Archive for June, 2015

Are you ready?

June 24th, 2015

Global Village in Kailua has always offered a tote bag program. If you purchase more than $40 this adorable tote is free, or $5 on its own. Photo by Nina Wu.

Global Village, an apparel and gifts boutique in Kailua, offers a reusable tote bag program. If you purchase more than $40 this adorable tote is free and good for special discounts at the store on Tuesdays. Or buy it for $5. Global Village has been plastic bag-free since 2007, well before the upcoming July 1 bag ban. Photo by Nina Wu.

Honolulu's plastic carryout bag ban goes into effect on Wednesday, July 1. Similar bans have already been in place on Kauai, Maui and Hawaii island. Are you ready?

Rather than pay an extra dime for compostable bags, our Big Q poll shows most people would opt to bring their own recyclable bag. While Oahu's retail stores and supermarkets are deciding what to offer as an alternative, whether it be a compostable bag, paper bag or thicker, reusable plastic bag, consumers can do their part. Many stores, including Whole Foods Market, will give you 10-cents (Target offer 5-cents) credit for each bag you bring, and hopefully, will continue to do so after the ban.

Foodland offers customers either 5-cents credit or Hawaiian Airlines miles (3 miles per bag you bring in). Foodland is also offering a "Reuse and Win! Sweepstakes." Customers who commit to bringing in reusable bags from July 1 to Aug. 4 will be entered to win weekly prizes and a $500 Foodland gift card or $500 Hawaiian Airlines gift card.

Bringing your own bag is simple and easy. Enough excuses, already. I've heard them all. You can pick up dog poop with other bags. You won't get paper cuts from paper bags if you bring your own reusable bag. Many reusable bags are given away for free, but many are also affordable, costing as little as 99-cents or $1.99 for a quality canvas tote. Check out Nadine Kam's story for more fashionable options.

Here are some tips on BYOB (bringing your own bags)

>> KEEP THEM HANDY. For trips to the grocery store, I find that the best place to keep the bags is in the car — I keep at least a dozen in there at all times (after unloading groceries, they stay by the front door so I remember to take them back out on the way to the car). If I walk into the store and forget, then I let the clerk know I'll be right back, go to the car and get them. Consider it a short walk to get exercise. Smaller ChicoBags, EnviroSax or Baggu are also handy in a purse or another bag in case you need an extra one.

>> CHOOSE THE RIGHT ONES. After bringing your own bags for awhile, you start to figure out which ones work best for groceries versus other items. For groceries, a large, square-bottomed and insulated bag works best. This is ideal if you need to buy half-cartons of milk, soymilk, cheese, or juice or wine plus meat and other items that need to remain cold. Canvas bags work best for lighter-weight items like fruits, vegetables, cereal, bread, crackers, etc. For retail stores, go with a fashionable, lightweight fabric tote that can easily fit in your purse. Fabrics like cotton and canvas are ideal because you can throw them in the washing machine when necessary. So are the ChicoBags, EnviroSax and Baggu, which are made of nylon and also machine-washable.

>> SAY NO WHEN YOU CAN. Sometimes you really don't need a bag. Many retail purchases — a pack of batteries, a candy bar or even a dress — will fit right in your purse. I bought an adorable dress at Global Village, for instance, kept the receipt and put it straight into my backpack. The money that Global Village saves, according to owner Debbie Ah Chick, goes to two non-profits in the community. Make sure to get a receipt and keep it carefully as proof of your purchase before walking out of the store. At Ross, I oftentimes find a great deal on baskets to help organize the mess at home. The basket doubles as a container for purchases on the way out. Buying a sandwich for lunch? Skip the bag. Just take the sandwich wrapped in paper and go.


Target in Kailua made a smart move by offering neither paper nor plastic when it opened in February. Photos by Nina Wu.



The Liquor Collection at Ward Warehouse reminds patrons of the plastic bag ban going into effect July 1.

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Q&A Kahi Pacarro

June 18th, 2015

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro upon his return from a 21-day expedition to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands with NOAA to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Upon his June 8 return from a 21-day mission to the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands, also known as Papahanaumokuakea, aboard the NOAA ship Hi‘ialakai, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii director Kahi Pacarro says he's hoping to return again to clear even more of it from those remote isles.

