Archive for April, 2011

Sustainability films still showing

April 26th, 2011

Earth Day may have come and gone, but you can still catch three more films from Whole Foods Markets' "Do Something Reel Film Festival" at Kahala Mall's Consolidated Theatres and at Kukui Mall's Consolidated Theatres on Maui.

Check these out:

In case you missed it, Suzan Beraza's "Bag It" will be screening at 6 p.m. The documentary film follows Jeb Berrier, an average American who wakes up to how many single-use plastic bags we go through in a day. The problem, he realizes is it doesn't just go away once we're done –  because "there is no away."

Some other films you can catch include:

A scene from "Urban Roots," a film about how some Detroiters took access to fresh-grown food into their own hands.

A scene from "Urban Roots," a film about how some Detroiters took access to fresh-grown food into their own hands. Photo courtesy Urban Roots.

"Urban Roots" (Wednesday, April 27, 2011, 6 p.m.) - In a city where processed fast food reigns, a group of Detroiters take it upon themselves to fulfill a vision of accessibility to locally-grown, sustainable-farmed foods in this film by Mark MacInnis. Visit to see a trailer.

"Vanishing of the Bees" (Thursday, April 28, 2011, 6 p.m.) - Filmmakers George Langworthy and Maryam Heinen share the story of a real-life commercial bee farmer who lost his livelihood when his bee colonies collapsed. Oscar-nominated actress Ellen Page narrates this saga that explores the reasons behind the disappearing bees and its effects on industrial farming and the natural world. Visit to see a trailer.

Celebrate Earth Day

April 22nd, 2011

Native forest overlooking Kaaawa Valley and Kualoa Ranch. Photo by Nathan Yuen.

Native forest overlooking Kaaawa Valley and Kualoa Ranch. Photo by Nathan Yuen.

Today is Earth Day.

You've heard it many times, but you're going to hear it again — "Every day should be Earth Day."

Still, today is an opportune day to take one, single action that could make a difference: skip the plastic bag at the convenience store, for instance. Buy the local eggs instead of mainland eggs. Walk, instead of drive, to the next block. Bring your own bag to the grocery store.

If you already do all that, think of what more you could do — bring reusable produce bags or don't bag your apples (you don't need to if you just have a few).

Pick up that plastic bottle at the beach and recycle it, plant ma‘o hau hele in your yard, and bring your own reusable coffee cup to the cafe (I hear Starbucks is offering free coffee to anyone who does today).

Better yet, celebrate! Go out and climb the Koolaus, enjoy the broad, sweeping view at the top, jump in the ocean and enjoy the waves crashing over you, and think about what would happen if an oil spill destroyed all of that.

You get the idea.

On this Earth Day, I think back to a friend who came to visit from the mainland just for a few days. We went on a short, scenic hike, and she just started picking up litter from the trail. "What are you doing?" I asked. "Picking up trash," she said.

She didn't think of it as, 'I'm on vacation and it's someone else's job to pick up trash, anyways.' Her philosophy is to: "Leave a place better than it was when I got there."

There's no question that Earth Day has become a marketing opportunity, not much different from Valentine's Day. Got a couple pitches from people who wanted to sell their products on Earth Day.

Here's a little history: The first Earth Day was observed across the U.S. on April 22, 1970.

Earth Day was founded by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson as a way to rally public support for environmental protections. He got the idea for Earth Day not long after surveying an oil spill in Santa Barbara, Calif. Forty-one years later, Earth Day falls just two days after the one-year anniversary of the BP's Deepwater Horizon spilled oil into the Gulf of Mexico.

An estimated 4.9 million barrels of oil spilled into the Gulf, wiping out livelihoods as well as wildlife. These photos tell the story.

Though we're in the Pacific, we are not untouched by one of the most disastrous oil spills in U.S. history. What lessons did we learn? What can we do to prevent it from happening again?

Whether you already recycle, compost, or ride your bike, we all could probably think of one more way to keep this earth green. Besides the bigger picture,  it's in the choices you make in your day to day life.

