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Entries in Environmental Aware Travel (5)


Staying safe in Bali ~ Asbestos

Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog is an eco-tourist business and as such we go out of our way to make sure you and your family is not only safe but travel in an eco-friendly manner.  The hotels, meals and activites are choosen specifically for thier safety and eco-friendly reputation.  Please ask us how we can make your vacation the very best it can be.

Here is an article from a guest blogger, Matt Phillips

We thank Matt for his informative and important blog post.


Asbestos in Bali and Indonesia


Most people are at least marginally aware of the dangers of asbestos, a naturally-occurring mineral often used in insulation and fireproofing materials.  Though the substance was banned in the United States in 1977 and in many other countries soon after, some less industrialized nations may still be using it in common construction materials.  Asbestos is naturally heat resistant, strong, and durable, and thus is used in areas where extreme temperatures are present – such as pipes, ducts, or boilers – as well as in insulation and roofing materials.

Asbestos is so dangerous because its fibers may become lodged in the lining of the lungs, causing a number of health problems including mesothelioma.  Symptoms of mesothelioma, a cancer of the lining of the lung, may take between 20 and 50 years to manifest, and are often confused with other, more common lung conditions.  Because of this, the cancer is rarely diagnosed until its later stages, making it especially deadly.

Sadly, asbestos use has not been outlawed through much of Asia, and Indonesia still imports the raw mineral from Canada, Brazil, and Russia.  While groups like the Indonesian Ban Asbestos Network, or Ina-Ban, are hard at work trying to bar the use of asbestos in construction and other materials, the cheapness and effectiveness of the mineral mean that it is still being used.

While a casual traveler may never encounter asbestos at all in Bali, it pays to be aware of the possible danger.  Fortunately, asbestos is generally harmless when intact, but when the material containing it is cut, broken, or damaged, the asbestos fibers can become airborne, and this is when they become dangerous.  Travelers should steer clear of any construction sites, as these asbestos-containing materials may be sawed, sanded, or otherwise manipulated in a way that will release the fibers.

Call ahead to ask if your hotel or hostel is undergoing any renovation.  If this is the case, you may want to choose another place to stay.  If possible, stay in newer, recently constructed buildings.  If your room appears to have any damaged or fraying insulation materials, ask to be moved.  Though short periods of exposure to low levels of asbestos generally do not have long-term consequences, you can never be too careful when it comes to your health.  Mesothelioma symptoms are tragic and painful, but nearly always linked to asbestos exposure, and as such are largely avoidable.


Oakland couple improves schools in Bali


Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog works with several organizations to enhance educational opportunities and to give back to the island, remain sustainable, lower our impact, and build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.  Projects like Bali's Green School and The Colbert's foundation are emmensely important to us and we do all we can to help.  Please contact us to learn more and see how we can incorporate charitable elements into your own tour.  Most of our tours contain elements of ecotourism and charity.  We encourage you to bring donations of clothing, children's toys, tools, etc. to donate to impoverished villages in Bali and throughout Indonesia.  We want your tour to be as rewarding and memorable as possible. ~ ed.
By Dave Newhouse
Oakland Tribune columnist From The Mercury News

Dennis and Nancy Colbert, of Oakland, are at that stage of their lives -- late 60s, three children, seven grandchildren -- when they're expected to retire, decelerate to a much slower speed, and go softly and quietly into old age.  Not the Colberts, who refuse to act like other seniors. Preferring an accelerator-to-the-floorboard state of mind, they're actively making a huge difference 10,000 miles from home on the Indonesian island of Bali.  They've dedicated themselves to improving the educational quality of Bali schoolchildren, first- through sixth-grades. The Colberts renovated four elementary schools in poor rural areas, and added learning centers to all four schools through their nonprofit Balinese Children's Education Foundation.

What a positive influence the Colberts have been in Bali, not only improving dilapidated school buildings, but also impacting 500 students, who attend school until noon, then voluntarily return in the afternoon for two hours of reading, learning English, and playing educational games.  The couple's fascination with Bali didn't begin with the musical "South Pacific." Nancy's sister, Christina Welty, had retired in Bali. The Colberts visited her there in 2000 and found they couldn't stay away.

"The beauty is just inspiring," said Nancy.  "And the people are very warm and gracious," added Dennis.

Bali's population is 2.5 million -- 90 percent Hindu, 6 to 7

percent Muslim. The island is 90 miles by 60 miles, mostly rice paddies. A Bali night club bombing in 2002 killed 171 and injured 274. But the Colberts insist the island is peaceful.

