How does LooLa produce its own green energy ?
Inspired by Armin Aberle (CEO at SERIS) and an example we saw in Kanawa island (close to Komodo island), LooLa introduced solar energy in 2014 (70 PV panels with a total peak capacity of 17 kW). But things only really took off in March 2019, when LooLa could tap into Indonesia’s President Jokowi program of “net-metering”, which is a mechanism which lets users share their solar energy with the national grid.
In Aug 2019, we were 70% on green energy, and since 2020, we are 100% on solar energy!
With the help of a great energetic Singapore start-up, Resync, we installed monitoring devices which you can log into here; (username: loola, password Listrik@loola1), and which will be used to optimise our current energy use and subsequently upgrade our PV to ensure that we will be 100% on solar energy even under peak usage by mid 2020.
Lifelong safe sanitation for everyone: Safe Water Garden
This project is our pride and joy and our collective passion.
After our cook’s daughter dies in 2014 (on account of sanitation problems at home), we started with a system that was developed by UNICEF, Red Cross and others following the Aceh tsunami, and we built 7 of these systems at various scales in LooLa (for staff, for our dorms, and for our villas).
Our school guests then helped us bring these systems to local households and local schools (see the fantastic video from SJII next to this text!), and they were soon joined by companies and families looking for meaningful holidays. Several top universities joined us in an effort to (cost) optimize the systems and the Dutch government gave the grant to sponsor this university research.
Between the years 2016 and 2019 we completed the research and the result is called the Safe Water Garden (SWG for short).
In January 2020, the Indonesian government declared the SWG part of Indonesia’s national sanitation standard, making the SWG officially the world’s most cost-efficient sanitation system in the world. Meanwhile, Shell and Accenture are designing the “lego-like” construction manual that will be printed in 6 languages.
So we’re fully on track for our vision: to help all Indonesian villagers to safe sanitation by 2025.
This project epitomizes the beauty of sustainability for us: people, schools, companies, governments all working together to achieve a better world … and it was all made possible because school children from Singapore and abroad built 450 such systems by Dec 2019!
For more info on this project, see our website www.safewatergardens.org
Bedroom air-conditioning (henceforth, AC) accounts for over 60% of a family’s monthly electricity bill. In Singapore, AC currently takes up 40% of our national household electricity bill, putting severe stress on both household pocketbooks and the global environment.
At LooLa we are experimenting with two simple solutions that we hope can inspire others to follow and/or further improve them. Our two Solutions are based on a simple principle: why cool the whole bedroom when people just want a cool bed?
The first solution, called the Cool Cocoon, retains the traditional AC compressor and fan unit, but it encloses the bed and the fan-unit under a curtain that can be zipped closed – similar to a tent. Experiments so far show that one of our worries was wrong: people like sleeping in a cocoon! Furthermore, on account of the smaller space to be cooled, sleepers can put the fan speed at the lowest level and let the cold air “fall” on them, which means there is no noise. As the cold air is directly above the sleeper, most people are perfectly happy with 25 or 26 degrees, yielding further energy and dollar savings. A bespoke Cool Cocoon can be beautiful and fashionable too, as the photo shows!
The second solution, the Cool Mattress, is an original Singapore invention by StartUp uCoolz . It replaces the traditional AC and goes one step further: it only cools the sleeper’s mattress. It does so by adding, on top of the mattress, a robust mat (pad) threaded with a grid of water tubes within. The mat/pad is connected to a small heat exchanger/pump the size of a shoebox. The heat exchanger keeps the water in the mat at a temperature between 26–30 C (set by the user), similar to the ambient air temperature, i.e., the mat only needs to battle the sleeper’s body temperature of 37 C. Because this is an energy-light task, the system only consumes between 90–180 Watt (average 120 Watt) per sleeper, and only 8 Watt in stand-by mode (so you could leave the system on the whole day). One particular advantage that this system has over conventional AC is that it gives each sleeper individual control: the partners in a couple can have their own mat, and hence set their own preferred temperature.
We hope to engage our guests in testing these system and hope you like them as much as we do, and that after your LooLa visit, you will feel like experimenting at home and make your own Cold Cocoon, or contact uCoolz!