Click here for Earth Day happenings, including beach clean-ups, a community workday, films, and plastic-free shopping at Whole Foods Market.

Clean energy rally today

April 19th, 2011

The Blue Planet Foundation is mobilizing the youth of Hawaii for a clean energy rally at the state Capitol from 12:30 to 1 p.m. today. Some 250 students are expected to start sign-waving on Beretania Street at 10:30 a.m.

Students from Manoa Elementary show their support for clean energy. Photo courtesy Blue Planet Foundation.

Students from Manoa Elementary show their support for clean energy. Photo courtesy Blue Planet Foundation.

Students from elementary school to college statewide are voicing their support of House  Bill 1520, which establishes "on-bill financing" for the purchase of solar water heaters and solar photovoltaic systems. Students from neighbor isles who can't be on Oahu are chiming in via

As the bill is written now, HB1520 "directs the public utilities commission to consider implementing an on-bill financing program for residential electric utility customers to finance purchases of energy efficient or renewable energy devices and systems through their regular electric utility bills."

The whole idea is to make solar systems more accessible to people who can't foot the upfront costs of, say, a $30,000 solar PV system.

Investing in solar makes a lot of sense. But many folks just don't have that kind of money to fork over right away, even though federal and state tax credits are available.

Authors of the bill believe that "on-bill financing" will make it simple for consumers.

The customer who participates in the program would pay for their solar water heater or solar PV system over time on their monthly electricity bill, which would appear as a financing charge. Since they'll be saving money with solar, the amount saved would go towards paying for the system.

Supposedly, if you sold your home, you would transfer over the system and monthly payments to the new owner, though realtors have some concerns over how this is done.

I like the idea.

I would think it all evens out, with the customer paying the same bill, but at least with some of it going towards ownership of your solar system (and your source of electricity) — sort of like paying off a mortgage versus paying rent.

Blue Planet's "real life" example shows a family actually paying less per month —a total of $187 — which is $18 less than the previous bill of $205 (the average Hawaii household bill) because of energy cost reductions.

Looks like most people support the intent of the bill, but not all agree on how it should be funded or administered.

Blue Planet said partnering financial institutions could pay for the upfront costs of solar systems, while administrative costs of running the program could be footed by the state's public benefits fee.

Other states, including California, Connecticut, Michigan, Rhode Island, and New Hampshire have implemented on-bill financing, according to Blue Planet.

The bill is timely, given that gas in Hawaii is pushing $4 a gallon, above the national average. Our HECO bills are going up as well. The Aloha State is the most oil-dependent state in the nation, with 95 percent of Hawaii's power coming from imported fossil fuels.

However the bill gets ironed out, it's nice to see activism among Hawaii's youth instead of apathy.


Signs painted by students supporting HB1520 in Molokai. Photo courtesy Blue Planet Foundation.

For more Earth Day events, click here. There are beach clean-ups, films about sustainability, and workshops coming up this week.

Seven days to Earth Day

April 15th, 2011

Countdown: Seven days to Earth Day.

If you want to get a jump start, there are a couple ways to celebrate early this weekend.

Saturday, Kewalo Beach Cleanup

Tomorrow (April 16), Scott Hawaii (makers of Scott slippers) is sponsoring Surfrider Foundation Oahu's beach cleanup at Kewalo Basin from 10 a.m. to noon (Saturday, April 16). Volunteers will be picking up trash from Ala Moana to Kewalo.

And guess what? Scott Hawaii will be donating slippers to volunteers, plus offering a free lunch.

Meet at the Ewa end of Ala Moana Beach Park (closer to Kewalo Basin).


Pohinahina is an easy-to-grow native Hawaiian plant. Photo by Nina Wu.

Sunday, Native  Plant Workshop, Kaha Garden, Kailua

When most people think of plants in Hawaii, they think of ginger, heleconia, and birds of paradise. While these plants are tropical, they're not actually native to Hawaii.

