Archive for December, 2011

Top green events of 2011

December 31st, 2011

Will this East Honolulu coastline look the same several decades from now? Taken on Jan. 1, 2008. Photo by Nina Wu.

Will this East Honolulu coastline look the same several decades from now? Only if we take care of it for future generations. Taken on Jan. 1, 2008. Photo by Nina Wu.

It seemed like a good year for the "green movement" in Hawaii in 2011, although there were some setbacks, including some hurdles to reaching our clean energy goals and the death of a third endangered Hawaiian monk seal on Molokai in recent weeks.

Here's a roundup of the "Top 10 Green Events" for the year (not in any particular ranking, and I'm sure I missed some), so if  you have some highlights you would like to add, feel free to email me.

1. The plastic bag checkout ban went into effect in Maui County and Kauai County on Jan. 11 this year. Recyclable paper or reusable bags have replaced plastic bags. Hawaii County is poised to be next. What about Honolulu county, the most populated isle in the state? Maybe Honolulu will follow suit in 2012. A great documentary called Bag It! which screened throughout Hawaii this year has raised more awareness over the harms of single-use plastics.


2. The first Nissan Leaf arrived in Hawaii on Feb. 1. More have followed, and you can now see them on the roads of Honolulu.

3. Solar PV is on the rise (and Hawaii electric utilities went up in solar rankings this year). More homeowners and businesses, including the Hagadone Printing Co., decided to invest in solar photovoltaic systems to offset high electricity costs. Kapolei Sustainable Energy Park, Oahu's first utility-scale solar facility boasting 42,00 solar panels on four acres, is now up and running near Campbell Industrial Park. SunPower also is planning to sell energy back to HECO from a 5-mw solar PV farm planned for construction in Kalaeloa.

More residents have also decided to invest in solar PV systems to take advantage of tax credits. Businesses and residents can now sell their power back to HECO due to the feed-in tariff program. If on-bill financing becomes available, it would allow more residents to pay for solar power on their monthly electricity bills without the high, upfront costs.

At the same time, solar advocates had to challenge HECO on its interconnection-related rules governing the addition of new renewable systems to the grid. Some homeowners and businesses, for example, had to pay for costly studies in order to connect to the grid. The Public Utilities Commission in December decided on "Rule 14H" which helps reduce those unnecessary costs and hassles.

4. The Blue Planet Foundation's "Better Bulbs Blitz" replaced more than 100,000 incandescent bulbs with energy-efficient CFL's this year, involving more than 40 schools and 20 community groups.


5. Oahu is now home to the 30-megawatt Kahuku Wind Farm, which was dedicated in March of this year and can generate enough electricity to power 7,700 homes. First Wind LLC of Boston constructed the wind farm (now visible as you drive by the shrimp trucks on the North Shore) and has plans to build another one, a 70-megawatt wind farm on former sugar cane land northeast of Haleiwa next year.

6. State officials unveiled Honolulu's first electric vehicle charging station at the state Capitol's parking garage in July. It's an industry-standard SAE J1772 plug compatible with the Nissan Leaf, Chevrolet Volt and most other electric vehicles. Motorists can pay to charge up their cars with a credit card. Hawaii businesses, including the Sheraton Waikiki and Aulani, a Disney Resort at Ko Olina, have also installed electric vehicle charging stations in their parking garages.

7. GreenCar Hawaii, which launched the state's first carshare company on Kauai last year, brought its service to Oahu with four Nissan Leaf electric vehicles. The cars and two charging stations were unveiled at the DoubleTree by Hilton Alan Waikiki Hotel in December.eatlocalgreens

8. Kanu Hawaii's "Eat Local Challenge" expanded from one week to one month (the entire month of September) this year, and seems to have struck a chord with the general pubic as well as public figures. This year, Kanu Hawaii partnered with 40 restaurants who offered locally grown menu items. Here are highlights of the challenge.  In case you haven't noticed, farmers' markets featuring locally grown produce seem to be expanding across Oahu. First Lady Michelle Obama helped champion the cause by visiting Ma‘o Farms (No Panic, Go Organic) during APEC.

