I had the absolute pleasure of meeting young Ben at the Tree Era Co-working space in October 2017. His commitment to his work for the forests was both an inspiration and reminder to me, a fellow social entrepreneur more than twice his age. Ben embodies the spirit and intelligence of an activist, rallying against the most pressing issue to his fellow humans, animals and our precious planet – Climate Change. I asked him to share his journey with the Tribe and his story is one that clearly points out; anything is possible with the intent and focus set on the greater good. – Bobbi
A Social Enterprise that Protects Forests; By Ben Fijal
Starting a social enterprise
TRI is all about promoting conscious consumption and a planet Earth with more trees. We want people to know that the way they consume has a direct impact on the world’s forests. We want people to be more connected with nature because if we have a world of tree lovers, why would anyone cut them down? We take in discarded fabrics and turn them into products to promote conscious consumption. With the profits that we make from selling these products we support grassroots organizations on the ground, mainly in Indonesia. Whether it’s from growing awareness, providing masks for people to be able to breathe, increasing patrols, providing education or doing research, all these efforts one way or another have an impact on Indonesia’s forests. So TRI allows us to direct resources to good people in Borneo, Sumatra and Bali that are doing this type of work to protect forests.
Next steps for TRI
TRI started as my grade 8 graduation project at Green School Bali. It is now a registered business in Indonesia and we have a team of people working on it. As the founder of TRI, my role is to be a spokesperson for this social enterprise. I am now on a 6-month journey around the world to share TRI’s story and raise awareness about what’s happening with Indonesia’s forests.
We started this journey with 4 goals in mind: to experience forests around the world, to meet with people who are working to protect them, to share our story and tell people about Indonesia’s forests, and to expand our market for TRI products. With those goals in mind we have met with ethical fashion enthusiasts in the Philippines, with fellow upcyclers in Korea, with social entrepreneurs in Calgary, we’ve presented to students at schools in the US and the UK, and we learned from indigenous people and grassroots organizations standing together to protect forests at the COP 23 climate change conference in Germany. We have a month to go in Nepal and India and more opportunities to explore.
One project we’re excited about came from an experience we had from presenting to Miss Porter’s School in Connecticut. Not only did they agree to purchase 200 of our TRI bandanas with a custom school design, they also want to be involved in learning with us and supporting our efforts. They could be selling our products, creating content for our social media, doing a bedsheet drive and they could even be innovating new TRI upcycled products. What if we had a growing team of young learners around the world helping us to protect forests in this way?…
The reason why I’ve gotten here as a founder and spokesperson is because of exploration. If I hadn’t gone out to Borneo to see these things firsthand, I wouldn’t have felt the real personal connection and the urge to want to do something about it. Exploration gave me the knowledge and experience which are tools that help me to make the story that I tell people about Indonesia’s forests more real for them. Further exploration will help me grow my experience so I can be a better spokesperson and have a bigger impact on protecting forests.