Meet John Hardy, Jewellery Designer and Co-Founder of the “Greenest School on Earth”, the Green School in Bali. From bamboo swimming pools to homegrown lunches, every aspect of John Hardy’s Green School is a model of sustainability.
His efforts have a ripple effect amongst the Balinese as they adopt the mentality of liveable sustainability.
The Green School combines academic learning at Cambridge levels with environmentally sustainable practices. The school’s beautiful bamboo structures rise out of the jungle surrounded by organic gardens bisected by the Ayung River. The student population is made up of 270 from 40 countries in pre-school through to grade 12. The Green School will have its first graduating class this year. Local Balinese students are sponsored to attend the school. The curriculum is focused on the students, nurturing all aspects of each student’s capabilities.
Besides the traditional subjects, Green School offers experimental, environmental and creative arts with a strong focus on entrepreneurial skills. The goal is to teach students to be effective and competitive in a changing world and to inspire them to be environmentally responsible citizens by exposing them to positive ways to develop and sustain our planet Earth. The Green School grows much of its own food such as organic rice, fruits and vegetables. Solar panels provide energy. They even have their own solar-powered ATM to minimize unnecessary transportation. The students are a part of innovative environmental projects such as breeding endangered bird species in beautiful aviaries and programs to work with local farmers to bring back traditional organic rice. Green School offers tours of the campus every weekday afternoon with a suggested donation going towards scholarships for local kids.
Well, the island of Bali has been very good to us, and we wanted to give something back that reflected some of our values. I gave a TED talk a few years ago that attracted a lot of attention. I opened it with a joke: “Al Gore ruined my life. I just sold a big business and should be living in a nice house in the suburbs playing golf every day. But a few years ago I saw his movie An Inconvenient Truth”. Actually, for many years at the jewellery company, we were employing sustainable practices. I’ve lived here since the mid-seventies and Bali is still an incredible place with these highly intact traditions of artisanship and spirituality and culture, but it’s easy to look around and see a place that is environmentally stressed. Green School was our way to become part of the solution and help return Bali to the sustainable way of living that marked most of its history.
What is the fundamental philosophy of Green School?
The main idea is that, although we don’t look like most people’s idea of a school (remember, in most of the world the same people who design schools, design prisons), our students here learn all of the traditional academic subjects. We try to live every aspect of our lives here as environmentally sustainable as possible. We try to inspire students with a sense of different possibilities with how we live in the world and how we interact with the planet.
Tell us how the Cathedral to Green or the Heart of the School inspired a new view of building.
The heart of the school is our main building and yes, some refer to it like the bamboo cathedral. This huge structure uses six kilometres of bamboo poles and consists of three intersecting towers of three stories each. It has no walls or windows and relies on natural light and ventilation. We try to minimize our carbon footprint. The shape of all our structures is curving and organic. We are literally an ‘out of the box’ school.
What is the Green School effect?
Our goal is that when students go off into the world and begin to make decisions, their experience at Green School will affect a consideration that their impact on the planet plays a role in their choices. In general, we have few discipline problems. Students really care and look out for each other. The kids are happy. Green School students are never bored!
Today we get a percentage of our electric through solar power and within a few months, we should be producing the rest of our renewable energy using a micro-hydro project. All this has been made possible through the generous sponsorship of AKUO, a French renewable energy company.
What do you have planned for Earth Day?
We will celebrate Earth Day here with a lot of activities and programs. On Friday, April 19th after school the high school kids are putting on a Greenstock (Green Woodstock) fair with a lot of music and other performances. It is open to the public and should be a lot of fun!
You have a global scholarship competition for the Greenest Student on Earth. How did that come about?
Last year on Earth Day we were honoured to be named the Greenest School on Earth by the Centre for Green Schools at the US Green Building Council, the group that started LEED certification for environmentally friendly buildings. We think this is a great way to showcase all the kids around the world who are doing all sorts of green projects. We are giving three one-year scholarships and look forward to getting those kids here to collaborate and learn with us. The hope is we can all learn from and inspire each other to become better stewards of the earth.