clean-up area.
Finally, political support is crucial at this stage. “Bringing up change by educating the people is necessary. Without the adequate political support, the island will lose it all”.
On the government side, local initiatives such as a “Ministry of waste” have emerged, and sorting bins have been installed along the main road. Let’s hope that improvement of the roads and infrastructures will allow the process to spread to all villages on the island.
In the meantime, on the island, some types of trash are gathered and disposed of while waiting for a better solution. This is the case for batteries, glass, etc. If you have ideas on this issue, feel free to contact Karma Diving about it!
Quality materials and creativity
Given the fact that diving is an extreme sport, using second hand material isn’t really an option.
With that said, two solutions exist in order to reduce the amount of trash generated. First, to extend the equipment operating life by cleaning thoroughly and with natural soaps – and while you’re at it, warn the customers not to pee in the wetsuits!
The other solution is known as upcycling, i.e. reusing the material to give it a second life. Raph & Laura are considering for instance to work with the plastic from the fins and the neoprene of the wetsuits. Here is an area with constant room for improvement and creativity.
Energy consumption is a big challenge here. Blaming the travelers and criticizing rarely leads to changes in the right direction.
Therefore, the best option is to lead the way. For Karma Diving, a way to compensate carbon emissions is to contribute financially to social and ecological projects, such as the ones we mentioned above. In addition to that, such projects contribute to the local economy.
Finally, when customers ask to go to further dive sites, the center charges an extra, which can then be reused to invest in such projects.
Some carbon emissions are hard to avoid, but can be cut. For instance, on the dive boat, they invested in a brand new four-stroke, well maintained engine. Also, you’ll soon find eco-traveler’s kits for sale at the shop, with reusable tote-bags, bamboo straws and toothbrush.
What’s coming next
Karma Diving is well on its way to implement new sustainable practices for the development of tourism and education. With this in mind, we could soon witness a greywater recycling project as well as a permaculture garden for the local warung – a small stall-style restaurant. This would bring tasty and organic products to their table, while allowing for a greater choice of ingredients for those suffering from food intolerances.
“The restaurant and the permaculture garden are really important to us!”
The customers will receive email recommendations before their departures, on how to travel in a more responsible way, with their own tumblers, tote-bags, the Refill My Bottle’s app, and even suggestions to support local projects.
The energy production remains an area with a lot of room for improvement. Numerous possibilities exist, with solar or even geothermal energy. Let’s hope someday, Karma Diving and Yoga will be completely off-the-grid, like the guys of Utopia Rote Lodge!
“With our own dive center, we have the freedom to implement the projects that are the most important to us”.
Ultimately, regarding the center’s growth, Laura, Duc and Raph are considering partnerships with other actors in the field of sustainable tourism, in order to maintain this line of development while avoiding mass tourism.
“We believe Nusa Penida can serve to showcase the principles of eco-management”.
« BGreener is a great source of information for developing ecological practices ». There is a great lot of diversity, with many members active in the field of hospitality, but also other types of social businesses, like Karma Diving. This allows each industry to exchange ideas and benefit from one another.
The BGreener network has been a huge help for Karma Diving in solving diverse issues, notably the legal hurdles in the beginning. Moreover, the group is really responsive when one submits a request or question. The founders only regret being that far away from Bali’s buzzing atmosphere and all the network’s activities.
“BGreener’s main strength is the speed at which the network is created. In addition to that, the day when we start something of importance, we know the members will be there to support us ! “
If sustainable development means the world to you, and if you want to discover the world’s most beautiful coral reefs, then contact Laura, Raph et Duc right here. You can also check out their website or pay them a visit in Nusa Penida.
Guillaume Duckerts is a Belgian French writer who loves to travel across Asia. Find out more about his work here.