Kupu Hawaii

October 13th, 2015


This quote is in the lobby of Kupu Hawaii's office in Kakaako.

This quote is in the lobby of Kupu Hawaii's office in Kakaako.

In the midst of all this redevelopment in Kakaako, it's good to see the rise of a non-profit focused on cultivating today's youth as tomorrow's leaders of sustainability, rather than another high-rise.

Empowering youth, Hawaii’s future, to serve their communities, is at the heart of Kupu Hawaii’s mission, The non-profit, founded in 2007, is named after the native kupukupu fern which means 'to sprout, grow, or germinate." it is the first plant to grow back after a lava flow.

Through Kupu’s many programs, young adolescents gain the skills they need to work in the emerging green jobs sector, whether it's in the field of conservation, natural resource management or renewable energy. To date, Kupu has worked with more than 2,600 youth and provided more than 230,000 volunteer service hours in partnership with 80 public and private organizations.

Kupu Hawaii's CEO, John Leong, said it's about empowering youth and giving them the tools they  need to make an impact on this world. Just as importantly, he said, it's about nurturing tomorrow's leaders with the right heart — a passion for sustainability as well as a desire to give back to the community.

“If we don’t prepare our next generation of kids to get involved, they’re going to be left behind,” said Leong. “We want to give our youth the capacity to move forward."

>> Kupu’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps gives students the opportunity to work outdoors with environmental agencies across Hawaii during the summer and year-round. In April of this year, nearly 30 interns spent a week helping to plant 20,000 koa seedlings at a natural reserve on the slopes of Haleakala for Arbor Day.

>> Kupu's RISE program offers college students paid internships with various private and public agencies focused on food waste reduction, renewable energy and sustainable schools. The internships can provide valuable experience and mentorship leading to jobs when they graduate.

>> With E2U, an environmental education program, participants work with public schools to launch a project focused on sustainability, take a field trip to a conservation site or start an after-school Eco Club.

>> CommunityU helps youth at risk, ages 16 to 24, with life skills and green jobs training that will allow them to get a high school diploma after completion of the program. These youth get involved in projects that restore fishponds, a lo‘i, plant native species or carve traditional Hawaiian poi boards.

Last November, the late navigator Mau Piailug's son, Eseluqupi Plasito, mentored students in a transformational project — the carving of a traditional, single-hulled canoe out of a large, invasive albizia tree at Kewalo Basin, with help from more than 700 volunteers.

Check out this Olelo video which celebrates the launch of the canoe earlier this year.

Kupu has raised about half the $5 million needed as part of its Ho‘ahu Capital Campaign for its Green Job Training Center.

The goal is to transform the "net shed," a rundown building originally used by aku fishermen to hang and repair nets near Point Panic at Kewalo, into a LEED-certified Green Job Training Center. Kupu envisions it as a gathering space with classrooms, conference rooms and hydroponic garden, along with a commercial kitchen and food truck that will feature locally sourced produce. Kupu hopes to settle lease terms with the state Hawaii Community Development Authority and begin construction on the center in March 2016.

As Kakaako undergoes a dramatic change in its skyline and population, it would  be great to see a place that nurtures the next generation of stewards for our islands.

Rendering of the Green Job Training Center that Kupu Hawaii envisions at Kewalo Basin. Courtesy Group 70 International.

Rendering of the Green Job Training Center that Kupu Hawaii envisions at Kewalo Basin. Courtesy Group 70 International.

Protecting Hawaii's endangered species

October 8th, 2015

Band-rumped storm-petrels in flight.  Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Band-rumped storm-petrels in flight. Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hawaii, known as the endangered species capital of the world, is home to 10 animals and 39 plants under review for U.S. Endangered Species protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposal in late September.

The 49 species occur in 11 different habitat types, with 48 of them occurring nowhere else on Earth except Hawaii. These plants and animals are at risk of extinction due to invasive, non-native species, recreational activities, small population size and threats from erosion landslides and fire.

Listing these species, if approved, will boost ongoing conservation efforts to address these threats, prevent extinction and improve the ecology health of the islands.

Among the animals listed are the ‘ake‘ake, or band-rumped storm-petrel, which is a medium sized bird (primarily blackish-brown with a narrow white ban across the rump — found on the isles of Lehua, Kauai, Maui and Hawai‘i island, as well as Japan, the Galapagos islands and subtropical areas of the Atlantic. It is the smallest and rarest seabird that breeds in Hawaii.

"It's a very enigmatic seabird," said Andre Raine, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project Coordinator. "No one's actually found an active nest for the species in Hawaii but we do know that they nest here...We've recorded their calls."

The storm-petrels are vulnerable to predators, including Polynesian rats, barn owls and feral cats. They have shallow wing beats, but glide long over the surface of the ocean. They nest in burrows in a variety of high-elevation, inland habitats. Only a single egg is laid per season, between May and June; nestlings fledge in October.

Only the Hawaii population is being proposed for the list, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and not the band-rumped storm-petrels that occur in Japan, the Galapagos and subtropical areas of the Atlantic.

