Anti-plastic fashion show

July 23rd, 2015

Demonstrators from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation demonstrated against the thicker plastic bags that Wal-Mart is handing out at noon Thursday. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation demonstrated against the thicker plastic bags that Wal-Mart is handing out with a fashion show at noon Thursday. Photos by Cindy Ellen Russell.

More than a dozen demonstrators staged a plastic bag protest in front of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street at noon today. Donning self-made creations constructed from thick, plastic bags (the ones they were protesting), the demonstrators from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation put on an impromptu, sidewalk fashion show.

The purpose was to raise awareness over the harm that stores like Wal-Mart create when handing out a thicker version of plastic bags to customers at checkout which, they say, defies the spirit of the plastic bag ban that went into effect on Oahu July 1.

"What we're trying to do is shine a light on the fact that a lot of our local retailers are still skirting the law when it comes to the plastic bag ban," said Sustainable Coastlines director Kahi Pacarro, donning a plastic bag tie.

The Honolulu version of the law contains a loophole which allows retailers to give customers reusable bags, which is defined as a "bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse." It can be made of cloth or other washable fabric or a "durable material suitable for reuse," which includes plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick.

Wal-Mart is not the only one handing out the thicker plastic bags, which angered Anna Sabino and prompted her to start a petition earlier this month. Longs Drugs, Times Supermarket, City Mill, Don Quijote, Tamura's, Thinker Toys and Chevron are culprits, too. However, Wal-Mart actually goes so far as to write the word "Sustainable" on its thicker, plastic bags, which is greenwashing at its finest.

While twirling and marching down the sidewalk, the demonstrators, which included kids dressed in plastic bag frocks, women in frilly, plastic skirts and a fully-decked-out plastic bag monster man, held signs to educate consumers about the harm that plastic bags cause.

They also handed out free, reusable canvas bags — part of a Bag A New Friend campaign that Sustainable Coastlines is running. Here's how it works: When you go shopping, bring an extra bag or bags to give to others that may have forgotten theirs or others that don't have any. Post it to social media with #BagANewFriend.

Demonstrators were also giving out their ideal, reusable bags in front of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street on Thursday, part of Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's #BagANewFriend campaign.

Demonstrators were also giving out reusable bags in front of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street on Thursday, part of Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's #BagANewFriend campaign.

The protestors' signs said:

>> "10 percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean." — United Nations Environment Programme.

>> "The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year." — Natural Resources Defense Council.

>> "About 2 million plastic  bags are used every minute around the world." — Earth Policy Institute

While the thicker version of these plastic bags are available, they do as much harm to the environment as the thinner versions. They end up littering beaches and waterways, entering the ocean ecosystem and take even longer to break down. They may be reused a few more times than the thinner version, but are generally used only once.

Of the four isles (Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Hawaii island), only Oahu offers this loophole. Oahu's plastic bag ban also allows for compostable bags, even though there is no commercial composting facility on the isle.

The whole idea is really to reduce the amount of plastic.

The "plastic bag monster" participated in a demonstration fashion show in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku on Thursday.

The "plastic bag monster" participated in a demonstration in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku on Thursday. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

The message of the demonstration was lost on Rose Pristow of Honolulu, who was sitting nearby. When she shops Wal-Mart, she takes the plastic bag for her purchases, which she had tucked into a reusable bag from Whole Foods Market. She takes the plastic bags to line her garbage cans at home, and does not see an issue with littering as long as she makes sure they go into the trash can.

"I'm for the environment, but I didn't understand what was going on," she said.

She was surprised to learn that some of the plastic bags end up at the beach.

Another shopper, Susan (declined to give last name), said she's been bringing her own bags since the ban went into place. On Thursday, she ended up buying more than she initially planned at Wal-Mart, so she used a few cardboard boxes to corral her purchases in the shopping cart, Costco-style. She keeps a bag full of other reusable bags ready in her car.

The majority of shoppers exiting Wal-Mart appear to take the thicker, plastic bags for their purchases, which are free, although a reusable bag is also available by the checkout stand for 50-cents. Many other retail stores, such as Safeway, are using paper bags while offering reusable bags for sale. Foodland offers customers who bring their own bags 5-cents credit per bag or Hawaiian Airlines miles. Some retailers, like Ross, will begin charging a fee for paper bags with handles, starting August.

Pearl and Hermes

July 6th, 2015

Hermes and Pearl resting by the pool pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona. Hermes and Pearl were rescued as preweaned pups at Pearl and Hermes atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hawaiian monk seal pups Hermes and Pearl resting by the pool pen at Ke Kai Ola, a hospital run by The Marine Mammal Center in Kona. Hermes and Pearl were rescued as pre-weaned pups at Pearl and Hermes atolls in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.
NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Happy monk seal Monday.

Here's an update on Pearl and Hermes — two prematurely weaned Hawaiian monk seal pups that NOAA researchers picked up from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the Hi‘ialakai in early June.  The pair, one female and one male, are being rehabbed at Ke Kai Ola in Kona and doing well.

The seals, named Hermes and Pearl after the atolls where they were found, graduated from fish smoothies to eating whole fish last week. The shift to eating fish (thawed-out herring) is a significant step since it eliminates the need for tube feeding.

