Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

Inspiring #808cleanups

May 11th, 2015

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups  beneath Koko Crater Arch.  Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

The original group of hikers behind 808 cleanups beneath Koko Crater Arch. 808 Cleanups founder Michael David Loftin, in red T-shirt, top. Photo courtesy 808 Cleanups.

While keeping tabs on breaking news stories, I've been wondering why there seem to have been so many hiking-related injuries and fatalities in recent months.

Some blame social media and the Internet for leading thrill-seekers and inexperienced hikers to unsanctioned trails that were formerly known to more experienced or knowledgeable hikers. Is it social media's fault? Is it today's quest to capture the coolest selfie, teetering on the edge of a mountain ridge? I don't know the answers. I know that plenty of experienced hikers from the Hawaiian Trail and Mountain Club have been going on some of these trails for years, without incident. Sometimes, I think it's just an unfortunate accident. No matter what, any hiking accident is tragic.

But social media can also be used in a positive way.

The Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources has taken the strategy of using social media to warn people of the dangers of hiking Sacred Falls with this video. Interestingly, landowner Kamahameha Schools took a different tactic, sending out "cease and desist" requests, according to this Hawaii News Now report, asking more than a dozen bloggers to stop promoting hiking trails on their properties. The resulting consequences are sad – Mariner's Ridge, one of my favorite hikes on Oahu (and the one where I met my husband), is now fenced off.

Today's column features a non-profit called 808 Cleanups, which was founded by a group of avid hikers who want to use social media for good.

Founder Michael David Loftin and his friends first became concerned when they found nature tagging below Koko Crater Arch. They decided to do something about it — clean it up, educate and encourage others to steward these beautiful places on Oahu.

The mission of 808 Cleanups is "to empower communities in restoring their natural environments through decentralized beach, graffiti, hiking trail and marine debris cleanups." Volunteers from 808 Cleanups are "striving to keep these areas beautiful for future generations" through an Adopt a Site program, education and political advocacy.

So, with a decentralized philosophy, anyone can lead a beach cleanup — whether you're a party of one and two or a party of 20.

"808 Cleanups can occur many ways," said Loftin, a Peace Corps veteran and lifelong environmentalist. "I would say 80 percent are people doing their own cleanups wherever they are. Sharing the stories is really important even if its' a small cleanup."

Taking your dog for a walk on the beach? Make sure you pick up after your dog, of course, and pick up some marine debris on the shoreline while you're at it. Going for a hike with some friends? Pick up any litter that you see along the trails and carry it out with you. The philosophy is to leave it better than when you got there.

Post it to Facebook, Instagram and Twitter with #808cleanups and inspire others to do the same.

Follow the Leave No Trace outdoors ethic.

If people are using social media to find formerly unknown hikes, Loftin figures it can also be used to encourage people to respect nature and be responsible hikers and stewards of nature. The goal, he says, is to "make it better than when you found it."

808 Cleanup volunteers recently helped clean layers of trash from Tantalus Lookout (getting the community and Hawaii Discovery Tours involved), bonfire debris from Kaiwi Shoreline and continue to steward Liliuokalani Botanical Park, a city park that has also been neglected. Volunteers who clean a site at least twice a month and post to social media can get a free cleanup kit from 808 Cleanups' sponsor, Home Depot. Loftin usually meets volunteers on site to deliver the cleanup kits.

Find 808 Cleanup's calendar here. 808 cleanups is on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter.

Related Videos:
Intro to 808 Cleanups

Pride Rock cleanup (Lanikai pillbox hike)

Living trash-free

March 9th, 2015

Jen Metz Kane and Adam Kane at checkout, Down to Earth Organic and Natural. They brought their own reusable bags and containers for bulk honey, raisins, mueslix and oats (and a cookie). Photo by Nina Wu.

Jen Metz Kane and Adam Kane at checkout, Down to Earth Organic and Natural. They shop with their own reusable bags and containers. Photos by Nina Wu.

You can say Jen Metz Kane inspires me.

Whereas I bring my own reusable bags to the grocery and retail store, she takes it a step further by bringing her own, reusable produce bags and purchases items in bulk. So okay, I can try to do that, too. I saw this woman at checkout once with  these reusable mesh bags for produce that gave me a flash of inspiration, but never followed through. This will be the month to try it.


