Going-green hype has people saying no to plastic bags and toting reusable water bottles everywhere — healthy habits that some think are one-man army in the quest of a greener Indonesia.

Unknown to many, there are communities of like-minded folks around the country who are committed to reducing our carbon footprint, and they’re showing no signs of slowing down.

These self-proclaimed “agents of change” might be young, but as teenagers they have influence adults lack.

TGG members promote a message of climate change at the schools, households and extra curricular communities of which they are a part; and with a mastery of social media and the power of the Internet in raising awareness, the notions they are driving home are becoming harder to ignore.

Humor and teamwork drive their motivation to care for the environment.

Upon induction, new members are shown a light-hearted presentation and acquainted with the basic biology of woodlands, wetlands and coastal ecosystems and how tightly they interlock. Once the newcomers have warmed to the theme, they are assigned to one of the three groups and their journey begins.

A particular bone of contention in efforts to “regreen” Indonesia is the plastic foam used without a second thought by people buying food on the street or to pack electronic goods, and is disposed of just as carelessly.

What’s more, the unwieldy material cannot be recycled nor reused, so even scavengers reject it.

TGG’s efforts to move away from plastic foam began in 2011 with a campaign that hoped to illustrate that plastic foam takes over 1,000 years to decompose; and can be replaced by other equally inexpensive materials or methods, such as bringing your own reusable containers when buying take-out.

The Ajang Kreasi showcase at the year’s end further developed the theme through the exhibition of artwork made from materials we might have otherwise deemed rubbish.

Art was chosen as the conduit because artistry is fast gaining respect in Indonesia, and also because plastic foam is also widely used by artists.

“We have to make people understand that living sustainably is not as difficult as they think. It can start from home,” explains the group’s program coordinator, Putri Ayusha.

While public appeals are pivotal in perpetuating the green movement, TGG members also have to be practised in what they preach. Nothing helps build empathy for the environment as effectively as a hands-on stint in a rural village; which is the purpose of TGG’s EduCamp program.

It is not only the beauty of untainted nature that touches the heart; it is seeing the villagers trek miles to the river for water and wood for cooking.

One member remarked in her blog, “After the trip I think twice before I use water for unnecessary things. The villagers don’t complain about their modest way of life, but as for us? We are so consumptive!”

Transformasi Hijau

Bumper-to-bumper traffic and the glass-fronted glitz of shopping centers — the trappings of an urban lifestyle — make us forget that trees are not just for decoration.

With just 9.6 percent of its green spaces remaining, Jakarta is in dire straits. Transformasi Hijau’s (Trashi for short) tack is to encourage people to visit these scarce oases not only to remember how it feels to walk barefoot on grass but to see firsthand how garbage and pollution have made their mark even on the wooded city outskirts.

“The hope is that they will be moved. Then they will no longer litter or damage the environment,” says Hendra Aquan, Trashi Coordinator.

Trashi was formed in 2009 by a group of youths who realized that Jakarta’s proverbial problems — flooding, air pollution and rising temperatures — are caused by a scarcity of greenery. Jakarta has been swept by unpremeditated development frenzy — at the expense of the urban-green balance that is still found in areas like Kalimantan and Sumatera.

Trashi’s “Young Transformers” program aims to engender enthusiasm for the environment in children by exposing them to wildlife through bird-watching and learning about reptile and amphibian species.

The youngsters acquire firsthand understanding of the consequences of littering by doing trash clean-ups in the mangrove plantations at Muara Angke and Ciliwung River, a waterway flowing from the Puncak highlands to Jakarta Bay, and whose banks are dotted with slum settlements.

The river moonlights as a bathing area, restroom facility, rubbish tip and ironically, a drinking water source for thousands of families. Trashi and Jakarta Teens Go Green have been collaborating in the “Anti Styrofoam Campaign” and attending each other’s workshops, seminars and backing each other’s causes.

Trashi’s Young Entrepreneurs’hip (YES) program held a “Cinta Bumi” garage sale in March that served to illustrate that with a dose of creative thinking, used clothes can be turned into bags, recycled paper into notebooks and baskets and bottle tops fashioned into keychains.

Also touted were donated items that were unused or unwanted by their owners yet still in near-mint conditions, such as bags, shoes, books, DVDs and clothes — proving that one man’s trash is indeed another man’s treasure.