Voice of Experience: Building Bali’s Green School
Tell us a bit about yourself and what brought you to Bali?
I am from a very small village in Canada. I’m an undiagnosed dyslexic and had a really hard time in school. I left Canada when I was 25 years old to go to Bali where I met my incredible wife, Cynthia. Together, over 20 years, we built an amazing jewelry business. It was a fairy tale and then we retired.
How did you become such an advocate for sustainability and living green?
Cynthia took me to see a film that I really didn’t want to see. It ruined my life. It was “The Inconvenient Truth” by Al Gore. I have four kids, and even if part of what Mr. Gore says is true, they’re not going to have the life that I had. I decided at that moment that I would spend the rest of my life doing whatever I could to improve their possibilities.
Bali is a tiny, little island — 60 miles by 90 miles. It has an intact Hindu culture. We’ve had a wonderful life there, and we’ve decided to do something unusual. We decided to give back locally.
Why did you build the Green School and how did you make it happen?
The classrooms have no walls. The teachers write on bamboo blackboards. The desks are not square. We practice holism, the idea that, if a little girl graduates as a whole person, she’ll demand a whole world to live on.
The classrooms have natural light. They’re beautiful. They’re bamboo. The breeze passes through them. And when the natural breeze isn’t enough, the kids deploy bubbles made from natural cotton and rubber from the rubber tree. So we basically turned the box into a bubble. These kids know that painless climate control may not be part of their future. We pay the bill at the end of the month, but the people that are really going to pay the bill are our grandchildren. We have to teach the kids that the world is not indestructible.
What do you think the children learn that is relevant for the travel industry? Can you give examples?
Children learn that discovery and adventure and travel are important parts of their lives. Travelling to sit like a piece of meat on a sun-lounger to get fried is over. Traveling to learn about the future, travelling to help people, travelling to discover things – that’s a much better future.
Can you give some examples of what graduates of the Green School do now? Are there any in the travel industry that you know of?
Gika, one of our local scholars who already graduated is running a very successful tour program at Green School. We do daily tours of the school to support our local scholarship program. 100% of the money goes to support Indonesian kids have a Green School education. Each week I also do the Founder’s Tour at the school to support the local scholars. I promised our goal is to have 20% Indonesian students; we have 9% now. Three of our local families work in the travel industry in Bali. Gusde’s mom works in a travel agency, Nanda’s dad is a travel agent and Sara’s dad is a tour guide.
Keeping traveling and the world becoming such a small place in mind, what do you like to pass on to future generations?
That’s pretty simple: build with bamboo. Stop building hotels out of concrete and rainforest timber. Also stop accepting water containers in hotels, take a re-usable water bottle. Hotels should supply guests with fresh water to put water in their container and let them use their container 1000 times. Save a precious resource called oil, it’s not renewable.