Jen, an environmental educator, actually challenged herself to live a trash-free year from  Jan. 1 to Dec. 31, 2011 and blogged about it at

It was all prompted by news that Honolulu, with its overflowing landfills, was going to ship its trash to Washington state (remember that?). That's a pretty crazy idea, and it never panned out, anyways, when tribes from the Yakama Nation filed suit to stop it. After all, they didn't want thousands of tons of trash being transported along their reservation, according to a Wall Street Journal article.

She put a lot of thought into what to buy, avoiding items with too much packaging. She started a compost. She got creative "upcycling" items that normally go in the trash.

In one year, she made lots of compost — and just one 1-gallon Ziplock bag full of items that could not go in the compost bin or be recycled. Though the challenge is done, she continues the lifestyle.

"It's no hardship once you get in the habit of it," she said at Down to Earth Organic and Natural.

I tagged along as she and her husband, Adam, purchased a few items in the bulk section using reusable ChicoBag produce bags (and one made from an old T-shirt). She keeps all of the bags in a lauhala basket in the car. And by the way, she throws these reusable bags in with the regular load of laundry each time (so they do get washed).

From the bulk bins, she bought honey (in a reusable water bottle), mueslix, oat flour, carob chips and raisins. Bulk cocoa went into a Hershey's can from a previous purchase. Sounds like the ingredients for oat raisin muffins. To cut down on the sticker labels for bulk items, she just lists all of the items on the back of a reused business card to relay to the cashier at checkout.

Usually, she brings her own jars to buy freshly ground peanut butter and almond butter. Even a cookie from the baked goods section goes into a cloth bag, not a throw-away paper bag.

Adam Kane reusing a Hershey's cocoa can for a bulk purchase at Down to Earth.

Adam Kane reusing a Hershey's cocoa can for a bulk purchase at Down to Earth.

After Down to Earth, they headed to Foodland for local produce and fruits, plus eggs (only in the pressed paper containers, which she shreds and puts in her compost), using the reusable produce bags. At Whole Foods, she buys the freshly baked loaf of bread, requests it sliced but puts it in her own cloth bag. Then brings it home and puts it in a clean, reused bread bag.

As Jen explained, they also have a CSA (community supporting agriculture) subscription from Just Add Water that provides a lot of produce from local farms in Hawaii.

It's a lot more than what most people would do.

And yet, search online, and you'll see that there are  a few individuals publicly embracing this zero-waste lifestyle. In Oakland, Calif., there's plastic-free Beth. There's the Zero-Waste family of (video) with Bea Johnson, a Frenchwoman who lives in Mill Valley, Calif.. There's also this young woman in New York City who lives a zero-waste life. (Video).

platesnapkinsIt'll be interesting to see how Jen and Adam tackle a trash-free lifestyle with the arrival of a baby girl, expected in April. For starters, she's going with reusable diapers. At an eco-friendly baby shower, they brought their own plates, silverware and cloth napkins, and set up a little compost pail. Gifts came in reusable  bags or reused gift bags.


Kids potentially create a whole other level of consumption, from birth to toddlerhood and beyond. I write this as I try to tame what looks like an explosion of a four-year-old's (and a dog's) toys across the floor, a trail of stickers and dried out play dough on the coffee (now play) table.

Still, in future generations, I don't think the Yakama Nation, nor any community on the U.S. mainland, wants Hawaii's shrink-wrapped trash shipped to their land again. If we generate trash, we should deal with our own trash, manage it and reduce it. It all starts, perhaps, with mindfulness and a simple step.

Honolulu's plastic checkout bag ban goes into effect July 1. It includes the plastic checkout bag so many of us have taken for granted for so many years. It does not include the produce bags you find inside grocery stores for vegetables, fruits and bulk items, bags used to wrap meat or flowers, nor does it include plastic bags for takeout food from restaurants and lunch wagons. Find the details at You can follow Jen on Twitter @trashfreeyear.

Target's bagless move

March 7th, 2015

Shoppers at Target Kailua's opening day, March 4, 2015. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Shoppers at Target Kailua's opening day, March 4, 2015. Photo by Dennis Oda.

Smart. Brilliant. À propos.

Target's move to offer customers no free bag at checkout at its Kahului, Maui and Kailua, Oahu stores on Wednesday was a logical step. On Maui, plastic checkout bags are banned. On Oahu, the plastic checkout ban goes into effect July 1. While the stores could have offered customers recyclable paper bags, the U.S.'s No. 2 discount chain opted to offer neither.

