The girls protecting paradise

Behind Bali’s pretty picture of sceneries and temples lays a less glamorous fact: the equivalent of a 14-storey building worth of plastic garbage is produced on a daily basis, and less than five percent of its plastic bags get recycled.

Unfazed by this staggering statistic, in 2013 local sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen, then aged 10 and 12, decided to take action after being inspired in class by shapeshifters such as Nelson Mandela, Princess Diana, and Gandhi. The students from the visionary Green School Bali wanted to make a difference too, and let nothing — not even their age — get in the way of accomplishing their mission to save the island’s environment.

Over the past four years their campaign “Bye Bye Plastic Bags” has been instrumental in the fight to ban plastic bags on their island. They hope Bali can follow the footsteps of Hawaii and Rwanda in making the plastic bag a thing of the past.

From petitioning both online and offline to distributing environmental friendly bags with fellow teens, the sisters’ campaign has gained international attention and counted the United Nations and conservationist Jane Goodall among its collaborators.

In a step that got them closer to their goal, by staging a hunger strike, they convinced Governor of Bali, I Made Mangku Pastika, to implement the plastic bag ban by 2018.

With the Wijsen sisters’ single-mindedness, their home Bali may soon be called “the plastic bag free province” on top of “the island of a thousand temples”.