Think kupukupu ferns, pohinahina, and ‘akia — these are all native Hawaiian plants.

Learn all about native plants at a workshop on Sunday (April 17) sponsored by hui o ko‘olaupoko. From 8:30 a.m. to 10 a.m., the workshop at Kaha Garden (750 Kaha St.) teaches you various propagation techniques, transplanting methods, and the ecological benefits of native plants, along with natural pest management. You need to email Kristen Nalani Mailheau at or call 381-7202 to reserve your spot.

From 10 a.m. to noon, volunteers are needed to put more than 200 native plants in Kaha Garden. Get a guided tour of the garden, and learn how to select the right plants for your yard, along with the cultural significance of the plants. Visit for more information.

Are you an ocean hero?

April 6th, 2011

They're looking for a hero — an Ocean Hero.

And there's got to be someone from the Hawaiian isles who fits that bill.

Oceana, an international organization in Washington DC focused on ocean conservation, is seeking nominations for its third annual Ocean Hero award. If you haven't heard of Oceana, you've probably heard of actor Ted Danson (formerly Sam Malone on "Cheers), who sits on the group's board of directors.

The search is on for "someone who has made a significant, ongoing contribution to ocean conservation," whether it be fighting pollution or protecting marine life. Who is our local Cousteau? Thus far, no one from Hawaii has been a finalist.

There's a Junior category (18 and younger) and an Adult category.

Not sure what an Ocean Hero is? Check out last year's list of finalists, which includes  a research associate at the California Academy of Sciences, a chef/restaurant owner, the author of  The Daily Ocean blog, and several inspiring high school students. It can also include a team or a group working towards a cause.


Jay Holcomb, Director Emeritus of the International Bird Rescue Research Center was selected as the 2010 adult Ocean Heroes winner. Photo courtesy Oceana.

Last year's adult Ocean Hero was Jay Holcomb, Director Emeritus of the International Bird Rescue Research Center which played a pivotal role in rescue efforts in the Gulf of Mexico following the BP oil spill. The Shark Finatics — a group of students from the Green Chimneys School in Brewster, New York, advocating for shark conservation — were last year's Junior Ocean Heroes.

Contest winners receive a $500 gift card from Nautica, along with Revo sunglasses, while finalists receive a $100 gift card from Nautica. And bragging rights, of course.

Here are the contest rules.

Nominations are being accepted until April 27 at, and finalists will be put up for vote in May. Winners will be announced on June 8, World Oceans Day.

For the love of Hawaiian monk seals

April 4th, 2011

Hawaiian monk seal basking at Sandy's Beach. Photo by Nina Wu.

An endangered Hawaiian monk seal basking at Sandy's Beach. Photo by Nina Wu.

There's a lot of love out there for Hawaiian monk seals. And why not?

They're cute, and lovable-looking sea creatures that can win you over with those big, watery eyes. They can also make you laugh, with the way they loll about lazily on sandy shores, basking in the sun.

But don't forget that they're still wild mammals that deserve the respect of space and distance.

Hawaiian monk seals are also the most endangered seal species in the U.S., with fewer than 1,100 left. They're on the decline, at a rate of 4 percent per year, due to low juvenile survival.

So it's good to know there are groups and  individuals — both on the mainland East Coast and West Coast — who take a vested interest in Hawaiian monk seals.

The Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, Calif. is raising money in hopes of establishing an endangered monk seal rehab and urgent care center at NELHA on the Big Island's Kona coast . Read about it in this recent Star-Advertiser story. Here's a Q&A posted by the center, along with renderings of the facility it envisions.

Dash Masland, a marine biologist from Maine, is also one of two contenders for the National Geographic Young Explorer contest. The other contender is Trevor Frost of Richmond, Va., who wants to help park rangers stop poaching in Indonesia.

The winner of the contest — to be determined via online vote — wins a $10,000 grant for a scientific research expedition. Voting began on March 13, and the winner will be announced on April 7.

