Archive for February, 2014

Kamehameha butterflies

February 27th, 2014

The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. It is also Hawaii's official state insect. Photo courtesy UH.

The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. It is also Hawaii's official state insect. The University of Hawaii is asking for the public's help in mapping these butterflies in Hawaii. Photo courtesy UH.

The Pulelehua Project is now underway, with at least 10 new confirmed sightings of Kamehameha butterflies by citizen scientists from the islands of Molokai, Oahu, Kauai and the Big Island.

Researchers at the University of Hawaii's College of Tropical Agriculture reached out to the public last week, asking for photo submissions to help map out the distribution of the butterflies to help determine how and why its population has declined.

The Kamehameha butterfly (Vanessa tameamea) is endemic to Hawaii, meaning it is found nowhere else in the world. They used to be commonly found up at Tantalus on Oahu, but no longer are. They are orange and black, but don't get them confused with common lookalikes.

Check out the number of white or light orange patches on the black area on the upper surface of the forewings — the Kamehameha has only three main white patches in this area (other species have additional white spots). When at rest, with wings folded, the Kamehameha also has a longer, pale patch or multiple pale patches on the underside of the hindwing. It has no blue-centered eyespots.

Many submissions have been of the Gulf Fritillary, according to the Pulelehua Project, which is pretty common around Honolulu. The caterpillars are red with black spines, and they feed on lilikoi and related vines.

The non-native painted lady butterflies (Vanessa cardui and Vanessa virginiensis) are in the same genus as the Kamehameha butterfly and look very similar — check for "extra" white dots in the black area on the front wings.

To submit a sighting, the university requests that you include a photo, which can be uploaded on its website. If you think you've seen one but can't submit a photo, email with a description of the sighting, location ad date.

You can also spot the eggs, which are tiny and about the size of a pin head on the upper or lower surface of the leaves of caterpillar host plants, particularly the mamaki.

The eggs are just the size of a pin head. Photo by Will Haines. Courtesy UH.

The eggs are just the size of a pin head. Photo by Will Haines. Courtesy UH.

It's definitely an interesting approach — inviting "Hawaii citizen scientists" to get involved.

For updates, go to the Pulelehua Project's FB page (to see photos submitted by citizen scientists). The first confirmed sighting of a Kamehameha butterfly on Molokai came from Waialua Valley yesterday. Another was sighted in a backyard in Volcano on the Big Island, located at 4,000 feet elevation, where the butterflies appear to be doing well.

Kamehameha butterfly egg, closeup. The egg measures only 1 millimeter in diameter. Photo by Will Haines.

Kamehameha butterfly egg, closeup. The egg measures only 1 millimeter in diameter. Photo by Will Haines.

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The gray bin

February 26th, 2014


Image courtesy of Honolulu Department of Environmental Services.

Image courtesy of Honolulu Department of Environmental Services.

So let's take a look at what goes in your gray bin, otherwise known as your trash bin, and the alternatives that are also available.

The city and county of Honolulu says all other general household rubbish — the non-recyclable trash that doesn't go in  your blue and green bins — goes in your gray bin.

What goes in your gray bin: Plastic bags, plastics No. 3-7, Styrofoam, telephone books, junk mail, magazines, cereal boxes, tissue boxes, paper plates, napkins, ceramics, dishes and glassware.

Now the city wants you to BAG YOUR TRASH, unlike the items in the blue and green bins, which it wants LOOSE.

Here are some recycling options for those items, though they won't necessarily be convenient (no curbside pickup).

>> Plastic bags can be recycled, though most people I know like to reuse them as liners for wastebaskets, dog poop and the like. However, if you want to recycle them, supermarkets like Safeway have a collection bin outside their stores.

>> Magazines, phonebooks, brochures and catalogs can also be recycled at Hagadone Printing, by dropping these off at its Kalihi headquarters. 274 Puuhale Rd. from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. weekdays and 8 a.m. to noon on second Saturdays. However, there's a limit of five phonebooks per household. If you don't live near town, this could really be out of your way, but still, it's an option. (Look for a blog post on this in the near future).