And you know what?

It's really no big deal. Costco shoppers already check out without bags. Why couldn't they do it at Target, another big-box retailer, as well?

For those of us who've already been bringing our own bags to shop for years, the response is – great! No big adjustment.

The Minneapolis-based retailer also offers customers 5-cents credit for each bag you bring in. That's better than Safeway next door, which offers nothing, although I do like their self checkout option. Whole Foods Market Kailua a block away offers 10-cents credit (and the checkout cashiers always say "thanks!").

Are there going to be some customers griping, while juggling loose items all the way to the car? Maybe.

The ubiquitous plastic checkout bags, which have been given away for free, are really not. There's an additional cost built into the overhead by businesses and there's an environmental cost that should be calculated as well. The average family accumulates 60 plastic bags in only four trips to the grocery store, according to reuse; the U.S. goes through about 100 billion single-use plastic bags at a cost of $4 billion to retailers a year. Every square mile of ocean has about 46,000 pieces of plastic floating in it.

Maybe it's time we stopped taking this convenience for granted.

And maybe big-box retailers like Target can play a role in this cultural shift. I did think it was smart for the retailer to offer a 99-cent reusable bag at checkout that customers could purchase —you have to wonder how many Target sold when people discovered they wouldn't be provided bags (Target gave them away for free on the first day).

Target has been offering the 5-cents credit for reusable bags since 2009, according to this USA Today article. Interestingly enough, the same article says that CVS (owner of Long's Drugs) offers participating customers $1 cash bonuses every four times they buy something but don't request plastic bags. I'm not sure whether this program is in effect at our local Long's Drugs. Cashiers there don't promote it.

By the way, in case you don't know, Honolulu's July 1 plastic bag ban  will not allow businesses to provide plastic checkout bags, but will allow for reusable bags, compostable plastic bags and recyclable paper bags. There's still debate about how environmentally friendly compostable plastic bags really are. And paper, even recyclable, isn't necessarily better than plastic.

The ban will not cover bags for loose items like fruits, vegetables, frozen foods, takeout bags from fast food restaurants and lunch wagons, or newspaper bags. has more details and a full list.

What do you think? Was it a good move for Target to go bagless?

Murals at the entrance of Target in Kailua  by local artist Leah Kilpatrick Rigg on Monday, January 26, 2015. Photo by Krystle Marcellus.

Murals at the entrance of Target in Kailua by local artist Leah Kilpatrick Rigg on Monday, January 26, 2015. Photo by Krystle Marcellus.

Turning a new leaf

January 30th, 2015


Dear Green Leaf readers:

First of all, a big mahalo and shout-out to those of you who have been reading the column and blog, which turns four years old in February. I thank you for following along. I'm always open to your comments and suggestions – and I welcome more interaction with you, whether you agree or disagree with me.

If you have any ideas for this column, I invite you to email me You can also find me on Twitter as @ecotraveler and Facebook.

The first blog post, dated Feb. 25, 2011, was about "the plastic dilemma." Well, guess what?  We still have that plastic dilemma, only a much larger one (an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic in the ocean, to be more specific). It's funny, because the exact same dilemmas we had then are the same that we have now — without plastic bags, how do we line our wastebaskets or pick up dog poop? Back then, only Maui and Kauai had the plastic checkout bag bans in place. Then Hawaii island. Come July, Oahu's plastic bag checkout ban will go into effect, as well.

Wow, we've come a long way.

In four years, the number of homes with solar photovoltaic systems on their rooftop went from less than 1 percent to 11 percent. We have the largest number of homes with solar PV per capita than any other state in the U.S. This makes sense, given that our electricity rates are triple the average in the nation, combined with the federal and state tax credits available and lower cost of systems. But we've got a long road ahead towards reaching our Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

The blog has covered everything from plastic debris to recycling, climate change, invasive species, Hawaiian monk seals ( of course!), composting, bicycle-friendly initiatives, solar power (and the struggle to have solar power in Hawaii). All of these are still relevant, but have made it to the forefront because they affect all of us.

What else would you like to see? Have any suggestions?

On a personal level, since starting this blog, we took the big step of having a solar PV system installed on our home in 2012 (see post: "Time to go solar"). I'm grateful we were able to, considering how difficult that path has been for families that have been trying to in the last year. Since starting The Green Leaf, I also became a mom to an adorable, little boy, now age 4. In case you haven't noticed, I have a thing for Hawaiian monk seals, our official state mammal and a critically endangered species.



