Gallery: SUSTAINABLE STYLE: Travel Trash Paks by Monsoon Vermont


It’s no secret that we are totally obsessed with trash-to-treasure here at Inhabitat – we just cannot get our fill of landfills with a brighter lining. These pop-art recycled trash paks by Monsoon Vermont (part of Monsoon Group) really caught our eye when we spied them floating around the blogosphere. Crafted from recycled trash in Java (primarily detergent packets and toothpaste tubes) that are collected by slum-dwelling scavengers in Jakarta, this brilliant eco-enterprise is not only cleaning up the face of the planet but putting a new spin on dignity and right-livelihood in an otherwise economically impoverished area.

Monsoon Vermont‘s paks are made from recycled garbage that is scavenged from Jakarta’s landfills, littered streets, and polluted waterways. The collected refuse is then triple sanitized with bleach and dried thoroughly before local artisans begin cutting and collaging the plastic packets to create one-of-a-kind, stitched designs. The quality workmanship in each piece is reinforced with heavy-duty double zippers, strong buckles, and made-to-last hardware. This is not a case of an industrial workplace churning out fancy accessories for foreign markets but rather an example of a dedicated effort to create sustainable livelihoods for residents of Jakarta, Indonesia.

As the company states, “We seek to honor the story of each person who scavenges, collages, and sews garbage into functional works of art. Our mission is to elevate non-recyclable plastic garbage into a valuable commodity. Like rice, the trash is sold by the kilo. When you purchase one of our products you become an environmental activist. A force that fights global poverty and pollution. Your purchase uplifts trash pickers both socially and economically.”

+ TSUNAMI Travel Bag $28 (pictured above)
+ Pak Haris LIMITED EDITION Artist Signed & Dated Travel Bag (pictured below) $30

+ Monsoon Vermont (Monsoon Group)

Pak Haris – LIMITED EDITION Artist Signed & Dated Travel Bag, $30


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  1. lizzie May 4, 2009 at 11:28 pm

    Am very sad to read the above comments about \’XS Project\’. I, in fact, work for them and am appalled that you insinuate that the workers are \’miserable, underpaid, overworked and fearful\’. XS makes no profit, ALL money is poured back into the community it supports. The information you provide is not accurate. Please research before you print. We are well aware of the \’other side of the story\’ when it comes to \’Monsoon Vermont\’. Clearly Ann intended the idea to spread so that other people from poor communities could benefit from her designs and original ideas, sadly those who profit from this seem to not feel the need to acknowledge her input. I am also struck by the \’uncanny\’ resemblance with XS Project, even the fabric tags are similar. It is one thing to copy an idea and design, but in doing so one should feel morally obliged to acknowledge the creator and the contibution that person made to enabling a company to get started, ideas and all .I think \’Monsoon Vermont\’ is stepping onto thin ice.
    Furthermore, just to add to the credibility of my comments, this is the second project I have worked on with Ann, both of us have contributed with endless time and money with no compensation, no money. This is called voluntary work.

  2. divinityicing September 11, 2008 at 11:37 pm

    Maybe someone should tell Ann Wizer and her cyber bullies that Environmental Action is Not Something You can Trademark.
    Why would you put people and artists down who work with trash-telling them that Ann Wizer is the only viable maker of goods from trash?
    What about the Phillipine juice bag products, and what about the women is Soth Africa who make goods from trash packets–are they all copying Ann Wizer?
    Furthermore, Ann Wizer SOLD XSProject to investors in 2005. A small group of old friends from Citibank bought XSProject.
    Then, they decided to portray themselves as a “non-profit”. Idea! “Let’s push the foundation! ”
    Have you ever researched other non-profits who work in Jakarta and compared their effectiveness? I suggest you spend more time caring about poverty, injustice and environmnetal degradation and less time bad mouthing honest endeavors.
    Ann Wizer is married to a banker with the Asian Development Bank. She has trademarked nonrecyclable trash. Try telling that to the scavnegers. Of course one of her foundation’s \”projects\” is collecting trash from school children so her business doesn\’t have to BUY trash from scavnegers. IT\’s cheaper that way. Same thing with their Yayasan labor=cheap labor (or “skill development”). Ask Indonesians what they think of making money off of the neediest amongst them.

    As for XSProject\’s funding of projects, it is nothing short of dismal and I suggest you find out a little more about those projects rather than just believe what you are told.
    I know the XS workers are miserable, and have issues with feeling underpaid, overworked and fear crossing this self proclaimed diva of goods made of trash. Too many people in Jakarta know what goes on, but they politely stay quiet, embarrassed and slightly intimidated at what might befall them should they dare question Ann Wizer and XSProject\’s tactics.
    Maybe you should be happy that Jakarta scavengers have access to a new livlihood and that their trash acts as a sustainable livlihood for them. Maybe you should wonder why anyone would wish for you to dog the makers of these goods with gossip and innuendo.

