Archive for November, 2011

Santa Goes Solar

November 30th, 2011
By



This solar-powered "Santa Goes Solar" display is part of 2011 Honolulu City Lights. You can see it on the lawn next to Honolulu Hale Dec. 3-31. Courtesy photo.

This solar-powered "Santa Goes Solar" display is part of 2011 Honolulu City Lights. You can see it on the lawn next to Honolulu Hale Dec. 3-31. Courtesy photo.

Ho! Ho! Ho!

Santa is on his way here, and he's using solar energy to spread Holiday cheer. Check out the solar-powered Santa exhibit at this year's 2011 Honolulu City Lights.

The display, which showcases an eight-foot diorama of Santa's workshop and village built by the LEGO Enthusiasts Association of Hawaii, along with a front panel saying "Santa Goes Solar" and candy cane posts, will be on the lawn next to Honolulu Hale as part of city lights from Dec. 3 to Dec. 31.

Two Christmas trees next to the display will be lit with a dazzling array of high-tech LED lights engineered by members of UH's Solar Decathlon Team Hawaii and decorated with recycled incandescent bulb ornaments made by students islandwide. Sunetric designed a custom, state-of-the-art solar photovoltaic canopy to power the entire display.

santalego

The people in the LEGO town are hustling and bustling, getting ready for Christmas (bringing trees home on a horse-drawn carriage, for instance). The LEGO Miniland residents, of course, value a "clean energy lifestyle" and have solar panels on their businesses and homes (as you can see in the photo to the right).

The "Santa Goes Solar" project was a collaboration between the Blue Planet Foundation, the LEGO Enthusiasts Association of HawaiiSunetric and members of the UH Solar Decathlon Team Hawaii.

Hawaii Energy and Wal-Mart Hawaii stores offered financial support to make the project possible.

Dirtiest beach on Oahu

November 27th, 2011
By



Plastic debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, created by years of human litter, washes up regularly on the Kahuku shoreline on Oahu's North Shore. Photo by Nina Wu.

Plastic debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, created by years of human litter, washes up regularly on the Kahuku shoreline on Oahu's North Shore. Photo by Nina Wu.

When is the Great Pacific Garbage Patch reaching Oahu's shoreline? The answer is that it's already here.

Kahuku's shoreline, just past the shrimp trucks (and makai of the wind farm) on the northeastern side of Oahu, has been the hardest-hit because of the way ocean currents flow. The shore, managed by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service, has no public access but you could get to it if you walked far enough east of the Turtle Bay Resort. The debris is scattered along pockets all the way to the area fronting Kahuku Golf Course.

What's coming from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch out in the North Pacific Gyre?

Among the items that wash ashore regularly on Kahuku's shoreline: buckets, bottle caps, straws, plastic crate pieces, rubber oyster separators, toothbrush handles, nurdles, ocean buoys, pieces of fishnet and ropes, fish floats, golf balls and an occasional child's sand toy.

Some larger items picked up during a recent cleanup effort on the Kahuku shoreline included: the  back of a television monitor, part of a car bumper and a rubber fin.

Honolulu-based non-profit group, Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.), founded by Suzanne Frazer and Dean Otsuki, has been cleaning up the Kahuku shoreline since 2008, as well as other heavily impacted beaches in the state, including the Big Island's Kamilo Beach, since 2006.

While Kamilo Beach may have taken the title of "dirtiest beach in Hawaii," Kahuku could well be the "dirtiest beach on Oahu."

In August 2008, the International Year of the Reef, B.E.A.C.H. and 160 volunteers hauled out 3,000 pounds of fishing nets and ropes, 1,100 pounds of marine debris and 50 pounds of recyclables at Kahuku.

asianwaterbottleNINA

This Tropicana water bottle has mandarin writing on it, indicating it originally came from Asia.

Volunteers counted 9,010 pieces of plastic, 1,152 pieces of rope, 809 caps and lids, 735 Styrofoam pieces, 348 pieces of rubber tubing, 299 oyster spacers, 253 plastic beverage bottles, 203 other plastic bottles, 197 fishing nets and 153 fish floats.

