Archive for January, 2014

Papahanaumokuakea: Marine debris now viewable

January 31st, 2014

A Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun, as well as marine debris, can now be viewed on Google Maps. Photo by NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries.

A Hawaiian monk seal basking in the sun can be viewed as part of Google Maps. Photo by NOAA National Marine Sanctuaries.

Alas, now we can see marine debris at Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, up close, without setting foot on shore (which you need permission from the government to do).

Google Maps has now captured the first 360-degree panoramic images from five new locations within the marine monument, which are sometimes referred to as the Northwestern Hawaiian islands. The announcement was actually made earlier this month, at the start of the new year.

View Larger Map

You can virtually visit Tern Island and East Island at the French Frigate Shoals, Laysan Island, Lisianski Island and Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

It's the link to Laysan Island that gives you a peek of a Hawaiian monk seal (hello) plus the marine debris, pieces of broken down plastic that you can see scattered along the sand and vegetation. One image captures what looks like a plastic, laundry basket – now how did that get washed ashore of one of the isolated islands on Earth?

You also get a glimpse of birds, mostly on the Tern Island link, and a Hawaiian sea turtle at the Pearl and Hermes Atoll link.

Posted in Conservation, Hawaiian green sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals, marine debris | Comments Off on Papahanaumokuakea: Marine debris now viewable

Sandalwood Legacy Trees

January 28th, 2014

The sandalwood, or iliahi sapling, is now part of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwood's sponsorship program. Courtesy image.

The sandalwood, or iliahi sapling, is now part of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwood's sponsorship program. Courtesy image.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods of Paauilo, Hawaii, is now offering the rare, endemic sandalwood – or ‘iliahi, as part of its sponsorship program.

The sweet smelling ‘iliahi, found only in Hawaii, was harvested nearly to extinction a century ago. ‘Iliahi are not easy to grow, according to Heidi Bornhorst in "Growing Native Hawaiian Plants: A How-to Guide for the Gardener," because it is often difficult to find the seeds.

It is also slow-growing, with wood that is considered very valuable. HLH does not plan to harvest the trees.

"The simple fact is that because it is so slow-growing, if you are planting it for harvest, you better be planting it for your grandkids," said CEO Jeff Dunster. "And yes, in fact we are planting it for our grandkids, and everyone else's grandkids too."

The Legacy Tree program offers the public the opportunity to get involved in the reforestation of Hawaii through sponsorships. Sponsor a Sandalwood Legacy Tree to celebrate an event, honor an individual or memorialize a loved one.

The sponsorship of a sandalwood legacy tree is $100, with $20 going to the charity of the giver's choice (plus $1 which goes to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust).

HLH celebrated the planting of its 200,000th native koa tree on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii island in May 2013 three years after the program was launched. The goal is to plan 1.3 million koa treesKoa legacy tree sponsorships are also still available for $60 (with $20 going to a charity).

Each tree can be tracked through HLH's Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, basically a computer signature, which keeps tabs on the tree's growth, maintenance and geology.

Visit or call (877) 707-TREE to learn more.




Solar parking arrays

January 23rd, 2014

Covered parking solar array at Liliha Square provides shade and lowers electricity costs. Courtesy image.

Covered parking solar array at Liliha Square provides shade and lowers electricity costs. Courtesy image.

There's a cool new trend in Honolulu's parking structures.

RevoluSun just installed a 155-kilowatt solar PV system atop a carport at Liliha Square Shopping Center. While it's not the first carport solar array for Oahu, it's a growing trend among Honolulu commercial property owners, according to the solar company.

It makes sense.

After all, why not use the top space of a parking structure as a way to lower your utility costs while providing shade?

RevoluSun can also create a custom-designed cover for an open parking structure.

Last year, the company created a shaded, waterproof roof for the top level of the uncovered parking structure at AIPA (Airport Industrial Park Associates). The 280-kilowatt system helps AIPA save money on its overall electricity costs.

