Archive for October, 2011

No more shark fins

October 25th, 2011
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Illustration of sharks by Les Hata. Photo from Star-Advertiser archives.

Illustration of sharks by Les Hata. Photo from Star-Advertiser archives.

The Toronto City Council voted this afternoon to adopt a city-wide shark fin ban, making it the largest city in Canada to prohibit the sale of shark fins.

The vote came about after nearly 10,000 people joined an online campaign in support of it, according to Shark Truth, a non-profit group promoting shark education and conservation.

Toronto joins the state of California, which enacted a state-wide shark fin ban that goes into effect on Jan. 1, 2012.

This time, Hawaii was actually the first state out of the gate with a law. Hawaii's law banning the possession, sale or distribution of shark fins in the state went into effect in July of last year.

Oregon and Washington have also enacted a ban on the sale of shark fins.

It's timely, given that we're now paying more attention to the origins of what we eat. We must also care about the sustainability of our seas if we want to continue consuming seafood.

The movement's growing. In August, Food Network has also announced  that it will remove all shark recipes from its website and make sure that future content does not highlight shark as an ingredient in future shows.

Susan Stockton of Food Network Kitchens issued a statement saying as a policy, Food Network and Cooking Channel do not incorporate or showcase recipes that involve animals on the endangered species list or the Monterey  Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch list.

Shark finning is a process by which fishermen catch sharks, slice off their fins and tails, then throw them back into the water to die. Up to 73 million sharks are killed through finning every year to meet the demand for shark fin soup. As a result, some shark populations have declined by as much as 90 percent in recent years.

The shark fin bans are necessary in order to preserve the shark species and the health of the ocean ecosystem. Culture is never an excuse.

To start a petition in your area, visit change.org.

Bike UHM on Wednesday

October 17th, 2011
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Parking for bikes is free at any one of 50 racks at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Courtesy photo.

Parking for bikes is free at any one of 50 racks at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Courtesy photo.

Dust off your bike and ride it.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is holding its first BikeUHM (pronounced "bike-um") on campus on Wednesday (Oct. 19).

Students, faculty and staff are invited to ride their bikes to campus. A two-hour fair at Hamilton Library Plaza, next to the newly installed bicycle racks, takes place from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m.

There will be free mini-workshops in bike repair, maintenance and security by Cycle Manoa, a flat-tire clinic by the "Red Hot Ladies" of the Hawaii Bicycling League and a video demo of TheBus bike racks.

Got a bike question? Ask the Bike Doctor.

Giveaways include clip-on flashing lights and drawings for bike helmets and bike locks.

Bike parking on the Manoa campus is free at more than 50 bicycle racks. The campus is also the first in the state to implement sharrow markings (for lanes shared by both motorists and bicyclists). Yet only 9 percent of University of Hawaii at Manoa affiliates bike to school.

Time to plug in

October 12th, 2011
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The Mitsubishi MiEV, 100-percent electric, arrives in early 2012. It's being dubbed as the most affordable EV in America with a starting price of $21,625 after tax savings. Photo from mitsubishicars.com.

The Mitsubishi MiEV, 100-percent electric, arrives in early 2012. It's being dubbed as the most affordable EV in America with a starting price of $21,625 after tax savings. Photo from mitsubishicars.com.

If you drive, you've probably felt the pain at the gas pump recently. Unless, of course, you drive a hybrid or electric vehicle. As gas prices keep increasing, it will eventually make sense for drivers to look for alternatives — and to plug in.

Electric car drivers across Oahu are going to champion their benefits as part of the first National Plug In Day this Sunday, Oct. 16. The day is being organized by Plug In America, the Sierra Club and Electric Auto Association.

From 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., plug-in cars by Nissan, Mitsubishi, Wheego and others will be on hand for viewing and limited test drives at Haleiwa Farmers' Market, along with EV chargers and other products.

From 1:30 to 3:30 p.m. the electric cars will be at the "piano lot" next to the Children's Discoveory Center in Kakaako. At 2 p.m., a new charging spot will also be unveiled at Kakaako Waterfront Park.

Curious about what electric cars are in the pipeline and when they'll be available? You can check them out at the plug-in vehicle tracker.

It's great to see the vision of Better Place Hawaii taking shape, with EV charging stations at the state Capitol, the Sheraton Waikiki and elsewhere. I noticed Disney's new Aulani resort at Ko Olina has four EV charging stations in its parking lot. I'm glad they were thinking ahead.

Elsewhere in the U.S., there will be electric car parades, lectures, a ceremonial plugging-in and other events. For a complete list of Plug In Day events, go to www.pluginamerica.org/pluginday.

The three "Rs" of recycling

October 7th, 2011
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It's great to see these new bins at Ko Olina Station, a new shopping center at the resort includes recycling bins alongside the trash bin. Photo by Nina Wu.