"Pearl is starting to put on weight," said operations manager Deb Wickham. "Hermes is not putting on as much, but he's basically stable."

Pearl weighs about 35 kilograms, and Hermes weighs about 36 kilograms.

When the monk seal pups first arrived, they were under a month old, with black coats. Their coats are now turning into a silvery sheen. Besides herring, Pearl and Hermes are also enjoying "fishstickles" this summer. They sleep a lot during the day, according to Wickham, but are also playful. They're up early in the morning, and at night.

"When they first arrived, they were suckling on each other," said Wickham. "They play together. They are very bonded."

Pearl, a Hawaiian monk seal pup rescued from Pearl atoll, peeks out from her pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona where she is being rehabilitated. When she gains enough weight, she will be transported and released back home. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Pearl, a Hawaiian monk seal pup rescued from Pearl atoll, peeks out from her pen at Ke Kai Ola, the monk seal hospital in Kona where she's being rehabilitated. When she gains enough weight, she'll be released back home. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

The pups are expected to stay at Ke Kai Ola, a Hawaiian monk seal hospital built at a cost of $3.2 million by The Marine Mammal Center in Marin, Calif. until about September. Two other monk seal pups, Pua and Mele, were rehabilitated and plumped up at the hospital for six months last year, then transported back to Kure Atoll in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with help from the U.S. Coast Guard. They were rescued last September as severely malnourished pups.

Wickham actually got a chance to observe them in the wild on this last 21-day voyage to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands aboard NOAA's Hi‘ialakai.

"They're doing really well, doing great," said Wickham, who added that seeing Pua and Mele healthy at home was the best reward.

Hawaiian monk seals are critically endangered, with a population of fewer than 1,100 remaining in the wild, according to NOAA. They are protected by both state and federal laws, and should be left in peace if resting on a shoreline. A growing number, between 150 to 200, are appearing on main Hawaiian isle shorelines like Maui, Kauai and Oahu. Volunteers from the Monk Seal Foundation help keep watch over them, and a few that used to visit Oahu shorelines regularly have not reappeared, including Kermit, Ewa Girl and M +M (nicknames).

Ke Kai Ola, a brand-new facility at NELHA, offers specialized pens and pools for the rehabilitation of Hawaiian monk seals, plus a fish kitchen, lab and office. The hospital welcomes help from volunteers in the community who want to help with its mission of helping save the critically endangered monk seals. Visit to learn more.

Hermes at Ke Kai Ola in Kona. Hermes just began eating whole fish and is on his way to recovery. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Hermes at Ke Kai Ola in Kona. Hermes just began eating whole fish and is on his way to recovery. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526. Photo credit: Julie Steelman.

Related Video:
Pua and Mele being released at Kure Atoll (By The Marine Mammal Center)

Are you ready?

June 24th, 2015

Global Village in Kailua has always offered a tote bag program. If you purchase more than $40 this adorable tote is free, or $5 on its own. Photo by Nina Wu.

Global Village, an apparel and gifts boutique in Kailua, offers a reusable tote bag program. If you purchase more than $40 this adorable tote is free and good for special discounts at the store on Tuesdays. Or buy it for $5. Global Village has been plastic bag-free since 2007, well before the upcoming July 1 bag ban. Photo by Nina Wu.

Honolulu's plastic carryout bag ban goes into effect on Wednesday, July 1. Similar bans have already been in place on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island. Are you ready?

Rather than pay an extra dime for compostable bags, our Big Q poll shows most people would opt to bring their own recyclable bag. While Oahu's retail stores and supermarkets are deciding what to offer as an alternative, whether it be a compostable bag, paper bag or thicker, reusable plastic bag, consumers can do their part. Many stores, including Whole Foods Market, will give you 10-cents (Target offer 5-cents) credit for each bag you bring, and hopefully, will continue to do so after the ban.

Foodland offers customers either 5-cents credit or Hawaiian Airlines miles (3 miles per bag you bring in). Foodland is also offering a "Reuse and Win! Sweepstakes." Customers who commit to bringing in reusable bags from July 1 to Aug. 4 will be entered to win weekly prizes and a $500 Foodland gift card or $500 Hawaiian Airlines gift card.

Bringing your own bag is simple and easy. Enough excuses, already. I've heard them all. You can pick up dog poop with other bags. You won't get paper cuts from paper bags if you bring your own reusable bag. Many reusable bags are given away for free, but many are also affordable, costing as little as 99-cents or $1.99 for a quality canvas tote. Check out Nadine Kam's story for more fashionable options.

Here are some tips on BYOB (bringing your own bags)

>> KEEP THEM HANDY. For trips to the grocery store, I find that the best place to keep the bags is in the car — I keep at least a dozen in there at all times (after unloading groceries, they stay by the front door so I remember to take them back out on the way to the car). If I walk into the store and forget, then I let the clerk know I'll be right back, go to the car and get them. Consider it a short walk to get exercise. Smaller ChicoBags, EnviroSax or Baggu are also handy in a purse or another bag in case you need an extra one.

>> CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONES. After bringing your own bags for awhile, you start to figure out which ones work best for groceries versus other items. For groceries, a large, square-bottomed and insulated bag works best. This is ideal if you need to buy half-cartons of milk, soymilk, cheese, or juice or wine plus meat and other items that need to remain cold. Canvas bags work best for lighter-weight items like fruits, vegetables, cereal, bread, crackers, etc. For retail stores, go with a fashionable, lightweight fabric tote that can easily fit in your purse. Fabrics like cotton and canvas are ideal because you can throw them in the washing machine when necessary. So are the ChicoBags, EnviroSax and Baggu, which are made of nylon and also machine-washable.

>> SAY NO WHEN YOU CAN. Sometimes you really don't need a bag. Many retail purchases — a pack of batteries, a candy bar or even a dress — will fit right in your purse. I bought an adorable dress at Global Village, for instance, kept the receipt and put it straight into my backpack. The money that Global Village saves, according to owner Debbie Ah Chick, goes to two non-profits in the community. Make sure to get a receipt and keep it carefully as proof of your purchase before walking out of the store. At Ross, I oftentimes find a great deal on baskets to help organize the mess at home. The basket doubles as a container for purchases on the way out. Buying a sandwich for lunch? Skip the bag. Just take the sandwich wrapped in paper and go.


Target in Kailua made a smart move by offering neither paper nor plastic when it opened in February. Photos by Nina Wu.



The Liquor Collection at Ward Warehouse reminds patrons of the plastic bag ban going into effect July 1.

Related Video:

Jack Johnson

Q&A Kahi Pacarro

June 18th, 2015

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Upon his June 8 return from a 21-day mission to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, also known as Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the NOAA ship Hi‘ialakai, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro says he's hoping to return again to clear even more of it from those remote isles.

NOAA partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for a pilot project to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics from the beaches of Kure Atoll, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll and French Frigate Shoals during three weeks in May and June. As part of the project, the types and sources of debris will be identified, along with an estimate of accumulation rates.

In total, the team hauled back about 5,000 pounds of debris — large pieces of plastic, buoys, and nets. Most of it will be recycled and used for an installation art piece, according to Pacarro.

The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Kahi.

Q: How did you end up going on this trip with NOAA?

A: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program goes out every year and leaves as a full boat, drops off field teams and supplies and comes back with a barebones crew. They saw an opportunity, and said, why don't we start bringing back some of the marine debris on the way back? They thought of my organization because they've seen us get the work done and pick up marine debris versus just talking about it. That's kind of how it started.

Q: Was it a challenge?

A: For us, it was figuring out where the marine debris was coming from, how to put it on a small boat, how to get it from reef to boat, how to make sure it's stored safely, how to get it off the boat and into a storage facility...The NOAA marine debris program focuses on entanglement hazards, so that's going to be nets floating on nearshore waters, nets on shores and beaches, and those attached to reefs...Then there's the terrestrial plastic polluting the beach. That's the stuff the Monk Seal Research Program team has to walk by on a daily basis to check on the monk seals...So we picked up those piles, and ended up bringing back about 5,000 pounds of marine debris.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea and hauled them back to Oahu aboard the Hi‘ialakai. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Q: What will you do with 5,000 pounds of that marine debris?

A: We'll be incorporating them into the state's largest marine debris art installation at Thomas Square (in time for) the 2016 IUCN (Sept. 1-10) conference. When completed, it will be recycled through our partnerships with Method and Parley for the Oceans. Whatever they can't take, ropes and what not, if we don't have a source for somebody to recycle it, it will go to our trash energy program...

Q: Since this was your first time out there, what was your first impression? What was the most interesting observation you made out there?

A: The first place we landed was Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals...There were so many birds. It was like stepping into a National Geographic television show...They're everywhere, and you have to look where you step because there are eggs everywhere. It's a very fragile ecosystem. One false step and you've killed a baby bird.

Q: What about the amount of marine debris out there?

A: What I saw was the dirtiest beach I'd ever been to, and that was on Laysan. It must have been accumulation of plastics since the invention of plastics. It was the dominant feature of the landscape. It outnumbered birds. The birds just live amongst it, and so do the [Hawaiian monk] seals, and so do the turtles. They live with this marine debris and they become dull to it just like society becomes dull to it. What we have to do is raise awareness...

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

When we did our first beach cleanup, there were only eight of us cleaning this south section of Lisianski island, this thing was three or four football fields, and there was marine debris everywhere. There was no way eight of us were going to make a dent in this zone. We said, 'You know what? Let's just try.' Within six hours, we had that area completely clean... We just put out heads down, drank a lot of water and pt on a lot of sunscreen. It was really hot, but it was so rewarding...We created this technique, using old ropes to string up the [commercial fishing] buoys like they were a 200-pound lei, and like football players pulled them up oto the high tide line where they couldn't be easily washed away. Knowing we could up that much area with so few people gives you hope...

Q: Was it an eye-opener for you, even though you already deal with marine debris at your beach cleanups?

A: Yeah, definitely. I didn't expect there to be that much trash. Some key things that stuck out in my mind were the amount of commercial fishing gear that was out there...I saw multiple smart FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) used in the commercial fishing industry...It's like a dome, it floats, has a solar panel, electronics within with sonar testers that can be calibrated to determine how many fish are also has GPS coordinates...We saw at least 100 FADs out there...We looked up these companies and their focus is on bluefin tuna. I eat so much tuna. I love spicy ahi donburi — now what am I supposed to do because I am contributing to this problem? It's a tough realization, yet I am contributing to this problem on a large-scale by firing up on spicy ahi donburi, unless it's coming from my local fisherman... It comes down to regulation, it also comes down to us as consumers...

