The Green Leaf

Make Earth Day every day

April 23rd, 2012
This photo may look kind of artsy in black and white, but it shows typical takeout lunch waste, which includes single-use Styrofoam cups and clamshells and plastic bags (and probably plastic utensils), which take hundreds of years to break down. Our goal should be to reduce this kind of waste by opting out of the bag, bringing your own cup and utensils and choosing alternatives to Styrofoam. Photo taken at Restaurant Row by Nina Wu.

Here's the typical weekday takeout lunch waste in a trash can at Restaurant Row, which includes single-use Styrofoam cups and clamshells and plastic bags (and plastic utensils). Lunch probably took about 30 minutes, but these will take 100s of years to break down. Surely we can reduce this with a few simple lifestyle changes. Photo by Nina Wu.

Here are 7 more personal lifestyle changes you can take to make Earth Day every day.

1. >> Plant native. Go for native plants in your front or backyard. Contrary to what most people may think, native plants are not tropical plants like birds of paradise, ginger or heliconia. There are plenty of native plants to choose from, whether pohuehue or pohinahina for ground cover, the fragrant na‘u (gardenia) or several kinds of kokio (native hibiscus) to add color to your landscape. Naupaka also makes a nice hedge. Hui Ku Maoli Ola sells native plants at various events and Home Depot, which is a good place to get started. Visit their online catalog for a list.

2. >> BYOU. Bring your own utensils. This is one of my own personal goals because I usually buy lunch on work weekdays and oftentimes end up with the single-use plastic forks, knives and spoons that they give you for takeout. You can either bring your own silverware from home and wash it, or buy a cool, portable bamboo set to reuse.

3. >> Compost. Whether it's a worm compost, pile compost or bokashi bucket, you would be doing the earth a favor by letting food waste break back down into what nature intended — soil. You'll also be doing your garden a favor. To learn more about the bokashi bucket, visit

4. >> Avoid Styrofoam. Sunetric recently launched a "no Styrofoam" campaign and is acknowledging restaurants like Duke's that do the same. Styrofoam, or Polystyrene foam, takes hundreds of years to break down, cannot be recycled and is toxic to marine life. Unfortunately, you will still see a lot of Styrofoam when you buy coffee or takeout lunch. Try to request an alternative if possible or patronize places that opt not to use Styrofoam.

5. >> Recycle bottle caps. While we can throw plastic water bottles and plastic soft drink bottles into the blue bin for recycling, or redeem them for 5-cents each, there's no money for plastic caps. Yet they, too, can be recycled. Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii (B.E.A.C.H.) is collecting plastic caps and lids from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. on Saturday, May 5, at Ahuimanu Elementary School, 47-470 Hui Aeko Place in Kaneohe and from 9 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. at Kaimuki Middle School, 631 18th Ave. on Saturday, May 12. Visit the non-profit's website to learn more about which caps and lids can be recycled.

6.>> Clean green. Choose biodegradable, plant-based cleansers and detergents to wash your dishes, toilet and bathtub with. Many of these alternatives (which don't include harsh chemicals like chlorine or ammonia) are now available — brands include Seventh Generation, Mrs. Meyers, Ecover and Method. My favorite dishwashing liquid is Eco's Ultra Dishmate, pear, though I also use Ecover sometimes. This link from lists the top 10 natural cleaning brands. Look for the Green Seal. You can also make your own cleansers at home using baking soda, vinegar and water.

7.>> Buy recycled products. As a consumer, choose recycled products, whether it be post-consumer recycled paper towels (available at Costco, by the way) or office paper. You can also buy gently used items instead of brand-new products at your local garage sale, places like Reuse Hawaii (lumber, hardware and construction materials) and on

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