It's great to see these new bins at Ko Olina Station, a new shopping center at the resort, include receptacles for plastic and aluminum alongside the trash bin. Photo by Nina Wu.

The other day, I saw a guy diving into a dumpster for recyclable beverage containers from the back of a building.

On one hand, I'm glad to see someone taking recycling seriously, whether it was for street survival or out of the motivation to keep the containers out of the landfill (probably the former).

But it also is a reminder that a lot of people still toss bottles oh so carelessly into the trash. Look into any trash can on the sidewalk and you will see. The number one excuse I hear is — oh, some homeless person will pick them out and recycle them, anyways.

So here we go again with the three "R"s — reduce, reuse, recycle.

But maybe we need to also rethink, reframe and realize what happens when a plastic bottle gets tossed into the gutter. Where does it end up and what are the ramifications? And we need to take responsibility for that.

Whatever your opinion on the bottle bill was (get over it, because it's already been here several years and it's a reality), it seems as if our infrastructure for recycling could use some improvement.

What I mean by that is — recycling bins. Why don't we have recycling bins down Kalakaua Avenue in Waikiki, at Kapiolani Park, beach parks (where we need them most), including Hanauma Bay (a marine preserve) and at major tourist stops like the Pali Lookout?

I suspect funding is an issue, but it should be a higher priority than it has been in the past for the city and state.

Without the infrastructure in place, you end up with people digging through the trash (if they care enough) to get to the recyclables.

That's why I was glad to see that Ko Olina Station, a new shopping center at Ko Olina Resort, of all places, had installed two recycling bins alongside its trash bins — with one side for aluminum and one for plastic (but what about glass? and paper?) It's a good start, setting an example for the West Oahu side.

If the city and state won't do anything about it, then at least private landowners and businesses can.

These ad-hoc recycling baskets are from nomoola.com. You can take, leave, whatevas... Photo by Nina Wu.

These ad-hoc recycling baskets are from nomoola.com. You can take, leave, whatevas... Photo by Nina Wu.

Whole Foods Market at Kahala Mall has recycling bins as well, which is commendable, but unfortunately it doesn't seem as if they get good use, especially when hidden off to the side where no one sees them. At their salad bar and hot bar, they offer containers made of bulrush, which are compostable (but do they end up being composted? probably not. Just take a look in the trash can outside). Maybe if the recycling  bins were more central to the outdoor seating area, people would see them.

Gaye Chan and Nandita Sharma of Eating in Public (nomoola.com), have devised their own system, by creating private HI-5 bins that have sprung up alongside public trash cans throughout Oahu.

They're simple, little baskets made of chicken wire with the HI-5 sign and their website on them.

People are welcome to "take, leave, whatevas..." through an honor system. They're also offering people bins or bin kits if you email them at bins@nomoola.com.

If you set up some bins, they simply ask you to send their locations and photos so they can be added to their map. They'll also offer a bin-making workshop if you want.

Get creative. Rethink, realize and take responsibility for what happens to your waste stream. Find a way to recycle!

It's Raptoberfest time

October 3rd, 2011
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Trash spilling out of cans are usually full of plastic. Surfrider Foundation photo.

Trash spilling out of garbage cans are usually full of plastic. Surfrider Foundation photo.

It's RAPTOBERFEST time.

For the entire month of October, the Surfrider Foundation is raising awarness of the dangers of plastic pollution and focusing on finding solutions for its Rise Above Plastics Campaign.

Beach litter from a windward beach.

Beach litter from a windward beach.

The Surfrider Foundation will share plastic-related facts, including 10 ways to reduce your plastic footprint. Among them, of course, are using a reusable, stainless steel bottle instead of single-use plastic water bottles, bringing your own grocery bags, and saying no to pre-packaged single-serve portions. Plastic bags are the "modern-day tumbleweed," according to Surfrider. More than 24 billion pounds of plastic packaging is produced in the U.S. annually and almost immediately discarded after use.

I bring my own bags to the grocery store and am happy to report that the "plastic monster" under my kitchen sink is gone. A few stray ones here and there make it into the house, and they're recycled or reused. I try to bring my own bag to department stores as well, when I can. I also bring a reusable cup for my weekday iced latte fix, but could do better about not losing the reusable straw.

You can share your own tip on how to reduce your plastic footprint on Surfrider's Facebook or Twitter page (@surfrider) to win cool gear from Rusty.

Here on Oahu, the Surfrider Foundation is holding a beach cleanup at Pokai Bay from 10 a.m. to noon on Sunday, Oct. 9. While the photo above is from a mainland beach, rest assured that the same plastic spills out of trash cans at local beaches here (see pic above) — just go to pretty much any local beach on a weekend and you will see it firsthand.

So hold up your glass of beer, and help celebrate RAPTOBERFEST this month!