Meet the Teenager Getting Bali and the World to Say ‘Bye Bye Plastic Bags’

It's scary to be a young person who cares about the world today.

If we don't dramatically cut greenhouse gas emissions within the next 12 years, dangerous climate change will be inevitable. If we don't change how we dispose of waste, there will be more plastics than fish in the oceans by 2050. This is scary for everyone, of course, but young people will have to live in a hotter, dirtier world for longer.

Many teenagers around the world aren't letting this get them down, however. Instead, they are rising up to make the world they will inherit a better place. One of those teenagers is 17-year-old Melati Wijsen, whose attempts to clean up her native Bali earned her a CNBC profile Tuesday. Indonesia is the world's second worst offender when it comes to plastic pollution, and when Wijsen was only 12, she started a movement called Bye Bye Plastic Bags with her younger sister Isabel.

Melati said she was inspired by learning the stories of leaders like Nelson Mandela and Mahatma Gandhi at the Green School she attended in Bali, which emphasizes sustainability.

"What can we do as kids living on the island of Bali?" she asked herself.

The answer was a signature-gathering campaign that ultimately convinced Bali Governor Made Mangku Pastika to agree to work towards making Bali plastic-bag free by 2018.

The sisters have not stopped there. They have also launched an initiative called Mountain Mamas that helps women in Bali's mountains earn extra income by learning how to make bags from donated, recyclable materials. And they've spread their movement beyond Bali. Melati has given four TED Talks in three years, and young people around the world have responded by asking how they can get involved.

Comments

Stories