9. Seawater air conditioning in downtown Honolulu may become a reality after the company proposing it signed a 55-year lease with Kamehameha Schools. The project is expected to break ground in 2012.

recyclingbins10. Green curbside recycling rates went up this year, according to Honolulu's first evaluations of its islandwide curbside recycling program. About 77 percent of garden clippings make it to the green bin. But only 52 percent of a household's mixed recyclables, including newspapers, aluminum, No. 1 and No. 2 plastics and glass, make it into the blue bin. The city now accepts office and copier paper in the blue bin, by the way. We have room for improvement in that department — a goal for next year.

A special, honorary mention also for Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.), a non-profit group in Honolulu that has worked so hard to clear marine debris from Hawaii's shorelines as well as to document it scientifically and educate the public about its harmful effects. B.E.A.C.H., run by Suzanne Frazer and Dean Otsuki, cleared an estimated 40,000 pounds of debris from the Kahuku shoreline on Oahu's north shore this year. That's not counting all the other beaches it has also cleared of marine debris, including Kamilo Beach, Hawaii County's dirtiest beach.

On the horizon for the next year, it's great to see that public participation from online groups like and Carrotmob are having an impact on businesses. A recent petition on just convinced Verizon to drop a $2 convenience fee for paying bills online (and has had a great impact on banning shark finning in various states across the U.S.), while two recent Carrotmob events here helped small businesses like The Wine Stop and Kale's Natural Foods raise money to implement green changes.

Happy New Year! To a greener 2012...


Get involved

December 30th, 2011

NOAA's Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve is seeking advisory council applicants. Photo by Claire Fackler, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

NOAA's Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosystem Reserve is seeking advisory council applicants. Photo by Claire Fackler, NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries

If you care about nature, it's time to get involved. Here's your opportunity for the new year.

Several advisory committee positions are open, both for NOAA's Northwestern Hawaiian Islands Coral Reef Ecosytem Reserve and the state Forest Stewardship Advisory Committee.

>> NOAA is seeking applicants for six seats on its advisory council, which provides advice and recommendations to the Office of National Marine Sanctuaries, a division of the National Ocean Service. The council also ensures public participation in management of the country's largest marine conservation area.

Candidates are selected based on their expertise and experience, community and professional affiliations and views regarding the protection and management of marine and cultural resources. The seats come with a two-year term. Members serve without pay but will be provided airfare and lodging at neighbor island meetings. The council meets about four to five times a year for one-to-two days.

Applications are being accepted for two primary seats — Native Hawaiian and Ocean-Related Tourism and four alternates for Conservation, Native Hawaiian Elder and Native Hawaiian.

>> The state DLNR is also seeking applications for its Forest Stewardship as well as the Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Programs in 2012.

The Forest Stewardship Advisory Committee reviews and recommends project proposals and management plans for the State's Forest Stewardship and Forest Legacy Programs. Ideal candidates have significant forestry/conservation experience in Hawaii. The committee meets four times a year throughout the state. Terms are for three years. Visit to download an application.

The Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program Council reviews project proposals and recommends approval for funding to DLNR. Issues include: mapping the urban tree canopy and maintaining a tree inventory; advancing the knowledge of tropical urban forestry; management plans; training for urban forestry industry professionals; and creating public awareness of the value and benefits of trees. Council meets four times a year. Three-year term. Visit to download an application.

Holiday recycling

December 25th, 2011


Clearing out the house of clutter for the new year?

A great one-stop shop for recycling several kinds of items are the Aloha ‘Aina Earth Day community cleanups and fundraisers. The first one of the year is from 8 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7, Waimanalo Beach Park.