Q: What type of marine debris did you find  most of out there?

A: I was expecting to find a lot of single-use plastic water bottles out there. The only bottles making it out there were bottles where the cap was left on. Every single bottle that we found out there had a cap on it...That means that billions of bottles that do make it into the ocean are sinking to the bottom and lining the ocean floor...The No. 1 trash items were from the hag fish and oyster industries...Hag fish traps and oyster spacers, then buoys...And we still found a lot of [plastic] straws, a lot of toothbrushes and a lot of razors, even deodorant.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Q: How does this change your perspective on marine debris and your mission at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii?

A: It strengthens our existing desire to clean more marine debris, increase recycling of marine debris using what's existing versus virgin products, along with being better consumers, and using the power of our wallets to effect change within our society. That transcends beyond marine debris and plastics. That goes into what you eat, what you eat it out of, energy, where you get your energy from...

Q: Will you return to Papahanaumokuakea next year?

A: I sure hope so...Potentially, next year what we'd like to do, is probably have one of us on the boat for the whole time. When it gets to Midway, have a crew of our own meet them there and come down as a team to exponentially increase the amount of marine debris we can pick up...


Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's next big event is its Magic Island & Ala Wai Boat Harbor Cleanup on Saturday, June 27. Check in time is 9:30 a.m., clean up time is 10 a.m. to noon. Free lunch will be available while supplies last.


No love for locks

June 10th, 2015

Love locks like this one at the summit gate of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail eventually rust. Too many of them cause structural damage. The locks will be removed by maintenance staff and 808 Cleanups volunteers. Photo by Jamm Aquino.

Love locks like this one at the summit of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail eventually rust and cause rust. Too many of them cause structural damage. Photo by Jamm Aquino.

Love those locks, not.

While the notion initially seems romantic, the fad of leaving love locks affixed to fences, bridges and public structures is, when compounded, a littering problem not too different from unauthorized graffiti. City authorities in Paris finally began removing thousands of locks weighing 45 tons from the Pont des Arts earlier this month as a safety measure and effort to preserve the historic bridge. (A chunk of fencing fell from the weight of the locks last summer).

I wrote a story about our local love locks problem in Tuesday's paper.

Whatever its origins — some believe it was inspired by an Italian film — the love lock fad has made its way across the globe. On Oahu, the most popular spot for love locks is the fence at the summit of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline.

At one time, there were 800 to 900 locks that volunteers from 808 Cleanups removed in September 2014. The next day, they removed another 119, and an average of 10 to 20 a week in following weeks. There is a sign up there that informs folks that the locks will be removed on a weekly basis.

Love locks at the summit of Makapuu in September 2014. Photo by Lanipuakea Pila-Newville.

Love locks at the summit of Makapuu in September 2014. Photo by Lanipuakea Pila-Newville.

But as we all know, signs don't stop people from doing what they want to do. On a recent Sunday, only two locks were up there, including the one pictured above. Sorry Aleso, sorry Roxanne, but your lock came down. On the following Thursday, I only found one. Side note: What's up with all of the people who climb past the barrier with their selfie sticks - is it a quest to get the ultimate selfie shot?

With the salt air, those locks rust pretty fast. So does the fence.

Social media perpetuates the practice of leaving love locks, mostly  by visitors that don't know any better. In this YouTube video, a happy-looking couple places the lock on the fence, then throws the keys "away." It's a sweet video. Except that "away" is down on the rocks below, and eventually, the ocean.

Perhaps there are solutions. In Moscow, they put up artificial  "lock trees" along the banks of the Moscow River instead of the bridge at the site. 808 Cleanups volunteer Lanipuakea Pila-Newville suggested people put the lock on, take a photo, and then take it home with them as a souvenir.

At any rate, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is also repaving the trail and replacing the steps with a new walkway, fencing and railings at the two top lookouts (lots of dust if you're hiking during the construction and watch out for the tractors passing by). DLNR assistant parks administrator Curt Cottrell says the new design, with vertical bars too thick to attach padlocks to, should help deter the love locks fad. Renovations began in February and should be completed this summer.

Kudos to the volunteers who hike up there with bolt-cutters to keep the summit fence love-lock free (plus pick up litter on the way down). Photos by Jamm Aquino.

808 Cleanups volunteer Kelly Quin removes a love lock at Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, above. Volunteer Lani Newville removing a lock, below . Photos by Jamm Aquino.

808 Cleanups volunteer Kelly Quin, above, after removing a "love lock" at Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. Volunteer Lanipuakea Pila-Newville, below, removing a lock. Volunteer Brian Connors, bottom photo, removing lock from bunkers at the top of the trail.

