(Interview with BIS Graduate Maitri Fischer, Chief Technical Officer of Eco Mantra)
- What does your company do?
Mantra is a leading Environmentally Sustainable Design and Environmental Property Management Consultancy. We work closely with property developers and architects to design and engineer sustainable properties like hotels, resorts, beach clubs, schools, factories and homes in Indonesia and abroad.
We also work with property owners and managers to provide environmental management services to help them monitor and manage their energy and water consumption, as well as their waste production to help them quantify and reduce their environmental footprint. Our ultimate goal is to create sustainable experiences for guests and building users, while at the same time greatly reducing or eliminating the negative impact on the natural environment.
- Other than witnessing significant changes in Bali the past few years, what else inspired you to start up Eco Mantra?
My primary motivation was and still is my love for nature and Bali. When I returned from University abroad and saw the massive changes in Bali; how the rice fields were disappearing and the water tables dropping and how waste was polluting every square meter of this island we all call home, I had to do something. Other than that, it was the deep desire to one day see my children play in the rice fields of Bali’s beautiful nature, as I did. The adventures we had as children growing up on this magical island…wow!
- What are your client types?
We have all kinds of clients. We specialize in the hospitality and tourism industry, so our main client type is property developers and hoteliers but we also have a lot of private projects with Bali residents, building their dream homes in Bali.
Generally we get business though referrals from architects and also from referrals from developers, these are our two biggest sales channels. We have worked with some of the worlds leading architects and designers such as IBUKU, Studio Jencquel, Kengo Kuma, Andra Matin, Atelier 1, and Thomas Heatherwick. In indonesia, our client portfolio includes Waterbom Bali, Alila, Amandari, Como, Potato Head, Katamama, Alaya, Sumba Foundation, Wakatobi dive resort, Misool, and Green School.
- What are the top three environmental challenges Bali faces?
With out a doubt it is Clean energy and Energy conservation, Water quality and sufficiency, and comprehensive waste management. In fact, when Nino (my business partner) and I founded Mantra we identified energy, water and waste as key focus areas and built our company around solving the problems associated with the issues around them.
- Where is Eco Mantra’s stance on these challenges?
We believe that waste management in Bali is essentially non-existent. The current infrastructure is overwhelmed and something like 50% of the waste generated in Bali is not disposed of properly, meaning it is thrown out into the environment; rivers, ravines, lakes, ocean, etc. We believe in separation at source, composting and recycling and only land-filling the residue. We have proven that we can reduce waste to landfill by 90% through our MPH program. Check out this link for more information form the NGO we started to tackle this issue on a local, community level https://mph-bali.org/). As such, we believe that every person and business has a responsibility towards preserving our enthronement by separating at source. If you are not doing that, you are not doing the minimum.
We are on the verge of a water crisis. We don’t know when it will happen but we have all the indicators pointing towards it. Bali suffers extreme saltwater intrusion in all coastal cities with high tourism and/or local populations. Some water tables in in aquifers used by the Denpasar Municipality and PDAM have dropped as much as 20 meters. Rice crops have reduced to 1 crop in some subaks in Bali from the usual 2 per year to 1 and farmers are reporting increased water stress events. So much so that although the area of rice fields are drastically reducing due to development, we are building dams and retention basins to supply water to them. PDAM often has water supply issues. Springs are drying up, hand dug wells are drying up and local residents are drilling deeper in every drought to hit water. We are surprised when we get a water test (from a client) which is not contaminated with e-coli bacteria. All of these indicators point toward decreasing water availability and quality. This is not sustainable and this will lead to a crisis sooner or later. Some say within 5 years. It is estimated that some 65% of Balis fresh water needs is used for servicing the tourism industry, so we have focused on reducing the water footprint of the tourism industry. And let me tell you, global climate change is only going to make this worse.
Energy is a global problem. Energy generation and fuels is the biggest contributor to global climate change. Indonesia has a particularly dirty mix of fuels (mainly coal) used for electricity generation. For every 1 kWh of electricity we consume, some 0.9 kg of CO2 is released into the atmosphere. So… if you like to run you AC all night, that’s 7.2kg of co2 per day or 2,600 kg per year. Construction and the operation of buildings accounts for some 39% of the global carbon emissions. In Bali, most of these emissions are coming from tourism developments and operations, therefore we have focused on reducing carbon emissions for one of the largest global and local emitters, the construction and building operations sector. Last year we completed a project to quantify the carbon footprint for the construction of a 168 room luxury hotel in Bali to create Bali’s first carbon neutral hotel.
- Do you have a message for BIS students dreaming of making the earth a better place?
Follow your heart and be true to yourself. Study Earth Sciences and don’t be scared of physics. Learn and most importantly, take up the philosophy of lifelong learning.
- What sectors do you think need improvement, and what skill sets are now in demand?
Environmental engineering and building physics is a very interesting and growing field with a lot of growth potential in this decade. We will see that sustainability, environmental construction, operation and reporting will become increasingly important in global economic growth and investments. Environmental compliance, as dry as it sounds, will become very important in this decade.