Even with regular beach cleanups every other week at Kahuku, the debris washes up along different pockets of the shoreline again.

Where does it all come from?

None of this is yet from the March 11 tsunami and earthquake, which is expected to land on the main Hawaiian isle shores in the next two years. This debris is from human litter that has amassed in the ocean for years — a manmade creation, not a natural disaster.

It probably comes from all sides of the Pacific. There are water bottles with Chinese writing on them and bottle caps stamped with Nestle on top.

Marine debris comes from both land-based and water-based sources.

Land-based litter, like plastic bags, get blown into waterways and eventually, the ocean, where they  break down into smaller pieces. Recreational boaters, fishermen and cruise ships also contribute to the litter, throwing items like fishnets, ropes, floats and water bottles overboard.

This is plastic debris, close up, on Kahuku's shoreline.

This is plastic debris, close up, on Kahuku's shoreline.

What's even worse is when plastic litter breaks down beneath the ultraviolet rays of the sun, into small jagged pieces, and then even smaller, so that it's as fine as sand. These are the most difficult to clean from a shoreline (B.E.A.C.H. uses a sand sifter), and the most dangerous because birds, fish and other marine wildlife mistake them for food.

Monk seals and Hawaiian Green Sea Turtles have been spotted along this particular Kahuku shoreline. Have you seen photos of Laysan albatross chicks from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with cut-open stomachs full of plastic pieces? It's death by plastic.

Most east and windward facing beaches across the main Hawaiian islands are the most heavily impacted by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, and due to ocean currents, rake in the ocean's derelict fishing gear, according to an aerial survey by NOAA.

How did this happen in Hawaii — the postcard image of paradise? If you enjoy the ocean, play in the ocean, or care about your health (which is impacted by the health of the ocean), then this is more than just about a dirty beach.

What can you do?

* Reduce your use of plastic, especially single-use plastics like disposable cups, bags, forks and straws which get tossed after just one use. Bring a reusable bag to the store or opt out of a plastic bag at checkout if you don't need one.

* Recycle your plastic items (remember reduce comes before recycle). No. 1 and No. 2 plastics can go into your blue bin for curbside pickup. Plastic beverage bottles are redeemable for 5-cents apiece at Reynold's Recycling. Plastic bottle caps can also be recycled at four Goodwill locations.

* Learn about the different kinds of plastics. Here's a handy guide.

* By all means, make sure when you're done with a plastic item that you keep it from landing in waterways and the ocean. If your kids play with plastic sand toys at the beach, make sure to clean up after them when they're done.

* If you see any plastic on the beach, whether it be a plastic bag, straw, fork or cup, pick it up and remove it properly so it won't  break down on the shoreline into smaller pieces. That's when it gets even tougher to clean up.

* Read "10 Things You Need to Know About Marine Debris" from NOAA's website. Help educate others about marine debris and the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

* Watch "Bag It: Is Your Life Too Plastic?" and share the film with others.

* Join the cleanup efforts. Plastic Free Hawaii is planning a beach clean-up on Saturday Dec. 3. Meet at Kahuku High School at 9 a.m. You can also volunteer for B.E.A.C.H. Click here to learn more.

Here are some more photos of what's washed up on Kahuku's littered coastline:

Barnacles have started attaching themselves to this ocean buoy, mistaking it for a reef, before it washed up on Kahuku's shore. Photo by Nina Wu.

Barnacles started attaching themselves to this ocean buoy before it washed up on Kahuku's shore. Photo by Nina Wu.

Look closely at the tidepools and you will see all the colorful bits of plastic, which is what happens when large, plastic items break down into small pieces, eventually becoming plastic debris. This debris floats in the ocean and is ingested by fish, birds and other marine wildlife who mistake them for food. Photo by Nina Wu.

Look closely at the tidepools and you will see all the colorful bits of plastic, which is what happens when large, plastic items break down into small pieces, eventually becoming plastic debris. This debris floats in the ocean and is ingested by fish, birds and other marine wildlife who mistake them for food. Photo by Nina Wu.

