“Together, we can turn the tide” adorns the entrance of Kaimana Living, Brunei’s first dedicated store specialising in high-quality products for low-waste living located at Mabohai Shopping Complex.
Inside, the store is enveloped in warm wood tones, the sleek modular space takes the design concept based on the Japanese age-old tradition of Furoshiki, the delicate art of fabric wrapping items.
The 598 sq ft store is dedicated to selling sustainable products which the founders love to use, Kaimana also offers other sustainable products such as metal straws and bamboo cutlery sets as well as personal care products that align with the store’s standards of packaging and ingredient quality.
Being the first low-waste store of its kind in Brunei, every aspect of the store is dedicated to reducing single-use packaging and also shifting the way how we consume products in a more sustainable direction.
The local store has more than 600 products ranging from well-known eco-friendly brands from Canada, New Zealand and Europe like Abeego, Ball & Kerr, Stasher, Weck, Le Parfait and Lock-eat, among others.
From reusable silicon Stasher bags that replace ziplock bags to Skoy cloth as an alternative to paper towels. Every item at Kaimana is designed to be reusable and low-waste to help customers replace everyday household disposable.
The heart of Kaimana is its refill station, which offers everything from dishwashing soap to shampoo. Customers can also purchase teas, granola, and soap using their own containers or containers bought in the store.
Besides that, tea lovers are in for a treat! The shop offers 20 varieties of premium loose leaf tea and flavors — from the traditional Earl Grey to the Golden Apple Spice to popular Bohemian Raspberry tea.
The store also offers tea-making paraphernalia, such as simple and easy tea infusers to a more traditional teapot option.
The socio-mission store also features products from local independent makers who share the same green mindset, including recycled toilet papers from EnEvo, super-cute adjustable cloth diapers from Chubby Phat Kisses.
The founders hope to use Kaimana to evolve the conversation around low waste and sustainability in the future. The store will also be offering monthly workshops where they will be hosting talks about sustainability and how to adapt to a low-waste lifestyle.
“With the workshops, we want to encourage people to think of creative ways to not increase the waste and also empower them to make their own low-waste product so they can get started,” Trish shared.
Making wave for a greener future
What brewed from an idea of wanting premium loose leaf peppermint tea, rippled into a socio-mission to reduce single-use packaging.
“Kaimana” comes from the Hawaiian word meaning “the power of the sea”, reflecting the collective vision of three female ecopreneurs Trish Lai, Tracy Lai and Tiffany Lai. Each driven by a personal goal to help make the world more viable for future generations.
Concerned about the rising level of plastic waste in the ocean and land, the three ecopreneurs introduced the low-waste concept store as a small step to save the environment from pollution and to encourage consumers to shop consciously.
“Bruneians are high producers of waste; 1.4kg per person daily and 16% of this is single-use plastic,” said Tracy in an interview with The Bruneian.
She added: “Our culture of convenience favouring single-use plastic packaging has heavily polluted our oceans and land.”
“Shampoos, conditioners, bodycare products that we use everyday produce a lot of waste. We wanted to offer an alternative so we can remove the single-use packaging and introduce the refillable alternative,” she further explained.
“Our personal mission is tied very deeply with Kaimana to show people that we can have a social mission-focused business and have it be profitable to make a positive impact as well as educating other businesses on low-waste concepts,” she continued.
The Journey: Brewing a green initiative
Co-founder Trish’s interest in the sustainable lifestyle began in Canada, where the people there are increasingly looking for green products and services. She spent 15 years working abroad in Vancouver, a city that aspires to be the world’s greenest city.
“When I came back to Brunei for Chinese New Year last year, a few months before they closed the borders. I couldn’t travel back,” she shared.
The hard part of being back, Trish continued, was looking for low-waste products (especially tea brands) in Brunei.
With no prior experience in opening a business, Trish along with her sister Tracy, a lawyer by profession and her cousin Tiffany, who quit her job in the oil and gas sector decided to take the leap into the green business.
Using their own personal low-waste lifestyle journeys as a starting point, the trio aims to educate and inspire the public to reduce the amount of packaging waste produced, and to empower consumers to shop consciously.
The ecopreneurs first started to test the market by selling their low-waste products online in August 2020, stocking their brand of premium loose leaf teas. Over time, the inventory expanded to high-quality sustainable essentials like amber jars, bamboo toothbrushes and more.
In the past few months of launching the website, Kaimana has seen an increase in demand for the low-waste products that the founders decided to open a physical store in May.
Since opening their physical store in May, the family shared that the community support for the low-waste business has been positive. It also inspired first-time customers to come back for seconds with their own containers, they shared.
Despite it being the first-of-its-kind in the country, the three founders believe that Brunei was ready for a low-waste store.
The increasing awareness of the plastic problem and the issue of waste and pollution has seen a number of green businesses sprouting in Brunei.
The ecopreneur further shared that conscious consumerism has been gaining momentum in Brunei ever since the country banned single-use plastic bags in major supermarkets and retailers in 2018.
Tiffany shared that there is an increased awareness among the younger demographic about environmental issues which is also a factor that pushed them to open up a low-waste store.
“You can also observe the shift in the older generation too,” she said. “When their kids bring them to our store, they get all excited because it reminds them about the past, where the presence of plastic was minimal and that they could go to shops and buy things with their own container,” she further added.
Another motivating factor for opening a low-waste store in Brunei was their desire to continue educating the public on sustainability.
Tracy highlighted that reducing the consumption of new products and replacing them with sustainable alternatives has a much greater environmental impact in the long run.
“We need to learn the concept of delayed gratification – compromising our convenience now will help the environment in leaps and bounds in the future,” she said.
As for future plans, Kaimana hopes to become the go-to store where people are to look for good quality, reusable and eco-conscious products, she concluded.
Kaimana plans on expanding its inventory. The business will continue to reach out to more consumers and hope to see more stores carrying a similar low-waste concept.
THE BRUNEIAN | BANDAR SERI BEGAWAN