Stories From Bali: Living & Breathing Sustainable Bamboo

Little did I know about bamboo before I came to Bali this summer. I still know just a tiny bit but I'm amazed and inspired by that bit. Mostly with the combination of efficiency, beauty and last but not least sustainability when using bamboo as building material. When we were in Bali this summer we visited Matt Bell, Leon's kiwi childhood friend. He now lives, works & breathes bamboo in a forest/village outside Bali's cultural centre: Ubud. As his home and workplace is truly out of the extraordinary I decided to share a bit here on the blog - there's nothing like inspiration for a different lifestyle, away from the norms of Western societies. Especially not a lifestyle where you help make the world a greener and more beautiful place.

Bamboo & Sustainability

Did you know that bamboo is a grass, not a tree? The largest type of grass to be correct and the only type that will grow into a forest. Which is why we might come across the somewhat wrong term bamboo "tree". According to, there exist 1,575 types of bamboo whereas approximately 100 types are used commercially. All these bamboo species grow differently but yes, it is true that some bamboo grow 1 meter a day! And after being cut down, bamboo grows a new shoot by itself - a renewable resource right there.

Matt's Story

Matt Bell works at a local bamboo "factory" that looks nothing like the picture that comes up in my head when I think factory. The company treats, cuts, slices and dices and puts together bamboo in a hundred different ways, creating amazing furniture, beams, walls, doors, windows, roofs and even whole buildings! Some of the products are sold locally, many are customised/made to order and a lot of the output is made for other projects of the owner such as the Green School and Bambu Indah (see further below).

Besides supporting the daily operations and supervising the local staff, Matty works on product development: discovering new ways of utilizing bamboo and new ways of adding more beauty & sustainability to daily life. I'm definitely getting some beautiful and maybe even customized bamboo furniture some day.

Matt is also involved in other projects and businesses run by the philanthropic owner, John Hardy, including the boutique hotel Bambuh Indah from 2006 and the renowned Green School from 2005. Both which are amazingly visionary projects and straight out of my Corporate Social Responsibility Classes from Copenhagen Business School.


Bambuh Indah

This beautiful "jungle palace" with structures of sustainable bamboo is the coolest boutique hotel I've visited. If you're going to Ubud and looking for an extraordinary stay, consider Bambuh Indah's combination of responsible lifestyle with modern comforts and absolute stunning surroundings. Book here.

Green School

After a good life in Bali and successful achievements in the jewelry business Matt's boss, John Hardy, made a decision. The decision that he would spend the rest of his life doing whatever he could to improve the possibilities and future of his own as well as the world's kids. And that he would give back locally. The Green School was born.

The Green School is surrounded by beautiful native plants and trees of a lush jungle. Wide use of locally grown bamboo, on-campus food production, and use of alternative energy sources for power generation on site will all contribute in making it the lowest carbon footprint international school anywhere. It offers hands-on studies of nature, ecology, the environment, sustainability and creative arts.

Emerging from the jungle and the rice fields, John Hardy and his wife built a tailor made green school that introduces holistic and green education for the future's green leaders. Watch John Hardy's inspiring TED presentation on his Green School Dream below and see more on the Green School website.

Here's some shots from our tour at the fascinating school. Needless to say: after the tour we all wish we had had the opportunity to go to a school like this. Green, open & in the middle of nature.

Living & Breathing Bamboo

Matt himself lives in the jungle not far from his work, the Green School and Bambuh Indah. Staying with him in his tree-house was so special. Imagine waking up to the sounds, the sights and the fresh air from the jungle, the Ayung river and the Bali nature.

Giving Back To The Community And Walking The Talk: Trashwalkers!

And the story of sustainability visions is not over yet. During our stay with Matt he invited us to join a daily "Trash-walk". A walk and concept initiated by his boss (no surprise). Meeting each morning at the entrance of his boutique hotel Bambuh Indah, John Hardy invites guests, staff and visitors to walk with him through the streets and rice fields of the local village and collect trash. Yes that's right, trash. Anyone who's been to Indonesia knows that this beautiful and developing country is being over-flooded by trash. Due to lack of education and proper garbage disposal, including any recycling, most locals either throw their rubbish in a river or burn it.

In order to once again "give back locally", which is in John Hardy's spirit and to literally "walk the talk" as we would say in Corporate Social Responsibility class, he has initiated this daily walk to (i) collect trash and (ii) more importantly, inspire, motivate and educate the locals. The trashwalk is linked to a refund program where locals can collect their own trash and by delivering it at Bambuh Indahs office they get paid per kilo of trash. Some of the trash (mainly plastic) gets recycled into plastic crates by another sustainability start-up. Its great to see the "circular-economy" (as they call it in China) in action!

During our walk we got both thank yous from locals as well as saw some get involved themselves as we walked by. It truly felt like taking a very small step for Indonesia's nature but a small step that can make a massive impact by spreading like rings in the water. I've seen several trash collecting initiatives in Indonesia since then - in Cangu during my Yoga Teacher Training and more recently in Labuan Bajo island, Flores.

Staying with Matt and getting a very small glance into the green world where he lives and works was so inspiring. Needless to say, it is a totally different world from the Shanghai life we were used to, and the general "big city, Western lifestyle" that many of our friends live. It is the best example I've experienced with my own eyes of a successful business making a positive impact in the local community as well as worldwide by being based on the utilization of a sustainable raw material like bamboo.

Thank you to Matt for this incredible inspiring visit and to the Hardy family for doing business by doing good and making the world a greener & a better place.

It's Green School's vision to teach kids that the world is not indestructible and each individual have to take care of it. And this is actually something we adults even need to realize before it's too late.

Do you ever think about your lifestyle and daily choices or do you think we as individuals are too small to matter in the big picture? I used to think so but I've definitely changed my perspective over the years and I'm continuously reflecting on my daily habits. We should all try to be the change we want to see in this world, right?