Dennis was shocked upon first seeing the neglected schools. Seeking something to do as a retired business executive, he found it in Bali. The schools needed extensive repairs, and they needed books. The Colberts came up with the money to buy 2,000 books, while also setting up libraries. And through their foundation, they hired six teachers.

"Their (school) curriculum is totally dictated by the government," said Nancy, a former schoolteacher who now advises college students stateside. "They teach to the test."  "A lot of teaching by rote," noted Dennis.  Thus critical thinking isn't emphasized.  And so the Colberts decided upon learning centers.  "We were very considerate," Dennis said. "Here we are from the United States, knowing this was their culture. So we asked how could we help. The Balinese were receptive."  Bali adults, mostly parents of schoolchildren, filled in holes in classroom floors, laid tile, patched walls, painted and replaced broken windows. Suddenly, going to school was exciting.

The Colberts visit Bali three times a year, staying three, four weeks each trip. When they leave Bali, the students bow, take the Colberts' hands, and put their foreheads against their hands -- an ultimate show of Balinese respect that gets the couple teary-eyed just talking about that emotional scene.

"The greatest thrill is that we're helping these children by adding a little bit to their education," said Dennis, "and by our relationship with the children."  "One of the satisfactions is to find something that we truly love at this point of our lives," said Nancy. "I can't imagine anything that would bring us more pleasure."  The Colberts, who've been married 46 years, wanted to join the Peace Corps as newlyweds. But it didn't work out. Now, in a sense, it's finally happened.  "We've enjoyed the fact that we can be on the ground, working," Dennis said. "And we're thinking of setting up some more libraries at other schools."

The Colberts funded most of the early schoolhouse repairs. Then came their foundation -- they're the only board members. Their website is, and all donations are tax deductible.  "Our goal was not to teach the Balinese children English, but to get them to appreciate and enjoy reading," said Dennis. "Now the children want to take books home at night to read."  Two senior citizens, changing the world.


NYT article about Bali's wonderful Green School

Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog works with several organizations to give back to the island, remain sustainable, lower our impact and build environmental and cultural awareness and respect.  Projects like Bali's Green School are emmensely important to us and we do what we can to help. Please contact us to learn more and see how we can incorporate this into your own tour.  Most of our tours contain elements of ecotourism and charity.  We encourage you to bring donations of clothing, children's toys, tools, etc to donate to impoverished villages in Bali and throughout Indonesia.  We want your tour to be as rewarding and memorable as possible.
Green Column

Bali School Makes Sustainability a Way of Life

SIBANG KAJA, BALI — Half a world away from Cancún, Mexico, and the international climate change talks that took place there last month, a school here in Indonesia is staging its own attempt to save the planet.


A blog about energy and the environment.

It is small-scale and literally grassroots — and possibly in some respects more effective than the tortuous efforts of politicians to agree on how to stop global warming.  In the midst of the lush, steaming jungle of Bali, along a pitted road, past scattered chickens and singing cicadas, Green School has two dozen buildings made of giant bamboo poles. There are no walls, and there is no air-conditioning. Just gracefully arched roofs, concrete floors and bamboo furniture. There is a big, grassy playground, complete with goalposts made — yes — of bamboo; a bamboo bridge across a rock-strewn river; vegetable patches; and a mud-wrestling pit.  But there is also a computer lab, a well-stocked library and an array of courses drawn from an internationally recognized curriculum and taught in English.

More than 200 children from 40 countries, including Indonesia, are learning math here, as well as grammar, science, business studies, drama and Bahasa Indonesia, the official language spoken in this country of 240 million. The students, whose levels range from kindergarten to 10th grade and who represent 40 nationalities, are also learning to grow and thresh rice and how to make ceramics and paper from materials found on the school site. They get dirt under their fingernails and mud between their toes. Visitors are advised to wear comfortable shoes. High heels are not recommended.  If all this sounds a little bit hippie and idealistic, that is because it is. A little.

But then, Green School, the brainchild of John Hardy and his wife, Cynthia, is also realistic and practical, designed to give children not just a sense of how to live sustainably, but also to leave them ultimately with the skills to enter academic institutions anywhere in the world.

“We want to create future green leaders — we need green leaders,” said a sarong-clad Mr. Hardy, picking his way along a dirt path last month. “We want to teach kids that the world is not indestructible.”