 Makapuu Love Locks

808 Cleanups volunteer Brian Connors removing a lock from inside the bunker at Makapuu Lighthouse Trail.

Q&A: Ashley Lukens

June 8th, 2015



Ashley Lukens, program director of the Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety, did not initially set out to be part of the GMO fight in Hawaii. The former co-owner of Baby Awearness, a Manoa boutique selling reusable diapers and other products for eco-minded parents, focused her dissertation at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on food policy. It was entitled "Theorizing Food Justice: Critical Positionality and the Political Economy of Community Food Systems." She is also a founding member of the Hawaii Food Policy Council.

ashley_lukensBut she was working for another non-profit when the phone call from the center came, recruiting her to head up a Hawaii office. Little did she know at the time she would be stepping up to the plate in the battle for more regulations and transparency of GE crops in Hawaii.

The Washington D.C. based Center for Food Safety, a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization, was founded by public interest attorney Andrew Kimbrell 15 years ago. Though the Hawaii office just opened last April, the center played a role in the protest of kalo patents here nine years ago and is currently involved in the legal wranglings of GE regulation issues in three counties: Kauai, Hawaii and Maui.

"Pesticides in Paradise: Hawai‘i's Health & Environment At Risk," published in May, is a detailed review of the status of the GE crop field trials in Hawaii, as well as the use of pesticides in these field trials, and their impact on human and environmental health.

Among its key findings:

>> Since 1987, Hawaii has hosted more cumulative field trials — 3,243 — than any other state. Last year, 178 different GE field tests were conducted on more than 1,381 sites in Hawaii (compare this to only 175 sites in California). From 2007 to 2012, DuPont-Pioneer applied 90 different pesticide formulations containing 63 different active ingredients on Kauai.

>> The seed industry's footprint, at nearly 25,000 acres, is 72 percent of the total area planted to crops, other than sugarcane or pineapple. The majority of plants being tested are corn and soy, not niche crops such as papaya or banana. Over the past five years, the most frequently tested trait in GE crop field tests in Hawaii was herbicide-resistance.

>> Due to Hawaii's small size, it has a higher density of field tests than other states. More people in Hawaii live in closer proximity to field test sites, running a higher risk of experiencing pesticide drift.

The Green Leaf sat down for a conversation with Lukens.

Q: So you weren't interested initially interested in wading into the GMO debate in Hawaii?

A: I was not interested in the debate when it was couched as the papaya (debate), if GE papaya is safe to eat, and I wasn't interested in the labeling debate...I think we should label, as a mom. As owner of Baby Awearness, one of the things that was so overwhelmingly profound to me was the new sense of responsibility that parents felt for the health and safety of their kids, to the extent they were willing to radically change things about their lives. What Baby Awearness did was provide them with information they needed to make decisions. To me, that was the labeling conversation...

Q: What changed your mind?

A: So I meet this mom named Malia Chun, with two daughters. Her house shares a fenceline with one of these field (in Kekaha, Kauai). In three years, she's developed adult asthma and her daughters have chronic respiratory issues and nosebleeds. She's debating the prospect of sending her children to Waimea Canyon Middle School because that school's been evacuated three times (due to suspected incidents of pesticide drift)...I started to think, this isn't an issue about labeling, this is an environmental justice issue...

Q: Are GE crops and pesticides inextricably linked?

A: I think before Center for Food Safety entered the fray and tried to clarify the debate, it was about papaya, it was about what corn you could eat....This pesticide report emerges from my need to figure out what was going on...[The "Pesticides in Paradise" report] examines what's going on, where are these companies, what are they growing and what pesticides are they using? I wanted to know all the available data and also the gaps in the data...

Q: Where did you get the data?

A: Some of the information was released from the Pioneer dust class action suit (a federal court jury awarded $507,090 to 15 Waimea residents in May). You can dig into the data on a publicly available website reporting (U.S. Department of Agriculture) field trial permits every year, but it's not user-friendly...The first thing I learned was that Hawaii hosts more field trials than any other state in the nation...

And then we said, okay, what are the field trials for? Eighty-seven percent of the plants were being genetically engineered for herbicide tolerance.  This means that plants genetically engineered in Hawaii, by and large, are engineered to resist ever greater application of herbicides...So that to me really clarified that, in Hawaii, the issue of genetic engineering is not the issue of whether it's safe to eat, the issue is whether these plants are safe to develop and grow.

We're not simply growing deregulated GE corn varieties. The [seed] companies will often say, well these products have already been approved. They've been proven safe. They get exemptions because they're field trials. They are, by definition, experimental...Most of it is corn and soy...Who holds the most permits? Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow Chemical, Dupont-Pioneer....Only Kauai requires that companies report the pesticides they're spraying because of the victory of the community passing ordinance 960 [which in turn was struck down by a federal judge]. The mayor asked the companies to participate in a voluntary report and they did, so over the year I've been running the office we've been getting monthly reports [from the Kauai Good Neighbor Program].

Q: And what are the consequences for people who live here?

A: The other thing we found out is that Hawaii has a much higher population density than the states that are also hosting high volumes. And a lot of our communities live in agricultural spaces....With a cursory review of data, what was different about Hawaii was clear, the relationship between GEs and pesticides was clear. What exactly is the pesticide use, is where it becomes really scary because, by and large, we have no idea what these companies are doing...The second part of the report really digs into the pesticide use associated with GE field trials on Kauai and it makes an argument that disclosure is necessary statewide because we only have this data for Kauai.

Q: What was the most alarming finding?