Empowering local communities
You hear it all the time from seasoned community workers: (development) projects only work well when local people are fully enthusiastically engaged; the projects must genuinely benefit all stakeholders.
This is why the LooLa shop is fully run and owned by our local staff, and this is why you will find that all our staff are local people, hired from Bintan (notably from our neighboring village). Our staff proved that having an average education of primary 6 didn’t stop them from becoming the World #1 eco resort, and we’re super proud of them.
Indonesia is a great place to be for collaborative projects because –according to official polls by Gallup– Indonesians are the most optimistic people in the world, In practice, this means that they are always up for trying (new) things together, optimistic about a good outcome.
So the best community projects must always begin with all parties getting to know each other, swap stories, and fully agree –in a two-way dialogue– what project we shall undertake together, giving both parties clear responsibilities to ensure the desired good outcome. If our guests want to participate in a community project, this is great and great fun too. But make sure you take plenty of time to socialize together during the project, cook together, invite the local people over to LooLa, and make sure you do a photo session at the end of the project, sharing your photos with the Indonesian people.
If you do all this, you don’t just have a wonderful community project, but you leave as friends, with both sides cherishing happy memories. You can always come back to visit later, even with a different group: Indonesian people will still remember you and happily invite you to their home.
Gender equality, staff happiness, recycling and story-telling ... and how it all ties together
Gender equality, staff happiness, recycling and story-telling … and how it all ties together
Three things happened in 2018: we discovered that Indonesian women have very little trust in each other (a sentiment that subsequently proved quite universal in many cultures); we realised that the more happy a staff member is, the more productive they are; and finally, we noticed that the more people were swapping stories, the happier the experience, both between staff, and between staff and guests.
So actively promoting happiness, amongst our staff and amongst our guests, became a conscious effort.
• First we discovered that mixing genders as much as possible in every department was great for morale: both men and women said they enjoyed work better if there was a gender mix.
• Second, the LooLa ladies took the lead in the “trash for cash” program in which they, together with our guests, collect plastic from the beach and then recycle this plastic into cute ornaments. This project unleashed creativity and a wonderful team spirit, and confidence and team spirit started to soar.
• Third, we asked each of the LooLa staff to write a brief story about themselves, including their favorite animal, their favorite UN SDG, what makes them happy, scared, or sad, and we put these personal stories in the restaurant. These stories now inspire many great conversations, as guests want to know more about the staff, and subsequently share their own life experiences, discovering that, deep down, there is far more that binds us together than what sets us apart.
We thank our guests for so actively engaging in this program, for continuing to give our staff confidence, and for realizing that the world can learn a lot from the Indonesian way of life!
Plant-based food and zero waste
It was Michael Broadhead, Biana Polak and George Jacobs (former president of the Vegetarian society) of the Centre for a Responsible Future –three people at the forefront of sustainability in Singapore– who started LooLa off on our journey towards zero waste and towards cherishing plant-based food.
Crossing cultural boundaries effortlessly, they managed to get all LooLa local staff enthusiastic about the goals. They made one very welcome discovery: Indonesians actually have many fantastic local plant-based dishes, but LooLa’s staff was under the false impression that giving plant-based food to clients might be viewed as insulting, as in “we’re trying to get away with giving you cheap food”!
With that misunderstanding out of the way, Mike, Bianca and George helped us start formulating a local menu of plant-based dishes that everyone can be proud of.
Schools like SJII then discovered that the best way to make people appreciate plant-based food is to learn to cook it yourself, so we now also offer that option to other guests.
Zero waste meanwhile, is an ongoing journey (in particular, plastic is everywhere, and it takes a serious effort to avoid it), but the idea has taken hold, and we love to get our guests engaged in making this journey towards zero waste a success.
One thing you can do to help things along:
Ask the shop for plastic-free snacks that are locally produced. This will promote the “eco-corner” in the shop! (note: the LooLa shop is fully run by our staff, and all profits from the shop go directly to them).
If the wells in Bintan’s villages run dry, the villagers have to buy water, which arrives by a truck and costs them 10-20 times more than we pay for water in Singapore, even though the average income of Indonesian families is 30 times lower …
So access to (shower and toilet) water is a real issue for Indonesian people, increasingly so with climate change which makes the problem a little bit worse every year.