>> Plastic bottle caps. There have been past efforts to try to recycle bottle caps, without much luck. However, the Kokua Hawaii Foundation is collecting caps this year as part of its Hawai‘i School Bottle Cap Collection Challenge. Schools have until March 31 to collect caps and can win a special performance by Jack Johnson.

>> e-Waste. Also, if you have electronic waste, Pacific Corporate Solutions offers free e-waste events. They will be picking up e-waste from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. Saturday, March 1 at 1564 N. King St., Saturday, March 15 at Kaimuki High School. Also, Saturday, March 15 at Koko Marina Center. Computers, monitors, laptops, printers, fafx machines and telecom equipment (all brands) accepted. No TVs or microwave ovens.

>> Sneakers. Also, the last I checked, the Converse Outlet at Waikele Premium Outlets was accepting sneakers of all kinds for recycling. Niketown Waikiki (now closed) used to accept them. Once again, depending where you live, this could be out of your way, but good to know.

So now you know what goes in each bin. As always, reduce comes before reuse and recycle (the 3 Rs. of recycling). And not all environmentalists are gung-ho about H-POWER because it releases carbon emissions into the air.

Sign  up for the city's wasteline e-newsletter if you want to be one of the first to learn about the new dates for Tour de Trash this year. There are also cute educational tools, like an Opala IQ book, this "Where Do Things Go?" web game and a whole series of recycling songs (listen to them all here) by artists like Henry Kapono, Jack Johnson and the Lava Jam Band.

By the way, if you're not sure what your collection schedule is, you can find it by entering your zip code at this link.

The green bin

February 25th, 2014

So let's talk about the green bin.

Oahu residents are doing pretty well when it comes to putting yard waste in the green bin, with a capture rate of 77 percent, which reflects higher participation and recovery levels, according to a 2011 city report.

What goes in the green bin: Yard trimmings, leaves, grass clippings and Christmas trees (chopped up). The yard trimmings should go into the green bin LOOSE, meaning no plastic bags here, either, because plastic is not compostable.

Also, in case you were wondering about many of these eco-friendly products out there — like cornstarch plastic flatware and compostable food containers, they don't belong in the green bin, according Suzanne Jones, the city's assistant chief of refuse. Honolulu does not have a commercial compost facility, at least not yet.

Yard waste goes to Hawaiian Earth Products in Kapolei, where it is composted into organic soil called Menehune Magic, which you can find at local stores. Pretty cool!

As of Dec. 31, 2013, Hawaiian Earth Products said it had recycled 1.1 million tons. What's nice about this process is that the material stays here, on island, and doesn't have to be shipped anywhere.

The city is considering whether to include fruit and vegetable waste in the green carts one day, but those plans are still in the works. Meanwhile, check out this new booklet called "Food: Too Good to Waste" with recipes and smart food tips form local chefs. There are also at-home composting options, including worm composting, Bokashi and – something we just bought  — a composter from Look out for a future blog post on composting at home.

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The blue bin

February 24th, 2014


Ok, so let's look at what the city and county of Honolulu accepts in the blue bin.

PET1>> No. 1 and No. 2 plastics. To find out what kind of plastic a container is, look for the number inside the triangle printed on the bottom. Generally, No. 1 plastics (Polyethylene terphthalate, or PETs) includes water bottles, shampoo and body wash bottles, and the clamshell containers that contain blueberries, spring mix and cocktail tomatoes that you buy from the supermarket or Costco. I've also found many of the SOLO brand clear plastic cups and containers to be No. 1. No. 2 plastics (High-density Polyethylene) generally include milk jugs, laundry detergent containers and vitamin bottles.  Take the bottle caps off before tossing into the blue bin.

>> Newspapers and office paper. Yes, your copy of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser, MidWeek and other newspapers goes in the blue bin. Thank you for recycling! What you may not know is that the city also accepts white and colored office paper now.

>> Cardboard. So the city only accepts corrugated cardboard, which is the thick kind (you can see a wavy line between two layers). If you get an Amazon delivery, it's in corrugated cardboard. Put it in the blue bin. Cereal and tissue boxes and egg cartons are made of thinner paper material and unfortunately, the city does not recycle those.

>> Glass. All glass bottles and jars. Of course, you can redeem glass beverage containers at Reynold's Recycling or RRR Recycling. But if you don't care about getting your nickel back, throw them in the blue bin. Empty glass mason jars that hold spaghetti sauce, jelly and wine bottles also go in the blue bin.