A: The amount of chlorpyrifos these companies are using. Chlorpyrifos is a very well researched pesticide. One of the things these companies will say is you can't prove that the health problems in these communities are related to pesticide use...So I think it's the responsibility of the state to say, where else have these studies been done? Those studies already do exist...I think the science is clear and it is incumbent on the state to put protection measures in place for our kupuna and our children...

Q: What do you hope releasing this report to the public accomplishes?

A: At the end of the day, it's giving the public access to the information they need to be informed advocates. We need to be asking, what types of policy are we making? There's the larger question about what a state like Hawaii should be doing with its prime agricultural lands. This industry's expanding. We don't have the regulations on the books that respond to the ag practices of these companies. Our ag regulations were developed for sugar and pineapple...

We're increasingly food insecure, importing upwards of 85, 90 percent of our food annually. We need to be asking, as a state, what types of policies are we pursuing to ensure that we grow enough food to sustain our population?...Ag self sufficiency means the products that come off the farm in Hawaii feed Hawaii. [GE seed crops]  are an export-oriented industry. We need to ask ourselves, for our long-term economic sustainability, do we really want to be making GE seed crops the third leg of our economy? It seems foolish to me.

Waimanalo beach

May 25th, 2015


So, there you have it.

Prof. Stephen Leatherman of Florida, aka Dr.  Beach, has put Waimanalo Beach Park at the top of his annual "Top 10" beach list. A recent Associated Press story spoke of Waimanalo's "powdery white coral sand" glowing in the morning light.

Sure, the bay is beautiful, as are the sands — until, that is, you see the cigarette butts.

There they were over Memorial Day weekend, more than 12, all near the base of an ironwood tree. Someone, or some persons, apparently smoked a whole pack right there, leaving their butts in the sand, even though smoking has been banned at all city beaches and parks on Oahu.


Of course, there were cigarette butts also strewn along the naupaka planted at the top of the shoreline.

This is actually along one of the beach access points along the stretch of Waimanalo Beach, and not the one near the homeless encampment closer to the city's parking lot, lifeguard station and restrooms, which also need help.

Has Dr. Beach actually walked along Waimanalo Beach? I know he's aware of marine debris issues. The windward side of Oahu actually rakes in most of the debris from throughout the Pacific. This was documented by NOAA's aerial marine survey. Of the 176 debris sites recorded during the survey, 171 were on the windward side of islands. Kahuku has the most dense accumulation of debris, but the beaches of Waimanalo also get a good share of it.

Dr. Leatherman was quoted by the Associated Press as saying: "Cigarette butts are the number one form of litter on beaches – plastics in terms of volume but in terms of numbers it's cigarette butts — so I'm starting to give beaches extra credit for no smoking."

Well, Dr. Beach, marine debris is pretty much embedded all along the shoreline of Waimanalo Beach. Walk along the shoreline and you will see small bits of plastic — blue, light blue, white — itty, bitty pieces of plastic film (perhaps from shopping bags?), pieces of worn out string and pieces of straw embedded in the fine sand.

Look closely, and you will see it.


Once, standing at the shoreline, I watched as larger chunks of marine debris danced along the waves. Among them: what looked like corners of plastic boxes, a rice paddle and bottle caps. Eventually, the ocean spat these pieces out on to the shore — other pieces continued to dance in the waves.

On windy days, this is also a spot where you should watch out for stinging Portuguese man-o-wars.

As far as larger chunks of litter go, there was a water bottle, a forgotten baseball cap crusted with sand and half of a boogie board left on shore. So next time you visit Waimanalo Beach, pick up some of this debris or litter along the shoreline and help make it a better place. There's a non-profit called 808 Cleanups that encourages you to do so, and to post it to social media.

I think Dr. Beach should compile a list of the "Top 10 Beaches to Clean," and most certainly, Waimanalo Beach should be on it.




Inspiring #808cleanups

May 11th, 2015

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups  beneath Koko Crater Arch.  Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups beneath Koko Crater Arch. 808 Cleanups founder Michael David Loftin, in red T-shirt, top. Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

While keeping tabs on breaking news stories, I've been wondering why there seem to have been so many hiking-related injuries and fatalities in recent months.

Some blame social media and the Internet for leading thrill-seekers and inexperienced hikers to unsanctioned trails that were formerly known to more experienced or knowledgeable hikers. Is it social media's fault? Is it today's quest to capture the coolest selfie, teetering on the edge of a mountain ridge? I don't know the answers. I know that plenty of experienced hikers from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club have been going on some of these trails for years, without incident. Sometimes, I think it's just an unfortunate accident. No matter what, any hiking accident is tragic.

But social media can also be used in a positive way.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken the strategy of using social media to warn people of the dangers of hiking Sacred Falls with this video. Interestingly, landowner Kamahameha Schools took a different tactic, sending out "cease and desist" requests, according to this Hawaii News Now report, asking more than a dozen bloggers to stop promoting hiking trails on their properties. The resulting consequences are sad – Mariner's Ridge, one of my favorite hikes on Oahu (and the one where I met my husband), is now fenced off.

Today's column features a non-profit called 808 Cleanups, which was founded by a group of avid hikers who want to use social media for good.

Founder Michael David Loftin and his friends first became concerned when they found nature tagging below Koko Crater Arch. They decided to do something about it — clean it up, educate and encourage others to steward these beautiful places on Oahu.