These cleanups involve numerous organizations who help collect and recycle everything from cooking oil (for Pacific BioDiesel), scrap metal, bicycles, beverage containers, cell phones, printer cartridges, phonebooks, cardboard, batteries (of all kinds) and one TV per car. Plastic playsets, bicycle helmets and boogie boards are sent by the United Environmental Service to mainland recyclers.

The Bella Project collects used prom dresses to help out young high school students, while Poi Dogs & Popoki will be collecting pet food, towels and toys for needy cats and dogs. A canned food drive for Hawaii Food Bank will also be going on while you bring in your stuff to recycle.

On Jan. 7, curbside pickup can also be arranged for Waimanalo residents who are unable to haul their recyclable materials to the beach park. To make an appointment, go to or call Kristen at 381-7207.

If you read today's column, here's an expanded guide of what and where to recycle:

  • The Christmas Tree: You'll have to strip it of all the tinsel and ornaments, but you can conveniently chop up your Christmas tree and put it in the green compost bin for curbside pickup. Keep in mind, though, that city workers will be on a holiday schedule. You can also take whole trees to the nearest City Convenience Center for composting.
  • Cardboard boxes: If you got packages in the mail or bought stuff from Amazon, they were most likely in corrugated cardboard boxes (the kind with ridges in between two layers of paper). You can fold these up and put them in your blue bin for curbside pickup (which also takes No. 1 and 2 plastics, glass, newspapers, white and colored bond paper). Remember that the city will be on holiday schedule, so there will be no pickups on Dec. 26 and Jan. 2.
  • recyclingshotBeverage containers: Cleaning up after a party? You can get 5-cents for every glass and plastic bottle and aluminum can at Reynold's Recycling. Otherwise you can put them in your blue bin for curbside pickup or donate them to a nonprofit group for fundraising. Reynold's is now offering to buy wine bottles and glass jars even without the HI5 label.
  • Magazines and catalogs: Hagadone Printing Co. welcomes glossy magazines, catalogs and brochures for recycling. You can recycle them at Hagadone's dropoff center (207 Puuhale Rd.) 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays or 8 a.m. to noon second Saturdays. You can also drop them off at various Lex Brodie's locations.
  • Electronic waste: Old monitors, TV sets, VCRs, printers, fax machines and cell phones are considered e-waste, and contain a lot of lead, so are best diverted from the landfill. There are a number of nonprofits that take donations of older, but still functional computers to refurbish for schools. You can also contact Pacific Corporate Solutions in Aiea to drop of your e-waste (488-8870, appointments recommended). Best Buy stores on Oahu also accept most consumer electronics for recycling. Visit for a complete list.
  • Old Sneakers: Niketown left a gap behind when they closed their Waikiki store, which used to accept old sneakers for recycling. But the Converse Outlet Store at Waikele Premium Outlets (94-790 Lumiaina St.) has filled that gap. Converse will accept used sneakers of any brand for recycling.
  • CFL Bulbs: Both Lowe's and Home Depot take back old CFL bulbs for recycling. CFL bulbs will last you for quite awhile, though. You can also help raise money for your group and club exchanging incandescent bulbs for energy-saving CFLs provided  by the Blue Planet Foundation.
  • Old Fridges: Got an old fridge? Through Hawaii Energy's Bounty Program, you can actually call for a free pickup of your 20-plus-year-old fridge (which uses 2 to 3 times more energy than current EnergyStar fridges), and get paid $25 on Oahu, $65 on Maui and Hawaii Island. On Oahu, call 537-5577. On Maui and Hawaii Island, call 1-877-231-8222 to take your energy-hogging clunker fridge off the grid. You will need to send in an application for your $25 rebate within 30 days of the pickup.
  • Used bikes: If you have a bike you no longer need and want, with good, usable parts, you can donate it to the Kalihi valley Instructional Bike Exchange, which helps at-risk youth fix or upgrade their bikes at no charge. Drop bikes off at 1638 Kamehameha IV Road when the center is open. Call 843-1545 or visit If you're a student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, you can also check out Cycle Manoa on campus, which is buying used bikes for $20 until Jan. 11. Otherwise, you can donate bikes and parts to the program, too.
  • Apple gadgets. Apple takes back old Macs, PCs, iPads and iPhones. If it still has monetary value, Apple will give you a gift card, and if it doesn't, Apple will still recycle it for free. Visit for more info.
  • Freecycle. Got something good that you just don't need or want anymore? Someone else's junk is another person's treasure. Join the Honolulu FreeCycle group at