NOAA partnered with Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for a pilot project to pick up terrestrial marine debris and plastics from the beaches of Kure Atoll, Lisianski Island, Pearl and Hermes Atoll and French Frigate Shoals during three weeks in May and June. As part of the project, the types and sources of debris will be identified, along with an estimate of accumulation rates.

In total, the team hauled back about 5,000 pounds of debris — large pieces of plastic, buoys, and nets. Most of it will be recycled and used for an installation art piece, according to Pacarro.

The Green Leaf sat down for a Q&A with Kahi.

Q: How did you end up going on this trip with NOAA?

A: The Hawaiian Monk Seal Research Program goes out every year and leaves as a full boat, drops off field teams and supplies and comes back with a barebones crew. They saw an opportunity, and said, why don't we start bringing back some of the marine debris on the way back? They thought of my organization because they've seen us get the work done and pick up marine debris versus just talking about it. That's kind of how it started.

Q: Was it a challenge?

A: For us, it was figuring out where the marine debris was coming from, how to put it on a small boat, how to get it from reef to boat, how to make sure it's stored safely, how to get it off the boat and into a storage facility...The NOAA marine debris program focuses on entanglement hazards, so that's going to be nets floating on nearshore waters, nets on shores and beaches, and those attached to reefs...Then there's the terrestrial plastic polluting the beach. That's the stuff the Monk Seal Research Program team has to walk by on a daily basis to check on the monk seals...So we picked up those piles, and ended up bringing back about 5,000 pounds of marine debris.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Crew removed nets from Papahanaumokuakea and hauled them back to Oahu aboard the Hi‘ialakai. Photo by Bruce Asato.

Q: What will you do with 5,000 pounds of that marine debris?

A: We'll be incorporating them into the state's largest marine debris art installation at Thomas Square (in time for) the 2016 IUCN (Sept. 1-10) conference. When completed, it will be recycled through our partnerships with Method and Parley for the Oceans. Whatever they can't take, ropes and what not, if we don't have a source for somebody to recycle it, it will go to our trash energy program...

Q: Since this was your first time out there, what was your first impression? What was the most interesting observation you made out there?

A: The first place we landed was Tern Island at French Frigate Shoals...There were so many birds. It was like stepping into a National Geographic television show...They're everywhere, and you have to look where you step because there are eggs everywhere. It's a very fragile ecosystem. One false step and you've killed a baby bird.

Q: What about the amount of marine debris out there?

A: What I saw was the dirtiest beach I'd ever been to, and that was on Laysan. It must have been accumulation of plastics since the invention of plastics. It was the dominant feature of the landscape. It outnumbered birds. The birds just live amongst it, and so do the [Hawaiian monk] seals, and so do the turtles. They live with this marine debris and they become dull to it just like society becomes dull to it. What we have to do is raise awareness...

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Hawaiian monk seal lying among marine debris litter at French Frigate Shoals. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

When we did our first beach cleanup, there were only eight of us cleaning this south section of Lisianski island, this thing was three or four football fields, and there was marine debris everywhere. There was no way eight of us were going to make a dent in this zone. We said, 'You know what? Let's just try.' Within six hours, we had that area completely clean... We just put out heads down, drank a lot of water and pt on a lot of sunscreen. It was really hot, but it was so rewarding...We created this technique, using old ropes to string up the [commercial fishing] buoys like they were a 200-pound lei, and like football players pulled them up oto the high tide line where they couldn't be easily washed away. Knowing we could up that much area with so few people gives you hope...

Q: Was it an eye-opener for you, even though you already deal with marine debris at your beach cleanups?