"Essentially, business owners are killing three birds with one stone," said RevoluSun principal Eric Carlson. "by creating shade from the hot Hawaiian sun and in some cases, a waterproof roof from our frequent Hawaiian drizzles; the solar panels generate clean, renewable electricity; and saves the owner money on their electric bills."

Other parking structure solar systems by RevoluSun:

>> Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, 280-kilowatt system.

>> HECO Ward Avenue Charging Station, nine-panels, with a battery storage system.

Double rates for rid-a-fridge

January 22nd, 2014


Still procrastinating on plans to get rid of your old fridge?

Hawaii Energy is giving you some motivation — it is now offering $50, double the $25 rebate originally offered for outdated, energy-hogging refrigerators and freezers.

Free curbside pick-up is available.

According to Hawaii Energy, fridges and freezers built prior to 1993 are energy hogs that cost two to three times more to operate than a new EnergyStar model. Taking those old units off the electric grid can save Oahu resident as much as $275 (based on current electricity rates) on the annual bill.

Residents can also donate the rebate to Hawaii Foodbank by simply checking a box on the application provided by the hauler at the time of refrigerator pick-up.

All Oahu residential electric utility customers are eligible. To qualify, fridges and freezers must be full-size and in working condition. Since Hawaii Energy launched its "Bounty Program" in August 2011, approximately 1,792 refrigerators and freezers have been recycled, keeping them out of landfills.

Posted in Energy, recycling | Comments Off on Double rates for rid-a-fridge

MLK Beach Cleanups

January 17th, 2014


Here's your opportunity to help the environment at the start of the year 2014.

There are beach cleanups planned by Plastic Free Hawai‘i  and its community partners at three sites around Oahu on Martin Luther King Jr. Day of Service Monday (Jan. 20). Volunteers check in at 8:30 a.m. and clean up between 9 and 11 a.m.

Bring a reusable water bottle, hat and sunscreen.

Choose one of the three:

>> Ka‘ena Point. Volunteers will clean along the Mokule‘ia Route.

>> Malaekahana Beach Park. Meet at mile market 34.

>> Waimanalo Beach Park.

For more info, email


Posted in beach cleanup, Volunteer | Comments Off on MLK Beach Cleanups

Rid-a-Fridge, fight hunger

January 16th, 2014

Rebates (and free pick up services) are available from Hawaii Energy for getting rid of your old fridge. You can also opt to donate your rebate to Hawaii Foodbank.

Get rid of your old fridge and help feed the hungry in Hawaii at the same time.

Hawaii Energy is offering a $25 rebate for Oahu residents who donate aging refrigerators with free pick up. On Maui and Hawaii island, Hawaii Energy is offering a $65 rebate.

By simply checking a box on the rebate application form, you can donate your rebate to the Hawaii Foodbank. The promotion continues while funding lasts. If you want to keep your rebate, of course, you may.

Replacing your old refrigerator with a newer, EnergyStar one can result in savings on your overall electricity bill (even if you have PV solar). Hawaii Energy estimates that fridges more than 20 years old can cost $275 to operate on Oahu each year. On Maui, because electricity rates are higher, they can cost $320 to operate each year. And on Hawaii island, $355 to operate each year.

On Oahu, call 537-5577 and on Maui and Hawaii island, call 1-877-231-8222 to schedule a free pickup. Afterwards, complete your application and send it in. If you'd like to donate your rebate, just check the "I'd like to make a difference" box. You will receive your application during pick up, which must be postmarked within 60 days.

Posted in Energy, Green home | Comments Off on Rid-a-Fridge, fight hunger

A monk seal pup to start the year

January 14th, 2014


Monk seal pup P01 near his mama, Honey Girl (R5AY) on Kauai. Photo by Lesley M.

Monk seal pup P01 near his mama, Honey Girl (R5AY) on Kauai. Photo by Lesley M.

Happy news! We have the official birth of the first Hawaiian monk seal of the year, born Jan. 10 near Turtle Bay on Oahu's North Shore. Thanks to the Monk Seal Foundation for posting the video by Lesley Macpherson on Facebook.