The list also includes seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees in response to petitions from the Xerces Society, the Orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly and Anchialine pool shrimp found on Hawaii island and Maui.

Hylaeus assimulans, one of seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees proposed for endangered species protection. Photo creditL John Kaia/Xerces Society.

Hylaeus assimulans, one of seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees proposed for endangered species protection.
Photo credit: John Kaia/Xerces Society.

A total of 39 native plants, including the Maui kolea (Myrsine fosbergii), nanu (Gardenia remyi), Maui reedgrass (Calamagrostis expansa). Baker's loulu palm (Pritchardia bakeri) and ihi (Portulaca villosa). The Baker's loulu, named after Lyon Arboretum founder Ray Baker, is found in wet, windswept and grassy areas, and sometimes on steep slopes from about 1,500 to 2,100 feet at the extreme northern and southern ends of the Koolaus on Oahu. It has yellow flowers.

Seana Walsh, a conservation biologist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said: "Hawaii is so special for many reasons, one of them being our rich, highly endemic flora and fauna. Looking at this list of 39 plant taxa proposed for Federal listing, nearly a quarter of them are unique to Kauai, showcasing how narrowly endemic some of these taxa are. Every species depends upon others for its continued existence. If a species goes extinct, there is a cascading effect on the whole ecosystem, effects of which we may not immediately be aware."

The Portulaca Villosa is one of the native Hawaiian plants proposed for a federal Endangered Species list. Courtesy NTBG.

The Portulaca Villosa is one of the native Hawaiian plants proposed for a federal Endangered Species list. Courtesy NTBG.

Of the 39 plants proposed, 18 currently have 50 or fewer individual plants remaining in the wild. Walsh added that although these plant taxa are only now being proposed for listing, many dedicated people from a handful of agencies across Hawaii have been working diligently together for years to protect them from extinction.

"The Endangered Species Act is one way these taxa gain recognition regarding their status and support for protection," she said.

Requests for a public hearing must be submitted in writing to Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96850 by Nov. 16.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepts comments and information through Dec. 1 at www.regulations.gov (in the search box, enter the docket number, FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125). Written comments and information can also be submitted by U.S. snail mail or hand-delivery to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

Cooling our classrooms

September 21st, 2015

The ads on the radio play over and over again. There's the kid touting Hawaii Common Core Standards, and how they align with college and workforce expectations. Another ad goes on about the "smarter balanced assessments" in math and English language arts to reach our "55 by 25" goal. We just found out how we did on that. But all I can think of, as most parents with kids in public school are probably thinking right now, is, what about the heat?

The heat.

The 90-to 100-degree Fahrenheit heat and humidity brought on by El Nino has set record-setting temperatures in the Hawaiian isles this year. Students, teachers and staff are sweltering in stifling, hot classrooms as they're attempting to teach and learn. There's no relief in sight until the end of the year.

It didn't help that the first day of school was July 29, the height of summer.

Blame it on climate change.

The state DOE actually does. See the letter below.

Factors in building out air conditioning across the public school system


As the state's cooling tradewinds continue to decline and the heat index continues to rise due to climate change, HIDOE is challenged by the need to install air conditioning at all public schools. This involves more than installing AC units — there are budget and infrastructure hurdles to overcome. And we must approach it with an eye to sustainability so we aren't adding to the problem of escalating energy use.

The Hawaii Department of Education began deploying portable air-conditioners this week, but that's only a temporary solution, at best. The overall solution isn't so simple. The department says it will take $1.7 billion to cool the schools. The estimated figure, which seems quite high, includes the cost of upgrading infrastructure and installing central air conditioning in 256 schools in the state.

Portable air-conditioners are definitely not part of a long-term solution (and some say they aren't effective for a large classroom). With the hurdles of higher electricity costs that come with air-conditioning and issues of sustainability, a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Reflective roof coating, increased insulation and better building designs are contributing solutions. But solar technology should have been part of the solution, already.

The state DOE's fact sheet for cooling schools also blames old buildings and infrastructure as part of the challenge, but cites solar technology as part of the solution. Solar-powered ventilators make sense. So does solar photovoltaic air conditioning, which is being tested at a portable at Waianae High School. Kudos to students at Campbell High, who took the matter into their own hands and raised $19,000 for photovoltaic air-conditioning through a crowdfunding campaign called Fahrenheit 73. Another donated system is planned for Kalaheo High School. The department, however, is evaluating whether the high costs of the systems are justified.

In addition to the electrical upgrades needed to install air-conditioning, there are the costs of operating air-conditioning. The power bill at Pohakea Elementary School, for instance, more than doubled when AC was installed, according to the DOE, which currently spends more than $62 million a year on electricity, gas, water and sewage fees a year.

Utilities Overview FY16-17

While Hawaii recently boasted of being one of the states with the highest concentrations of rooftop solar per capita, those solar panels, unfortunately, did not land fast enough on its public school rooftops. To date, approximately 46 schools, or roughly 18 percent of Hawaii's schools, have installed solar PV as a result of Act 96 in 2006. To its credit, the department's Ka Hei program launched in 2004 has a laudable goal — it aims to reduce energy costs through energy efficiency measures while bringing STEM lessons to the classroom. McKinley High School is the latest recipient of a 100 kw solar PV system financed through power purchase agreements.