The Sierra Club's Forces for Good Symposium

December 22nd, 2011

The Sierra Club is hosting a "Forces For Good Symposium" at the Hawaii State Capitol from noon to 5 p.m. on Saturday, Jan. 7.

Bill McKibben will deliver the keynote address via Skype. Talk about a low carbon footprint.

Bill McKibben will deliver the keynote address via Skype.

World-renowned environmental activist Bill McKibben is delivering the keynote address (via Skype, so talk about leaving a low carbon footprint).

There will also be an afternoon of workshops focused on environmental issues important to Hawaii — topics covered include everything from Agriculture and Food to Hawaii's clean energy goals, smart growth, the reduction of plastic shopping bags, watersheds, good governance and lobbying skills.

Speakers from the Blue Planet Foundation, Common Cause Hawaii, Conservation Council For Hawaii, Surfrider Foundation, Kanu Hawaii, and others, will be on hand.

Cost for the symposium is $25 (and includes a "Forces For Good" T-shirt). Open to the public.

After the symposium, the Sierra Club hosts its first annual awards reception from 6 to 8 p.m. at Downtown @theHiSAM (with local pupus, two complimentary drinks and live entertainment by Makana). Longtime Sierra Club supporters will be recognized — and awards will be given for Chapter Volunteer of the Year, Green Leader of the Year, and the Geraldine Cline award.

Dinner costs $60. If you're attending both the symposium and awards dinner, you can go to both for $75.

Visi to register to to find more details.

Seven eco-friendly gifts

December 11th, 2011

Holiday gift guides are chock full of ideas on what to buy for Christmas this year. How about some eco-minded gifts for your loved ones?

Here's my personal list of eco-friendly gifts for this holiday season, available online or from local businesses. If you have some good eco-friendly gift ideas, send them to me for this blog. I have room for three more, to bring the list to 10.

Remember to wrap your gifts "green"— using recycled gift bags, calendar paper, a piece of fabric, Furoshiki-style or better yet, inside a reusable bag which becomes part of the gift.

silvernecklace1. Reclaimed Silver Jewelry.

Nilma Hunter Creations makes these handmade pieces of jewelry from reclaimed silver — melted down from older pieces of jewelry, scraps and old electronics.

This one in the photo is called "Lip of the Wave" ($36) but there are other designs, including a plumeria flower and monstera leaf. Hunter is a self-taught jewelry maker. She's making her rounds at various craft fairs this holiday season. You can also find her at Haleiwa Farmers Market on Sundays or visit

2. Bamboo Utensil Set.

reusable bamboo utensil set Support a Honolulu-based non-profit group, Beach Environmental Awarness Campaign Hawai‘i (B.E.A.C.H.) while reducing single-use plastics with this bamboo utensil set as a gift this Christmas ($18 for non-members, $15 for members).

Single-use plastics, like disposable plastic forks and knives, are only used once and then tossed into the trash. Many of them also end up as litter on Hawaii's shorelines and  beaches. You can help reduce this plastic from our landfills and oceans by bringing your own utensils.

With these bamboo utensils, you'll be set for your next meal anywhere. The sets come wrapped in blue, green, light green, red or black.

Available from the B.E.A.C.H. website or at SoulTrex, Windward Mall.

