‘This is the first time I come to the Green School,’ he says astonished. He looks amazed, and so am I, being a Green School Virgin as well.
But chances are high you are one as well? The Green School is the first of its kind and I’m blessed that it is so close by where I am at the moment, in Bali, in the middle of the jungle. At least that is where I pictured the school’s location. Yet, it wasn’t in the middle of it, but it was as difficult to find. Luckily all the local people we asked instructions, knew immediately where we came for.
The guards in traditional clothing opened the gate and let me in. I walked on the sandy road, passed a little restaurant and arrived at the visitor’s centre. As in a fairy-tale arises the infrastructure made of bamboo and wood, a mosaic of natural materials and colours and living bamboo still growing in between of the buildings. Only connected by the volcano-stone pathways.
By no means I feel at a school campus, rather I feel back camping with the youth movement. I fall spontaneous in love with the concept and environment even before they explain me anything at all about the school. Say no more … or please do so!
Welcome in the Green School Bali!
Created ten years ago, in 2008, the Green School has already its first students graduating and continuing education in universities and high schools worldwide. Moreover, ‘it is time for chapter 2,’ says the guide, ‘because we cannot remain the same as 10 years ago.’
Chapter 2 will see new concepts, as well as new school, there are Green Schools being planned in New Zealand – to open in 2020 – and in Mexico , yet the one in New Zealand still has to start the construction of the site, and it will open in less than a year, laughs the guide.
Not impossible, since the Green School in Bali was built in a couple of months solely as well. This time frame makes it even more impressive, the structure is unique in the world, it is entirely made out of bamboo, and is even several floors high. There are no windows, nor walls. The school is open, open to let the wind and the sun come through; open for visitors; open for Balinese, Indonesian and foreign people; open-minded.
I had a dream
It all started with the vision of John Hardy and his wife after they had seen Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth. Living on Bali already for such a long time, and with bad memories at John’s own school experience, they decided to make an entirely new school concept. Because the children are the future. Starting with their three daughters.
The school grew and has now about 500 students, from pre-kindergarten to middle school. In addition, they have several social projects running as well and they even constructed the Green Village in the vicinity of the school. The school became a way of life, to learn the school of life.
Profit & planet
Sustainability and entrepreneurship are two key goals of the school. Walking around the school the vision is very visible, not only in the innovative and inspiring bamboo buildings and infrastructure, but as well in the various projects on the site. The Green School has taken every single aspect of sustainability into account. What better way is there to teach an idea than walking the talk?
- Energy– The school is designed as such that its buildings consume little energy. The openness not only lets in sunlight but fresh air as well, hence reducing the need for artificial lights, and cooling systems. There are no air-conditioning systems in the entire school!
- Water usage– Water is pumped up out of the ground, not hidden away but in one of the little buildings, so all students can see where it comes from. In addition, there are water dispensers all over the school, avoiding the need to bring in plastic water bottles. And most genius: their toilet system does not use water at all! By using compost toilets, the school saves 60,000 litres of water a year! Imagine!
- Compost & vegetables– the compost can go somewhere; in this case it stays in the toilets and becomes fertile soil for the bamboo on the site to grow. But there are other compost places as well around the school, such as food leftovers and banana leaves. They will be blend with cow poo – yes, they have their own cows – and used as compost for the vegetable garden. As such, the children cannot only see where vegetables really come from – not from the (super)market – but they can experience how to grow them, and how they taste as well. Add the free-running chicken and the fish farm, and the students get a good view on the entire food chain, raising awareness and understanding of the complex ecosystem that feeds us.
- Compost is only one part of the entire recycling systemin the school. There is a recycling lab were all school children can recycle their waste. Moreover, recycling is combined with a social program to connect the local community and the Green School. Children of the villages nearby can get English classes at the Green School to get in touch with them and exchange ideas and cultures, in both directions of course. Moreover, to pay their tuition, they just have to bring in 5 kilos of trash per semester. Combining again various values of the Green School.
- Innovation. Besides school buildings and classes, there are stages where the children can pitch their ideas and there is an Innovation Hub were the students can bring back their idea and/or connect with the business world around them, raising not only awareness about sustainability, but making them entrepreneurs as well. Oh yes, the same goes for the parents and the adults, in their co-working place on site.
There are so many good practices and genius ideas in the Green School Bali that I would love to share with you as well, but that would take me some more ages. The good thing however is that they are plans to build more Green Schools around the world, so the concept might come to you.
Belief in the Future
And if there is one thing key message I would like to read in the entire Green School concept it is the belief in the future – the younger generations as well as the current generations – to be able to change the world based on a set of beautiful values that include taking care of the planet and of each other, and that overlook all aspects – holistic – and stimulate to take action, how small it might be, to make big changes around the world.
To give a concrete example: two students of the Green School were convinced to change the world inspired by Ghandi. They focused on plastic bags and set up a petition to ban plastic bags in Bali – called Bye Bye Plastic Bag. They set up at school, and even at the airport, but eventually the government did not take the promised action. Hence, they went in a hunger strike, and made the government bend on their knees. Just to show how awareness, having an idea and taking action – how small it might be –, can be the beginning of a big change.
I hope the Green School can inspire many other schools and people around the world to start believing that they, and we all can make changes. The future is in our hands, and the Green School tries to make those hands as skilled, educated and wise as possible, in order to create the future which the planet and these children deserve by taking action hand-in-hand.