>> Metal cans. This includes aluminum and steel cans for sodas, soups and cat food.

Put these items all in the blue bin LOOSE, meaning not in plastic bags, which the city doesn't recycle. If you're interested in recycling your plastic bags, supermarkets like Safeway have a bin outside that collect them.

Look for this "Sort it out" display on your way in and out of Costco (plus free stickers to take home).

Look for this "Sort it out" display on your way in and out of Costco (plus free stickers to take home).

If you need reminders, pick up the handy sticker that the city prints out, which is available for free at all Costco warehouses on Oahu. (Look for them next to a display near the entrance or exit).

Now, other municipalities on the mainland accept more items for recycling — for instance, San Francisco accepts all kinds of plastics (No. 1-No. 7) as well as cereal boxes.

Suzanne Jones, assistant chief for the refuse division, says this is because Honolulu chooses recyclables with highest market value. From a practical point of view, she said cereal boxes have more value going to HPOWER, which burns waste to energy.


The sorting line

February 23rd, 2014


A recent visit to RRR Recycling at Campbell Industrial Park was really eye-opening.

It was exciting to see where all our curbside pickup recyclables go — and how they're sorted, baled and then shipped out to be remade into new products. I mean, this is truly recycling in action!

It's a large, dirty and noisy operation — and fast-paced. That conveyer belt goes pretty fast in the beginning. Workers are snatching out plastic bags and items that don't belong from left and right. I saw sneakers, phonebooks and hard-cover books go by (none belong in your blue bin).

Kudos to the 14 hard-working employees who sort this stuff seven days a week.

There are huge mountains of cardboard spilling on to the floor (I'm glad it gets recycled). Huge mounds of newspaper piled on a floor, and on the other side of the sorting line, piles of plastics, glass and aluminum.

The plastics are sorted by No. 1 and No. 2. Then the No. 2 plastics are sorted according to color or white because, apparently, once the color has been added in, the color can't be removed.

Recycling trucks collect the blue bins from more than 150 routes, bringing in an estimated 20,000 tons of recyclable materials a year. These recyclables actually bring the city and county of Honolulu $1.5 million in net revenue, according to Suzanne Jones, assistant chief for the refuse division.

But they could potentially bring in more, if people understood more of what can go in the blue bins.

People seem to understand newspapers go in there (yeah!) plus cardboard (only the corrugated kind). More plastics other than plastic water bottles and beverage containers (which some like to redeem for 5-cents apiece) can go in there, including plastic bottles for shampoo, body wash, vitamins and peanut butter. Glass jars. Milk containers. Wine bottles.

What's cool about all this is that recyclables are also diverted from our landfill.

"Back before the program started, if you really think about it, all of this was going to the landfill," said Manasseh Santos, who works on the sorting line. "With us recycling now, it'l save landfill space. It's a good thing all the way around."

To learn more, visit, which has 30-second video clips and pretty extensive information about recycling. Look out for my post about the blue bin tomorrow.

Newspapers baled and ready to be shipped to China for recycling.

Newspapers baled and ready to be shipped to China for recycling.

Posted in Plastic, recycling | Comments Off on The sorting line

EWG Guide on GE foods

February 20th, 2014


Star-Advertiser file photo.

Star-Advertiser file photo.

In a recent Star Advertiser-Hawaii News Now poll, three-quarters of voters interviewed want the state Legislature to pass a law requiring that all genetically modified organisms sold in Hawaii be labeled.

Yet only a quarter of voters were very familiar with GMOs. Still, consumers feel that they have a right to know.

Here's Monsanto's stance on labeling GE Foods — basically that it opposes mandatory labeling because "it could imply incorrectly that foods containing these ingredients are somehow inferior to their conventional or organic counterparts."

If you're concerned, help is here.

The Environmental Working Group released a new shopping guide on Wednesday to help consumers figure out which supermarket foods likely contain genetically engineered ingredients.

According to the EWG, a non-profit based in Washington D.C., more than 60 other nations, including France, Germany, Japan, Russia, China and the United Kingdom require GE labeling. The U.S. government, however, does not require labeling of GE foods or ingredients.

