I was moved. As Janur was sharing the story of the old lady his eyes were welling up. I could tell he could feel the impact of his small idea. It was changing lives and giving them purpose again.
So what was his idea? What had changed this 70 year old woman’s life that gave her purpose and a feeling like she could once again provide for her family?
Well this journey starts at Janur’s restaurant, Moksa.
I had known and visited Moksa many times here in Bali. The food is one of the most world class plant based cuisines I have ever tasted. The epic flavours are something to drool over and it’s one of those places that you just have to order a few dishes and just all share! But of course, like many other restaurants around the world, once COVID hit, it went very quiet.
But that didn’t phase Janur, he was more concerned about his village, his staff and how he could help them. During Covid many people in the tourism sector, which is a big part of Bali, lost their jobs and had to go back to their villages. People had lost their income and therefore were struggling to make sure they put food on the table.
Something else Janur was interested in, that fueled his idea, was a want for Bali’s beaches and nature to be pristine again. To not be strangled by plastic. He noticed it more especially during COVID as the amount of plastic that was showing up onto the beaches seemed to increase. Not because there was any more, but because people weren’t there to clean it up. The raw truth of the plastic damage was revealed.
As I mentioned in my previous article, human behaviour is a big part of the problem, and it’s not anyone’s fault in this case. It’s more the ancient behaviours haven’t adapted to the modern ways that were injected upon it.
You see, before they cooked and ate with nature. Ate off banana leaves, used local sticks as brooms – everything was nature. So when they did their usual habit of sweeping up the days rubbish and then burning it, when plastic came into it – it either melted and let off toxic smoke causing illness, or gets washed away in the next rain, down the subak water system, into the creeks and rivers and out to the ocean.
Janur wanted to create a way to feed his village, empower them as a community and help clean Bali.
That’s when he decided to empower his village. He decided to offer an exchange one day for his local village. He offered Rice in exchange of Plastic. He was astounded when something like 400kg of plastic was collected just from his village!
From this experience, and Janur’s philosophy’s he had learnt. Plastic Exchange was born. It Aligned with his Hindu philosophy of “Tri Hita Karana”, (Harmony with God, Harmony among people and harmony with Nature). As well as his inspiration from his Aikaido teacher on how to embody a new behaviour.
As Janur demonstrates in the interview, this idea caught on like wildfire. Not only were villagers getting food and feeling empowered because they could provide for their family again, but they were becoming proud of their village that was pristine! The behaviour of picking up plastic was instilling a sense of empowerment.
It has now spread to 200 villages, they have picked up 250,000kg of plastic and distributed 35,000kg of rice!
On the Plastic Exchange Website, Janur has the quote:
TELL ME – I’LL FORGET
INVOLVE ME – I’LL LEARN
EMPOWER ME – I’LL CONTINUE
The model he has created is replicable and many villages are contacting him to become part of this new change!
If you have ever been to Bali and love visiting, you can actually help be part of the solution. You can donate to help Plastic Exchange grow. Knowing that next time you visit, it will be just that little bit cleaner!
And with more and more people taking on this new behaviour and sense of pride of their own villages, Bali can once again be that pristine tropical paradise we all love!
Which brings me to the lady in the village. Janur told me there was one particular village where one person alone was bringing in about 200kg of plastic. They were all fascinated, because the person who was, was a 70 year old lady that was half bent over and could hardly walk.
So one day they decided to follow her. At the crack of dawn she would get up and slowly move through the village and fields looking for plastic. She would go outside the local Indomart (like a 7/11) and pick up the plastic around there. She would spend the whole day collecting the plastic.
Janur got to sit down with her and she turned to him and said. “You have given me purpose again. Before I would just sit throughout the day and feel helpless. But now I can provide for my greater family. Thank you!”
And with that being one of many stories like that, it keeps Janur fueled to really take Plastic Exchange to the next level! Want to check out where they are up to now? Check out their website here.