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.