In Singapore and Bintan, the average rainfall per day is 6 mm. That means that a 100 m2 roof can collect around 600 liter per day on average. So LooLa’s 600 m2 canteen roof could bring in 3600 liter per day (on average), make that 6000 liter per day if we add the girls dorm roof!
The average person in Singapore uses 150 liter per day, but we have found that in LooLa, this drops to around 40 – 50 liter per day (and we aim to measure such data digitally and put them online in the first half of 2020). In other words, rainwater could supply sufficient water for around 100 people a day in LooLa, possibly enough to cater for all our shower/toilet water needs!
It turns out that rainwater harvesting and processing is a pretty easy thing (please ask our staff to show you our current systems, which include a storage facility of around 50,000 liter). It would be viable and affordable for local people too, provided we can settle the storage issue : if a local family could get a 10,000 liter storage tank, this could get them through a one month drought. The chief problem is the current cost of such storage tanks (around USD 800), but Borouge, our plastic partner, is working with us to bring down the cost of such drums, while many of our (school) guests are helping us to try out small autonomous systems.
Climate change, carbon neutrality and mangrove trees
None of our guests need any further education on climate change: we all know that this is the main issue of our time.
It is generally acknowledged that mangrove trees are the best absorbers of CO2, because they somehow store CO2 not just in their root system, but in the seabed as well. In addition, mangrove tree have great value as incubators for marine life. The Indonesian government is now protecting these trees aggressively, with full local support from the local people in Bintan: they have fished off the LooLa’s shallow seaflat and the reefs beyond for centuries, and are now fully convinced themselves about the critical role of mangrove trees.
As our guests discovered, mangrove tree planting at night (tides permitting) is a great experience: going around with torch lights in between the spooky trees!
You can calculate how much trees you should plant to offset your journey to LooLa (or your carbon footprint for the entire year!) and you can also participate in our scientific survey to keep track of the mangrove trees you have planted. The project is supported by Prof Henky from Bintan’s UMRAH university, and Henky is happy to come out and join your activity, as well as tell you more about the marine life around LooLa.
Note. We’re serious:
If your company wants to offset all of its CO2 production, come and talk to us, we can make that happen!
Animal and plant appreciation
Until not so long ago, hunting wildlife was one of the hobbies of local people, but a rapid realisation is taking place that Indonesia’s wildlife must be preserved, not just for tourists but also for the local people themselves.
The father of LooLa’s owner, Prof Frans van Loo, is a bird enthusiast and he made a library of photos of birds that we should be able to see (refer to the sample of pictures in the photo frame). For our guests, their nature walk is enhanced by trying to identify the birds. The LooLa staff then discovered, to their delight, that they –having grown up with the animals– had many animal experts amongst them, and they are proud to tell our guests more about it if you ask (please try!)
So LooLa’s staff no longer kills snakes if they find them; instead, they lovingly relocate them, to the (supportive) collective amusement of our neighbouring village.
Prof Henky from Bintan’s UMRAH university designed the beautiful poster you see in our dining area that features many of the key marine animals that live off LooLa’s coast.
This enhanced appreciation of wildlife, by both local and visiting communities, is a key part of our efforts to support local wildlife.
PARTNERSHIPS - rather than competition
LooLa believes that sustainability is best served by working together, refer to UN SDG # 17 (below).
As such, we have forged great relations with wonderful partners from the education sector, industry, and fellow tourism operators!
Most of our industry partners below have joined forces with us in the Safe Water Garden “safe sanitation for all villagers” project, but some are connected with us through green energy.
Admiralty Sec Admiralty Sec CAS PROJECTS – SJII, Dulwich, GEMS, Stamford etc.
