SHOE OF CHOICE
Youth-driven social initiative to reduce plastic bag use
THE WHOLE STORY
Hi ladies! Please tell our readers a bit about yourselves and the initiative you founded.
We are sisters Melati (15) and Isabel (13) Wijsen, and three years ago we started Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB), a social initiative driven by children to get the people of Bali to say no to plastic bags. Our volunteer team of 25-30 are students from schools around Bali, local and international. We have a lot of activities and do many different things at the same time--it’s hard work but we have reached many milestones and achievements, from winning awards, to working closely with the government, to a global TED Talk.
Now we have the support and commitment of the government and the governor of Bali to work towards a plastic bag free Bali by 2018, and our team is so proud and happy and cannot stop celebrating! But the work has just begun! We are motivated now more than ever as our story is becoming an inspiration to people around the world and empowering the youth to rise up and go for their passions. Us kids may only be 25% of the world’s population but we are 100% of the future.
Could you tell us more about your background?
Melati: I was born in the Netherlands, but ten days after I was born, mum and dad flew me to Bali, my home. I love growing up here, I think it is one of the most beautiful and special islands in the world. We are so lucky to be a part of the land.
Isabel: I was born in the busy city of Denpasar. I’m a real Bali Baby. :) I feel more at home here than anywhere else. Our dad is from Java and our mum is from Holland, but Melati & I are raised in Bali in a home in the middle of rice fields.
Who are the people you look up to?
We were inspired by a lesson in class about significant people like Nelson Mandela, Lady Diana, and Mahatma Ghandi. We went home that day and thought, “What can we do as children living in Bali? What can we do NOW?” That is how Bye Bye Plastic Bags was born in 2013. We weren’t going to wait until we were older to do something. We were going to do it now. Throughout our three years of campaigning, we have come across many significant heroes. Captain Paul Watson, Earth Guardians--a personal favorite--and the Diet Canting Plastik activists. All of these amazing movements and people are rising up and using their voices to lead the world into a better place.
What is the best way to communicate with local communities about the importance of environmental preservation?
Socialization. One of the key learnings we have gotten through BBPB is that without the support of the locals no change will happen. It is their island and we have to honor and respect that. We have done socialization days and events with the children, the women, and the men. When we do activities with the children it’s really fun because we’re in our element, and we get really creative with our workshops and games. It doesn’t matter if we cannot speak the same language, we all understand and learn the importance of our home and the environment. We have done meetings and discussions with local adults, all resulting in the positivity and the urgency that the time to act is NOW.
What is your most memorable moment so far involving BBPB?
The day Bali started paying for plastic bags! This is a HUGE step forward to the final no to plastic bags. Even though the amount is very low in Bali, the intention and “pause” before taking that plastic bag at the register is there. This is what we need to move in the right direction.
What are your plans for BBPB in the near future?
2015 has been good to us but we’re excited and so ready to rock 2016 out of the roof! We’re focusing on education and ‘One Island One Voice.’ Education simply because we believe that the only way to bring about change is through the power of knowledge! We have educational booklets illustrated by one of our local team members (age 12, he’s a madly talented artist!) with experiments in the Indonesian language highlighting the 3R’s + waste management and youth empowerment!
One Island One Voice is a campaign we started last year where we go to all the shops, restaurants, hotels, etc. and ask them if they are plastic bag free. If they are, meaning they do not hand out plastic bags, we give them a sticker that shows all who enter that they are walking into a plastic bag-free zone. Once they join this campaign and carry the sticker we reward them by publishing their name and picture in our social media streams. The classic name and shame technique.
What advice would you give to someone trying to overcome a hurdle in their efforts to work on a good cause?
Well, we definitely won’t say it’s easy. There will be times when you think of giving up! But never give up! Go for that extra mile. Because all of it is worth it.
Great advice. So moving on to a lighter topic... Where is your favorite place to spend time when you’re not working?
Melati: I love taking time out of my day to go to the beach. Where we live, it’s really easy to get to the beach. It’s just a minute walk through the still really authentic Balinese village, and then my feet are in the sand and sea.
Isabel: I am in LOVE with my dance studio. Any dance studio in general, bring me there and I’ll be a happy girl!
Why do you choose to rock Indos?
Indos are absolutely awesome! We believe in the Indosole mission and vision and love all the pureness that goes into making them. We choose to rock Indos simply because what better shoes to wear than Indos?!
Thanks, ladies! Any last words or shoutouts?
Thank you to everyone out there who believed in us from day one! Our team around us, friends, family, supporters--all our gratitude goes to you! Terima kasih banyak!