From left to right, volunteer Azure Ng, B.E.A.C.H. founders Dean Otsuki and Suzanne Frazer haul a net from off the rocks at the Kahuku shoreline. Photo by Nina Wu.

From left to right, volunteer Azure Ng, B.E.A.C.H. founders Dean Otsuki and Suzanne Frazer haul a net from off the rocks at the Kahuku shoreline. Photo by Nina Wu.

Plastic debris embedded in sand is a challenge to extract. Eventually it breaks down into such small pieces it becomes "plastic sand."

Plastic debris embedded in sand is a big challenge to extract. You may think at first they might be crushed rocks or shells, but these petroleum-based plastic pieces don't belong on a natural shoreline. Eventually the plastic pieces break down into such small pieces they become "plastic sand." Photo by Nina Wu.

Suzanne Frazer of B.E.A.C.H. holds what's left of what appears to have been a plastic shampoo bottle. This bottle washed up on Oahu's Kahuku shoreline from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Suzanne Frazer of B.E.A.C.H. holds what's left of what appears to have been a plastic shampoo bottle. This bottle washed up on Oahu's Kahuku shoreline from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

Take the "No Waste Challenge" this holiday season

November 22nd, 2011
By



Waste_Logo_2 copy

Kanu Hawaii is issuing a "No Waste Challenge" this holiday season, with the goal of keeping 50,000 pounds of trash out of the landfill this year. The holidays are the time of the year when we create more waste — typically 25 percent more than usual.

As a small island community, we generate about 2.6 million tons of trash annually, or more than 10 pounds of waste per resident per day, twice the per capita waste of the average American and three times the average European.

Starting Nov. 27, Kanu is launching a four-week challenge. Week one encourages Hawaii residents to do a "trash check" to find out what waste your household is currently producing.

You can participating by clicking here.

Here's the schedule:

Take the Challenge:

Week 1 (Nov. 27-Dec. 3)The State of Rubbish in Hawai’i – learn how much waste we produce and where it goes; do a "trash check" to see what waste your household is currently producing

Week 2 (Dec 4-10)The Dirt on Recycling – learn how/what to recycle, and why recycling should be a last resort when it comes to plastic

Week 3 (Dec 11-17)Green Gold – learn how to turn green waste into a valuable local resource

Week 4 (Dec 18-26): "One Week – One Bag" Challenge – limit your household waste to a single bag for the entire week (you determine the size of the bag, based on a significant reduction to your usual household waste)

You can also participate by asking questions on how to recycle your waste on Twitter @kanuhawaii with the tag #nowaste or post a journal online at kanuhawaii.org. Post a photo of your efforts each week (using a reusable mug, composting your food scraps) and you may also win a prize.

With Black Friday coming up, it's not too soon to come up with a plan on how to reduce waste before it starts — purchase less packaging, use fewer disposables during your holiday parties, and reuse or repurpose what you already have for giftwrap or decor, for instance. Check out the Kokua Foundation's "12 Days to a Green Holiday Guide."

The Center for a New American Dream is also issuing a 2011 Simplify the Holidays Challenge. One of their suggestions is "Celebrate Buy Nothing Day" on Nov. 25 - spend the day doing community service, helping a neighbor or visiting an elderly friend.

Hawaii's first carrotmob

November 16th, 2011
By



Get ready for Hawaii's first Carrotmob this Saturday at The Wine Stop. Photo from www.carrotmobhawaii.com.

Get ready for Hawaii's first Carrotmob this Saturday at The Wine Stop. Photo from www.carrotmobhawaii.com.

Get ready for Hawaii's first Carrotmob.

What is Carrotmob, you ask? It's "a new way for people to change businesses. In a boycott, everyone loses. In a Carrotmob, everyone wins." It's a concept started by a San Francisco-based non-profit. You can watch a cartoon explanation here.

LOGO FACEBOOKThe state's first carrotmob is being organized by KYA Sustainability Studio, which is encouraging shoppers to buy a bottle of wine or beer between 1 to 5 p.m. this Saturday (Nov. 19) at The Wine Stop at 1809 S. King St.