So let's just start with this: I am not perfect, nor am I "greener than thou." I'm just someone who cares about the paradise we live in, and someone who believes in trying to make the Earth a better place, ideal as that may seem. Through The Green Leaf, I hope to educate, inform and inspire.

Where did I get that idealism? In all honesty, I think it came from my time as an undergraduate at the University of California at Davis, one of the greenest college campuses in the U.S. I rode my bike everywhere on that campus, alongside professors and recycling was part of the lifestyle. Later, I rode my bike around the urban jungle surrounding the University of California at Berkeley while going to journalism school (and still have that bike, which was good for hills).   I did not grow up in a hippie, granola family, though we were always frugal and conscious about waste. I moved to Hawaii because of a love for hula, which is also about connecting with and having a deep respect for nature.

Let's just get the following "non-green confessions" out of the way:

>> I used disposable diapers. Yes, for three years. But I also came back to work full-time at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after three months of maternity leave, and my son was at daycare. I don't know of many daycares in Hawaii that would accept reusable diapers. So yes, guilty! But we're done with that, now. We've been fully potty-trained for a year now.

>> I forget to bring my own fork — a lot. I do have one of those bamboo forks (and actually, you can just take one from your kitchen drawer at home around with you). When I forget, I save my plastic forks and reuse them. One of my New Year's resolutions is not to forget as often.

>> I drive an SUV. Yes. a Honda CRV. Bought it when my son was born after driving a compact Toyota Corolla for more than 15 years. Pretty much all my life, I drove small, compact cars. I was on the verge of buying a pre-used Toyota Prius, but went to plan B when the seller decided she didn't want to sell after all. My family (my mother, most of all) insisted that I would need a bigger car to tote around a baby, with the carseat, stroller, and everything else that comes with a child. I fell for it. I have to admit, it has at times come in handy (for the in-laws, baby, dog and all) and it is supposed to be one of the more fuel-efficient SUVs. But lately, I've also been feeling the bulk of it, and I'm on the market for a hybrid or electric vehicle.

Green gift guide

December 8th, 2014

Foundwood cutting boards are handmade locally from reclaimed woods by Jen Homcy in the backyard of her Haleiwa home. Star-Advertiser photo.

Foundwood cutting boards are handmade locally from reclaimed woods by Jen Homcy in the backyard of her Haleiwa home. Star-Advertiser photo.

It's that time of year again. Time for gift-giving, which results in the busiest shopping season of the year. It's also a time of high consumption and too-much-stuff-we-don't-really-need-itis. The volume of household waste in the United States generally increases 25 percent between Thanksgiving and New Year's Day.

Instead of participating in the Black Friday frenzy (thank goodness, it's over), think of how you can 1) reduce packaging 2) reduce shipping by buying local or 3) give a gift that supports the earth or the concept of reusing and recycling. The Center for a New American Dream also offers tips on how to simplify the holidays. Or check out these 12 tips from the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation.

Below is a list of eco-friendly, Hawaii gift ideas for your loved ones this holiday season.


When searching for a one-of-a-kind item, look no farther than an heirloom cutting or serving board from Foundwood, a small woodworking shop created by Haleiwa resident Jen Homcy. Each of the beautiful boards is unique in shape and grain, personally shaped by Homcy, who carries on the legacy of her late father through the business. All are made exclusively from salvaged woods in Hawaii, including mango, monkeypod, koa and milo. What struck me about them is their organic, natural forms, which follow the flow of the grain, highlighting the raw beauty of the wood. These boards are smooth and very solid (you can tell by the weight when you hold them). Choose from a small, heart-shaped board made from monkeypod or an oblong rectangle made from beautiful, dark milo wood. Prices range from about $46 to $95. Find Homcy’s boards at the Kailua Town Farmers Market (she’s there on the first and third Sundays, 8:30 a.m. to noon), Nohea Gallery at Ward Warehouse and Owens & Co. in Chinatown. You can also find her at


Gifts of candies, cookies and food are always nice, but how about a CSA? A Community Supported Agriculture subscription that will deliver locally grown produce on a monthly basis. There are several to choose from in Hawaii, now — from Honolulu Farms to MA‘O Farms, Just Add Water, Oahu Fresh and Waihuena Farm on the North Shore, all offer CSAs.