But this all comes more than a decade too late. Hawaii lags behind other states in this no-brainer decision despite having the best potential out of all the states in the U.S. in terms of sunshine. There was this extensive study conducted by MK Think that cited "solar gain" as "the single most important contributor to interior temperature" in schools. Solar technology could also be the single most important solution to cooling our schools.

>> Hawaii ranks No. 1 in states where schools that could save money by going solar, according to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association. Yet Hawaii ranks No. 20 in school solar PV capacity, behind Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and California. And we only have one school district, while other states have multiple districts to contend with.


>> While we've set a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045, why haven't schools been a higher priority? Board of Education Policy 6710 sets a visionary goal of reducing the Department's reliance on fossil fuel-based energy by 90 percent by 2040. Long-term visions and goals are nice, but the reality is our students are suffering TODAY.

>> Schools most in need of air-conditioning should have been chosen for the solar PV projects first. Likewise, schools with solar PV systems should have been among the top candidates for air-conditioning as well as the ones with the hottest temperatures.

>> HECO should fast-track connections for public school solar PV systems.

>> Solar companies can step up and donate systems to schools. I've seen systems donated to non-profits, but let's make our public schools, which have been neglected far too long, a priority.

>> HECO's Sunpower for Schools program (in place since 1996) ended in July of this year, just when public schools were getting started. Under the program, schools received free, photovoltaic solar electric or solar lighting systems. They were small systems, like the 2 kw solar electric system installed at Waianae Intermediate school in December 2006, made possible through a three-way partnership between HECO, the DOE and community (HECO solicited donations to fund the systems). HECO replaced that program with Smart Power for Schools, which installs and demonstrates emerging technologies, such as battery banks for energy storage and management systems for energy monitoring and management tools. That's all well and good, except for the fact that the majority of our schools aren't outfitted with solar PV yet.

>> So far, I haven't heard NextEra, the  $4.3 billion suitor from Florida seeking to acquire HECO, offer any promises or offers of contributions to Hawaii's public schools, specifically, in any way.

Here are some ideas of how schools across the U.S. have been able to integrate solar into their schools, whether to heat or cool their schools, with significant cost savings and a long-term hedge against rising electricity prices. Many were able to enter power purchase agreements with no upfront costs. The Berkeley Unified School District drew up a district-wide solar master plan and with a U.S. Department of Energy grant, even created a template for other school districts. So it's been done before. With the cost savings, some schools are even able to bring back arts and music programs that had been cut from the budget.

>> Solar parking arrays at Analy High School in Sebastopol, CA (Photo: SunPower).


>> Check out this 5,750 KW solar project in Plympton, Mass. that powers Plymouth Public Schools (Photo: Greg M. Cooper/ Borrego Solar).


>> The Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Ariz. installed more than 2 MW of solar across four schools sites to lock in years of future energy. (Photo courtesy SolarCity). Wow, now that's a commitment to solar!


Q&A Chipper Wichman

September 18th, 2015


Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Charles "Chipper" Wichman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, believed that the IUCN World Conservation Congress could be hosted by the U.S. and more specifically, in Honolulu. Wichman played a leadership role in bringing the Congress here, an effort that started as early as 2009. Wichman currently serves as vice chair of the WCC Hawaii Host Committee's executive committee and vice chair of its program committee.

The Green Leaf had a conversation with Wichman about the upcoming Congress, which marks a milestone because it's the first time it will be held in the U.S. The summit is expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 leaders (from government, businesses, academia, NGOs and unique indigenous communities) representing 160 nations around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, with possible attendance by President Barack Obama, Prince William and the Prince of Monaco.

Held only once every four years, the Congress, which helps shape the direction of global sustainable development, also presents plenty of opportunities for Hawaii residents to get involved.

The Congress is expected to address topics rangig from climate change (on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, November to December) to watershed management, conservation of marine resources, renewable energy and endangered species. The theme is "Planet at the Crossroads."

The United States has 84 IUCN Member Organizations, eight of which are in Hawaii (including the NTBG). The U.S. Department of State will need to process quite a lot of visas, and the state of Hawaii's host committee needs to raise $13 million to support the event. Visit www.fb.com/2016wcchawaii for updates.

Green Leaf: Where did the inspiration for bringing the Congress to Hawaii come from?

Wichman: We started talking about it right after the World Congress in Barcelona in 2008. It was actually a couple of colleagues of mine — Chris Dunn, director of Lyon Arboretum at the time, Penny Levin, who is involved in protecting indigenous crops...We thought, the world could learn a lot from visiting Hawaii. It would really put the fantastic work that's going on here on the world stage. Hawaii is a microcosm of all the issues the planet is facing in a very condensed and focused way because we live on islands. And the islands are engines of evolution...We're recognized as one of the world's unique regions. We're also recognized as an endangered species capital of the world...

GL: So this Congress is often described as the Olympics of conservation. Why?

