Up on a Tabanan mountain, a group of local women are offering a solution to re-use and reduce waste not only in their home village of Wanagiri Kauh, but everywhere in Bali.

Hilton general managers with the ladies of Mountain Mamas

Whether you are in Kuta or rural Singaraja, it is not uncommon to see plastic bags in places they don’t belong – stuck in trees, blowing around football fields, or even lying on the island’s beaches and rivers. This goes to show that few of our plastics make it to recycling centres. The question is: Who is going to do something about it?

A Bali-born initiative, Bye Bye Plastic Bags is a revolution started by Wijsen sisters, Melati and Isabel. Through their campaigns, the sisters together with friends hope to decrease the popularity of plastic bag usage and promote the use (and production) of environmentally friendly, alternative bags. And this has led to the establishment of Mountain Mamas, a social enterprise initiated by the two sisters that empowers the local women of Wanagiri Kauh in Tabanan to produce reusable bags from donated materials.

Having no background in design and sewing, the ‘mamas’ of Wanagiri Kauh village are given the training skills to produce beautiful, handmade alternative bags from donated or recycled materials. The production of the linen-based bags, in addition to offering a solution to single-use plastic waste problem, also aims to help contribute towards an improved standard of living for the village of Wanagiri Kauh.

50% of the sales profit will go back to the work of Bye Bye Plastic Bags, while the other 50% of the profit will go back to the village in a budget to be used for three key elements:

  1. WASTE: The set up of a waste management system partnering with Eco Bali.
  2. EDUCATION: Investing in the local schools, english classes, computers, etc.
  3. HEALTH: Distribution of health care packages for each family.

In other words, by purchasing a Mountain Mama Bag you will be contributing to a more sustainable lifestyle for the village of Wanagiri Kauh. Every bag is made on a voluntary base commitment, and stamped by the women who made the bag. 

To-date, the partnership has seen at least 40 women from the village undergo skills training, with more expected to benefit from the program in the coming years. These women received the training, and applied it on a borrowed space in the village. Now, these mamas are conveniently working in a new facility in their village built with the help of Hilton, one of the fastest-growing hospitality companies in the world. 

Hilton completed the expansion of the facility for Mountain Mamas in tandem with the Travel with Purpose Action Grant provided to its three managed hotels in Bali last year: Hilton Bali Resort, Conrad Bali Resort and Hilton Garden Inn Bali Ngurah Rai Airport. Through the Action Grant, the hotels received USD 5,000 in seed funding to help the Mountain Mamas expand their facilities, which saw the construction of a 150 square-meter workshop space with new sewing equipment and the improvement of plumbing and electricity works. With the enhanced premises, more local women from various communities in Bali can contribute to producing linen bags for sale.

Nils-Arne Schroeder, regional general manager for Hilton Indonesia and Timor Leste, said, “With five hotels in Indonesia open and a view to triple our presence with a pipeline of 13 more hotels to open in the next three to five years, we have a huge role to play in doing our part for the communities across the country. Our efforts in Bali in building the facility for the Mountain Mamas have been met with nothing but enthusiasm, and we are heartened by the dedication of all our hotel Team Members in doing their part to make Bali a better place to live and work in.”

The hospitality company went the extra mile, for in addition to the seed funding, the general managers of the five Hilton properties in Indonesia really did get their hands dirty and personally involved with the construction of the Wanagiri facility.

Namhar Hernanto

Namhar Hernanto

One of NOW! Bali's previous but long-standing editors who enjoys all of Bali’s offerings. On weekdays he enjoys deliberately getting lost, taking the wrong turn in distant villages, seeing what travel treasures he may find. Weekends are for indulgence, where you may catch him imbibing on a classic cocktail or savouring the pleasures of a fine dining establishment.