EWG says while scientists have not determined whether GE food poses risks to human health, consumers have many good reasons to be concerned.

On its "Watch List" the EWG included:

>> Papaya. More than 75 percent of Hawaiian papaya is genetically engineered to resist the ringspot virus (Hawaiian Papaya Industry Association 2013).

>> Zucchini and yellow summer squash. A few varieties of squash are genetically engineered. Opt for organic varieties.

>> Sweet corn. Most sweet corn sold in supermarkets and farm stands is not grown from GE seeds, but a few varieties are. Buy organic sweet corn.

Four most common GE ingredients in food, according to EWG:

>> Field corn and corn-derived ingredients. Some 90 percent of corn grown in the U.S. is genetically engineered. While most of it is cultivated for animal feed, about 12 percent is processed as corn flour, high fructose corn syrup, corn starch, masa, corn meal and corn oil that end up in foods consumed by people (EPA 2013). Consumers should assume that those ingredients in processed foods are genetically engineered.

>> Soybeans and soybean-derived ingredients. The list would include soy proteins, soybean oil, soy milk, soy sauce, tofu or soy lecithin (unless certified organic or GE-free).

>> Sugar. About 55 percent of sugar produced in the U.S. comes from sugar beets, 95 percent of which have been genetically engineered (USDA 2013c). EWG says if a product label does not specify it has been made with "pure cane" sugar, chances are significant it contains GE beet sugar.

>> Vegetable oils. Consumers should assume that vegetable oil, canola oil, cottonseed, soybean and corn oils are genetically engineered.

Here are 5 Things you should know about GMOs, according to EWG. Here's a link to all of EWG's consumer guides.

Making the LEED list

February 18th, 2014


Aulani, a Disney Resort, at Ko Olina, is the largest LEED certified project in the state. LEED Silver. Courtesy image.

Aulani, a Disney Resort, at Ko Olina, is the largest LEED certified project in the state. LEED Silver. Courtesy image.

For the first time, Hawaii has made the U.S. Green Building Council's list of "Top 10 States for LEED."

Hawaii placed ninth in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The list highlights regions around the U.S. that are at the forefront of the movement for sustainable building design, construction and operation. The goal of LEED-certified spaces is to utilize less energy and water, reduce carbon emission and contribute to a healthier environment.

"Hawaii's recognition as one of the top 10 states for LEED buildings speaks volumes about the vigorous and progressive actions taken by our government, education, hospitality and military communities," said Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. "The state is committed to fulfilling its clean energy goals, and I applaud all of those involved for their continued commitment toward energy efficiency."

Some Hawaii projects that became LEED certified in 2013:

>> Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa at Ko Olina, LEED Silver

>> Punahou School  Omidyar K-1 in Honolulu, LEED Gold

>> Kaiakea Fire Station in Kapaa, LEED Silver

>> Maui Community College Science Building, LEED Gold

>> Hickam Air Force Base F-22 composite repair facility, LEED Gold

>> Howard Hughes Corp. Ward Village, LEED-ND (neighborhood development) Platinum

According to, Honolulu has 172 green buildings and about 3.2 million square feet of LEED certified space (most of it at the gold level).

Illinois got the top-ranking spot, with 2.29 per-capita square feet of LEED space in 2013; Maryland was second with 2.20 per-capita square feet; Virginia came in third, with 2.11 per-capita square feet.

California and New York tied for fifth place with 1.92 per-capita square feet of LEED space in 2013.

Posted in Green business | Comments Off on Making the LEED list

Solar Love

February 14th, 2014


"Roses are red, violets are blue. I like my energy green. How about you?"

Today, Valentine's Day, customers plan to send "love notes" to dozens of Hawaiian Electric Co. (HECO), Maui Electric Co. (MECO) and Hawaii Electric Light (HELCO) employees.

The customers are lamenting the fact that they are still waiting — to connect their rooftop solar photovoltaic systems — to the grid.

A recent poll demonstrated that 96 percent of people in Hawaii support or strongly support efforts to make solar power more available, according to Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club of Hawaii.

"We hope hundreds of customer voices will cause Hawaiian Electric employees to feel the solar love, and commit to building a modern, 21st century grid that can handle more intermittent power," said Harris in a press release.

