Make Art, Not Waste
I’ve heard of furniture made from reclaimed wood but this was the first time I saw a bar decorate itself with trash reclaimed from the beach.
Pi Ya, whose full name is Phataya Chompupuen, is a Thai artist in Khao Lak, an idyllic Thai beach town one hour north of Phuket.
He collects garbage from the beach and turns them into works of art and decorations at his bar, The Big Chili Bar.
“We go to the beach and pick up garbage every Sunday,” he told me.
He volunteers with a trash pickup non-profit organization called “The Trash Heroes.”
If you visit Khao Lak, you might see these volunteers in their bright yellow T-shirts with the big words, “I’m A Trash Hero” printed on it.
After seeing a big group of locals and tourists all volunteering to pick up trash on the beach, I was filled with a sense of joy knowing that they are making the world a cleaner place.
Where You Can Visit The Big Chili Bar
The Big Chili Bar is in Khao Lak, Thailand.
It’s an idyllic beach town nestled between lush tropical mountains and the ocean.
Almost any point in Khao Lak is a 5 to 10 minute walk to the beach.
You can take life slowly here, away from the hustle and bustle of Bangkok or Phuket, with it’s hordes of tourists and smog.
And, because the beach is on the west coast of Thailand, you can take long walks on the beach in the evenings and watch the sunset on the horizon.
It’s a beautiful area to preserve and nurture so future generations can enjoy it as well.
What’s actually going on?
Pi Ya is one of the few business owners, if not the ONLY business owner, in the area to go around collecting garbage from the beach and turning it into art.
This is part of a social wellness movement he told me about called “Make art, not waste” where people convert garbage into furniture or art to sell.
The beaches get cleaned by local thai people and tourists alike who want to feel like they’re contributing to making the world a better place.
It fosters community and team building because everyone is working on leaving the space better than when they found it.
It also gives people a sense of pride, looking back at the cleaned space and being able to say, “I cleaned this space.”
The Social Benefits If More People Copy This Business Model
If more businesses find ways to incorporate a social wellness component into their business model, I think consumers, as well as the world, would benefit.
Reduce trash in landfills
It would help reduce the amount of trash being thrown into landfills.
This article by the National Geographic estimates that 79% of trash ends up in landfills.
Reduce trash in oceans
It would help reduce the amount of trash contaminating the ocean and harming ocean life.
For example, sea turtles who mistake plastic bags for jellyfish, one of their natural food sources, can die from blockage in their stomach.
Reduce trash in our food
Because garbage and plastics end up in the fish we eat, we would be doing ourselves a favor by reducing garbage from ending up in the ocean.
The chemicals from garbage in the ocean that makes its way into our bodies can have negative effects on our health.
For example, high concentrations of chemicals from plastics in young children can negatively affect their neurological, biological, and immunological development.
Pros and Cons of This Social Wellness Business Model
Some pros and cons.
Here are some pros of either you doing this yourself or with a group of people.
Reducing garbage waste in general
One pro is that you’re reducing landfill waste and waste that ends up in oceans in general.
Turning the trash into art and making money
Normally the garbage would either be recycled or turned into a landfill or end up in the oceans.
One pro of this business model is to turn it into art or functional furniture that people can use to decorate their homes, their businesses, or any other space.
And you make money.
It’s the thai concept of paw pieng where you not only make enough money for yourself, but you actively always seek to reclaim your waste to turn it into more money.
You’re usually outside collecting garbage so you’re getting exercise, sunlight, and fresh air.
This has health benefits on your mind, body, spirit.
Doing this isn’t without its cons.
From what I saw with how Pi Ya turned the collected garbage into art, it is a time-consuming process (my biased opinion).
Either you or someone else has to spend time collecting the garbage.
Then you have to take the time to clean it up and then process it into a way it can be used to make art in the first place.
If you’re not a creative person, you might have to hire a creative person.
Might not make any money
After spending all that time collecting and cleaning it up, there’s a chance your art might not sell.
So you would’ve spent time and effort turning your garbage into art and then be stuck with inventory and no money (but at least you’d have a tan and look good from the exercise you did collecting the garbage).
Doing this isn’t for everyone.
Plus, you might be in an area where there isn’t much waste to turn into art.
Heck, you might not even be in an area where there are people to sell your reclaimed trash art to.
Technically there’s the internet where you could sell your trash art on, like Etsy.
But that’s a talk for another day.
In the end, it’s up to you to decide whether this makes sense from a side-hustle perspective.
From a “better for the Earth” perspective, I think it’s great.
It beautifies up people’s homes while taking stuff out of the oceans and you are making people happy while making your wallet happy.
You can also apply it to other aspects of your life that’s not just about turning waste into art to sell.
You can reclaim food scraps to turn into compost to fertilize your flowers and plants instead of having to buy fertilizer.
You can reclaim rain water into a big basin or several huge bins and use it to water your plants instead of spending money using water from the tap.
The list goes on and on.
It first starts with the mindset to look for ways to reclaim things around you to make money.
With the money, you can invest into stocks to build up passive income to reach financial independence faster.