MOE Schools – Level camps ( * = repeat camps)
Assumption Sec (*)
Bukit Batok Sec
Bukit Merah Sec
Bukit Panjang High
Chung Cheng (*)
East View Sec
Kuo Chuan Presbytarian
North Vista Sec (*)
Singapore American School (*)
St Anthony Canossian (*)
St Nicholas (*)
Tanjung Katong Sec
MOE Schools – Other camps:
Ai Tong Pri
Anglo-Chinese School (Indep)
Ang Mo Kio Sec
Bedok green Primary
Bedok Green Sec
Bedok South Sec
Bedok Town Sec
Bishan Park Sec
Boon Lay Sec
Bukit Batok Sec
Bukit Merah Sec
Bukit Panjang Sec
Bukit Pajang High
Bukit View Sec
ChangKat Changi Sec
Chestnut Drive Sec
CHIJ Toa Payoh
Chinese Girls school
Chong Boon Sec
Chung Cheng Sec
Clementi Woods Sec
Dunman High school
East Spring Pri
East View Sec
First Toa Payoh
Geylang Methodist Pri
Holy Innocents high school
Hwa Chong College
Kuo Chuan Presbytarian
Maris Stella school
MLEP MOE HQ – Malay language unit
Naval Base Pri
Naval Base Sec
Ngee Ann Poly
North View Sec
North Vista Sec
NTU + NUS + SMU + SIM !
Opera Estate Pri
Orchid Park Sec
Pasir Ris Sec
Pei Hwa Sec
Raffles Girls School
River Valley Primary
Seng Kang Sec
Singapore Sports School
St. Andrew’s Junior
St. Anthony Cannossian
St. Gabriel’s Sec
Tanjong Katong Sec,
Tanjong Katong Girls Sec
Tao Nan Sec
Telok Kurau Sec
Yio Chu Kang Sec
Yio Chu Kang Gardens,
Yishun Town Sec
Yuan Ching Sec
Yusof Ishak Sec
Woodlands Ring Pri
International Schools ( * = repeat camps)
LooLa has ongoing contracts with most international schools based in Singapore, from primary to secondary level, who do year-group trips with us.
But we’d like to draw special attention to the CAS projects, where students take full ownership in the autonomous design and execution of a sustainability project that showcases their Creativity, Action and Service (CAS).
CAS PROJECTS – SJII, Dulwich, GEMS, Stamford etc.
Other hotel partners
We believe that tourism can and should be a major force for sustainability.
Yes, traveling contributes to CO2, but then again, tourism jobs in the developing world tend to be amongst the most empowering and enriching, exposing local people to a more global outlook and new insights. For LooLa, any hotel that is keen to get involved in meaningful community projects and which is keen to create opportunities for quality local employment is a force for good, and we like to work with them –see the rooms section on our website.
Our own staff hails from villages and used to be shy and self-conscious, but thanks to the exposure to guests from around the world, they have gained so much confidence that they can now operate anywhere in Indonesia and make friends with other operators and other communities.
This is why we make things very easy for our guests and have this basic message:
Tell us where you want to go in Asia, and we’ll find you a great venue or local partner who will help deliver the eco experiences you enjoy from LooLa.
In Bintan, we enjoy strong relations with our neighbour The Residence, Aston hotel, Banyan Tree and many others – enquire with us for these Bintan joint eco packages!
LooLa and the UN SDGs
Note: Throughout the points below, we keep referring to the Safe Water Garden (SWG) –the sanitation system we developed together with our partners to deliver safe sanitation for all Asian villagers by 2025. By seeing how often it connects to the UN SDGs, we understand why sanitation is Indonesia’s third national priority, after food security and housing security…
GOAL 1: No Poverty
Our Safe Water Garden (SWG) project –safe sanitation for all Asian villagers by 2025– contributes very significantly to poverty reduction, because they deliver a combined 10% of savings on household income through reduced medical costs, reduced number of sick days, and income from chili growing.
GOAL 2: Zero Hunger
More than one third of Indonesian kids suffers from stunted growth (a direct result from not having enough nutrition). There is a deep connection between sanitation and stunted growth, because if families have bad sanitation that results in diarrhoea for children, this means that children don’t keep the (already very limited) nutrients in their body, contributing to stunted growth.
As such, the Safe Water Garden (SWG) is a direct help towards solving the issue of stunted growth.
Second, the SWG is doing a very good job in raising people’s awareness of that it is possible to grow their own food, and that it is easier than they commonly believe. This elevated awareness will result directly in having more (healthy) food.