W: The World Congress is an unbelievable event. To call it the Olympics of the conservation world is true. It's the only event that brings together delegates and participants at the cutting edge of conservation — thought leaders from 160 countries around the world...APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which took place in Honolulu in 2011) is made up of 20 leading economies. This is 160 countries, not 20. So it's much bigger and much more diverse...

GL: So you feel Honolulu has a lot to offer the world in possible conservation solutions?

W: We have a lot of challenges here, and those are challenges everyone else in the world is facing. What's compelling is it's brought together indigenous knowledge, practices and pride, and combined with cutting-edge, western science, to create conservation programs that are community-based, which are much more powerful and effective than programs that don't involve indigenous communities. We're really at the cutting edge of those bio-conservation programs that are engaging cultural knowledge and practices and wisdom...

GL: What does Honolulu have to gain from the conference?

W: On the reciprocal side, we will be infused with ideas from people who are at the cutting edge in their part of the world. It's amazing to participate in one of these events — the exchange of ideas, practice, knowledge and connections made. The value of these personal interactions can't be replaced by online webinars. There's nothing that can replace the face to face personal meetings and relationships that take place in a venue like the World Conservation Congress...

One of my dreams (I refer to it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that the president of the U.S. and governor of Hawaii will stand up at the stage of the World Congress in front of all these people from around the world, and say, we recognize the importance of the biodiversity that exists in Hawaii. We recognize the importance of Hawaii and our Hawaii culture, and we are committed to creating a biosecurity plan that will protect Hawaii, that's as strong as any other biosecurity plan in the world.

In hosting it, all these people come to Hawaii and have a wonderful Congress, but if we haven't left a legacy behind us, then I feel we've missed the boat. I've been spending a lot of time focused on engaging our community to think about how to use this as an opportunity to create a legacy...I would never have undertaken this opportunity if I did not believe hosting this would not lead to a transformation in Hawaii.

GL: What kind of transformation?

W: I think that the majority of people in Hawaii, although they know the term 'conservation' and may know Hawaii has unique flora, most people in Hawaii don't truly understand the issues that we face. And this is a way of raising the profile of these issues so that the public can really understand it. Ultimately, if the public doesn't understand it, then we will never elect political leaders that have the will to make the right choices, and to put in place the kinds of regulations and laws we need to affect our environment. I see it as transformational in raising public awareness, in terms of engaging the hearts and minds of our students in Hawaii. I would love to see every student in Hawaii, kindergarten to 12th grade, and maybe even at the university level, be aware of this and be touched by it in some way...We're hoping we'll be able to find a philanthropist to say, 'I'm willing to sponsor all the school kids in Hawaii because I think this is so potentially transformative and inspiring'...If you can plant that seed of conservation, that's our future. Our children are our future. So I see the Congress as being potentially transformational, inspiring the next generation of leaders of our state...


BikeShare 4 ways

August 28th, 2015

This bicycle is chainless, and uses a drive shaft instead of a chain to transmit power from the pedals to the wheel. Photos by Nina Wu.

The roads were a tangled mess as a deluge of rain came down, along with thunder, lightning and flooding on the streets late Wednesday afternoon, so it was the perfect time to pull over and check out the options for Bikeshare Hawaii at the Honolulu Design Center parking garage.

Bikeshare Hawaii showcased four bike systems to the public on Wednesday. It was the second open house, following another one on Sunday. An estimated 200 people showed up to both, according to Bikeshare Hawaii president Ben Trevino, where they had the opportunity to rate the bikes on look and comfort, plus vote for a favorite overall. The results will be weighed in during talks with the companies in consideration, he said. A decision is expected in October. I'm really excited about the possibilities!

Here were the four options:

>> Mibici. Manufactured and designed in Canada, the Mibici is extremely durable and well-made for an urban environment. It has a carrier in front, where you can put your purse, and secure it with a bungee cord (which works if your purse is wide or an unusual shape). It has a comfortable seat and rides like a cruiser. The terminal station is sleek, tall and solar-powered, and pretty user-friendly. Swipe your card and you're ready to go. It's in operation in Guadalajara, Mexico.

The Mibici, manufactured and designed in Canada. Photos by Nina Wu.

The Mibici, manufactured and designed in Canada. Photos by Nina Wu.

>> Nextbike. This bike system, developed by a German company, is present in more than 30 cities in Germany, as well as the U.S. and United Kingdom, and comes with plenty of options. Rentals can be made via the terminal, an app or pin number (there's a keypad on the bike). Every bike is equipped with an automated, on-board lock and GPS system. It's a comfortable ride, a little more sporty.


>> Decobike. The Decobike system, used in Miami, has been tested and proven in a market similar to Honolulu's, with its humidity, sand and salt environment. The bike features a shaft drive instead of a chain, so you won't have to worry about getting a chain caught in your pants legs. The dock station, also solar-powered, is much larger. You get a plastic, bucket basket attached to the front.

The DecoBike has been proven in the Miami market to withstand salt, sand and humidity.

The DecoBike has been proven in the Miami market to withstand salt, sand and humidity. It's a chainless bike.