Mr. Hardy himself — sarong notwithstanding — is no mere dropout, tree-hugging beach bum. True, he says, he “ran away” from his home in Canada in 1975, to go to Bali. But he is also an entrepreneur, and the upmarket jewelry business he and his wife built over the years was worth enough, by the time they sold it in 2007, to allow the Hardys to set up the Green School.  The original idea had been to retire quietly. But then Mr. Hardy saw “An Inconvenient Truth,” the 2006 documentary about the campaign by Al Gore, the former U.S. vice president, to educate people about climate change.  “Al Gore ruined my life,” Mr. Hardy, who is now 61, likes to say.  The movie prompted him to scrap plans for a quiet life and to try to do his part to change the way young people — and ultimately society as a whole — behave toward their environment.

Environment-studies courses and nature excursions have, of course, long been popular in U.S. and European schools. But Green School, Mr. Hardy and its teachers believe, is unique in that it completely immerses children in a world of sustainable practices throughout the school day — with the nonflush compost toilets, the (easily bearable) lack of air-conditioning and the fact that virtually everything in the school is created from bamboo, rather than steel, glass and concrete.

“There are lots of schools that have elements of ‘green’ teaching, but I don’t think that anyone has been ambitious or foolhardy enough to try anything on this scale before,” said Ben Macrory, a New Yorker who moved to Bali in 2008 to take on the job of Green School’s head of admissions and whose 4-year-old daughter, Maggie, attends the school. “Every experience the children have here is about how to live with only a minimal impact on the environment.”  Yes, there are trade-offs. Schooling is only available from nursery school through 10th grade, with plans to extend teaching for the remaining two years by 2012. Also, students have a more limited choice of languages or other standard courses than might be available at Western schools or other international schools on the island of Bali.  But that has not prevented the appeal of Green School, which is in its third year, from growing.

Many of the students have come from other schools in Bali, and an increasing number come from families who have moved to Bali recently — often in large part because they want to send their children here.

“The atmosphere is magical,” said Barbara Friedrichsen-Mehta, who visited the school with her husband, Rajesh, and their daughters Lena and Vinya last month. The family is considering moving to Bali, once their institute for innovative music has been established in Singapore.  “We’ve always missed the educational vision in most of the international schools in the many places we’ve lived, and done a lot of home schooling for that reason,” Ms. Friedrichsen-Mehta said. “But this place is creative, innovative and multicultural. And the girls really, really liked it.”

The mystique of Bali — its arts, ubiquitous temples and gentle climate — helps to draw families to this place. And the slightly offbeat profile of expatriates on the island means parents are open to novel concepts like a school without walls that grows its own vegetables.  “No boring people move to Bali,” Mr. Macrory said. The island attracts entrepreneurs, artists, healers and some staff members from nongovernmental organizations, rather than the financial and corporate communities that have grown in Hong Kong and Singapore, Frankfurt and New York.  Still, Mr. Hardy says he is convinced that the Green School concept can work elsewhere, too, and he hopes the school will be the blueprint — or “greenprint” — for more. “Not just one,” he said — “50!”  Will Green School be a game-changer in the global fight to combat climate change? Who knows?  But for now, 200 children are visibly enjoying the school. And perhaps the school and its future spinoffs will someday yield another Al Gore to shake up someone’s retirement plans.

Contact Balifornian Tours and Travel Blog to learn more


Community-Based Eco Tourism in Indonesia

 The folowing is from WWF for a living planet.
About Borneo Ecotourism
Kayan Mentarang National Park
Community Interests Meet Environmental Responsibility
Ecotourism can be a sustainable enterprise. But to deliver on its promises, conditions must be created for communities to control the intensity of tourism, retain autonomy, and develop tourism in accordance with their own vision of the future and the needs of the environment.

Two aspects need to be addressed to develop ecotourism as a successful conservation-based enterprise. On the one hand, it has to be equitable and benefit local people . On the other hand, the enterprise has to be economically sound, generate revenues and be professionally operated. For this reason, it is important to develop appropriate marketing strategies and to engage in an open dialogue with the private sector.

Developing Community-Based Ecotourism
For a successful ecoutourism enterprise we need to pay attention , to people and nature, to capacity building, to partnerships and then support these efforts through adequate  practices and policies. With this mind, in developing community-based ecotourism we need to: adopt conservation principles, regulate the number of visitors, and closely monitor impacts
Ensure equitable benefits for local communities
Encourage fair partnerships between local communities/entrepreneurs and tour operators
Create “special transboundary ecotourism zones” where tourists are allowed to cross border for tourism purposes in areas like HoB with high potential for ecotourism.

