Using bamboo and traditional Khmer designs to create cups and utensils, local online retailer Organic Lifestyle is blending purpose and fashion to encourage consumers to quit single-use plastics.
Founded by Ngeu Sovannarith in October last year, the online shop sells bamboo alternatives to daily use items typically made from plastic, such as straws, mugs, chopsticks and toothbrushes.
The shop’s first item was an eco-friendly straw made from grass.
“After our launch, our team worked hard to produce other daily use items which are harmless to the atmosphere and environment,” Sovannarith says.
We sell natural products that provide alternatives to plastics. They are sustainably sourced and we aim to offer affordable prices so everyone can take part in reducing plastics.”
The entrepreneur says his aim is to promote cultural heritage and raise environmental awareness through his eco-friendly products.
Some of his most popular products are bamboo mugs and bottles engraved with traditional symbols by a team of professional artists.
One of the best-selling designs is of characters from Lakhon Khol, or traditional Khmer masked theatre.
The art form was inscribed on the UNESCO’s list of Intangible Cultural Heritage in Need of Urgent Safeguarding in 2018.
“We have created an artistic design that is quite appealing among our customers, especially young people,” Sovannarith says.
We engraved the characters from Lakhon Khol masked dance, such as Hanuman, on the bamboo water bottle and mugs to preserve our traditions and protect the environment. The purpose of doing that is to encourage users to be alerted to and be grateful for our amazing culture.”
The mugs and bottles also feature designs from Lakhon Bassac folk theatre, a traditional art form with very few remaining performers.
Yantra designs with geometric rows of ancient Khmer text believed to bestow protective powers are also available.
In addition to the traditional designs, customers can also order mugs or bottles customised with their names, pictures and any short text they want.
The mugs range from $13 to $19, while the Lakhon Khol mug sells for $4.90 and includes a straw.
The bamboo bottles can allegedly maintain the temperature of drinks for 24 hours.
“It takes us two weeks from selecting the Lakhon Khol face mask design to producing the final bottle. Once we have chosen the character, we need to study its details and characteristics. We will then imitate the design on a computer to get the right aspect ratio. Then, we sketch the face mask on the bottle before carving it carefully to make it smooth and beautiful,” says the owner.
Sovannarith says Lakhon Khol is a cultural heritage that Cambodians have to preserve and that is why he engraves the masked characters on his mugs.
The owner takes $0.50 from each Lakhon Khol mug and donates it to local art associations and Lakhon Khol artists who are working to safeguard this endangered art form.
“I want to remind myself and others to care for our legacy. That is why I use the traditional and cultural symbol on our daily use. We are so lucky to have a beautiful culture and art. We together should be proud of what we have before it is gone,” says Sovannarith.
Organic Lifestyle has done well since it opened, and Sovannarith noticed many youths placing orders.
“I am glad to see more youths order these bamboo designs with Khmer art, it means a lot to me. I feel like people love this creative idea beyond more than I ever thought,” he says.
Sovannarith says he wants the country to remove some of its plastic and start utilising environmentally friendly products.
“I will produce more recyclable and reusable products to give clients more options to live a healthier lifestyle,” he says.
For more information, visit Organic Lifestyle on Facebook, email [email protected] or call 015 253 253.