>> SoBi. The Social Bike, or SoBi from Brooklyn, New York, is a smartbike with a GPS-enabled lock that works with regular bike racks. You can find and reserve a bicycle from either a web browser of mobile device, or directly from the keypad on the bike. Once you make a reservation, you enter a 4-digit PIN to unlock the bike. SoBi is in operation in Tampa, Fla. and Phoenix, Ariz.

The SoBi is a smart bike which you can reserve via a phone app.

The SoBi is a smart bike which you can reserve via a phone app.

All four bike systems have a few things in common — the bikes weigh 40 to 50 pounds, so they're heavy, with adjustable seats for riders that are tall or short. They offer different gears, but are primarily for flat rides. They're all designed for novice riders.

Bikeshare Hawaii's first phase will roll out across urban Honolulu, with about 2,000 bikes at 200 stations from Waikiki to Chinatown in 2016. The mission is to offer a network of bikes, designed for short trips of one to four miles, as a transportation system without the hassles of storage, maintenance or parking. Also, to get more people to ride bikes!

Bikeshare Hawaii Lori McCarney wearing a fashionable bike helmet next to a dress she wears while biking.

Bikeshare Hawaii Lori McCarney wearing a fashionable bike helmet next to a dress she wears while biking. She tested out all four bikes with a dress and small heels.

World Conservation Congress Hawaii

August 25th, 2015


Several thousand leaders and decision-makers from government, business, academia and indigenous communities are gathering for the IUCN World Conservation Congress at the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. The theme of this year's conference, to be held for the first time in Hawaii (and the U.S.), is "Planet at the crossroads."

The Congress is divided into two parts – the Forum, which is open to the wider public, and the Members' Assembly, a global environmental parliament where member organizations discuss and vote on a wide range of issues that guide the IUCN work program and partnership initiatives. A call for contributions went out in June for any interested groups that want to host an event during the conference's Forum.

The Forum is where IUCN Members and partners can discuss cutting edge ideas with people from all over the world. The Congress is seeking hosts for 560 available slots — 135 workshops, 200 Knowledge cafe sessions, 200 poster sessions and 25 training courses. You have until Oct. 15 to submit your proposal. The Congress is only considering hosts that partner with at least one or two IUCN constituents, rather than a single organization, and is looking for events that engage the audience, rather than simply offer a series of "old school" PowerPoint presentations.

There are several options:

>> A Workshop, or 120-minute session that is participant-oriented with a professional facilitator.

>>  A Knowledge Cafe, or hosted roundtable discussion involving up to 12 people.

>> A Poster, which will be displayed during the entire Congress.

>> A Conservation Campus training session, which should be interactive and can involve up to 50 people.

Proposals must meet a number of criteria and be relevant to the theme and draft IUCN Programme for 2017-2020. Here's an outline with most of the information you need. Keep in mind that you'll be competing with organizations from around the globe for one of the slots, so it's pretty competitive. You can apply online.

There's also a link to other entries already submitted, which include a poster on "Protecting and Managing the Magnificent Marianas Trench Marine National Monument" and a workshop on "How to sell a conservation project."

Hawaii, as host for this conference, says Randall Tanaka, executive director of the WCC National Host Committee, has so much to offer in terms of knowledge in the world of conservation, whether it be watershed management issues, species survival or the challenges of sustainable development.

"I think the opportunity for Hawaii is we can provide some very unique solutions to the problems," he said. "It is truly amazing, some of the work that's been done in this state. What we learn from this conference, and what we have to share can become an intellectual export."

Also, if you are interested in hosting an excursion to support the mission of the Hawai‘i Host and Program Committees, visit this Google Docs link.

Lining trash cans

August 19th, 2015

So what do you line your trash can with when there's a plastic bag ban? This is the conversation we've been having since Honolulu's plastic bag ban went into effect July 1, 2015. It seems to be the No. 1 question, with some folks going into panic mode and hopping online to order the exact, same plastic carryout bags. The kind that say "thank you" on them (alright, so you can order a case of 500 for $22.50 plus free shipping which comes out to a little less than 5-cents per bag).

Except that in Honolulu, it's still pretty easy to get a plastic bag.

1. Just get takeout lunch (Honolulu's law does not apply to prepared foods).

2. Go to Wal-Mart or Times Supermarket and check out with a thicker, plastic bag that is still acceptable due to a loophole in Honolulu's law.

The idea is to reduce, then reuse and recycle — to reduce the energy that goes into manufacturing these plastic bags that we take too much for granted, and toss too carelessly. That point seems to get lost in the conversation.

"Our main goal is not to get rid of every single plastic bag, but just to stop the tidal wave of plastic bags flowing out of grocery stores and into our waterways, trees and oceans," said Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation. "And to persuade big stores like Wal-Mart and Times that they shouldn't try skirting the law by producing thicker, plastic bags that defeat the whole purpose of why we worked so hard for over five years to pass these laws."

It falls on the educated consumer to make the decision. No one's perfect. It may just mean the days of bringing home 15-20 thin, filmy plastic bags with the groceries, including two for the gallon of milk you could have just carried in the cart, are over.