A: Yeah, definitely. I didn't expect there to be that much trash. Some key things that stuck out in my mind were the amount of commercial fishing gear that was out there...I saw multiple smart FADs (Fish Aggregating Devices) used in the commercial fishing industry...It's like a dome, it floats, has a solar panel, electronics within with sonar testers that can be calibrated to determine how many fish are also has GPS coordinates...We saw at least 100 FADs out there...We looked up these companies and their focus is on bluefin tuna. I eat so much tuna. I love spicy ahi donburi — now what am I supposed to do because I am contributing to this problem? It's a tough realization, yet I am contributing to this problem on a large-scale by firing up on spicy ahi donburi, unless it's coming from my local fisherman... It comes down to regulation, it also comes down to us as consumers...

Q: What type of marine debris did you find  most of out there?

A: I was expecting to find a lot of single-use plastic water bottles out there. The only bottles making it out there were bottles where the cap was left on. Every single bottle that we found out there had a cap on it...That means that billions of bottles that do make it into the ocean are sinking to the bottom and lining the ocean floor...The No. 1 trash items were from the hag fish and oyster industries...Hag fish traps and oyster spacers, then buoys...And we still found a lot of [plastic] straws, a lot of toothbrushes and a lot of razors, even deodorant.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

This dead albatross, upon examination, has a belly full of plastics. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Q: How does this change your perspective on marine debris and your mission at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii?

A: It strengthens our existing desire to clean more marine debris, increase recycling of marine debris using what's existing versus virgin products, along with being better consumers, and using the power of our wallets to effect change within our society. That transcends beyond marine debris and plastics. That goes into what you eat, what you eat it out of, energy, where you get your energy from...

Q: Will you return to Papahanaumokuakea next year?

A: I sure hope so...Potentially, next year what we'd like to do, is probably have one of us on the boat for the whole time. When it gets to Midway, have a crew of our own meet them there and come down as a team to exponentially increase the amount of marine debris we can pick up...


Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's next big event is its Magic Island & Ala Wai Boat Harbor Cleanup on Saturday, June 27. Check in time is 9:30 a.m., clean up time is 10 a.m. to noon. Free lunch will be available while supplies last.


No love for locks

June 10th, 2015

Love locks like this one at the summit gate of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail eventually rust. Too many of them cause structural damage. The locks will be removed by maintenance staff and 808 Cleanups volunteers. Photo by Jamm Aquino.

Love locks like this one at the summit of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail eventually rust and cause rust. Too many of them cause structural damage. Photo by Jamm Aquino.

Love those locks, not.

While the notion initially seems romantic, the fad of leaving love locks affixed to fences, bridges and public structures is, when compounded, a littering problem not too different from unauthorized graffiti. City authorities in Paris finally began removing thousands of locks weighing 45 tons from the Pont des Arts earlier this month as a safety measure and effort to preserve the historic bridge. (A chunk of fencing fell from the weight of the locks last summer).

I wrote a story about our local love locks problem in Tuesday's paper.

Whatever its origins — some believe it was inspired by an Italian film — the love lock fad has made its way across the globe. On Oahu, the most popular spot for love locks is the fence at the summit of the Makapuu Lighthouse Trail at Kaiwi State Scenic Shoreline.

At one time, there were 800 to 900 locks that volunteers from 808 Cleanups removed in September 2014. The next day, they removed another 119, and an average of 10 to 20 a week in following weeks. There is a sign up there that informs folks that the locks will be removed on a weekly basis.

Love locks at the summit of Makapuu in September 2014. Photo by Lanipuakea Pila-Newville.

Love locks at the summit of Makapuu in September 2014. Photo by Lanipuakea Pila-Newville.

But as we all know, signs don't stop people from doing what they want to do. On a recent Sunday, only two locks were up there, including the one pictured above. Sorry Aleso, sorry Roxanne, but your lock came down. On the following Thursday, I only found one. Side note: What's up with all of the people who climb past the barrier with their selfie sticks - is it a quest to get the ultimate selfie shot?

With the salt air, those locks rust pretty fast. So does the fence.

Social media perpetuates the practice of leaving love locks, mostly  by visitors that don't know any better. In this YouTube video, a happy-looking couple places the lock on the fence, then throws the keys "away." It's a sweet video. Except that "away" is down on the rocks below, and eventually, the ocean.

