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BFF Talks: Exploring the Unlikely Connection of Art, Social Entrepreneurship and Conservation

Updated: Dec 12, 2018

Meet Niccolo Jose and Jen Horn. One is an artist and woodworker; the other, a community engagement consultant and staunch proponent for sustainable lifestyle. Together, they are forest conservation advocates and certified BFFs of the Best Friends of the Forest Movement (BFF Movement).

Faced with the combined threats of land development, logging activities, and mining projects in areas such as Palawan, Sierra Madre, Samar and Leyte, and Bukidnon and Misamis Oriental, the BFF Movement was launched last March 2018, to gather a community of young, action-oriented environmentalists, travelers, social entrepreneurs, and artists who aim to inspire people to be advocates of forest conservation and protection. Organized by Forest Foundation Philippines, the BFF Movement started with a mutual love for the trees and a willingness to take action among millennials and advocates that turned into a movement that champions the protection and conservation of the forests.

The Movement held its very first BFF Talks entitled Creation, Conservation, and Communities, with the BFFs, Niccolo and Jen, exploring their roles as creators in promoting and empowering environmental efforts.

Delving into this theme as the BFF representing the Arts & Culture passion point, Niccolo discusses how the power of art engages people in a personal way, helping raise awareness on environmental issues, and stirring the youth into action towards conservation and protection. To him, art is just one of the many extensions of his advocacy.

After all, being a woodworker and a conservationist may seem like two completely opposite things. Indeed, as being a woodworker requires the use of wood, which raises the question of where it is sourced or if a tree was felled for this very purpose.

Niccolo Jose is an artist of a different kind. He’s a woodworker and a staunch advocate for environmental sustainability and upcycling, opting only of using reclaimed old wood for all his works. Because of this, his artworks become a statement in itself, serving to inspire his fellow BFFs and many others into action.

But as a staunch practitioner of upcycling, all of Niccolo’s works are crafted from reclaimed wood — effectively bridging the gap between creation and conservation through this practice. “I am very conscious of the material I use,” he explains. “I always use second-hand lumber from junk shops, fallen trees after typhoons, or even from old houses. At the same time, in my studio we practice zero waste. Nothing gets thrown out. Everything is used to the point that it’s a sawdust. But even then, the sawdust gets used for the vermiculture and also for the plant nursery,” Niccolo added.

Through the BFF Movement, Niccolo hopes to galvanize a new generation of advocates to take action. “For me, being a BFF is learning how to share your ideas, inspire people to be creative with what’s around them, and above all, to help people appreciate nature more.”

Jen Horn is a woman in pursuit of meaningful endeavors. She’s an entrepreneur, writer, designer, marketer, and above all, the chief mind behind MUNI. With the goal of creating a healthy, sustainable, waste-free world, Jen aims to inspire the BFFs with the same culture of mindful living that has galvanized many others at MUNI.

Meanwhile, for Jen Horn, the BFF Talks provided her with an avenue to discuss the growing role that social enterprises serve in promoting advocacies and raising awareness on social issues. After all, social entrepreneurship in its simplest terms is doing business for a cause. And while these causes may vary, most provide support to communities through initiatives that aim to develop a positive impact on social and environmental issues.

“Conservation is a community effort,” said Horn. Speaking of her experience as MUNI’s Chief Collaborator, Jen recounts her experiences working with social entrepreneurs and discusses how enterprises can serve as a platform for promoting advocacies. “We create events that connect communities — the conscious consumers and the mindful producers. We aim to provide a platform for more socially and environmentally mindful businesses who are creating products that have the people and the planet in mind.”

She concluded with an impassioned rallying call inviting the youth to take action. “The objective of the Movement is to encourage sustainable change and inspire more people to take action for the environment and this can be achieved by building a community that supports each other, that can learn from each other, and share different ways on how we can live a more sustainable life and help protect the forests and the planet as a whole.”

Speakers during the BFF Talk are Bryan McClelland, an environmentalist, social entrepreneur, community advocate, and the founder of Bambike — a socio-ecological enterprise that hand-makes bamboo bicycles with fair-trade labor and sustainable building practices; Vie Reyes, the executive director of Bote Central, an active member of the Philippine Coffee Alliance, and a staunch advocate for the welfare of coffee farmers; Danilo Tandang, an accomplished veteran researcher for the Botany and National Herbarium division of the National Museum of the Philippines; and co-founder of Woven Crafts Trish Lim, a marketer by profession and a social entrepreneur at heart, who aims to uplift the lives of artisans in the community of Basey, Samar and sustain weaving as a culturally and economically relevant livelihood.

What part will you play to save the forests? Take action now with the BFF Movement! For more information, log on to


Credits to BRAND MAGAZINE. Click HERE to view the original article.


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