Here's how it works: KYA Sustainability Studio organizes Carrotmob, encouraging people to shop at The Wine Stop this Saturday afternoon. The Wine Stop, a local business, has agreed to direct 80 percent of sales generated by Carrotmob towards a retrofit of the building's energy system. (KYA Sustainability Studio, by the way, is just down the street from The Wine Stop).

For every $20 spent, mobbers will also receive raffle tickets for prize giveaways sponsored by Mobi PCS.

The Wine Stop — which is owned by Kamehameha Schools grad Liane Fu and business partner Kim Karalovich — has already had an energy audit completed of its small, orange-colored, one-story store, complimentary of Energy Industries LLC. The Wine Stop plans to replace existing lights with more energy-efficient LED lights, and install Energy Star rated walk-in refrigeration components. It also hopes to save up for a full air-conditioning retrofit as well as a solar PV system down the line.

"It makes sense because if we continue using our natural resources to the extent that we are, then it's going to be a horror movie," said Fu. "Right now, we don't feel it, but in the future it will be felt. I feel that we need to focus on sustainable choices now to prevent disaster in the future."

It's also a creative way to help Hawaii reach its goal of energy independence. Let's hope there will be more carrotmobs to come. You can learn more by visiting www.carrotmobhawaii.com.

America Recycles Day

November 14th, 2011
By




Recycling coordinator Zan Mauler, right, hard at work at the Keauhou Recycling and Reuse Center. Courtesy photo.

Recycling coordinator Zan Mauler, right, hard at work at the Keauhou Recycling and Reuse Center. Courtesy photo.

Get ready, get set, recycle!

American Recycles Day, sponsored by Keep America Beautiful, is tomorrow (Tuesday, Nov. 15). Locally,logoit's known as "Hawaii Recycles Day."

Organizations in every isle are expected to participate, from Keep Kauai Beautiful to Keep Honolulu Beautiful, Nani o Waianae, the Community Work Day Program on Maui, Keep Kalaupapa Settlement Beautiful and Keep Kahoolawe Beautiful.

It's a day dedicated to recycling — and a day to educate and inform people across the country about the importance of recycling. Hopefully, the recycling will happen on a regular basis every day and not just on America Recycles Day.

If you already recycle, great! (In Honolulu county, it's a lot easier now with curbside recycling). Not sure what to put in your blue and green bins? Go to www.opala.org for a handy guide.

You can think about ways you can take it further by thinking of other items you could recycle — for example, plastic bottle caps in addition to plastic bottles. You can recycle clean, plastic bottle caps at four Goodwill locations. If you already recycle your newspapers, consider recycling your magazines as well.

Recycle Hawaii has been invited by Keep America Beautiful to head up efforts in the state this year. Schools, businesses, government agencies and non-profits are all encouraged to participate.

In Hawaii County, there are four Recycling & Reuse Centers (RRCs) at transfer stations in Hawi, Keauhou, Waimea and Kea‘au which take everything from aluminum, glass and plastic (Nos. 1,2 and 5) to cardboard, newspapers, phonebooks, office paper and paper bags. Hawaii County also offers home composting and worm composting workshops twice a month around the island as part of its "Composting is Recycling Too!" educational program.

Among ways to celebrate America Recycles Day are:

Recycle your flower pots: On America Recycles Day, there will be a drive to bring in and recycle flower pots, as well. Anyone can donate plastic flower pots which will be given away for free at Hawaii County's four recycling & reuse centers.

Participate in Recycle-Bowl Competition: Elementary, middle and high schools are invited to participate in the Recycle-Bowl Competition. Schools receive recognition for their recycling efforts; state champions win a $1,000 prize and a national winner receives $2,500. To register, go to www.recycle-bowl.org.

Host an event: Go to americayrecyclesday.org/host-event to host a recycling event in your community.

Visit www.americarecyclesday.org for more ideas.