The baby monk seal (P01) is the pup of Honey Girl (R5AY) who was rescued after a hooking incident in November 2012 near Sunset Beach on Oahu. Not only has she survived, but she's given birth! Monk Seal Foundation volunteers have been doing all they can to make sure both mom and pup are protected while educating visitors at the site.

Honey Girl beat the odds by surviving a serious injury, which is why the Hawaiian monk seal volunteers and supporters are celebrating. See this post from Monk Seal Mania.

Fewer than 1,100 of the critically endangered Hawaiian monk seals remain in the wild. Most dwell in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, or Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument (which you can now get a glimpse of via google maps), while 150 to 200 Hawaiian monk seals are believed to have migrated to the main Hawaiian islands.

Welcome P01. May you grow and thrive in the Hawaiian isles!

Posted in Hawaiian monk seals, Marine Life | Comments Off on A monk seal pup to start the year

The BYOB movement

January 13th, 2014


Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

Plastic bag caught in the fence near Kakaako Waterfront Park. Photo by Nina Wu.

I think it's happening.

Despite sluggishness, and resistance, I detect a BYOB —  bring your own bag — movement gaining momentum in Hawaii. Starting Friday, Hawaii county joins Maui and Kauai counties in officially banning conventional, plastic carryout bags.

Honolulu, the most populated of the isles, should have been at the forefront, but instead will be the last to join the ban, which takes effect in July 2015 (despite the law being signed by former Mayor Peter Carlisle in 2012). Hawaii, one of the states most vulnerable to the damaging effects of plastic in our oceans, should have been at the forefront of the plastic bag ban, as well.

But let's not focus on what should have been. Let's focus on the here and now.

Here, in Honolulu, you can take steps to reduce plastic bags, now, by using reusable bags. It's low-cost, even no-cost (because you don't have to go out and buy reusable bags, though plenty are available) and requires just a little bit of effort. I notice more people in the checkout line bringing their own bags. I no longer get my groceries automatically swept into a plastic bag when I bring my own bags (plus bringing your own bag is an option at self checkout). And at some stores, they actually say, "Thanks for bringing a bag!"

It's also a matter of wanting to reduce the use of plastic bags, because I imagine some people are actually hoarding them in preparation for the day when stores will no longer be giving them out at checkout.

Here are the top three excuses:

1. I FORGOT MY BAGS. One way to avoid this is to keep them in the car, or whatever means of transportation you have to the grocery store. You can also keep a small one (foldable in a pouch, like chicobag, envirosax, etc.) in your purse or backpack, handy for a quick run to the store. Or just use your backpack. Speaking of bags, I've found, from a practical point of view — that the large, square-bottomed and insulated ones work best. Trader Joe bags have also been great, flat on the bottom and durable. I've been bringing my own bags to the grocery store consistently over the years, and trying to remember to bring them to places like Long's Drugs and other retail outlets, too. Some boutiques are also starting to hand over purchases in reusable bags — a trend I like.

2. THERE AREN'T ENOUGH BAGS. Right. So get 15 to 20 reusable bags or more, if you need to, and go for the large and sturdy ones. You can also use beach totes, backpacks and baskets. If you're just heading from the store straight to your car with a shopping cart, you don't really need a double plastic bag to carry that six-pack of Coke or gallon of milk.  Follow Costco's lead and reuse an empty cardboard box.

3. I REUSE THE BAGS AT HOME. Sure, reuse is one of the three R's. But reduce comes before reuse. I understand. I use them to line my trash cans, too. I end up getting takeout lunch handed to me in a plastic bag. There are alternatives. I have a dog, too, but I don't typically use grocery bags to pick up poop – preferring reused bread bags, newspaper bags and Biobags instead. This is a tough one, and I'll let you know if I find a good alternative.

I still need to work on it, myself. But we can all try a little more.

I think charging a fee for paper bags is a good idea, since they cost more to produce and aren't necessarily any better for the environment. Seattle has done just that. The plastic bags that stores give out aren't necessarily free, either, but come with a cost that's probably calculated in overhead and passed on to the consumer. The Sierra Club cited a study in Seattle that determined a net cost of about $121 per ton of plastic bags that end up in the landfill annually. The cost to the environment is even higher.