The Green Leaf sought out some suggestions on alternatives. We asked, "What do you line your trash can with, if not with plastic carryout bags from the grocery store?"


1. Consolidate and reuse (Stuart Coleman, Surfrider Foundation).

Personally, I either reuse old, plastic bags as trash liners and just dump the trash into the one big kitchen bag. Or I just don't use them in bathroom and office bins.

Stuart Coleman, manager, Surfrider Foundation, at the fashion show protesting the loophole in Honolulu's law allowing for thicker plastic bags in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku in July. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

Stuart Coleman, Surfrider Foundation, at the fashion show protesting the loophole in Honolulu's law allowing for thicker plastic bags in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku in July. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

2. Feed bags, reused bags. (Kahi Pacarro, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii)

What we use are feed bags from stables, reused bags from the veggie scraps we pick up from our local sandwich shop, and new bags that we buy from the store. By composting and recycling, we have only 2-3 bags of debris per week. For our bathroom cans (the size single use plastic bags are used for) we either don't line them or we use other bags that end up in our household from ordering things online from places like Amazon.com.


3. Newspapers

OK, so I've never tried this one, but maybe I will, with the Sunday edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Lindsay, a blogger from Australia, posted this photo of newspaper layered into a wastebasket in April 2013 when the city of Fremantle banned plastic bags. She gives step by step instructions in this blog post and says she rolls the top over for disposal.

Newspaper lined wastebasket from treadingmyownpath.com.

Newspaper lined wastebasket from treadingmyownpath.com.

4. Woven basket, no liner

Jen Metz Kane, our trash-free year blogger, says her family only uses liners for her kitchen trash container. For all other household trash: "We just use woven baskets." As for the kitchen bags, she purchases Green Legacy bags online, which are made from green energy and oxo-biodegradable. Let me add that Jen is using reusable, cloth diapers for her baby girl. To carry wet diapers or clothes, there are several "dry/wet bags" on the market. They probably work pretty well for wet swimming suits and towels, too.

This Bumpkins wet bag on Amazon is made of "easy wipe waterproof fabric, stain and odor resistant."

This Bumpkins wet bag on Amazon is made of "easy wipe waterproof fabric, stain and odor resistant."

5. Potato chip bags, milk cartons.

This hilarious video will make you laugh out loud. It suggests using half-gallon milk cartons, potato chip bags and bread bags.

I found the link  from thekitchn.com. (No More plastic bags in the trash). There really isn't an easy answer.

My answer: Reuse and compost.

What I've found personally, even though I've brought my own bags to the grocery store for years is that you still have plenty of bags that come from somewhere. I have not run out of a supply yet, so just like everyone else, I reuse them. I get them when visitors, like my mother or mother-in-law, bring them into the house. I inherited a box full of plastic bags after helping a friend at her garage sale. I reuse bread bags and newspaper bags. I know some people are using post-consumer recycled paper bags that stores are giving out, too. I like the suggestion of using half-gallon milk cartons.

Nature mill home composters. No mess, no smells.

Nature mill home composters. No mess, no smells.

We DO continue to purchase tall, kitchen trash bags from Costco, which is no different from before. On average, we use one per week. Our plug-in NatureMill composter takes care of a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, leftovers, plus egg shells that normally would go into the kitchen trash, which leaves room to consolidate the trash from the bathroom. I call it the lazy person's composter, since you just open the top lid, put in your scraps, add baking soda and sawdust occasionally. Done. (I highly commend worm and bokashi bucket composters, as well). It's doable.

Reduce, buy in bulk

Natalie McKinney, director of program development at the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, said buying in bulk, reducing waste by recycling and not buying so many single-use items can help reduce the need for multiple trash bags per week.

Plus, if you bring your own bag, you get 5 to 10-cents credit per bag from most retail stores.

Got any other ideas or suggestions? Share them with us.

Here are singer Jack Johnson's Top 10 Plastic-Free tips.

Musician Jack Johnson's Top 10 Plastic Free Ideas.

Saving Haiku Stairs

August 12th, 2015

Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven, is expected to be dismantled by the Hawaii Board of Water Supply. A change.org petition started by Friends of Haiku Stairs seeks to save it. Star-Advertiser file photo.

Haiku Stairs, also known as Stairway to Heaven, is expected to be dismantled by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply. A change.org petition started by Friends of Haiku Stairs seeks to save it. Star-Advertiser 2001 file photo.

It's a darn shame.

We have this unique treasure on Oahu, and saving it is going to be a gargantuan effort, yet the powers that be do not want to make the effort. The Haiku Stairs, better known as "Stairway to Heaven," appear to be headed for dismantlement by the Honolulu Board of Water Supply.

The Friends of Haiku Stairs recently started a change.org petition asking the Board of Water Supply to save the unique and historic stairs from destruction. There have been other change.org petitions seeking to save the stairs before, including this one petitioning Sen. Mazie Hirono five months ago. That one received 3,438 supporters. This one has the most signatures, so far, with 4,135 supporters as of Wednesday. It just needs another 865 to reach its goal of 5,000.