Perhaps there are solutions. In Moscow, they put up artificial  "lock trees" along the banks of the Moscow River instead of the bridge at the site. 808 Cleanups volunteer Lanipuakea Pila-Newville suggested people put the lock on, take a photo, and then take it home with them as a souvenir.

At any rate, the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources is also repaving the trail and replacing the steps with a new walkway, fencing and railings at the two top lookouts (lots of dust if you're hiking during the construction and watch out for the tractors passing by). DLNR assistant parks administrator Curt Cottrell says the new design, with vertical bars too thick to attach padlocks to, should help deter the love locks fad. Renovations began in February and should be completed this summer.

Kudos to the volunteers who hike up there with bolt-cutters to keep the summit fence love-lock free (plus pick up litter on the way down). Photos by Jamm Aquino.

808 Cleanups volunteer Kelly Quin removes a love lock at Makapuu Lighthouse Trail, above. Volunteer Lani Newville removing a lock, below . Photos by Jamm Aquino.

808 Cleanups volunteer Kelly Quin, above, after removing a "love lock" at Makapuu Lighthouse Trail. Volunteer Lanipuakea Pila-Newville, below, removing a lock. Volunteer Brian Connors, bottom photo, removing lock from bunkers at the top of the trail.

 Makapuu Love Locks

808 Cleanups volunteer Brian Connors removing a lock from inside the bunker at Makapuu Lighthouse Trail.

Posted in Lifestyle, Volunteer | Comments Off on No love for locks

Q&A: Ashley Lukens

June 8th, 2015



Ashley Lukens, program director of the Hawai‘i Center for Food Safety, did not initially set out to be part of the GMO fight in Hawaii. The former co-owner of Baby Awearness, a Manoa boutique selling reusable diapers and other products for eco-minded parents, focused her dissertation at the University of Hawaii at Manoa on food policy. It was entitled "Theorizing Food Justice: Critical Positionality and the Political Economy of Community Food Systems." She is also a founding member of the Hawaii Food Policy Council.

ashley_lukensBut she was working for another non-profit when the phone call from the center came, recruiting her to head up a Hawaii office. Little did she know at the time she would be stepping up to the plate in the battle for more regulations and transparency of GE crops in Hawaii.

The Washington D.C. based Center for Food Safety, a national non-profit public interest and environmental advocacy organization, was founded by public interest attorney Andrew Kimbrell 15 years ago. Though the Hawaii office just opened last April, the center played a role in the protest of kalo patents here nine years ago and is currently involved in the legal wranglings of GE regulation issues in three counties: Kauai, Hawaii and Maui.

"Pesticides in Paradise: Hawai‘i's Health & Environment At Risk," published in May, is a detailed review of the status of the GE crop field trials in Hawaii, as well as the use of pesticides in these field trials, and their impact on human and environmental health.

Among its key findings:

>> Since 1987, Hawaii has hosted more cumulative field trials — 3,243 — than any other state. Last year, 178 different GE field tests were conducted on more than 1,381 sites in Hawaii (compare this to only 175 sites in California). From 2007 to 2012, DuPont-Pioneer applied 90 different pesticide formulations containing 63 different active ingredients on Kauai.

>> The seed industry's footprint, at nearly 25,000 acres, is 72 percent of the total area planted to crops, other than sugarcane or pineapple. The majority of plants being tested are corn and soy, not niche crops such as papaya or banana. Over the past five years, the most frequently tested trait in GE crop field tests in Hawaii was herbicide-resistance.

>> Due to Hawaii's small size, it has a higher density of field tests than other states. More people in Hawaii live in closer proximity to field test sites, running a higher risk of experiencing pesticide drift.

The Green Leaf sat down for a conversation with Lukens.

Q: So you weren't interested initially interested in wading into the GMO debate in Hawaii?

A: I was not interested in the debate when it was couched as the papaya (debate), if GE papaya is safe to eat, and I wasn't interested in the labeling debate...I think we should label, as a mom. As owner of Baby Awearness, one of the things that was so overwhelmingly profound to me was the new sense of responsibility that parents felt for the health and safety of their kids, to the extent they were willing to radically change things about their lives. What Baby Awearness did was provide them with information they needed to make decisions. To me, that was the labeling conversation...

