An interview with the founder of ecohero, a company that aims to make the world a little better everyday
The island we are living on is full of beautiful discoveries and we should give more appreciation by looking after it. However, the natural beauty that we have is also vulnerable due to unstructured waste disposal. Bali has declared a ‘garbage emergency’ after the beaches were inundated with a rising tide of plastic waste. NGOs together with local communities are working hand-in-hand to keep Bali’s beaches clean. Tamir Oliver Feldmann was aware of the situation and took an action in safeguarding the beauty and cleanliness of Bali by forming ecohero in 2020. In doing so Tamir aims to motivate people to live more sustainably, and thus, become heroes. Choosing a product that is more sustainable is a heroic act, because it cannot be taken for granted. Consuming less or more consciously, questioning what you are actually buying – all of this makes you an ecohero.
As a founder of the start-up ecohero in Bali Tamir not only geographically crosses borders. Through ecohero, he offers sustainable alternatives to everyday products and wants to make the world a little better in this way. Why there is a great deal of idealism and enthusiasm in his company, why he decided to take the step of founding it, and what triggered his commitment to sustainability – that’s what we talk to him about in his house in Ubud, where he lives with his wife and daughter.
Tamir, what is an ecohero to you?
To me, anyone who takes the time to engage with our environment in a positive way is an ecohero: with nature, our fellow humans, and all the challenges of our daily modern lives. Anyone who decides to optimize our current consumer behavior a little bit is an ecohero in my eyes.
You named your startup: ecohero. What’s the idea behind it?
Everyone wants to be a hero. Our cultural history tells of countless heroic deeds. Children dress up as Superman or Wonder Woman at an early age. Adults, too, have role models like Jesus, Gandhi or Martin Luther King. We want to motivate people to live more sustainably and thus become heroes. Even choosing a product that is more sustainable is a heroic act, because it is not a matter of course. Consuming less or more consciously, questioning what you’re buying in the first place – all that makes you an ecohero in our eyes. That’s where we come in, with ecological alternatives to everyday products. If we improve by just one percent every day, in 100 days we will be 100 percent better than before. We are facing many challenges at the moment and unfortunately they are mostly communicated with fear and anxiety. Instead, we want to engage people with positive messages so they can have fun reconnecting with nature and our environment.
How did the idea for your company come from that? Was there a key experience of some sort?
After selling my event agency in Ibiza and Miami, in early 2019, I asked myself several questions: Who am I and what do I want to experience in this life? What is really important to me and what makes me deeply happy? How do I want to earn my money next? What would I do if I didn’t need money and had everything I needed to survive? My first key experience was before that, when I was in Peru visiting a friend. At first I had an incredible time near the Amazon, there I got to experience wonderful natural spectacles. But then when I got to the cities and saw all the garbage on the streets already on the cab ride, it brought tears to my eyes. It wasn’t just a pile, but miles and miles of pollution. People there burn their garbage and plastic to heat their homes or for cooking. I found that horrifying. Back on Ibiza, everyday life caught up with me again and the issue was somewhat forgotten. But a seed was planted. Then, when we decided to emigrate to Bali after selling my company, I was confronted again with trash on roads and rivers there and vowed to do something about it. I started picking up trash every morning while walking and decided that fighting pollution, helping the disadvantaged and preserving the environment would be the top guidelines in starting my new business.
So how did ecohero take off?
In 2019, on our first visit to Bali, I got a bamboo straw in my lemonade at a café and thought: Wow, what an authentic and great way to enjoy a drink! The EU had already pre-planned the single-use plastic ban for 2021, thus banning plastic straws, bamboo immediately seemed like a perfect alternative. Thereupon I looked for a bamboo straw producer in Bali and found a great artisan, Pak Made, who also stayed overnight in his just 10 square meter bamboo straw store. Him I wanted to support and even more to offer a nice alternative for plastic straws in western countries. I bought 500 bamboo straws from him at that time. Next, I looked for an engraver who could help me engrave logos of well-known companies in Ibiza on the bamboo straws. Then I packed everything up and went back to Ibiza. There I gave the straws to my contacts and after two months the first interested people came forward. That’s how the story of The Bamboo Straw Story began, which later became ecohero.
What kind of products are you offering today?
We have various retail products, including coconut husks, rice straws, bamboo straws, reusable makeup pads, reusable bamboo kitchen towels, bamboo toothbrushes, and bamboo and coconut combs. For our B2B sector, we have selected over 150 products that can also be white-labeled. If someone wants to put their label on the product, we are very open. For us, it’s not just about bringing ecohero forward, but the idea itself. In addition, we have become experts in sourcing. We can source sustainable, certified products of all kinds for our customers.
Where do you get your products from?
Predominantly, the products come from Bali, from traditional local family businesses. They are the first ecoheroes in the chain. There are also a few products, like the bamboo kitchen towels or paper cups, that can only be created industrially and we source them from selected partner companies. We try to support local businesses and create local jobs, but to be really successful and sustainable in the markets of Western countries, we are also tied to industrial manufacturers.
Do you have a favorite project among your products?
Of course. Two, in fact.
Will you tell us about them?
They are the bamboo straws and the coconut shells. Eating my smoothie bowl out of a coconut shell in the morning puts a smile on my face. And because I started with the bamboo straws, I will always have a special connection to them. I think it’s cool that you can engrave something on them and they’re fun to drink from. They always give you a beach club feel.
What about you personally? What makes you an ecohero?
I’m an ecohero simply because I have an aspiration to do better than I’ve done before in my life. I didn’t really relate to sustainability or veganism before. I ate cheese or meat two or three times a day and really didn’t bother with it. I was more of a party guy who was all about people having fun. That’s still a part of me, but I decided to use my talents to support the sustainability movement and be a role model for my daughter. She’s a motivator, too, of course. Today, if I see plastic or dirt lying in nature, I don’t hesitate to pick it up. I’m also not above giving up luxuries. My daily life is now characterized by minimalism – I still enjoy life to the fullest. I’m certainly not perfect, but I’m learning every day.
Information, products and more about ecohero at www.ecohero.world