The TRI story started with a red bandana that my dad carried in his pocket since 1995. He picked it up as a souvenir after hiking in Seoraksan National Park in Korea. The bandana has a map of the national park on it. My dad collected them from each of the national parks he visited when he used to live in Korea. At the time, he just thought they made cool souvenirs, but he got into the habit of carrying them and realized how often they came in handy. As my dad loves forests and trees, his pet peeve is wasting single-use tissues to do things like drying hands after washing, wiping your face when eating, etc.
“My favourite red bandana became like a talisman that I carried with me wherever I went, reminding me and connecting me to the forests I love, and making me more conscious of how I consumes” –Ben’s dad.
When I got to be old enough to think about earning pocket money, my mom started to encourage me to make a similar sort of product.
“Why don’t you make handkerchiefs like the one appa carries, Ben? Only with tourists maps of Bali. You’ll sell lots of them!” The idea didn’t really stick, but my mom reminded me of it now and then over the course of a couple of years. And then, when I reached grade 8 and it was time to come up with a project for my ‘Quest’ presentation, the idea popped up again.
At Green School Bali, where I go to school, students have to present a project related to sustainability or social justice to the school community in order to graduate from middle school. I thought promoting handkerchiefs might be a good way of getting people at Green School to stop wasting paper tissues to dry their hands in the bathrooms. But I still wasn’t convinced it was the right idea.
The birth of our brand
That December, on a family trip to Nepal, we came across a handkerchief in a shop with a map of Annapurna, the mountain range that we were about to go trekking in. Of course, my dad bought the handkerchief and together with my big brother, JJ, and my parents, we sipped sweet hot Nepali milk tea and brainstormed on a brand concept.
“GREENkerchiefs!!” my dad suggested… “LAME!” JJ said, “It’s gotta sound more cool, more hipster, more compact. How about LRX, like appa’s favourite Dr. Seuss book.”, ”nah, that’s taken.” Then I thought of “TRI”. It sounds like ‘tree’, but could be something else too. JJ pitched in, “hashtag, ‘chiefs for change!!!” It stuck.
A few days later, my dad realized “TRI” could also be like Tri Hita Karana, Bali’s beautiful philosophy about the three causes for happiness or prosperity: harmony with humans, harmony with nature, harmony with Spirit.
As we had been thinking about using the money we would make from selling ‘chiefs to support indigenous organizations that were protecting trees, it seemed right to have a brand that connected with our values and Bali, our adopted home that we love.
WHY HANDKERCHIEFS ?
When we got started in June 2016, we thought handkerchiefs could just be a cool way to reduce wasteful paper consumption. Wasting tissues means trees being unnecessarily cut down, right?
But as our project advanced, we realized that our handkerchiefs had even more potential. Our ‘chiefs have become a powerful vehicle to communicate widely in an engaging way about an urgent issue that affects all living things on Earth: deforestation.
With TRI we raise awareness, but we also raise money. Using the profits from the sale of our handkerchiefs, we support grassroots organizations who are working to protect our Earth’s precious trees and peatlands, starting right here in Indonesia.
Handkerchiefs as a fashion accessories and as a functional multi tool.