WWF, a Natural Role in supporting Ecotourism
At several field sites, WWF is engaged in helping local communities  develop, promote and market community-based initiatives by :

Building capacity of communities to lead small ecotourism enterprises
Encouraging communities to enter  fair partnerships with private sector
Help strengthen environmental awareness
Support conservation efforts
Apply and monitor “Green and Fair” criteria in ecotourism development as part of a strategy to bring added value to this enterprise based inside or in the surrounding of conservation areas.
Help promote  Green & Fair products  like local crafts, NTFP, and local agricultural products to tourists and a wider market. .


Tips for responsible Eco-tourism Travel 

10 Tips to Responsible Travel

 by Kathy Gerhardt 

When simple actions – such as recycling, conserving water, and turning off the lights when you leave a room – help in making a difference for our environment, there is no reason one’s eco-friendly ways need to “take a vacation” when an individual or family goes on vacation.

As more Americans seek to incorporate environmentally-conscious practices into their travels the phrase ‘Take only pictures. Leave only footprints,’ certainly applies to eco-tourism and environmentally aware travel.  The following are a few tips from fellow travelers and travel agents that will help you incorporate eco-tourism into your future trip.

5 Eco-Tourism Tips:

  1. “Pack bio-degradable toiletries. The ground water you may be contaminating is not your own.”  (L. Mobley, Florence, OR)
  2. “Reuse your water bottles while on vacation – wash them out and refill them.  Also, ask hotels not to change towels and sheets while you are there.  Let’s be honest, people do not use a new towel or change their sheets daily while at home.” (K. Beaudoin, Woonsocket, RI) 
  3. “Remove all excess packaging on items you are packing as disposing of waste is difficult in remote places and developing countries. Do not buy products made from endangered species, hard woods or ancient artifacts. Also, use water sparingly – it’s very precious in many countries and tourists tend to use far more than local people.” (D. Michael, High Point, NC) 
  4. “The easiest way to be sure that your hotel has ‘gone green’ is to check for LEED certification or Green Seal Certification. Participation in these programs is no longer limited to smaller boutique hotels. Some examples of hotel chains making the commitment to provide greener lodging include Starwood’s Element hotels, which have made a brand-wide commitment, and Marriott, which has promised to have 300 of their 3,300 properties LEED certified within five years. Your travel professional should be able to help you locate a ‘hotel with a conscience.’” (C. DiSaia, Woonsocket, RI) 
  5. “Understand that a ‘green’ travel experience may not be a less expensive trip.  Many ‘ecology aware’ experiences are also a bit of an adventure.  In fact, you may pay more to sleep in a pup tent in the snow in Antarctica and carry your waste out with you.  The eco lodge in Australia may not have pretty, individually packaged soaps and the towels and sheets may not be changed every day, but it offers incredible views.  The eco lodge in Tikal had running water two hours a day and I leapt out of the pool when a jaguar came up to drink from that same pool.  You are paying for a memorable and, at times, exclusive experience.  You are not paying for room service and high priced amenities, though on occasion you may find they have that and more.”  (M. West, Marysville, WA) 

A complement to the concept of eco-tourism is the growing acknowledgement of environmentally aware travel or responsible travel as it is better known.   Environmentally aware travel is about more authentic vacation experiences that enable you to get more out of your travels, and it gives more back to the destinations and local people you encounter. This can and often should go hand-in-hand with eco-tourism.

5 Tips for “Environmentally Aware Travel”:

  1. Ask your travel professional whether there are local conservation or social projects that you could visit on your trip, and if/how you could help support them.
  2. Hire a local guide – you’ll discover more about local culture and lives, and they will earn an income.
  3. To support the local economy, buy local products rather than imported goods; for example ask if there is a local cooperative that makes traditional gifts and mementos.
  4. Always avoid exploitation. A simple example is to ask permission when taking photographs of local people. Also, as travelers, we are perceived as rich.  Be generous in a constructive way by promoting the local economy.  Avoid and denounce exploitation of local people.
  5. Leave a good impression. A positive experience with locals will pave the way for those coming after you. 


Editor’s Note: Do you have a responsible travel tip?  Share it with your fellow travelers in the comment section below.


Kathy Gerhardt is a Sr. Public Relations Specialist at Travel Leaders, one of America’s top ten-ranked travel companies.

Topics: Responsible / Sustainable Travel, Travel Tips