The island I live on, Bali, is an island full of naturalistic beauty and spirituality... but continues to coat itself with a thick layer of trash. With the tourism industry dominating the island’s economy and culture, non-degradable trash piles up on volcanic sands, floods the rivers, coats the soil, or ends up in an illegal and overflowing dump site. The southern tip of the island piles up 240 tonnes of non-degradable trash every day, contributing to the island's’ largest source of CO2 emissions (2010).
A local solution to this issue is in the heart of Green School; Kembali, translated to ‘return again’, is a recycling centre for the surrounding communities to dispose correctly of their recyclable goods, and educates locals about the impacts of consuming harmful, non-degradable packaging. The school itself, is partially run by the solar panels and vortex, however, mostly powered by coal. As a school educating its’ students about ‘green’ leadership and values, Kembali was formed to tackle to issue of the school’s emissions, and offset those through recycling and promoting conscious consumption. With 4 tonnes of recyclable trash currently accommodating in Kembali, the calculated amount of CO2 offset from the trash is roughly 2.5 tonnes, however, is quite insignificant in comparison to the school’s total emissions, even its’ partial use of ‘clean’ energy.
With such a difficult task ahead in managing to balance the emissions and offsetting, the solutions seems to become a little clearer. As social enterprises, student projects, and waste management begin to increase community awareness around eco-friendly lifestyle habits, the responsibility of the Green School community members to live sustainably arises as a questionable act; who is living with the intention of offsetting their consumption?
The ‘green’ lifestyle is an ideal preached by the school on campus, but what about when the families leave the school? Renting expensive, high maintenance villas, and consuming ‘organic shampoo’ in plastic containers don’t seem to be defined as ‘green’ lifestyle choices, nor do they manage to offset the carbon footprint of Green School.
Unable to acknowledge this lack of initiative to switch to sustainable lifestyles, projects and businesses advertising solutions to Bali’s eco problems fail to address the fact that the solution begins with consumer power… and may need to be more extreme than encouraged already.
The change is beginning to come into effect. Middle School students currently studying green math weigh their trash to calculate their carbon emissions -- with the idea of reducing and seeing their personal impacts from choices provoke awareness of waste production and consumer habits that can be changed.
This is an example of the beginning of positive change…. Changing our lifestyles as environmentalists to reflect our values. Education continues to empower other communities to move to sustainable lifestyle habits, and we can begin to create positive, unifying action on environmental issues.
As I progress on my journey of zero-waste living and minimalism, I hope to set an example for those who want to create change on a personal level in order to protect the environment. Creating my own products from the garden, eating only non-packaged foods, and refusing to open any plastic packages for the next 7 months is a challenge in itself. However, it serves as an example that it is possible to change your habits to contribute to positive change… Why not start now?