Celia Siura On Making A Positive Impact On The Environment, One Initiative At A Time

ByAzleen Abdul Rahim

Celia has a deep connection to the ocean, often spending her time surfing or diving. She leads Common Seas as Indonesia’s Chief Operating Officer. With a strong background in business development and environmental initiatives, she brings a wealth of knowledge to her role. Celia has garnered extensive experience working with renowned international organizations, non-profit programs, and international businesses spanning over 14 years.

Her impressive track record includes working with the United Nations Development Programme, the Australian Embassy Project, UK Embassy Project, World Vision International, a British Aquaculture Company, and a mining company. Celia’s diverse experiences and expertise make her a valuable asset in driving sustainable change and promoting environmental stewardship. Via email, I recently had a conversation with Celia about her sustainable initiatives in making the world a better place for the present and future generations. 

Hello Celia. Before we jump into the more-serious questions, tell us a little bit about yourself

I’m Celia Siura, a passionate Indonesian woman who’s riding the waves of change as the fearless leader of Common Seas Indonesia.  Let me tell you, Common Seas is not an average organization— it’s an international non-profit on a mission to quickly and significantly reduce the amount of plastic produced and stop it from polluting rivers and seas. 

And let me tell you something else: the ocean? It’s my happy place, my second home. I live for surfing, swimming, and diving into those beautiful azure waters.

But here’s the thing: I can’t just sit back and enjoy the ocean without taking action to protect it. That’s where Common Seas Indonesia comes in. With this incredible team by my side, I firmly believe that we can make a splash and create a massive impact together.

Sustainability has been at the centre of your life purpose. How does that happen?

Sustainability is the driving force behind my life purpose. From surfing waves to exploring the depths of the ocean. As I grew older, I witnessed the devastating impact of human actions on our planet. Plastic pollution, deforestation, climate change—utter horror!

That’s when I made a promise to myself and Mother Earth. I couldn’t just stand by, sipping coconut water while the world crumbled. Sustainability became my life’s passion. I delved into learning about eco-friendly practices, combating pollution, and sustainable solutions. It wasn’t always smooth sailing, but my determination never wavered.

Fate smiled upon me when I joined forces with Common Seas—a kindred organization dedicated to protecting the ocean from plastic pollution. It was a match made in eco-heaven! As the leader of Common Seas Indonesia, I now pour my energy into creating real change alongside a team of like-minded warriors for a sustainable future.

Sustainability isn’t just a buzzword to me, it’s a way of life. I strive to make conscious choices, champion upstream solutions, and inspire others to join the cause. 

Can you share a personal story or experience that inspired you to become more involved in environmental sustainability?

Join me on a captivating journey as I recount my role as an environmental project coordinator for World Vision International at the age of 24. Picture this: knee-deep in a river, surrounded by a community relying on it for bathing and washing. But there was a problem—their waste was polluting the water. It was time for action!

Inspired, we transformed the abundance of plastic and organic waste into a sustainable income for the Borneo community. With a brilliant team, we launched an innovative environmental business. But that wasn’t all—we partnered with Yamaha Water Company to convert the river water into clean drinking water.

We secured government land, constructing a state-of-the-art waste bank and water treatment facility. The community embraced our project, becoming fierce protectors of their rivers. News spread like wildfire, attracting attention from around the world. World Vision representatives from 50 countries witnessed our impact firsthand, leaving us feeling like environmental heroes.

The greatest reward? Seeing the community’s joy and improved lives. This is the essence of our mission: positive change for people, our planet, and prosperity.

Tell us Celia, how do average people like us can incorporate sustainability practices into our daily life?

Indeed, sustainability practices can be seamlessly incorporated into our daily lives through conscious decision-making and the adoption of small yet significant habits. A key aspect of this is mindful consumption. By making informed choices when purchasing goods and services, we can actively contribute to sustainability efforts.

One way to practice mindful consumption is by supporting local and sustainable businesses. By prioritizing their products, we promote environmentally friendly practices and contribute to the local economy. Additionally, opting for products with minimal packaging helps reduce waste and promote a circular economy.

Choosing eco-friendly and organic options also plays a vital role in sustainability. These products are typically produced with minimal environmental impact and prioritize the use of renewable resources. Furthermore, emphasizing quality and durability over disposable items encourages a shift towards a more sustainable mindset.

Repairing or repurposing items instead of immediately replacing them is another effective way to embrace sustainability. By extending the lifespan of our possessions, we reduce the demand for new products and alleviate the strain on natural resources.

Let’s not forget the power of reusing! Simple actions such as using reusable shopping bags, water bottles, and containers can significantly reduce single-use waste. And for parents, switching to reusable diapers for their little ones can make a substantial difference.

Incorporating these sustainability practices into our daily lives empowers us to become conscious consumers who actively contribute to a more sustainable future. By making mindful choices, we play our part in preserving the environment and fostering a more sustainable society.

How would you approach encouraging sustainable behaviour changes in a diverse group of individuals? Not many people can easily change their lifestyle

To promote sustainable behavior changes in a diverse group, I would employ an approach grounded in empathy, education, and incremental progress. Recognizing the difficulties associated with lifestyle changes, I would emphasize the significance of taking small steps and gradually building momentum. By providing education and raising awareness about the advantages of sustainability, I would engage leaders or influencers within the group to champion the cause. This way, they can serve as frontline advocates, inspiring individuals to recognize the positive impact they can have. To ensure inclusivity and relevance, I would tailor approaches to suit different cultural backgrounds and preferences.