GOAL 3: Good Health and Well-being
Health experts generally regard good sanitation as the biggest bang for the buck in terms of improving health.
Not only does the Safe Water Garden (SWG) stop diarrhoea, it also reduces mosquito population and hence Dengue and Malaria, and 20% of SWG recipients reports that their young children no longer have skin rash after they received an SWG (probably on account of having far less organics in the well as a result of the SWG).
The SWG thus contributes profoundly to SDG #3, also because the house no longer smells.
The (academically certified) survey data support our medical and social claims: 70% of SWG recipients say their diarrhoea has disappeared, 20% say their children’s skin rashes have disappeared, and large majorities say the insect and smell situation has improved. Well-being relative to the SWG is directly quantified as well: 90% of those who have a SWG say they feel respected by their community, vs 70% in a control group.
Having a kitchen sink (instead of having to do the dishes in the toilet) and having a nice-looking garden also significantly contribute to well-being, as more recent surveys confirm.
GOAL 4: Quality Education
Teaching people about the importance of good sanitation and healthy food is one of the key priorities of the Indonesian government.
LooLa is actively working with Singapore-based schools, local schools, and local universities to finetune and amplify the message that comes with the SWG.
Guests can help in this project by conducting surveys amongst villagers, and facilitate discussions.
GOAL 5: Gender Equality
LooLa started mid 2019 with offering gender equality programs. Initially, they were chiefly dialogue sessions between LooLa’s lady staff (who relate their journey towards gender equality) and our visiting students, but lately, we have found a great opportunity to combine women empowerment and fighting plastic pollution: guests first go out together with our female staff & villagers to collect plastic trash from the beach, and after collection, they then turn this trash jointly into highly fashionable hand bags, baskets, ornaments etc. These products can be sold (even to local markets!) at attractive profits, which means that garbage collection becomes a creative and profitable business benefiting women, not just financially, but also in terms of feeling economically independent and artistically creative, which benefits self-confidence. The energetic Singapore-based social enterprise “Seven Clean Seas”, meanwhile, has committed in Oct 2019 to buy these recycled plastic bags and sell them in Singapore, so it looks like these efforts will be sustained into the future.
The discussions between local women and our guests have now become a natural part of this joint “turn-plastic-into-art” activity, and our Indonesian female staff are thus rapidly overcoming one of the greatest hurdles towards gender equality: the mutual lack of trust amongst women. Both guests and local people will discover that there are highly interesting overlaps in experiences but also some interesting specific cultural differences.
This will be a learning journey where all participants benefit equally, including the male participants.
GOAL 6: Clean Water and Sanitation
Guests could build one SWG per 10-15 participants, and they could easily build a few kitchen sinks. LooLa’s guests can also help us to conduct surveys.
On top of the sanitation systems, LooLa also aims to collect 100% of its water from rainwater in 2020, and we want to show, together with our industry (plastic) partner Borouge, that it is possible to roll out such systems nationally at very low cost, using collection tanks made of recycled plastic.
The rainwater harvesting systems at LooLa are already in place but we shall start doing (online) monitoring in 2020 so we can easily track our success in this area.
GOAL 7: Affordable and Clean Energy
As of Sep 2019, LooLa runs around 70% on green energy, but together with our partner Resync, we installed energy meters by Oct 2019 which are now online, accessible to the general public (refer to the links listed above). In 2020 so far, our energy has been 100% from solar power, and we aim to keep this record by adding some solar panels early 2020.
LooLa’s guests can easily get engaged in green energy programs by mapping out how much electricity we use, they can study Loola’s nifty and easy-to-copy eco-cooling systems and ask themselves to what extent they could apply the same at home (and they will discover that it’s much easier than people think!)
GOAL 8: Decent Work and Economic Growth
By being more healthy and having less sick days, the 10% household savings resulting from owning an SWG gives an immediate boost to the economy.
LooLa’s guests could try to figure out where this extra money goes through surveys and interviews.
The other opportunity for decent work is promoted through our plastic-to-art programs (refer to goal 5) and also because some of our student groups are active in developing homestay tourism, a form of tourism that LooLa actively supports because we have found that many of LooLa’s guests like to stay a night or longer with local families.