3. Melissa & Doug wood toys.


Melissa & Doug wooden toys are an alternative to ubiquitous plastic toys, and these are usually a hit.

I found a wooden toy train set and wooden shape sorter cube by Melissa & Doug at a discount at Ross Dress for Less ($10).

You can also find plenty of handmade wood peg puzzles, ranging from colorful shapes to farm animals, the alphabet, numbers, sea creatures, dinosaurs and planes, trains and automobiles ($8 to $20).

You can find Melissa & Doug toys at various outlets, including boutiques, toy stores and Macy's.

4. Native Hawaiian Plants.


Give a "green" gift that keeps on growing. Hawaiian plants never go out of style and should grow well in your yard here in Hawaii (where they were naturally designed to grow, after all).

You can find native Hawaiian plants (like this low-maintenance pohinahina) or others (kokios, or native Hawaiian hibiscus plants, come in red, yellow, orange and white) at Home Depot or direct from native Hawaiian nursery Hui Ku Maoli Ola (From $5 to $20).

When you put a native Hawaiian plant into the ground, I think it's nice to have some symbolic meaning to it. You can plant one for every member of your family to commemorate birthdays (or the birth of a new one) or a certain milemarker for that person (college graduation, for instance).

ecohashiII5. Ecohashi Chopsticks.

True, anyone can bring their own pair of chopsticks out to eat, saving the world's forests, but here's a fashionable way to do it.

Every year, 63 billion disposable chopsticks are manufactured, using 25 million trees. Honolulu-based ecohashi offers reusable chopsticks wrapped in fun and colorful print fabrics.

For every pair sold this year ($10 each), ecohashi, in partnership with Red Pineapple (at Ward Centre), will donate $1 to the Hawaii Food Bank.

solarwatch6. Solar-powered watch.

There are all kinds of solar-powered gadgets these days — solar flashlights and solar rechargers for your iPhone and iPod and solar-powered watches.

This Citizen Eco-Drive men's watch charges in natural daylight or indoor light, so you won't have to worry about replacing the batteries. How cool is that? I got this watch as a gift for my husband last year.

Browsing online, it seems as if the number of choices in solar-powered watches  has expanded. The prices range from as low as $27 to $300. You can compare prices and read reviews at

Check out all the choices in solar-powered watches available on

7. Soy-based crayons.


I was browsing the other day (which by the way, also has an eco etsy site) and stumbled upon these eco-friendly, handmade crayons made from soy.

I think the sea turtle-shaped ones ($12 for a set of six) are adorable and will probably get them for my little one this Christmas. The site claims the crayons are paraffin-free and biodegradable.

There are also hearts, butterflies, fish, Christmas trees and other fun shapes.

Carrotmob, beach cleanups this weekend

December 9th, 2011

There's a beach cleanup at Sunset Beach on Saturday, and another one at Kailua Beach on Sunday. Photo courtesy Surfrider.

There's a beach cleanup at Sunset Beach on Saturday, and another one at Kailua Beach on Sunday. Photo courtesy Surfrider.

There's plenty to do this weekend, if you're looking for something "green' to do this holiday season.

Sat., Dec. 10: Another "Carrotmob" takes place from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. at  Kale's Natural Foods at Hawaii Kai Shopping Center (377 Keahole St.). Kanu Hawaii is organizing this Carrotmob which support Kale's efforts to promote recycling at the shopping center. The goal is to raise $1,600 for recycling facilities – part of Kanu's No Waste  Challenge. From 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., there'll be music by Mango Season, and everyone who makes a purchase will be entered to win two fee Bokashi composting buckets from Each One Teach One Farms.  See the Top 5 Things to Buy at Kale's here (includes grains from bulk section, food from the deli, produce from Otsuji Farm and eco totes by Hazel Lee).