It is not that easy to approach, engage and educate the community when it comes to a heavy topic like this. How do you normally do it?

For example, In Common Seas Indonesia, we tackle the issue of single-use diaper waste, which constitutes 50% of plastic pollution in the Brantas River. This river serves as the primary water source for around 98% of East Java’s population, including myself and my team. To address this problem, I employ an educational approach by organizing events for communities residing near the rivers.

During these events, I initiate discussions by asking the community members where they usually dispose of their single-use diapers and where they source their fish. I highlight the connection between the fish’s diet and the waste in the river. To demonstrate the benefits of reusable diapers, I provide them with a set of reusable diaper testers, allowing them to experience the advantages firsthand.

As they witness the benefits of reusable diapers, such as reduced family costs and healthier baby skin, individuals often begin incorporating more reusable diapers voluntarily. By starting with education and showcasing the positive outcomes, we encourage sustainable behavior changes within the community, contributing to a cleaner environment and healthier water sources.

Can you share with us an example of a sustainability project or campaign you’ve successfully deployed and the positive change made to the community?

Our paramount objective is to revolutionize reusable diapers by offering cost-effective alternatives to single-use diapers without compromising on quality. Through our sustainable production practices, we collaborate with disadvantaged communities, particularly Indonesian women and disabled individuals, as our producers, so they can get a stable income from the project. 

Our commitment to affordable reusable diapers has yielded impressive results in our successful pilot project. In collaboration with our partner, we distributed 6,000 reusable diaper testers to benefit 1,000 babies. The impact was transformative, with 98.1% of participants embracing reusable diapers within six months. Families experienced a 75% reduction in daily diaper usage, leading to significant cost savings. Users reported an 86% reduction in baby rashes and a 99.8% decrease in urinary infections. Our pilot project eliminated 529,740 single-use diapers and prevented 535.17 CO2 emissions. The Social Return on Investment (SROI) was approximately 158%. 

Our 5-year objectives are bringing $29 million in economic benefits to the region, preventing 185 million single-use diapers from polluting rivers by distributing 1 million reusable diapers, and reducing carbon emissions by 188,000 Carbon Emissions.

Do you mind highlighting to us some of the challenges you faced while advocating for sustainability?

Two significant challenges in advocating for sustainability I faced are policy and regulatory hurdles and limited resources.

Outdated policies and insufficient regulations can create obstacles to sustainability initiatives. Navigating the complex policy landscape and advocating for supportive measures can be difficult.

Adequate funding, manpower, and infrastructure are essential for successful sustainability efforts. However, acquiring these resources can be challenging, hindering the implementation of large-scale initiatives. 

Let’s talk about the wish list Celia. Is there a list of wishes you have when it comes to government policies that can be improved or created to promote more sustainable practices and protect the environment?

One of my key wishes is for the Indonesian government to prioritize Circular Economy Initiatives, especially considering that Indonesia is the second largest contributor to ocean pollution. This involves promoting policies that facilitate the transition towards a circular economy, where resources are used efficiently, waste generation is minimized, and products are designed with reusability, repairability, and recycling in mind. To achieve this, it is crucial to implement supportive measures such as incentives, regulations, and collaborative partnerships with businesses. Embracing a circular economy will not only enhance sustainability and reduce environmental impact but also foster economic resilience for Indonesia. That is precisely why collaborative efforts between the private and public sectors are essential. Working in isolation is not sufficient, it necessitates the involvement and cooperation of both parties to bring about successful outcomes.

What is your vision for a sustainable future and what do you want to see happening out there in the next 5 years?

My vision for a sustainable future is where environmental stewardship takes center stage globally. Over the next five years, I hope to see significant progress, including a substantial reduction in plastic pollution in our oceans, widespread adoption of circular economy practices, strengthened environmental regulations, and increased public awareness and engagement in sustainability. These transformative changes will pave the way for a cleaner, healthier, and more sustainable planet for future generations. 

So, what’s your upcoming project, care to share?

Get ready for our exciting project! We’re aiming to become the market leader for reusable diapers in Indonesia, riding the wave of sustainable fashion. With a huge market of 13,200,000 babies in a year in Indonesia, we’re launching strategic campaigns to highlight our user-friendly, high-quality, and affordable diapers that say goodbye to diaper rash.

To ensure success, we’re building a strong distribution network, partnering with intermediaries to make our diapers easily accessible. Our campaigns focus on workshops, events, and partnerships that educate and engage the community, emphasizing the benefits of our products.

But that’s not all! We’re also making a splash in the digital world. Using social media, influencers, and targeted ads, we’re connecting with sustainability-conscious young mothers. Our message resonates with this fantastic audience. 

While recognizing the importance of collaboration, we extend a warm invitation to impact investors from around the globe to join forces with us in effecting meaningful change. Together, we can make a remarkable difference in the pursuit of our shared mission.

Any parting words Celia?

Join us on this incredible journey as we revolutionize the diaper game, one sustainable step at a time. Get ready for a future where families thrive, our planet rejoices, and adorable babies rock reusable diapers like true eco-champions! For further information, you can reach me at [email protected]

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