In May, the Board of Water Supply's directors agreed to spend $500,000 to study how the stairs can be removed following a landslide that damaged a portion of the stairs earlier this year. It expressed interest in transferring ownership of the stairs to another entity. But the National Park Service isn't interested in taking over the stairs. Nor is the Department of Land and Natural Resources.

"What we want to do is not to spend that half a million," said Vernon Ansdell, president of Friends of Haiku Stairs. "I think by doing that, they [the Board of Water Supply] are implying that their goal is to remove the stairs. We want to try and convince them, with this petition, there is an enormous amount of support out there to preserve the stairs."

Honolulu City Councilman Ikaika Anderson, who once supported reopening the stairs, believes all options have been exhausted. A working group with all the various stakeholders and agencies was formed last summer. So far, no other government entity has stepped forward, expressing interest in taking over ownership of the stairs.

"I commend this group of people for coming forward and I understand their desire to open the stairs," said Anderson. "I share that desire, provided we can turn the stairs over to a government entity as required by the Board of Water, provided that we can also offer an area with controlled access and managed hiking. Really, I think that time frame has come and gone."

Residents in the neighborhood have been patient with trespassing hikers, he added.

"We need to give relief to the residents," he said. "And we need to do that sooner rather than later."

The stairs, which have been closed for 28 years, feature more than 3,900 stairs stretching about two miles up the Koolaus, which are accessible from the Kaneohe neighborhood. The U.S. Navy built the stairs during World War II as part of a communications network. People have been hiking it illegally. In 2014, the Star-Advertiser reported 135 citations issued for trespassing on Haiku Stairs, along with 100 warnings and six arrests.

Haiku Stairs, better known as the Stairway to Heaven, is officially closed and off limits. Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Haiku Stairs, better known as the Stairway to Heaven, is officially closed and off limits. Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

The petition, which the Friends plan to present at a board meeting Aug. 24, describes the stairs as "legendary to hikers and climbing enthusiasts from all over the world, offering panoramic views of Oahu and a valuable opportunity to study Hawaiian history, culture, as well as native plant and animal life."

With managed access, and everyone working together to address issues of concern, Ansdell said it is possible to keep the stairs open.

"Many years ago, when the U.S. Coast Guard were in control of the stairs," he said, "people would go up into the valley, park, sign waivers, climb the stairs, come down and drive off again. It worked incredibly well. It didn't go through the neighborhood and interfere with anyone in that neighborhood."

Up to two years ago, the Friends used to go up the stairs to remove invasive species. The group offered to fix the damage that resulted from the landslide, according to Ansdell. But the Board of Water Supply declined the offer.

"We think the damage is very superficial," he said. "We're 100 percent sure it's just damage to the railings. We don't think it would cost that much, and we would raise the funds to do it."

The stairs also provide an unparalleled cultural and historical experience, he said. There are native Hawaiian plants, including rare and endangered species at the summit confirmed by experts from Bishop Museum. He said the stairs, with railings, are also safe as long as people use common sense and do not stray off the steps.

"The views are spectacular," said Ansdell. "When you're on the stairs, the whole valley and ahupua‘a opens up...When you get to the summit, it's almost spiritual."

Clearly, the public is interested in keeping the stairs open. From people who have proposed marriage on the steps to a veteran who used the steps for rehab after recovering from an injury, the petition has struck a chord. It's been signed by people from throughout Hawaii as well as the U.S. and globe.

"I'm very pleased with the response," said Ansdell. "I think if nothing else, it shows that there is support. When you read it, you see the passion people have for the stairs."

Here's a sampling of comments from those who signed the petition:

"Because some cultural wonders must be preserved."

Chris Gray, Kailua, Hawaii

"If Zion can have Angel's Landing, and Yosemite can have Half Dome, Hawaii should have Haiku Stairs!!!"

Greg Parsons of Danvers, Mass.

"As someone who has a strong appreciation for nature and the outdoors, which is an idea that the Hawaiian islands exemplify, I see no good reason to destroy something that was restored to give appreciation to the nature and beauty that the islands have to offer. The risks are inherent, and people have have already said that they're willing to pay for access. But removing the stairs entirely is just an easy way out to a problem that can be solved by people coming together."

Ken McCann of Vail. Colo.

"It's part of our history in Hawaii. It's  better to have it open, regulated, with warnings than closed, unregulated, and o warnings about the danger that you are going into."

Gernell Yamada, Honolulu

With enough public will, maybe we could save these stairs for future generations to come. The petition urges the Board of Water Supply to work with stakeholders to create a managed access plan, solve illegal hiking problems and save the stairs.

If you are interested in once again hiking the stairs, sign the petition. To learn more about Friends of Haiku Stairs, visit their Facebook page.

Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Photo courtesy Friends of Haiku Stairs.

Don't flush those wipes

August 10th, 2015

Wipes and what appears to be a piece of a knitted item, cleared from Lualualei wastewater pumping system. Photo courtesy Department of Environmental Services.

Wipes and what appears to be a piece of a knitted item, cleared from Lualualei wastewater pumping system. Photo courtesy Department of Environmental Services.

Don't flush those wipes.