Masland wants to help save the endangered Hawaiian monk seals using DNA analysis to study their dietary habits. She's particularly fascinated by why one very small group of less than 200 seals in the main Hawaiian Islands is increasing.

If you happen to see  a Hawaiian monk seal basking on the beach, do not touch it. Observe it from at least 150 feet away, and no more than half an hour, according to NOAA guidelines.  Under a new bill signed into law last year, it is a third-degree felony to intentionally harm or kill a Hawaiian monk seal. Violators face five years in prison and a fine of up to $50,000, according to this Star-Advertiser story.

If you see a stranded or entangled marine mammal, call 1-888-256-9840. You can also volunteer for the Oahu Monk Seal Response Team, which wants to bring a once-abandoned monk seal, KP2 (Ho‘ailona), back home to Hawaii from Santa Cruz, Calif.

Kevin & Kyle Go Green

April 1st, 2011

Good luck to Kevin and Kyle of Waimea High School on Kauai.

Their video, "Kevin and Kyle Go Green," was one of 15 finalists for PlanetConnect's Get Green Video Contest. Winners will be announced next week.

The challenge was to "show us your ocean connection."

The video, submitted by Kevin Killerman, introduces viewers to Kauai's beaches, with tips on how to protect the ocean while fishing (not cutting your line, for instance, which stays in the ocean and damages marine life) as well as how to prevent the littering of plastic bags (which end up in the ocean).

Three Grand Prizes will be chosen using a combination of judges' scores and the number of "thumbs up" YouTube ratings. Three Public Choice Awards will be determined solely by the number of views that the finalist videos receive.

See the playlist of finalists.

Video by Kevin Killermann.

Grow aquaponics, Grow Hawaiian

April 1st, 2011


The Green House teaches three workshops this weekend. Courtesy photo.

The Green House is offering three workshops on Saturday, April 2.

How Does Your Garden Grow...Backyard Aquaponics
Environmental Engineer Jeremai Cann, aka Dr. Sustainability, will lead this workshop covering everything you need to know to start your own aquaponics system (organic gardening with fish and plants). Grow your own dinner and lessen your reliance on imported food!
The Green House
Saturday, April 2nd
10:00 - 11:30pm
Fee $20

“Turn used water into real savings” — Greywater Harvesting
Jeremai Cann will lead this workshop on how to create your own “greywater” catchment system.  Greywater refers to the reuse of water drained from baths, showers, washing machines, and sinks for irrigation and other water conservation applications. Reduce your use of tap water while helping the environment and lower your monthly water bill.
The Green House
Saturday, April 2nd
Fee: $20

It’s Easy Being Clean...Natural Green Cleaning Recipes
Learn how to whip up a batch of handmade soap and explore simple cleaning recipes  that are safe, effective, inexpensive. You may already have many of the ingredients in your kitchen cupboards. A booklet of natural cleaning recipes will also be shared.
The Green House
Saturday, April 2nd
Fee: $20

Advanced registration required for all workshops.

Go to to register online, or call (808) 524-8427. For a map to the Green House at 224 Pakohana St., click here.

Grow Hawaiian Festival 2011
It's time for the Grow Hawaiian Festival again 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday at the Bishop Museum.

The HECO-sponsored festival celebrates Hawaiian culture, native plants, and sustainable lifestyles with demonstrations and keiki activities, food, a hula performance by Ka Pa Hula O Ka Lei Lehua under the director of kumu hula Snowbird Bento, and music by Weldon Kekauoha, Waipuna and Kaukahi.

See a special presentation on Hawaiian banana varieties at 11 a.m. by Dr. Angel Kay Kepler, take a guided tour of the museum's garden of native and indigenous plants, or buy a native plant from Hui Ku Maoli Ola.

Learn to beat kapa, weave lau hala, and make lei. Learn about climate change and clean energy. Sample some ‘awa, too.

Entry fee is $14.95-$17.95, free for kamaaina, military and ages 3 and under. Call 543-7511 or visit for more information.

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