The mission of 808 Cleanups is "to empower communities in restoring their natural environments through decentralized beach, graffiti, hiking trail and marine debris cleanups." Volunteers from 808 Cleanups are "striving to keep these areas beautiful for future generations" through an Adopt a Site program, education and political advocacy.

So, with a decentralized philosophy, anyone can lead a beach cleanup — whether you're a party of one and two or a party of 20.

"808 Cleanups can occur many ways," said Loftin, a Peace Corps veteran and lifelong environmentalist. "I would say 80 percent are people doing their own cleanups wherever they are. Sharing the stories is really important even if its' a small cleanup."

Taking your dog for a walk on the beach? Make sure you pick up after your dog, of course, and pick up some marine debris on the shoreline while you're at it. Going for a hike with some friends? Pick up any litter that you see along the trails and carry it out with you. The philosophy is to leave it better than when you got there.

Post it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #808cleanups and inspire others to do the same.

Follow the Leave No Trace outdoors ethic.

If people are using social media to find formerly unknown hikes, Loftin figures it can also be used to encourage people to respect nature and be responsible hikers and stewards of nature. The goal, he says, is to "make it better than when you found it."

808 Cleanup volunteers recently helped clean layers of trash from Tantalus Lookout (getting the community and Hawaii Discovery Tours involved), bonfire debris from Kaiwi Shoreline and continue to steward Liliuokalani Botanical Park, a city park that has also been neglected. Volunteers who clean a site at least twice a month and post to social media can get a free cleanup kit from 808 Cleanups' sponsor, Home Depot. Loftin usually meets volunteers on site to deliver the cleanup kits.

Find 808 Cleanup's calendar here. 808 cleanups is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Related Videos:
Intro to 808 Cleanups

Pride Rock cleanup (Lanikai pillbox hike)

Bike Month 2015

May 7th, 2015


May is National Bike Month.

The Hawaii Bicycling League kicked off with a celebration at Mother Waldron Park in Kakaako on Saturday, May 2. On Mother's Day Sunday, the bicycling league celebrates with a ride around Kapiolani Park from 9 to 11 a.m. Bike to Work Day is Friday, May 15.

Here's a list of ways to celebrate Bike Month:

May 10th – Sunday – CycloFemme – 9am-11am – Kapiolani Park – 3921 Paki Ave

Join the Red Hot Ladies and HBL this mother’s day to unite riders of all ages, genders, ethnicities, or abilities to share the joy of cycling. CycloFemme is an international event designed to encourage more females to ride bicycles. “Man”bassadors welcome too! There will be 3 different ride lengths, something for everyone!


May 15th – Friday – Bike to Work Day – 7am-9am – Thomas Square & N. Blaisdell Park Aiea

Commute to work via bicycle and stop by one of our two Energizer Stations along the way! HBL volunteers and community partners will be handing out coffee, snacks, & lots of aloha!

May 15th – Friday – Bike Month Pau Hana – 5pm-8pm – Kaka’ako Agora

Come start your Friday night off right with a bicycle themed party! Raffle and door prizes for those who use the free bike valet! We’ll be projecting bicycle movies, listening to great music, and enjoying food & drinks for small donation! Also enjoy a presentation from two cyclists pedaling around the world!

May 17th – Family Sunday at Honolulu Museum of Art – 11am-3pm

Come enjoy free admission to the “Hot Wheels” bicycle themed Family Sunday. Local groups and businesses will have bike activities, including balance bikes, rides down the cycle track, a bicycle matching game, and more. Sure to be fun for the whole family! Ride your bicycle and use the free bike valet!

May 24th – Sunday – Bike to the Zoo – 9am-2pm – Honolulu Zoo

The city and county of Honolulu is offering free admission to all who bike to the zoo! HBL is providing free bike valet!

May - September – National Bike Challenge – HBL is Local Challenge Host for Hawaii!

May marks the beginning of the 2015 National Bike Challenge. Thousands of riders from across the country will log their miles and join in friendly competition to see who can ride the most & furthest! Track using popular apps like Strava or enter manually. Compete for local and national prizes! Create workplace, school, or community teams and challenge them to ride every day!

Workshops & Presentations Calendar

May 9 (Saturday) 10:30-11:30 @ Aina Haina Public Library: Why Ride a Bicycle? Presentation

May 9 (Saturday) Hawaii Railways Society Volunteer Project - More info to come.

May 9 (Saturday) 2-3pm @ Manoa Public Library: Everyday Cycling Presentation

May 12 (Tuesday) 6-6:30pm @ Kahuku Public Library: Everyday Cycling Presentation

May 16 (Saturday) 3-5pm @ KCC: Efficient Riding Skills

May 17 (Sunday) 2-4pm @ UH: Cycling Skills 101

May 17 (Sunday) 4-6pm @ UH: Efficient Riding Skills

May 20 (Wednesday) 5:30-7:30pm @ HBL Office: Basic Bike Maintenance

May 24 (Sunday) 9:00-11:00am: Cycling Skills 101 Kailua

May 30 (Saturday) 10-11am @ Manoa Public Library: Staying Alert through Cycling presentation


Clean beach sweep

April 27th, 2015


Kailua Beach Park, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, got a clean sweep thanks to a few hundred volunteers who showed up to clean it of debris and litter in honor of Earth Day on Saturday, April 25. Photos by Nina Wu.

