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TEDGlobal: John Hardy’s Green School

John Hardy tells us he grew up in a small village in Canada as an undiagnosed dyslexic. He was the little kid in the village who cried each day on the way to school.

At 25, he ran away to Bali and met his wife, with whom he built a jewerly business. They retired, and life looked beautiful. But then his wife took him to see a film that ruined his life: An Inconvenient Truth. “I have four kids. And even if part of what he says is true, they’re not going to have the life that I had.”

Hardy decided to focus on “giving back locally” and building a project for Bali, the Green School. It’s an ambitious project to build a school that’s off the grid, based on principles of green design. He shows us bamboo blackboards, classrooms lit with natural light, cooling shades built with cotton. There’s a new power generation system coming in based on a hole dug in a riverbed to create a vortex – it should be able to generate 8000 watts based on water falling only a few feet. He’s integrating pigs and cows into the space, asking them to take care of waste and to trim grass. There’s composting toilets and gas free cooking stoves that run on sawdust. The building is built of sustainable bamboo and may be one of the largest bamboo structures in the world.

He admits that not everything has worked – the original, recycled skylights failed. And teachers hated the blackboards and tried to bring in their own whiteboards. So Hardy is now trying to make whiteboards from recycled windshields and white paper.

Hardy’s vision is for the school to be the center of a community of green houses, green industries and restaurants. In the meantime, it’s a small community – 160 children, with a commitment that 20% of the children will be Balinese supported by a scholarship fund. Hardy feels strongly that the programs he supports should be local and sees the commitment to 20% local students as a essential part of that commitment.