Palm Free Council Indonesian Programs

The overall objective of the programs listed below is for the tourist destination Batu Kapul and neighboring corridor forests to serve as examples and inspiration that can be repeated in other areas of Indonesia also facing the threat of deforestation and species extinction due to the extraction of natural resources. It is our hope that Batu Kapal will be the jewel of responsible eco-tourism and provide a benchmark that is followed for years to come. It is also our goal to provide a means of income that will support the people of the region and minimize the influence that poverty has over the welfare of Indonesia’s many natural treasures which are critical to the overall health of our planet. Our goal is to make these programs self-sustaining.

Batu Kapal Ranger Program

  • Purpose: Monitor flora and fauna of corridor forests of Gunang Lesuer National Park and prevent illegal logging, hunting and conflict between endangered wildlife and humans while also providing employment for locals.
  • Activities: Camera trap monitoring, foot patrols, snare removal, aerial surveys with Justification: Camera traps monitor elusive species that are low in numbers and difficult to observe. Foot patrols guard against illegal logging and hunting, and snare removal keeps endangered species from getting caught in snares meant for other animals. Drone surveys aid in monitoring changes in land use and allow for proactive engagement with neighboring properties. Finally, the Batu Kapal Ranger program promotes conservation of an ecosystem that is critical to our planet while also teaching new skills to local population as well as providing employment.
  • Justification: Endangered species aren’t always easy to spot. Camera traps help us to observe elusive animals so we can help them flourish. As farms continue to encroach on forested areas, animal/human conflicts increase. Farmers begin to see animals like the orangutan as pests rather than critically endangered species needing protection. Snares are a major threat to animals in forested areas.
Animal snare in jungle

Hanging animal snare found by local ranger patrol.

Homeless Empowerment Through Recycling

  • Purpose: Establish a recycling depot in the slums of Batu Kapul to sort and recycle waste while also providing income and education for the homeless women of the area. These women are typically affected by the death or illness of loved ones and lack resources to support themselves.
  • Activities: Pay for collected waste (per bag), reuse plastic by making bags and eco bricks to sell and use, collect food waste from local guest houses and restaurants for composting.
  • Justification: Indonesia ranks 2nd in the world as a contributor of plastic marine waste but has no established recycling program. Poverty and lack of choice fuels a desperate labor supply ripe for exploitation in industries like oil palm. Providing employment opportunities that serve the local community as well as the world enables the local population to gain control over their futures and develop new skills and alternative employment opportunities.The women of this area began collecting plastic and repurposing into eco bricks themselves.
Slums of Batu Kapal
Slums of Batu Kapal. The people living here are squatting on public land and can be thrown off anytime.
in the slums of Batu Kapal.
Bath time for one of the babies living in the slums of Batu Kapal.

The homeless women of Batu Kapal began their own initiative of making “eco-bricks” by compacting plastic waste into plastic bottles. They have made 20,000 eco-bricks as of April 2019 and have been selling them to an Australian sponsor who is donating the bricks to the community so they can build trash bins, a shelter, storage huts and trash sorting bins. A German sponsor is buying bricks to make a plastic village and guest house. They start building in July 2019.

plastic waste
Plastic Trash
woman working on bottle
Woman working on a bottle.
Finished bottle

Plastic bags can be made into “yarn” which can be used to make sleeping mats for these women and children, and pots or bags that can be sold to local guest houses. Our goal is to make Batu Kapal a zero plastic tourist destination by eliminating single use plastic bags and water bottles. Our financial needs for this program are $1800 for crochet supplies and we would also like to build a toilet which would cost about $2000.

Make yarn from grocery bags
Yarn from plastic
Yarn made from plastic
Sleeping Mat from plastic
Sleeping mat made from plastic yarn

Conservation Program


  • Purpose: To educate volunteers on the consequences of deforestation and loss of species while also teaching sustainable eco-tourist practices and respect for our surroundings.
  • Activities: Volunteer program, track local animals and trees with GPS, create wildlife corridors, develop best practice ecotourism activities that have minimal impact on the surrounding environment, plant trees and seedlings to restore corridor forest.
  • Justification: Volunteer programs minimize costs and environmental impact (ie-tourists come to serve the environment rather than take from it). Tracking of flora and fauna provides awareness of local endangered populations and the ability to assist (ie-planting mature, trees so wildlife can travel through the corridor and access other DNA pools, working with farmers not to kill endangered animals found eating their crops). Best practices eco-tourism encourages sustainable practices like zero plastic left by guests, no feeding animals to minimize the spread of disease and conflict, provision of a water source so single use water bottles are not brought in by tourists. Functional wildlife corridors are necessary for animals to access other DNA pools. This is particularly crucial to stressed populations like the orangutan, Sumatran tiger, rhino and elephant.
Planting seedlings

Volunteer working with Volunteer Coordinator at Sumatra Rainforest Eco Retreat to weed and plant seedlings and replenish corridor forest.

Daily patrol in Bukit Lawang corridor forest to track flora and fauna with GPS</span.

ROAR (Recycle or Actively Reduce) Project

  • Purpose: Supply guest houses with water pumps and signage for refilling. Sell ROAR reusable water bottles made from recycled plastic to guest houses and provide free refills. Educate and train guesthouses on how to compost. Partner with Erna’s Eco Farm Compost. Provide compostable straw option to schools and community. Organize clean up days with schools and community. Post signage and posters with details of ROAR in tourism areas. Use Recycling, Reuse and Repurpose programs as a means of income generation for the community. Reduce the use of single use plastic bags through education. Encourage reuse of plastic bags, rather than burning. Provide fabric bags to local community and encourage guesthouses to sellfabric bags.
  • Justification: Indonesia ranks 2nd in the world as a contributor of plastic marine waste but there is no established recycling program.
ROAR (Recycle or Actively Reduce) Project
Water station supplied with well water for filling reusable water bottles. Signage about the importance of minimizing plastic waste is listed on the wall above.

Adopt a Forest

  • Purpose: Purchase land in the Batu Kapal biolink buffer zone to protect from exploitation.
  • Activities: Purchase small tracts of land (known as “rantes”, 50m x 50m in size).
  • Justification: Sumatra has the world’s third largest forest and ranks second in the world for deforestation. 70% of Indonesian palm oil comes from the island of Sumatra and oil palm plantations typically replace forest. Half of Sumatra’s forest disappeared between 1985-2008 and forest cover on Sumatra has gone from 50% to 25%. The critically endangered orangutan travels through the forest in the tree canopy. When native trees are replaced by oil palm trees, orangutans lose safe mobility that enables them to travel to other forests and access new DNA pools. They are also killed or driven from palm plantations because they will eat the palm fruit.
Tall Native Meranti Tree
Tall, native Meranti tree