  3. CKS July 21, 2008 at 10:22 am

    I just had a good look at the Monsoon Vermont site. These products bear an uncanny resemblance to the XSProject range. You have to ask the obvious question….?

  4. CKS July 21, 2008 at 10:08 am

    Hi Abigail,
    I think there is a lot of confusion here. Consumers should be aware that there are indeed some dodgy operators out there. When Ann Wizer (the founder of XSProject Foundation) began making bags, there were some attempts by the companies who use the plastic as packaging for their products in the first instance to put the project out of operation by duplication the products, using NEW packaging and GIVING THEM AWAY for free! The original wearable art work made by Ann Wizer, an environmental activist artist, in the 1990\\\’s was titled \\\’the virus project\\\’ and was intended to act as a virus, spreading the environmental dialogue through SE Asia at a time when there was virtually none. If there are copy cat projects out there, then this is only an indication that the virus was succesful. XSProject doesnt build schools, but they have plumbed fresh water into the village of trashpickers they work with, they have funded scholarships for the children of the village, they assist with health programs and crisis intervention, when they can. The foundation is a not for profit organisation, run entirely on the proceeds of products made from trash. Ann Wizer has put her own money into it and never been paid. Why would you do anything but applaud these efforts?
    Best regards,

  5. Abigail Doan April 1, 2008 at 8:17 am

    Dear “msukardi”:

    I feel compelled to respond in detail to some of your questions and comments regarding Monsoon Vermont’s products and company policies, as several of your points are very targeted and somewhat accusatory.

    I found the Monsoon Vermont website to be very informative and positive (not green-washed at all) in terms of the clarity of their mission and their overall efforts in Jakarta’s “slum” communities . I actually e-mailed with the company yesterday and found their well-backed, extremely thoughtful responses to be very uplifting and legitimate in terms of the outstanding work and “giving back” that they do overseas. Unfortunately, their experiences with XS Project were not as positive as yours – with a long list of issues that I will not go into unless it is absolutely necessary in order to defend their product and methods. I am omitting the specifics of “not as positive” or rather “not AT ALL positive” in order to avoid turning this into a finger pointing post. That said, Monsoon Vermont has definitely done their homework, and their involvement in the region and with their well-paid and well-treated artisans has indeed been long-term and beneficial to the scavenging community at large.

    I would like to share some of their comments, though:

    Monsoon Vermont, March 30, 2008 via e-mail:

    I was (am) determined to make sure that whatever project I was (am) engaged in, supporting and working with, has a direct impact on the people picking the garbage and sewing the products. And not a perfunctory one-for “green washing” purposes.

    It has been my intention to not speak badly about XS Project.

    Some points of interest: this writer says he/she “grew up with XS” – XS only started in 2004/5. “Everyone knew XSProject”? XSProject hasn’t built schools, clinics or many more projects”- this is just nonsense.

    The tone of this email is oddly accusatory. This is an unusual demeanor for most of us in the goods made from trash movement. HIV Positive women in South Africa who make bags from juice packets, or the Philippine women who also make goods from garbage, or the gals who are using billboards to make bags, and in fact, I consider us to be in the same circle where design and social change meet. I consider them to be my peers, and my friends.

    I would suggest that you send them (the reader) to the YEWater Program, even more specifically the Tanjung Priok link.

    It is our goal to not engage in a bitter competition as we believe there is room for all at the table.

    Thanks for reading and for bringing your concerns to our attention. We always welcome a healthy, well-backed dialogue here at Inhabitat.

    Abigail @ Inhabitat

  6. sustainable travel gear... March 31, 2008 at 7:33 pm

    […] travel gear Inhabitat posted a really cool thing today – Pop-art recycled trash paks by Monsoon Vermont (part of Monsoon […]

  7. msukardi March 31, 2008 at 11:20 am

    I went to the Monsoon Vermont’s webpage and couldn’t find much information about the group itself, just several pages regarding product buying and something about their office in Vermont…? How are they helping the poverty in Indonesia? What have they given back to the community?
    Again, I don’t know much about the Monsoon Vermont project (never heard of it) but while I was growing up in Jakarta, Indonesia we were very aware of another trash-into-treasure project called XS Project. ( I’ve worked with the group on some occasions and know for a fact that they’ve helped generate enough profit for the scavenger communities to build schools, clinics, and many more projects that reach out to the scavenger communities. And, we were aware of some foreign companies that have come in, copied the project, and sold these greenwashed products. Now, I haven’t decided just yet that the Monsoon Vermont project is one of these companies, but I would like to know if they are or aren’t. And if they aren’t, what have they done for the scavenger communities?

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