So yes, it does say "flushable wipes" on the package. Cottonelle says it. So does Charmin and Huggies. The thing is that you can flush it down your toilet at home without clogging up your plumbing, but from a larger picture perspective, it's going to cause problems in Honolulu's sewer system. Consumer Reports conducted a study to see if flushable wipes are flushable. After 10 minutes in a blender, the wipes did not break down.

And even though you may think, so what? That doesn't affect me. It does. It all comes back around, in some form or other. Especially on an island. If it costs the city  more to clear up the clogged pumps, it'll eventually cost you more. If it ends up flowing over into the ocean, well, guess what you get to swim with next time you're out there?

So don't flush those wipes.

Warning: The following picture is not pretty.

The crew at Lualualei Wastewater Pump Station recently extracted an amalgam of paper towels, flushable wipes and rags from one of the pumps to make sure it doesn't mess up the machines. It's a weekly chore at the Lualualei pump station. At the West Beach pump station near Ko Olina, the crew goes more than four times a week.

Mix of "flushable" wipes, paper towels and rags that crews collected from the Lualualei wastewater pump station.Photo courtesy Honolulu Department of Environmental Services.

Mix of "flushable" wipes, paper towels and rags that crews collected from the Lualualei wastewater pump station. Photo courtesy Honolulu Department of Environmental Services.

Honolulu is not the only city that deals with it, although the problem is getting worse here, according to environmental services director Lori Kahikina. The department recently launched a radio campaign, telling the public not to flush those wipes.

In March, the New York Times ran a huge story on how the wipes were costing millions of dollars in equipment damage in New York City's sewer system. Hawaii had the honor of being named as a state plagued with the problem, along with with Alaska and California.

"The city is not alone. Wet wipes, which do not disintegrate the way traditional toilet paper does, have plagued Hawaii and AlaskaWisconsin and California. Sewer systems have been stuffed in Portland, Ore., and Portland, Me. Semantic debates have visited Charleston, W.Va., challenging the latitude of “flushability.” “I agree that they’re flushable,” said Tim Haapala, operations manager for the Charleston Sanitary Board. “A golf ball is flushable, but it’s not a good idea.”

New York Times 

So, whatever your personal lifestyle, just  know not to flush those wipes.

By the way, other items that you shouldn't flush down the toilet include: disposable diapers, napkins, paper towels and dental floss. I did not know about the dental floss. Hair is not a good thing to flush down the toilet, either.

Conservation Hilo

August 6th, 2015

Opening day ceremony at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Hilo. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Opening day ceremony at the Hawai‘i Conservation Conference in Hilo. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Aloha Hilo!

The 23rd annual Hawai‘i Conservation Conference kicked off on Monday, with a move to Hilo this year. More than 1,200 people attended from across the isles as well as the U.S. mainland. The conference theme this year was "Hanohano Hawai‘i Kuauli: Celebrating Collaboration and Wisdom Across Hawai‘i's Ecosystems." It concludes on Thursday.

I think the move to Hilo was a great idea this year. After all, Hilo is home to the Merrie Monarch Festival as well as some of the most beautiful, precious lands and habitats for native plants and birds.

Topics covered at the conference range from a general session on birds and bats to the albizia invasion across Hawaii's physical, political and economic landscapes. There was also a session called "Connecting Culture and Science," moderated by Sam Ohu Gon.

Panoramic of the audience listening to keynote speaker Pua Kanahele on opening day. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.

Panoramic of the audience listening to keynote speaker Pua Kanahele on opening day. Photos courtesy Hawai‘i Conservation Alliance.


>> The conference opened with a Kipaepae Ka Mauli Kuauli, its official opening ceremony on Monday evening. Kipaepae is translated as "stepping-stones for entering a house." Aunty Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele was the opening keynote speaker.

>> Conference attendees participated in various huaka‘i, including an excursion to one of Hawaii's largest, remaining dry forest on the slopes of Mauna Kea.  The forest is home to the critically endangered palila bird. Conservationists are working to restore the forest through collaborative partnerships.

>> A special, day-long exhibition on Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument on Wednesday. Keynote speaker in the morning was Kamana Beamer.

>> As usual, the conference offered a Community Connections Day on Wednesday, which is open and free to the community. There were live performances by Paula Fuga and Kainani Kahaunaele, along with poster presentations, a special talk story with the Polynesian Voyaging Society and Kaimana Barcarse. Chefs Mark "Gooch" Noguchi and Top Chef finalist Sheldon Simeon also offered a collaboration dinner, along with Aloha Monday's, Moon + Turtle and Sweet Cane Cafe.

>> An IUCN workshop was held Thursday morning. The IUCN World Conservation Congress, themed "Planet at the Crossroads" is scheduled for Oahu Sept. 1 to 10, 2016. Keynote speakers were Sen. Brian Schatz (via video) and Suzanne Case, chair of the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

The Hawaii Conservation Conference started Monday and concluded Thursday in Hilo. Photo courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance.

The Hawaii Conservation Conference started Monday and concluded Thursday in Hilo. Photo courtesy Hawaii Conservation Alliance.