Help restore a Hawaiian forest

November 9th, 2011
By



The Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park are looking for volunteers to help gather mamane seeds. Mamane trees are the natural habitat for i‘iwi birds. Photo courtesy Carol Johnson.

The Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park is looking for volunteers to help gather mamane seeds. Mamane trees are the natural habitat for i‘iwi birds. Photo courtesy Carol Johnson.

The Forest Restoration Project is looking for about a dozen volunteers to help gather mamane seeds from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday (Nov. 19) at Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park.

The project's goal is to increase the mamane forests on Mauna Loa to provide future habitat and forage for native i‘iwi, or honeycreeper birds. Mamane (Latin name Sophora chrysophylla) are endemic to Hawaii's dry shrubland and dry to moist forests.

After collecting the seeds, volunteers will start processing the seed pods in the field, according to Mark Johnson, co-chair of the Friends' Forest Restoration Committee. Volunteers will also learn about the park's native forest restoration program.

Volunteers must be at least 12 years old, have the ability to hike at least one mile over uneven terrain with some ‘a‘a lava through brush with a moderate slope. Sturdy walking shoes and long pants are required, along with a rain jacket, hat, sunscreen, drinking water and a snack. If under 18, an adult needs to co-sign the Friends release form and park volunteer form.

It's also imperative to scrub the soles of one's shoes prior to arrival on site to ensure outside dirt and invasive species aren't tracked in.

To register, call the Friends of Hawai‘i Volcanoes National Park at 808-985-7373 or email forest@fhvnp.org. Upon registration, instructions on where to meet will be provided. Find additional info at www.fhvnp.org.

APEC's carbon footprint

November 7th, 2011
By



Hawaiian springs bottled water is being offered to APEC delegates and guests. Will those bottles by recycled. Photo from hawaiiansprings.com.

Hawaiian Springs bottled water is being offered to APEC delegates and global media. Will those bottles by recycled by APEC attendees or carelessly tossed in the trash? Photo from hawaiianspringswater.com.

Today, roughly 20,000 people from 21 nations descended upon Honolulu for the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation forum taking place this week.

They came from as far as Chile, Peru, Australia, New Zealand, as well as Papua New Guinea, Brunei, the Philippines, Taiwan, Japan, China, Malaysia and Russia.

Calculated as a whole, that itself is a pretty significant carbon footprint. On the other hand, due to road closures, more cars will be staying off certain roads locally, leading to a reduction in the carbon footprint but not likely enough to offset 20,000 airplane trips from abroad.

At APEC 2011 in Honolulu, some 9,500 gift boxes will also be given out to CEOs, business leaders, foreign dignitaries and global media with a number of items including a small bottle of Hawaiian Springs water. Hawaiian Springs, to its credit, has donated money to help save the endangered na‘u plant on Oahu.

My question is — will they recycle that bottle? Or carelessly toss it into the trash to add to Oahu's overflowing landfill?

Maybe it depends on where you're from. In Australia, Canada and Singapore, recycling is part of of the daily norm, done without a second thought. Check out this cool map of all the recycling bins in Singapore by zerowastesg.com.

But we don't make it easy to do here. Unfortunately, Honolulu is behind many other U.S. states and APEC nations when it comes to its recycling infrastructure. Most of Waikiki's public venues, including Kapiolani Park and the main stretch of Kalakaua Avenue, have no recycling bins. Our beach parks have no recycling bins, either, where we need them most.

While the  Hawai‘i Convention Center collects aluminum, glass and plastic in its Food & Beverage division, it, too, does not have public recycling bins in its common areas.

Many Waikiki hotels continue to throw out newspapers and other items which could be recycled on a daily basis while others have made an effort to recycle. It's only in response to guest requests — guests who want to know why there aren't recycling bins in the rooms — that many changes have been made.

Some hotels are leading the way in implementing this change.

The Hilton Hawaiian Village , where dignitaries are staying, has long had a good recycling system set up at its facilities, as well as the Sheraton Waikiki, which recently implemented a sorting center to separate all guest room generated waste materials. The JW Marriott Ihilani Resort & Spa at Ko Olina, where the APEC Economic Leaders' Meeting will be this weekend, was given the "Hawaii Green Business Award" in March.