Q: What changed your mind?

A: So I meet this mom named Malia Chun, with two daughters. Her house shares a fenceline with one of these field (in Kekaha, Kauai). In three years, she's developed adult asthma and her daughters have chronic respiratory issues and nosebleeds. She's debating the prospect of sending her children to Waimea Canyon Middle School because that school's been evacuated three times (due to suspected incidents of pesticide drift)...I started to think, this isn't an issue about labeling, this is an environmental justice issue...

Q: Are GE crops and pesticides inextricably linked?

A: I think before Center for Food Safety entered the fray and tried to clarify the debate, it was about papaya, it was about what corn you could eat....This pesticide report emerges from my need to figure out what was going on...[The "Pesticides in Paradise" report] examines what's going on, where are these companies, what are they growing and what pesticides are they using? I wanted to know all the available data and also the gaps in the data...

Q: Where did you get the data?

A: Some of the information was released from the Pioneer dust class action suit (a federal court jury awarded $507,090 to 15 Waimea residents in May). You can dig into the data on a publicly available website reporting (U.S. Department of Agriculture) field trial permits every year, but it's not user-friendly...The first thing I learned was that Hawaii hosts more field trials than any other state in the nation...

And then we said, okay, what are the field trials for? Eighty-seven percent of the plants were being genetically engineered for herbicide tolerance.  This means that plants genetically engineered in Hawaii, by and large, are engineered to resist ever greater application of herbicides...So that to me really clarified that, in Hawaii, the issue of genetic engineering is not the issue of whether it's safe to eat, the issue is whether these plants are safe to develop and grow.

We're not simply growing deregulated GE corn varieties. The [seed] companies will often say, well these products have already been approved. They've been proven safe. They get exemptions because they're field trials. They are, by definition, experimental...Most of it is corn and soy...Who holds the most permits? Monsanto, Pioneer, Syngenta, Dow Chemical, Dupont-Pioneer....Only Kauai requires that companies report the pesticides they're spraying because of the victory of the community passing ordinance 960 [which in turn was struck down by a federal judge]. The mayor asked the companies to participate in a voluntary report and they did, so over the year I've been running the office we've been getting monthly reports [from the Kauai Good Neighbor Program].

Q: And what are the consequences for people who live here?

A: The other thing we found out is that Hawaii has a much higher population density than the states that are also hosting high volumes. And a lot of our communities live in agricultural spaces....With a cursory review of data, what was different about Hawaii was clear, the relationship between GEs and pesticides was clear. What exactly is the pesticide use, is where it becomes really scary because, by and large, we have no idea what these companies are doing...The second part of the report really digs into the pesticide use associated with GE field trials on Kauai and it makes an argument that disclosure is necessary statewide because we only have this data for Kauai.

Q: What was the most alarming finding?

A: The amount of chlorpyrifos these companies are using. Chlorpyrifos is a very well researched pesticide. One of the things these companies will say is you can't prove that the health problems in these communities are related to pesticide use...So I think it's the responsibility of the state to say, where else have these studies been done? Those studies already do exist...I think the science is clear and it is incumbent on the state to put protection measures in place for our kupuna and our children...

Q: What do you hope releasing this report to the public accomplishes?

A: At the end of the day, it's giving the public access to the information they need to be informed advocates. We need to be asking, what types of policy are we making? There's the larger question about what a state like Hawaii should be doing with its prime agricultural lands. This industry's expanding. We don't have the regulations on the books that respond to the ag practices of these companies. Our ag regulations were developed for sugar and pineapple...

We're increasingly food insecure, importing upwards of 85, 90 percent of our food annually. We need to be asking, as a state, what types of policies are we pursuing to ensure that we grow enough food to sustain our population?...Ag self sufficiency means the products that come off the farm in Hawaii feed Hawaii. [GE seed crops]  are an export-oriented industry. We need to ask ourselves, for our long-term economic sustainability, do we really want to be making GE seed crops the third leg of our economy? It seems foolish to me.

Posted in GMOs, Green health | Comments Off on Q&A: Ashley Lukens

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