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How Bali is becoming even more "greener"!

Some eco-conscious entrepreneurs on Indonesia's Island of the Gods are working to build a future in tune with nature
bali, green living, springs
The Heart of School at Green School, Bali.

In Indonesia, the concept of green living is starting to take hold.

This archipelago of more than 17,000 islands stretched along the equator is home to Bali, one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world, and it has seen resorts, tourist facilities, ugly hotels, clubs and all the trimmings that go with those developed over the last several decades.

Now, the island is not only pushing a trend to create structures that preserve the natural environment, it is also establishing new forms of education.

A school, new housing and an affordable luxury holiday retreat show how fast the movement is progressing.

green living bali school
The grass is not greener on the other side when in Bali.

Cleaning up

The modern concept of sustainable, or “green” living, began in 1954 when Helen and Scott Nearing published “Living the Good Life.”

As the world’s population has grown -– to around 7 billion today –- and new technologies have been invented, the environments that we live in have been effected in many adverse ways.

Though some scientists, governments, companies and especially environmental organizations like Greenpeace have sought to confront the wider issues, individuals who simply want to live a more sustainable personal life have sought their own ecologically sound lifestyles.

In Bali entrepreneurial projects are now springing up to meet that demand.

Sixty-four projects recently competed in the Tri Hita Karana Awards, which recognize environmental management. 

According to local environmental consultant Gove DePuy, founder of a green youth culture movement called PT Akarumput, "growth is most obvious in the 'buzz' at this point. Magazine articles, people discussing renewable materials in the cafes and restaurants, green-themed festivals like Ubud's Earth Day Festival.

"But along with that has come actual change. More people refuse plastic bags in the grocery stores, Hypermart now offers cloth bags at the register, Bali's first Green building supply store (Little Tree) has opened its doors and Bali now has a chapter of the World Green Building Council," says DePuy.

Organic food is being bought more often for both personal and commercial use, eco-hotels, resorts and green residential homes have shifted construction materials from concrete to sustainable materials like straw and bamboo, which, as DePuy says "makes a huge dent in the amount of resources consumed by older, less efficient construction." 

Power to the various projects meanwhile is increasingly being generated by highly visible solar panels, water, geothermal, and wind sources.


green living bali school
Students discuss upcoming performances in the theater at Green School.

Green education

Inhabited mainly by Hindus, Bali and its culture is founded on the fundamental Sanskrit phrase "Tri Hita Karana."

Roughly translated, it means “to keep the harmony and balance between human to God, human-to-human and human to environment.”

"Human to environment" has been the guiding light for a number of eco-friendly property developers,  with many implementing environmentally-friendly methods of construction while still serving the growing demand of Bali’s tourism industry to cope with increasing numbers of visitors -- temporary and permanent. 

Green School is one such example. Built almost entirely of bamboo, Green School is redefining what children’s education is about.

Founded in 2008, the school teaches pre-school students through to grade 10, with grades 11 and 12 to be added in the next two years. Located between Denpasar and Ubud, the private school was founded and built by long term residents John and Cynthia Hardy who sold off their own successful local jewelry store before starting the school.

Its curriculum has a central core of English, Math, and Science but it also aims to prepare its pupils to be the green leaders of tomorrow via green studies and creative arts teaching.

Environmental leaders of tomorrow

green living bali school
At entrance lies a playground and cafe.
According to the Green School manifesto, it aims to be “the number one model of sustainability in education in the world."

"This generation of children will be the first to grow up learning about environmental issues from their early years,” says Chris Thompson, father of two young students at the school, aged 4 and 7.

The background of families enrolling suggests the school has a wide appeal, with students from 45 countries attending, and parents with diverse career backgrounds. Chris Thompson is an experienced media consultant who sits on boards in Abu Dhabi and Singapore advising on investment, growth and development strategies.

“We need new leaders to bring change to the world. But these students don't need to become environmentalists to help the world," he says.

"They simply need to have a consciousness about the challenges so that they may apply them in whatever profession they may choose," says Thompson.

Inflatable classrooms

green living bali school
When the humidity gets too much, a blow-up classroom keeps the coolness inside.
During our visit to the school in November 2010, we discovered its vast complex of classrooms.

There are both open-walled classrooms and even inflatable balloon-like classrooms to cope with the occasional extreme heat of the tropical forest, a hydro power vortex energy source to keep the school self-sufficient, organic plantation fields so kids can learn to grow their own produce and a conservation center of endangered avian species for children to observe and study directly rather than just read textbooks.

"Our aim is for environmentally off-grid power sourcing," says head of admissions and enrollment Ben Macrory. 

The school is also home to what is thought to be the largest permanent bamboo building in the world, known as The Heart of School (click "View Gallery" above for pictures).

Celebrity donors

green living bali school
The gymnasium at Green School, like most of the structures, has no walls.
Names of donors to the school as well as the names of the first student of the school are carved in the bamboo poles that hold up the multi-level structure. Among the names, celebrity donors Sir Richard Branson, Donna Karan and Miss Japan 2009: Emiri Miyasaka.

Ben Macrory says the school now has 203 students representing 45 nations. It also has a scholarship program for local Balinese. 

The program is intended to stimulate awareness of green issues among the local community by making the education affordable to Balinese. Regular fees range from US$5,000-10,000 per year.

green living bali school
The Grade 5 classroom at Green School fits into its surroundings.

Balifornian Tours works with charities and organizations like The Green School to help educate, clothe and nurish the great people in many small villages in Bali and Indonesia at large.  Our customized private guided tours encorporate visits to impovershed villages where participants can donate time, gifts, money or whatever they find appropriate.  Our feedback tells us this is one of the most rewarding parts of our tours.