Craft fairs abound during this time of year in Hawaii and are a great place to support local artisans and artists. More specifically, The Green House's holiday gift extragavanza from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 13 this year offers plenty of handmade goods that are also green, including natural cleaning products, decoupaged bottles, herbal vinegars, bath salts from herbs harvested from the garden and hard-to-find plants. Visit to find directions. Call 524-8427 for more information.


The Sierra Club's Adopt a Wild Animal program gives you the opportunity to help some of America's most vulnerable wildlife while offering a cuddly gift to a family member. Choose from a plush Polar Bear, Harbor Seal, Sea Turtle, Black Bear, Grey Wolf,  Mountain Lion or more. New this year are a Sea Otter and Manatee. For $39, you get a plush animal, sticker, plus booklet that offers information about the animal, an adoption certificate, fun animal facts, map of American wildlife and letter of recognition. For $79, you also get an 1892-style Sierra Club knapsack. For $129, you get a plush puppet and the rest. Shipping is free. Visit to learn more.


but offers you the satisfaction of knowing you are helping America's vulnerable wildlife long after the gift has been opened, according to the Sierra Club.


The Marine Mammal Center, which  just opened the new monk seal hospital in Kona, also offers an amazingly diverse selection of gifts for him, for her and for kids online. You can adopt a seal or purchase books, cards, DVDs, jewelry, handcrafted soaps and organic T-shirts to support their work. The center is based in Sausalito, Calif., north of San Francisco.


The Nature Conservancy in Hawaii, unfortunately, no longer offers logo items online, but it does offer you the opportunity to give a "gift of nature" this holiday season. You can adopt an acre on someone's behalf, make a tribute gift, give the gift of membership (specifically for Hawaii) ranging from a minimum of $25 to $500 or more, with a special e-card sent to the recipient. Visit


Wrap your gift in a reusable shopping bag or tote which itself is a gift — and can be used throughout the year. It may come in handy when Honolulu's new law banning single-use takeout plastic bags goes into effect in July 2015. Some brands with beautiful designs include envirosax, ecolicious (based in Hawaii) and chicobags.

This canvas tote from Ecolicious Hawaii comes with an eco-friendly saying. The mission of Ecolicious is to reduce the use of plastic bags in Hawaii. Photo from

This canvas tote from Ecolicious Hawaii comes with an eco-friendly saying. The mission of Ecolicious is to reduce the use of plastic bags in Hawaii. Photo from

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.

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.

Rise Above Plastics

October 4th, 2013

Our ocean is turning into a plastic soup. Image courtesy Flickr/CesarHarada on

Our ocean is turning into a plastic soup. Image courtesy Flickr/CesarHarada on

The Surfrider Foundation and Teva are bringing back "Rise Above Plastics Month" in October, with the goal of educating people on the threats that single-use plastics pose to marine environments.


"Plastic is the most common type of marine litter worldwide, comprising up to 90 percent of floating marine debris," says Laura Lee, Surfrider's director of marketing and communications.

Once again, Surfrider and Teva are offering the third annual "One Foot at a Time" plastic cleanup and art contest. To participate, artists collect one square foot of trash from their beach or community, then use the material to create a mosaic sculpture using one of the "Rise Above Plastics" templates.

This year, the templates are Halloween-themed, and include a bat, pumpkin, ghost, spider, skull or the Teva logo.

Snap a photo and email to Prizes for winners include gear from Teva, Firewire Surfboards and the Surfrider Foundation. Also, anyone who renews their Surfrider Foundation membership or donates $35 this month receives two Halloween-themed, reusable ChicoBags.

Here's a look at the single-use plastics we use on a daily basis in Honolulu (and simple ways to change this):

>> Plastic forks, spoons and knives. I admit to being guilty on this one, even though I know better, often when getting takeout lunch during the work week. The solution is simple — just bring your own fork from home or buy one of those bamboo utensil sets that you can carry with you (which I have, but often forget). At the very least, if you forget, you can always reuse plastic forks, turning them from single-use to multiple-use.

>> Plastic cups and straws. If you're a daily iced coffee or espresso drinker like me, then you probably get a single-use plastic cup and straw which you throw away after you're done drinking your beverage. The solution is to bring your own cup and reusable straw. Starbucks and many other cafes sell them. Starbucks even gives you a 10-cent discount for bringing a personal cup, which adds up after awhile.

