Australian John Blundstone is a green hotel pioneer and owner of the Bali Eco Stay located in the cool mountains of central Bali. An enthusiastic promoter of social programs that support the local community, John is conscious of his resort’s impact on the environment and has an ongoing commitment to cultural and environmental sustainability. He and his staff collect and recycles rubbish from the surrounding six villages, teaches English classes at the local elementary school and has set up permaculture programs with regards to all aspects of his resort’s management: food gardens, wastewater disposal, building location and design. John is an active member of BGreener, a community of business leaders who are all committed to sustainability and have joined forces to tackle local and global social and environmental problems.
What is BGreener all about?
BGreener is a community of 65 eco-minded businesses that have become change makers in Bali. The organization is open to a wide range of businesses managed by people sharing the same vision for their destination: shops like Earth Cafe, yoga centers like Radiantly Alive, as well as suppliers, travel agents, magazines and fashion brands. Starting with the True Luxury resort, we have had a track record of offering amazing experiences to our guests and customers. We believe in the virtue of collaboration and do not see other businesses as potential competitors but more as opportunities for collaboration. The members refer clients to each other, solve each other’s operational challenges and come together to make a positive impact.
How do you recruit new members?
We don’t! Members recommend the community to other potential members who are invited to join one of our gatherings so that they can get a feel of what we are all about. The cost of membership varies according to the profitability of the organization. Members are given the option to contribute in goods if they wish. We have only one criteria: to be a natural giver as whatever you are going to put in, it is going to come back to you, often in ways you do not expect. That is the beauty of a community working together.
How do members collaborate?
We try to grow each other’s businesses using cross promotion, the www.BGreeener.org website and a catalogue featuring all members. We help each other solve operational problems such as staff training, recruitment and researching for new suppliers of virtually anything. We are attempting to solve the waste problem at a local level with two initiatives: Refill My Bottle (www.refillmybottle.com), a map of all the places where people can refill their water bottles (the app can be downloaded on your phone) and Precious Plastic Bali that uses low tech machines to process plastic waste. Last year, we started #iaminBaliNOW campaign to bring back tourists to Bali after the eruption of Mt. Agung.
What are some benefits to members?
We have co-created a database of useful resources, journalists and bloggers. Members are promoted on the www.bgreener.org website as well as on social media channels. Members are invited to stay at each other’s properties to experience other member’s brands so they can help promote them in an authentic way. When an influencer contacts a member, he tells the other members, simplifying the way we are able to communicate. Members ask other members for help when they need to improve an aspect of their business or if they need assistance with making a decision. Above all else, we are a very supportive group who share many of the same attitudes and values.
Do you have to be a BGreener to benefit your organization’s programs?
Not necessarily. Every month we help an Indonesian social entrepreneur by introducing him or her to the community and help boost his/her initiative. So far we welcomed Widy, the Soap Lady; Ray from Cocoil; Muntigunung and Indra from Art Geed. Anyone keen to join is invited to come once to an event and see for themselves what the community is all about.
What changes have been afoot lately?
After brainstorming and discussing at the general meetings, we changed our brand from BookGreener to BGreener, which gives a more modern feel. We also recently completely renovated and upgraded our website (www.bgreener.org) to reflect the diversity of members and make it more customer-friendly. We are now working on a membership card that will be distributed at each members’ location, inviting customers to discover other members’ businesses, an easy cross-promotion opportunity.
How often do you meet?
Once a month, each time at a different property, to discuss business issues. Even though most of the interactions between members happen online, our monthly gatherings are a great way to have direct contact and learn something new, ideal opportunities to exchange experiences and knowledge, to answer questions, connect with other members, share stories and network with your peers in the tourism industry. Lots of interesting guests come to these events, who contribute to the discussion. Interaction happens online via WhatsApp while all the content is stored on SLACK. Our Facebook Group is used for more informal exchanges.
Can you give any examples of topics discussed?
Recent themes were how to organize the best retreat, food trends, permaculture, eco-construction, risk management and the best use of human capital. Our last topic was on work/life integration and the next one will be on risk management. We are planning a week-end away together to the Gilis and Lombok to show our support for earthquake victims. We also have a focused meeting by tourism industry leaders every month to offer opportunities for members to express ongoing challenges and ask for support.
What social programs is BGreener involved in?
As a community aiming at making a tangible impact, it was only natural for us to come together when the series of devastating earthquakes recently hit Lombok. We reacted quickly. The very next day after the disaster our members formed a WhatsApp group to discuss how best to help the survivors and coordinate relief operations. Fifteen members/volunteers ran it as a side activity. We immediately initiated what is today the most active Facebook Group on the earthquake (Lombok Earthquake Relief), accompanied with a map that list survivors’ needs on the ground (organized by priorities), all the drop off points and camps and how to connect with donors, NGOs and private initiatives. We dedicated a page on the BGreener website to drive donations. We sell T-shirts for Lombok, distribute donation boxes ‘Kids of Bali for Kids of Lombok,” started a daily online circle, a safe space for volunteers who need to release their anger and frustration. All of this was an incredible demonstration of the power of community in a time of crisis. We are now repeating the process for Sulawesi with a Facebook group called Sulawesi Earthquake and Tsunami Relief.
In your opinion, what are the biggest challenges to making Bali a greener, more earth-friendly island?
Bali is an island and by definition, it cannot expand. From a social and environmental perspective, the ever-increasing number of tourists coming to Bali are putting a huge pressure on the eco-system. We feel it is crucial for all stakeholders to come together and find solutions to mitigate the negative impact of tourism. We are the ones we have been waiting for.
Anything planned for the future?
BGreener has proven to be a success in Bali with a measurable positive impact, but now we would like to connect with more businesses on other islands. We already have members in Lembongan, Nusa Penida, Lombok’s Gili Islands and even Rote island in Nusa Tenggara. Eventually, we would like to expand our reach to other countries.
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Copyright © 2018 Bill Dalton