Lastly, of course, LooLa’s staff –who did not have the benefit of high education– are fully empowered. They are empowered not just as running a tourism business autonomously, but also through running their own shop onsite at LooLa. Very excitingly, they are now becoming national consultants in the area of sanitation (notably Safe Water Gardens), teaching palm oil companies how to introduce SWGs, and the idea is that they will all become consultants in all the areas of sustainability described here.
GOAL 9: Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure
Our overall target of 100 million SWG (all villagers in Indonesia and beyond) would be a massive infrastructure change.
The SWG is a spectacularly efficient innovation that improved an earlier UNICEF sanitation model, and in Jan 2020, it was recognised by the Indonesian government as part of the national standard, making it officially the world’s most cost-efficient sanitation system. What makes this innovation so great is that it is accessible to everyone and even school children can build it –no special expertise is required.
Indonesia is already 98% electrified (as of Sep 2019), but the vast majority of people still do not have adequate sanitation. Fixing that in the next 5 years is a massive shot in the arm, from which national infrastructure will benefit, but also important industry sectors, since millions of long-lasting plastic drums and pipes will have to be produced (from recycled plastic)
GOAL 10: Reduced Inequality
It used to be that, compared to city people, villagers didn’t have access to electricity and water and sanitation, which is a very obvious inequality.
The electricity part has been fixed in the last 10 years in Indonesia. The next 5 years should see equality in the sanitation situation, thanks to the Safe Water Garden.
With universal national access to education, medical care, electricity and sanitation, the inequality between rural people and urban people is set to disappear in Indonesia.
GOAL 11: Sustainable Cities and Communities
Together with electricity, good schools and good local medical help (already present in most villages), the SWG will complete the revolution that makes rural communities self-sustainable.
GOAL 12: Responsible Consumption and Production
There’s few things so good as growing your own crops in the garden.
One of the extra features of the SWG is that, asides from being a great sanitation system, it also encourages people to realise that it is possible to grow their own crop and hence have access to healthy food, sustainably produced.
GOAL 13: Climate Action
LooLa’s guests are encouraged to make their trip to LooLa a carbon-neutral one by planting mangrove trees.
LooLa works together with the local university in Bintan, UMRAH, to teach our guests how to plant the new mangroves and why it is important.
We can help our guests calculate how much CO2 is offset by a single tree, and make them appreciate how much CO2 they emit through their daily actions. You have a possibility to make your entire organisation carbon-neutral by working with us!
GOAL 14: Life Below Water
By planting mangroves (see SDG #13), we are directly improving marine life because mangrove trees are important incubation zones for young marine animals.
Bintan’s university, UMRAH can educate our guests about this, also by doing marine surveys (doing species count).
Through a partnership with Singapore’s leading educational eco marine/dive partner, ORCA, we expect to further enhance this SDG in the near future.
See also SDG #15 below.
GOAL 15: Life on Land
LooLa has mapped out all major animals that we have around LooLa: birds, mammals, reptiles, crabs, shrimps, shells, and other marine life.
We have printed out booklets from these animals that guests can take along and our staff is able to tell everything our guests want to know about the lifestyles of these animals and how they relate to the human community. We have found that displaying the existing animals on posters not only increases appreciation of wildlife amongst guests, but also amongst local people, who take pride in explaining things from a local perspective about the local wildlife, and hence become aware that the wildlife around them is special and worth preserving.
GOAL 16: Peace and Justice Strong Institutions
LooLa is chair of Bintan’s anti-corruption commission and LooLa’s staff will be very happy to share their experiences with an ever more democratic Indonesia and its free and vibrant press –quite a contrast with Singapore, as Indonesia is the undisputed democratic champion of SE Asia (which is not to say there are no challenges!)
The discussions about politics in Indonesia are open, passionate, free, and diverse, but with a general consensus that the result should be a more equal and just society for everybody, and a government that serves its people rather than the reverse.
GOAL 17: Partnerships to achieve the Goal
The SWG project is a vibrant partnership between schools, universities, companies and passionate individuals, and each of these partners has actively helped –and continues to help– us reach the goal of 100 million SWGs by 2025, see the vision timeline below!