Still, we probably could do better as the host of APEC's 2011 summit. Other cities that were vying for APEC, including San Francisco and New York, have better recycling infrastructures in place as cities than Honolulu. Instead of lagging behind, we could be a model for green practices. It's time for a new awareness and a new consciousness.

APEC leaders will negotiate free trade and CEOs will discuss "The Future. Redefined" and "Cities of the Future" while they are here. At the very least, I hope APEC attendees will take the individual step of recycling that water bottle, even though there's no convenient place to do so.

Green your holiday gifts

November 3rd, 2011
By



Learn to wrap gifts with a piece of fabric, Furoshiki-style, for the Holidays at The Green House. Courtesy photo.

Learn to wrap gifts with a piece of fabric, Furoshiki-style, for the Holidays at The Green House. Courtesy photo.

The Green House in Pahoa is offering a few workshops this month that will help you "green" your holiday gifts, from reusing calendar pages as gift bags to wrapping your gifts beautifully in a square of fabric and transforming an old T-shirt into an eco-chic fashion statement.

Advanced registration is required for all the following workshops. You can register by going online or calling 524-8427. The Green House is at 224 Pakohana St. For more info, email info@thegreenhousehawaii.com.

The "ReUse, ReNew, ReInvent the Holidays" workshops include:

1 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 5. Green Calendar Gift Bags Put life back into last year's calendars by turning them into gift bags. You will receive enough supplies to make a dozen bags, plus get additional ideas on what to do with old calendars. Fee $20.

1 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 12. Tie it up! Tie a gift and save a tree. Learn the Japanese art of Furoshiki, where you wrap gifts of various shapes and sizes with a square of fabric. You won't need wrapping paper, ribbon, tissue paper and a cardboard box, and your reusable furoshiki becomes part of your gift. You will receive a furoshiki to practice the various ties. Fee $20.

1 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Saturday, Nov. 19. Tag It! Recycle business envelopes into unique gift cards perfect for coupons or old-fashioned cash. You will receive enough supplies to make six cards, plus get other ideas for reusing junk mail envelopes. Fee $20.

1 p.m.-2:30 p.m., Saturday, Dec. 3: Eco-Chic T-shirt Remakes Transform old T-shirts with a few simple tools into one-of-a-kind wearable art or reusable bags. Bring your old T-shirts and join in the fun. Fee $20.

Wash your reusable bags

November 3rd, 2011
By



Warning: Your reusable bag may potentially be harboring several different kinds of bacteria.

This was the finding of a recent study by Dr. Charles Gerba at the University of Arizona published in "Food Protection Trends."

Gerba tested 87 reusable bags from random shoppers in California and Arizona in summer 2010 and found nearly all of them contained some form of bacteria, and eight percent contained E. Coli.

Yet only three percent of shoppers surveyed by Dr. Gerba said they washed theirreusablescloseup reusable bags between uses.

So the solution is simple: Wash your reusable bags.

This, according to Dr. Gerba, will remove 99.9 percent of germs. "Although it may be a nuisance, washing must be done to ensure your food is safe to eat," said Gerba. "I'd recommend washing it with hot, soapy water after each use."

He added that it was important to pay attention to meats and dairy products.

But there's no reason to panic, and no reason to stop using reusable bags. Bringing your own bag to the grocery store as well as retail stores will reduce the need for plastic bags, which don't break down for thousands of years. If you're buying something and you don't need a plastic bag, let the checkout cashier know — think twice about it.

It's also great eliminating the plastic bag monster from under your sink, believe me!

After using several different kinds of reusable bags — everything from canvas to recycled plastic to polypropylene, I think my favorite ones are the ones that you can compact down into a pouch and easily throw into the wash.

Brands include ChicoBag, Baggu and EnviroSax. They actually carry a pretty good amount once you open them up, but are easy to store away in your purse when you're not using them. And they're also easy to throw into the wash.

You can find the abstract to the study on the International Association for Food Protection's website.