>> Plastic grocery bags. Sure, we all reuse them to line our trash cans or to pick up dog poop, but there are so many times when the bags are unnecessary. If you bring your own bags to the grocery store, kudos to you! I've been pretty good about this one for the past few years. You can reduce plastic bags further by also bringing your own bag to retail stores, which I've been trying to do more often. Also, sometimes you can just say, "No thanks!" if you really don't have that much stuff. If you are just buying a handful of apples at the store, you don't always need to bag them. Just let the cashier ring them up loose, then throw in your reusable bag.

>> Plastic bottles. Most of us are aware that those plastic bottles for water, soda and juices are worth 5-cents apiece if you redeem them at Reynold's Recvycling. If you don't have the time to do so, then you can donate them or throw them into your blue bin for curbside pickup. So there's no excuse for NOT recycling plastic beverage bottles. On the other hand, it would be better to REDUCE the plethora of single-use plastic bottles by bringing a reusable bottle to fill up with water from the cooler, tap or fountain.

>> Plastic ziplock  bags: I confess to being guilty on this one, too. I often use ziplocks to pack snacks for my son, but what we can do to reduce the use of plastic is to simply wrap sandwiches in a napkin, wax paper or how about aluminum foil? You can also buy a reusable sandwich or snack bag from ChicoBag or LunchSkins.

>> Halloween Trick-or-Treat bags: Instead of plastic, go for felt buckets or good-quality, reusable bags that you can reuse year after year. I found an adorable, felt bucket shaped like a pumpkin for my son to use at Halloween last year. We'll be bringing it out and using it again this year.

The whole mission of Rise Above Plastics is to just be more aware. RAP is also a good reminder for those of us who already know, to remember, and to do better.

Most plastic pollution at sea starts out as litter on land, including beaches, streets and sidewalks, according to Surfrider. After plastics enter the marine environment, they slowly photodegrade and break down into smaller pieces that fish and turtles mistake for food. Our ocean is turning into plastic soup.

If you're interested in learning more, visit Surfrider's Rise Above Plastics page or check out this great educational toolkit. Surfrider also offers these 10 simple ways to rise above plastics.

A Plastic Free Life

September 17th, 2013

A photo of a dead bird with its belly full of plastic is what convinced Beth Terry of Oakland, Calif. to start living a plastic-free life. in June 2007. She was recovering from surgery when she saw the picture and an article, called "Our Oceans Are Turning Into Plastic....Are We?" (featuring the findings of Capt. Charles Moore).

Plastic-Free-book-photo-front-500-375Terry, the author of "Plastic Free: How I Kicked the Plastic Habit and How You Can Too" and (formerly fake plastic fish) blogger, will be speaking at various venues in Honolulu Sept. 20 to 22.

She'll be offering personal anecdotes and statistics on the environment and health problems related to plastic, as well as personal solutions and tips. She is also You can follow her on Twitter or Facebook.

Here's a schedule (the presentations are free):

>> Friday, Sept. 20, 4:15-6:15 p.m. at University Laboratory School, Honolulu

>> Saturday, Sept. 21, 11:30 a.m.-1:30 p.m. at Ma‘ili Point, following the International Coastal Cleanup

>> Sunday, Sept. 22, 2:30-3:30 p.m. at The Art Explorium, Kaimuki

Visit the Kokua Hawaii Foundation's website or email for more info. Don't forget to bring a reusable water bottle!

Rain Garden Manual is out

April 17th, 2013


Hot off the press: Hui O Koolaupoko's "Hawai‘i Residential Rain Garden Manual" is out.

It's available for download at this link or also from Hui O Koolaupoko for $20.

The manual offers homeowners the information they need to build a rain garden to capture and infiltrate storm water from their property. Rain gardens — flat-bottomed depressions in the ground that capture excess water and pollutants from rooftops, driveways, sidewalks, parking lots and streets — are low-cost, effective ways to participate in ocean protection.

Students recently built a rain garden on the slopes of Hawaii Pacific University's windward campus next to the Nursing Annex.

Cities like Seattle actually offer a rebate for installing cisterns and rain gardens.

Ko‘olaupoko residents are also eligible to participate in Hui O Koolaupoko's Rain Garden Co-op program, which covers the costs for rain garden materials and recruits volunteers to build one at your home. Visit their website for more information.