Yesterday I did a tour with Green Village, which included a visit to Green School Bali, touted as the most sustainable school on earth. We also visited a chocolate factory, bamboo factory, and the spectacular Spring House – a six story luxury villa set on the edge of a river.
What do they all have in common? Bamboo.
The story of this amazing bamboo story begins with a guy called John Hardy. John moved from Canada to Bali in the 70s and built a highly successful international jewellery business with his wife Cynthia. John and Cynthia decided to give back to their Balinese community by creating the Green School, a sustainable, open air school, made from bamboo.
Green School is located near the Ayung river in the Balinese jungle and teaches children about sustainability and the environment. Students come from 50 countries around the world, ranging in age from 3 to 18. The school has a scholarship program in place to ensure Balinese children make up 20% of the role. The non-profit school uses 80% solar power and is developing a unique water turbine so they can go totally off grid.
The classrooms have no walls. The teachers write on bamboo blackboards and old car windscreens. Every class looks after its own organic garden and the children learn about permaculture and grow Balinese heritage rice in their own rice fields. They look after goats, pigs, chickens and even a water buffalo. The school’s Bali Starling project means the children play a hands-on role in saving this highly endangered bird. The children have their own raw food café, yoga studio and even a mud wrestling pit! Kids don’t have a chance to get bored here!
If I was a teacher I would totally work at Green School. If I was a parent I would enroll my kids at Green School, even if it was only for a semester – I’ve never seen anything that compares to the unique experience kids have at Green School. If only all children had access to such a wonderful learning environment. I really hope John’s vision for expanding the model to other counties becomes a reality.
Specialist expertise was required to build and design bamboo buildings for Green School, so John created Petite Bamboo, a company which project manages bamboo buildings – from growing and sourcing bamboo, to treating, cutting, designing and testing.
Petite Bamboo are at the cutting edge of the bamboo building industry and are investigating the potential for bamboo buildings in other countries. Humidity and rainfall are two key factors in the longevity of bamboo buildings. In Bali the climate is perfect for building with bamboo, but my guide Moko jokingly says “We have no snow so we don’t know how buildings will last in colder climates.”
Green School effect
Spiraling out of what John calls ‘the ‘Green School Effect’ a Green Village has been created near the school, as well as a chocolate factory – all made of bamboo, and echoing Green School’s commitment to sustainability.
Big Tree Farms chocolate factory
Big Tree Farms chocolate factory is housed in one of the biggest bamboo buildings in the world. The company evolved from initially selling sea salt and organic produce, and now produces some of the world’s only organic chocolate. Big Tree Farms has worked with Balinese farmers to build up a supply of organic cacao beans which are processed locally and turned into cacao butter, cacao beans cacao nibs, and chocolate.
Spring House is a luxury six story villa siting on the edge of the Ayung river, across from Green Village. The building is a magnificent showcase of bamboo design and architecture. Everything is custom designed and hand made from bamboo, from the book cases to the toilet seats to the dining table. At night a beam of light shines up through the centre of the building from the bottom floor out through the roof, like the Batman signal! Stunning views of the jungle are complemented by the soothing sound of running water from the river. Doorways are shaped like lotus petals, a swinging bed hovers over the floor in one of the children’s rooms. New York Times recently did a photo shoot here – it is a truly spectacular building, inside and out.
See more photos of the spectacular interior of Spring House and Green School on my Eat Well Travel Often Facebook page
Watch John’s TED talk on Green School
Recommendation: I am now a total bamboo convert. If Green School doesn’t inspire you, the chocolate just might – one of the best days out I’ve had in Bali – highly recommend this tour!