Come on. No more excuses. You can bring your own bags to the store, some of the time or all of the time, even before the law kicks in next year.

Posted in Lifestyle, Plastic | Comments Off on The BYOB movement

Voice of the Sea

January 4th, 2014

Learn all about the exciting scientific and cultural work going on in Hawaii and the Pacific on a new, reality-based show, "Voice of the Sea," which debuts Jan. 5 on KFVE.

World paddleboard champion and shark researcher Kanesa Duncan Seraphin hosts the show, which profiles local science and cultural celebrities while inspiring students to pursue Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

The half-hour show was developed in collaboration with the University of Hawaii's Curriculum Research & Development Group, Hawaii Sea Grant Center for Marine Science Education, with funding from the NOAA Pacific Services Center.

The first episode will feature Kimokeo Kapahulehua, president of the Maui Fishpond Association, who will talk about restoration efforts there. Seraphin also interviews experts from the Tara expedition, and experts on aquaponics, oysters, algae and volcanoes.

"Voice of the Sea" will air 6 p.m. Sundays on KFVE (Channels 5 and 1005).

Posted in Conservation, Marine Life | Comments Off on Voice of the Sea

Aloha Frostpaw

January 2nd, 2014


Frostpaw the polar bear, flanked by local activists, stand on a street corner outside of President Barack Obama's Kailua vacation home on New Year's Eve. They wanted to call attention to the dangers of the Keystone XL pipeline and climate change. Photo by Nina Wu.

He's tall, white, furry – and endangered.

Frostpaw the polar bear has also been in Hawaii for the past week, but he's not on vacation.

He's been tailing President Barack Obama around during his 20-day family vacation here, and is set to go home tomorrow (Friday, Jan. 3). The polar bear mascot of the Center for Biological Diversity, is urging President Obama to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take action on climate change.

On New Year's Eve, Frostpaw and a handful of local activists from Idle No More Hawaii stood on the street corner outside of Obama's vacation home in Kailua to call attention to their cause shortly after the president made a trip back from Island Snow to get shave ice.

"Here in Hawaii, the beaches will go under water if we don't do anything about climate change, including the one where Obama is staying," said David Mulinix of Idle No More Hawaii, referring to sea level rise. "Keystone, if we don't do something about it, will affect us locally. Once our beaches are gone, tourism's gone and we'll have nothing."

Keystone XL is a proposed, 1,700-mile pipeline system which would transport synthetic crude oil from the oil sands of Alberta, Canada to refineries in Texas. Environmentalists and Frostpaw oppose it, calling it an "environmental disaster" that would destroy acres of boreal forest in Alberta, pollute the water from the Ahabasca River and create greenhouse gas emissions, plus wreak potential disaster if there were a pipeline spill.

Keystone claims the project is safe, and that it will provide jobs for Americans and long-term energy independence. Visit to read more about why the center opposes Keystone.

"The polar bear is the first animal listed as endangered specifically because of climate change," said Frostpaw, who wore an Aloha shirt for his Hawaii stint.

Scientists say two-thirds of the world's polar bears will disappear by 2050 if climate change is left unchecked, according to the center, which also cites climate scientist James Hansen saying the Keystone XL Pipeline would be "game over" for the climate crisis.

Has there been any response from the vacationing president? Not really, other than a shout out of "Hey, polar bear!" while playing golf at Mid Pacific Country Club. Still, the president, or his secret service agents, have been aware that he's here.

Before coming to Hawaii, Frostpaw held vigil outside of the White House during Thanksgiving and has followed the president on trips to Martha's Vineyard, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco.

While Honolulu has been a bit warm for Frostpaw, he enjoyed some shave ice to cool off, went to the beach and mingled with folks in Waikiki, encouraging them to save the climate in 2014 as one of their New Year's resolutions.

Frostpaw in Waikiki, New Year's Eve. Courtesy image.
Posted in climate change | Comments Off on Aloha Frostpaw

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