On one of Bali’s quaint and rural roads leading to Seseh Beach, on the fringes of development, a plot of land catches the eyes of the locals and frequenting scooter-riding surfers. Five shipping containers are stacked beside and atop each other, standing on stilts above a garden in its early stages. Solar panels line the roofs and a wooden jetty leads through the centre of this metallic Rubik’s Cube. It’s clear that this is a very different building on an otherwise ordinary rural Bali road.
Different is precisely what it’s supposed to be, of course. Having opened officially on 30 November 2020, this is the new headquarters of Youthtopia – and with their slogan ‘Serious About Change’, it comes as no surprise that their HQ would be ‘different’, because being the same never solved any of the world’s problems!
Youthtopia may not yet ring any bells, but many are familiar with Bye Bye Plastic Bags. An environmental movement started by Bali-based youth, spearheaded by sisters Melati and Isabel Wijsen, Bye Bye Plastic Bags (BBPB) has grown from an island-wide initiative with the objective to reduce or eradicate the use of plastic bags, to an international community of environmentally-conscious youths raising awareness and taking action.
Since their humble beginnings back in 2013, BBPB has spread to 25 locations around the world, and locally has expanded with the additions of Mountain Mamas, a project that trains local women to produce plastic bag alternatives using recycled materials; and One Island One Voice, a community movement banding individuals and businesses to reduce or eradicate single-use plastic on the island.
After seven years, all of these projects come under the same roof with the opening of this new Headquarters.
Show Them How It’s Done
The new headquarters aims to be a showcase of sustainability, presenting a whole array of solutions that are available in Bali when it comes to sustainable design and practices. Of course, the containers are the first element: the five shipping containers, previously sitting unused in Surabaya, are given new life, each constituting a different room and usage of the HQ.
The first container is a showroom and pantry. It displays the many sustainably produced products one can find in Bali, including: recycled tire footwear by Indosole; natural, eco-friendly household goods of Ibu Bumi; reusable bags by Mountain Mamas; water filters produced by Terra Water, just to name a few. The container also showcases products from some of Youthtopia’s big company supporters, Aqua-Danone, who display their 100% recycled bottles; and IKEA, who provided a majority of the furniture for the HQ from their sustainable furniture line, such as desks and tabletops made from recycled PET.
The second and third containers function as office space for the Youthtopia team, whilst the fourth and fifth containers found stacked above function as a meeting room and ‘think bubble’ room respectively. A design feature for all of the containers is that each has a wall cut out, replaced with glass, opening up to the surrounding views of rice fields and farms — perhaps a constant reminder on what must be protected and what is at stake.
Other than foundations of the containers, the plot of land has little permanent structures. Instead, the land is being used for a permaculture farm managed by The Astungkara Way, a movement focused on both reconnecting Balinese youth to agriculture and regenerating local soils by utilising natural farming methods. The objective is to create not only a beautiful farm, but a functional one too, so that the Youthtopia team can utilise what is being grown around them.
Less In, Less Out
Another solution that the headquarters showcases includes ecoBali Recycling, who continue to be the island’s only available waste management and recycling organisation, providing waste separation and collection services as well as a solution for composting at home or in the workplace. At the entrance of this forward-thinking office space, one of the latest island initiatives is presented, a small ‘trash barrier’ created by Sungai Watch, whose main objective is to collect waste in the rivers before it reaches the ocean.
What’s most impressive, due to its rarity on the island, are the 15 solar panels that power the office, with the help of local providers Smart Energy. Renewable energy has had a difficult path in Indonesia, especially at an individual scale, but the Youthtopia office is showing it can be done. However, power storage is even more difficult to come by in Bali, so for now the panels feed directly and work only during the day. The team noted that even if it’s not yet a perfect solution, every little helps and a little is better than nothing when it comes to protecting the environment.
That is, perhaps, the moral of this new headquarters.
By showcasing and utilising the sustainable solutions that are currently available in Bali (and in many cases all of Indonesia), the office stands as a beacon of change, reminding us that we can all make decisions in our lives that contribute in bettering the world around us. The sustainable design, products and services found here may be enough to inspire small changes in each visitor, and every small change is what makes the difference for our future.