Kailua Beach Park, one of the most beautiful beaches in the world, got a clean sweep thanks to a few hundred volunteers who showed up to clean it of debris and litter in honor of Earth Day on Saturday, April 25. Photos by Nina Wu.

It was a beautiful Saturday for Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's Earth Day beach cleanup April 25 — volunteers swept the coastline of Kailua from the boat ramp to Kapalama and beyond. And Lanikai, and Ka‘elepulu stream and the pillbox trail.

There's no official tally of the total trash haul yet, but close to 500 volunteers showed up to clean the coastline, according to SCH executive director Kahi Pacarro. It didn't feel as if a big crowd converged on the beach because everyone was spread out along the coastline and park. Among the items picked up were, of course, cigarette butts, plastic debris, aluminum cans and other litter, but also a large, flat-screen TV (that was thrown into the bushes) and some needles, too.

I checked in at a tent set up at the boat ramp and was handed — not a plastic bag — but a large, reusable Oat Alfalfa Cubes bag to pick up opala with. I came, of course, with my Hydroflask and a hat. My dog, Kona, came along to "supervise." As I made my way along the coastline, I came across several volunteers that really inspired me.

There were friends and co-workers volunteering together – they were from the military, from Better Homes and other clubs. There were families, and parents who brought their kids to teach them the importance of cleaning up a place that you love. And then there was Tyler Stenstrom, a surfer and student from Kailua Intermediate School who came with his dad and aunty, and said he just wanted to "help out the environment" and "make sure our beaches are clean."

Here are some of the folks that came out to volunteer on Saturday:

Kim Harding (below) is a marine biologist who showed up because one of her friends volunteers for Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. She brought along her daughter, Maya, 3, who enjoys "cleaning up the beach where we play," she said. Her dog, Copper, came along, too.

Kim Harding and her daughter, Maya, 3, and dog Copper.

Kim Harding and her daughter, Maya, 3, and dog Copper.

Tyler Stenstrom is a student at Kailua Intermediate School, who came with his dad and aunty to participate. He enjoys surfing. He says Sustainable Coastlines came to his school to talk about opala. "I just wanted to help out the environment and make sure our beaches are clean," he said.


Volunteers from Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate, one of the event's sponsors (along with Manuheali‘i and Parley for the Oceans) were all smiles at the beach cleanup.

Suzanne Reed, Tina Nunes, Debbie Lee, Colin Lee, all from Better Homes, a sponsor of the beach cleanup.

Suzanne Reed, Tina Nunes, Debbie Lee, Colin Lee, all from Better Homes, a sponsor of the beach cleanup.

Ku‘uipo Roman of Aiea was at the beach cleanup with her whole family, including kids Rayden, Raizonjhon and Royale. She discovered Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii while camping at Pokai Bay. "They were there, and we decided to see what they were about," she said.

Turns out they were cleaning the beach, and before she knew it, her whole family had gloves on and was cleaning the beach. Now she's a regular volunteer every three months. She volunteers "because of my kids." She teaches them about the impact of litter on marine life and more.

"I want them to learn that cleaning is beneficial for all of us," she said. "If we don't do our part and clean, who will? It's our responsibility."

Mom Ku‘uipo Roman with her three kids, Rayden, Raizonjhon and Royale.

Mom Ku‘uipo Roman with her three kids, Rayden, Raizonjhon and Royale. They volunteer with Sustainable Coastlines every three months.

Kailua diver and fisher John Pedro was  at the beach cleanup with his two kids, John IV, 6 and Pua, 2. They used bucket and shovel and would stop along the shoreline every so often, and with a little sandsifter, sift out the plastic debris. He actually gave me one, too, since I didn't bring one (Thanks, John, I'll be using it, for sure!)

"You have to teach them early," he said, of bringing his kids. "They're going to be taking part some day. "


Another group of friends from the military base got together and just decided to participate, to give back to the community.

Christina Gonzalez, Mindy Barkema, Maile Seifried, Jasmine Holzhauer and Stephanie Holzauer.

Christina Gonzalez, Mindy Barkema, Maile Seifried, Jasmine Holzhauer and Stephanie Holzhauer.

On an earlier visit to Kailua beach, I remember seeing pieces of polystyrene foam (itty bitty pieces) that were strewn along several feet of the shore. I picked up some of it but could not get all of it (it's so lightweight, it blows around). As I walked along, I didn't find too many large, trash items — volunteers were doing such a good job that I think they had already picked up a lot of it.  But I did find cigarette butts and microplastics.

It occurred to me, of course, that we should all do this, not just on days when there's an organized cleanup, but all the time. Every time we visit the beach. That's what I always say. Kailua Beach may be nice and clean, as of Saturday morning, but you can bet it won't stay that way for long.

By the way,  to all who asked, Kona is mostly a Springer Spaniel mix. We adopted her from the Hawaiian Humane Society, so we don't know the mix. But she loves keiki. She says thanks for all of the attention. She says everyone did a great job.

Kona is mostly Springer Spaniel, and yes, keiki can pet her. She's very good with kids.

Kona is mostly Springer Spaniel, and yes, keiki may pet her. She's very good with kids.