House Bill 1943 requires the Public Utilities Commission to initiate a proceeding no later than July 1, discussing upgrades to the Hawaii electric system for anticipated growth in solar electricity generated by customers. The bill is making its way through the Hawaii State Legislature's House.

Rather than frame the issue as a battle between solar PV customers and non-solar PV customers (because non-solar customers will have to subsidize upgrades to the system), we should be asking why HECO isn't taking the responsibility of modernizing the grid.

I love solar, and I want you to have it (and love it), too. XOXO


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Saving Waikiki

February 12th, 2014


Volunteers are welcome to help remove three types of invasive algae from the reef behind Waikiki aquarium during public beach cleanups scheduled from February through October.

The Waikiki Aquarium recently received a $43,951 Community Restoration Partnership grant to continue its Waikiki Coastal Restoration efforts and research. The alien algae — Acanthophora spicifera, Gracilaria salicornia and Avrainvillea amadelpha — choke the reefs and crowd out native limu. They're considered a marine menace and threat to the beauty of Waikiki.

Beach cleanups will be held from 9 to 11 a.m. on Saturday, Feb. 15, as well as on Saturdays, March 29, May 3, June 28 and Oct. 25.

"This grant allows us to further engage the public in our conservation efforts, which is a very important goal for us in 2014," said Aquarium director Andrew Rossiter. "We encourage everyone who has an interest in the ocean to join us for a rewarding Saturday morning out on the reef."

Volunteers will first  be trained on how to differentiate between invasive and native algae plants followed by hands-on removal experience on the reef using snorkels, paddleboards and buckets. Dr. Celia Smith and her team from the University of Hawaii Botany Department will provide the training. Starbucks and Diamond Bakery are providing coffee and snacks for volunteers.

Waikiki Aquarium's volunteers have removed thousands of pounds of invasive algae from the reef behind the aquarium over the decade in an effort to protect the native marine plants.

Other organizations, including Malama Maunalua, have also worked hard to remove invasive algae from Maunalua Bay (which stretches from Diamond Head to Koko Head) in East Oahu, with hopeful signs that the bay is being restored. Malama Maunalua also offers volunteer opportunities. On the windward side, a Super Sucker, a mobile underwater pump-vacuum, is used to remove invasive algae from Kaneohe Bay.

To voluteer for the Waikiki Coastal Restoration program, call the aquarium's volunteer office at 440-9020 or visit

Posted in beach cleanup, Conservation, invasive species, Marine Life, Volunteer | Comments Off on Saving Waikiki

A Pono Home

February 10th, 2014


Pono Home is a Honolulu-based startup offering to "green" your home, making it more energy- and water-efficient. It's an interesting idea. After all, many of us know what should be done, but how many of us get around to doing it?

Sometimes we just don't know where to start. Oftentimes we procrastinate.

Part of what Pono Home offers is the convenience as well as the expertise of knowing how to green your home.  And they do it for you. (I would be perfectly happy to have someone else clean out the refrigerator condenser coils).

I'm a green columnist, so of all people, you would think I know how to green a home.

Getting a solar photovoltaic system was a big step in that direction.  But having a solar PV system isn't an excuse to just hog up energy in your home, either. I don't know everything. And the water bill only seems to be going in one direction these days — up.

There are plenty of great resources on the web, as well as free workshops by Hawaii Energy. Even HECO gives you plenty of tips through guides like "101 Ways to Save" and "Cool Tips" as well as in its monthly newsletter. For a guide on what to look out for in household cleaners and beauty products, the Environmental Working Group publishes guides posted free online.

Here are a few tips I didn't know (from Pono Home's learning resources link for energy efficiency):

>> Did you know storing potatoes with an apple help reduce spoilage? Or that you should leave tomatoes at room temperature with the stem facing down?

>> Did you know that keeping the fridge and freezer two-thirds full results in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in electricity use? (from

>> It's best to turn off fans when not in the room. Fans only cool you, not the room.

Till the end of February, Pono Home, one of the startups selected by clean tech incubator Energy Excelerator has an indiegogo campaign that allows you to get the service while contributing $20 to an environmental non-profit of your choice, including SEEQS, the Blue Planet Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, and others.

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