Alex Tsuk is a man on a mission. #refillmybottle
Alex, can you tell us a bit about how you got into eco-activism, and in particular as it relates to tourism?
I have over 20 years’ experience in hospitality and have witnessed first hand the negative impact tourism can have on local communities and the environment. While living in Laos, I led a workshop with small eco-minded hoteliers from Myanmar and realized there was no real platform to promote eco-resorts, so I decided to build BookGreener. I researched and listed about 5,000 eco-friendly properties around the world and learnt a great deal about what made them eco-conscious.
In Bali I became fascinated by the Balinese sense of community and the Tri Hita Karana philosophy, which promotes harmony between people, nature and god. Inspired, I decided to build a community of business change makers in Indonesia called BGreener. I believe in the power of community as a way to shape the world. BGreener members aim at making a positive impact on local communities and the environment. They know they have to preserve the very reason people come to these places.
In your opinion, what are the biggest issues Bali faces right now when it comes to tourism and the environment?
The ever-growing number of visitors is putting a lot of pressure on Bali’s limited resources and space, so water scarcity is a major issue. According to a report by the Bali Water Protection Programme, the island’s water table has dropped more than 50 metres in some areas in less than 10 years. This is alarming when you think about how many Balinese people rely on agriculture.
Plastic is another major issue that many people are now aware of. Not enough is being done of course, but the recent ban on plastic bags is wonderful news and the local government should be praised for it. With BGreener we launched www.refillmybottle.org, which includes a map of where you can refill your water bottle, offering an alternative to single-use plastic bottles.
Your projects focus on making it easier for tourists to travel more consciously. What are some of the most effective ways travellers can become more eco-friendly?
• Travel less. Take time to discover the places you visit rather than running from one Instagrammable spot to the next.
• Measure your carbon footprint. Write down how many plastic bags you use, how many straws, take away containers, litres of petrol, kw of electricity, miles in the air, kg of meat, etc. The simple act of taking notice of your impact will make you want to reduce it.
• Speak up. When you witness a business doing something good, praise the staff and the owner. Faming is more efficient than shaming! Mention it on social media and inspire other businesses to follow.
• Bring your own eco-friendly soaps and products.
• Be curious of others.
• Eat less meat.
• Use public transport or share rides.
• Eat local food.
• And of course, carry a refillable water bottle, download the RefillMyBottle App and join the #refillution
What benefits do businesses gain from joining communities like BGreener and RefillMyBottle?
BGreener members meet once a month to connect with other business owners and brainstorm social and environmental solutions in their area and globally. Topics of discussion could include eco-construction, impact on communities, zero-waste, improving online reputations, supporting local entrepreneurs or how to recruit better. It’s a great way to get inspired and connect with like-minded business owners. With RefillMyBottle any business in the world can be listed on the app if they offer a refill station. Although it’s still relatively new, it has already spread to 10 countries, and the owners of the refill stations often connect to discuss local environmental and social issues.
How optimistic are you about the future of the green revolution in Bali?
Bali is a very powerful place and every day I meet incredible people who are dedicated to building communities and spreading better practices. At our BGreener meet-ups I see entrepreneurs brainstorming ways to collaborate and support each other’s initiatives and scale good ideas. So many entrepreneurs believe that doing good and doing well go hand-in-hand, and I truly believe that whatever you give will come back to you, often in ways you don’t expect.
Do you have any exciting new projects on the horizon?
We just started Togetheraid.com, a website and app that connects donors directly to beneficiaries after natural catastrophes. The idea came about following the recent Indonesian earthquakes. After each earthquake, we created the Facebook groups Lombok Earthquake Relief and Sulawesi Earthquake and Tsunami Relief. Right away we received so many messages from people who wanted to donate to the survivors, so we put together a Google map of the main NGOs that were on the ground helping. Togetheraid.com is still in the infancy stage and anyone keen to get involved in this project is welcome.