Sat. Dec. 10: The Surfrider Foundation's Oahu Chapter is hosting a Sunset Beach Cleanup (from Sunset to Pipeline) from 10 a.m. to noon, with prizes from Airwalk and San Lorenzo Bikinis for volunteers who show up early, and an appearance by surfer/model Anastasia Ashley.

Sun. Dec. 11: Kailua Beach Park Beautification Day from 8 a.m. to noon, in partnership with the Kailua Beach Citizens Patrol. Meet by the pavilion/concession area at "First Park." Volunteers are welcome to help trim back overgrown bushes, spruce up dilapidated facilities and give the park some TLC. Yard service supplies and equipment, cleaning supplies, needed. Call Shannon Clancey, beach cleanup coordinator, with questions 382-8258.

Challenge: Finding non-plastic toys

December 5th, 2011

It seems inevitable that you'll end up with a household full of plastic toys, by hand-me-down, gift or purchase, these days.

Plastic, plastic, plastic. It seems inevitable that you'll end up with a household full of plastic toys, by hand-me-down, gift or purchase, these days.

The other day, I walked into a toy store to shop for Christmas gifts, and discovered that 95 percent of everything in there was — plastic.

Other than a small section which featured wooden toys, everything else was plastic, from the beloved Mr. Potato Head to the popular LEGOs to Barbie's convertible car.

This is the generation of plastic toys — from plastic action figures to plastic building sets, fire trucks, cars, plastic play kitchens, plastic guitars, plastic telephones, plastic drumsets, plastic ride-on toys — even outdoor slides, tables, chairs and playhouses made up entirely of plastic.

I understand why plastic is so popular — it's easily moldable into all shapes and colors and sizes, it's waterproof and lightweight. And some of them are pretty cool — there are toys that talk, teach the alphabet, play music, whirl and light up at the push of buttons.

It's inevitable that you'll have some plastic toys in your household, whether by hand-me-down, purchase or gift. I guess if you buy a used plastic toy, it's better than a brand-new one, but then eventually it'll have to be passed on to someone else or go to the landfill. And plastic doesn't break down for hundreds of years.

Having recently been horrified at the sight of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch (most of it plastic) on Hawaii's shorelines, I'd like to encourage Santa (and Santa helpers) to find alternatives to plastic toys this holiday season.

A selection of non-plastic toys include a wood bead toy, fabric dog book, Melissa & Doug wood puzzles and Pottery Barn stacker.

A selection of non-plastic toys includes a wood bead toy, fabric dog book, Sevi wooden pull toy, Melissa & Doug wood puzzles, Sophie, a rubber giraffe chew toy, fabric ball, books and Pottery Barn farm animals stacker. Photo by Nina Wu.

To be honest with you, it's not easy.

But there are some alternatives. Melissa & Doug's wood puzzles and toys are widely available (I even found a Melissa & Doug wood train set at discount at Ross). You can also, of course, opt for stuffed toys made out of fabric or cloth.


This cute "Fun on the Farm" animal stacker from Pottery Barn is still available online. Other brands include Plan Toys.

Books are also great — they never go out of style. Dr. Seuss is as popular today as he was a generation ago ("Dr. Seuss can moo, can you?" is a blast).

Locally, you can find some "green" toys at Baby Awearness (Read the Let's Talk Toys blog with Julliet Lowe) and Little Sprouts. Some options include Green Toys, which makes toy trucks and cars and play sand toys made from recycled plastic.

In Let's Talk Toys, Lowe says to consider: 1) Is it about quality or quantity? A quality toy lasts for a lifetime versus a cheaply made quantity toy which breaks in a short time. 2) Is the toy beautiful? Toys made from natural materials are usually more satisfying than those made from plastic, particle board or other synthetic materials. 3) Does the toy smell? Some toys have a strong plastic or perfumed smell.

I like the idea of quality over quantity, especially when you know the novelty factor is only going to last for so long before your kid moves on to another toy.

It's not easy, but this holiday season, challenge Santa to find some non-plastic toys.

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