Archive for the ‘Lifestyle’ Category

Lining trash cans

August 19th, 2015
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So what do you line your trash can with when there's a plastic bag ban? This is the conversation we've been having since Honolulu's plastic bag ban went into effect July 1, 2015. It seems to be the No. 1 question, with some folks going into panic mode and hopping online to order the exact, same plastic carryout bags. The kind that say "thank you" on them (alright, so you can order a case of 500 for $22.50 plus free shipping which comes out to a little less than 5-cents per bag).

Except that in Honolulu, it's still pretty easy to get a plastic bag.

1. Just get takeout lunch (Honolulu's law does not apply to prepared foods).

2. Go to Wal-Mart or Times Supermarket and check out with a thicker, plastic bag that is still acceptable due to a loophole in Honolulu's law.

The idea is to reduce, then reuse and recycle — to reduce the energy that goes into manufacturing these plastic bags that we take too much for granted, and toss too carelessly. That point seems to get lost in the conversation.

"Our main goal is not to get rid of every single plastic bag, but just to stop the tidal wave of plastic bags flowing out of grocery stores and into our waterways, trees and oceans," said Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation. "And to persuade big stores like Wal-Mart and Times that they shouldn't try skirting the law by producing thicker, plastic bags that defeat the whole purpose of why we worked so hard for over five years to pass these laws."

It falls on the educated consumer to make the decision. No one's perfect. It may just mean the days of bringing home 15-20 thin, filmy plastic bags with the groceries, including two for the gallon of milk you could have just carried in the cart, are over.

The Green Leaf sought out some suggestions on alternatives. We asked, "What do you line your trash can with, if not with plastic carryout bags from the grocery store?"

Answers:

1. Consolidate and reuse (Stuart Coleman, Surfrider Foundation).

Personally, I either reuse old, plastic bags as trash liners and just dump the trash into the one big kitchen bag. Or I just don't use them in bathroom and office bins.

Stuart Coleman, manager, Surfrider Foundation, at the fashion show protesting the loophole in Honolulu's law allowing for thicker plastic bags in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku in July. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

Stuart Coleman, Surfrider Foundation, at the fashion show protesting the loophole in Honolulu's law allowing for thicker plastic bags in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku in July. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

2. Feed bags, reused bags. (Kahi Pacarro, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii)

What we use are feed bags from stables, reused bags from the veggie scraps we pick up from our local sandwich shop, and new bags that we buy from the store. By composting and recycling, we have only 2-3 bags of debris per week. For our bathroom cans (the size single use plastic bags are used for) we either don't line them or we use other bags that end up in our household from ordering things online from places like Amazon.com.

FeedsackKAHI

3. Newspapers

OK, so I've never tried this one, but maybe I will, with the Sunday edition of the Honolulu Star-Advertiser. Lindsay, a blogger from Australia, posted this photo of newspaper layered into a wastebasket in April 2013 when the city of Fremantle banned plastic bags. She gives step by step instructions in this blog post and says she rolls the top over for disposal.

Newspaper lined wastebasket from treadingmyownpath.com.

Newspaper lined wastebasket from treadingmyownpath.com.

4. Woven basket, no liner

Jen Metz Kane, our trash-free year blogger, says her family only uses liners for her kitchen trash container. For all other household trash: "We just use woven baskets." As for the kitchen bags, she purchases Green Legacy bags online, which are made from green energy and oxo-biodegradable. Let me add that Jen is using reusable, cloth diapers for her baby girl. To carry wet diapers or clothes, there are several "dry/wet bags" on the market. They probably work pretty well for wet swimming suits and towels, too.

This Bumpkins wet bag on Amazon is made of "easy wipe waterproof fabric, stain and odor resistant."

This Bumpkins wet bag on Amazon is made of "easy wipe waterproof fabric, stain and odor resistant."

5. Potato chip bags, milk cartons.

This hilarious video will make you laugh out loud. It suggests using half-gallon milk cartons, potato chip bags and bread bags.

I found the link  from thekitchn.com. (No More plastic bags in the trash). There really isn't an easy answer.

My answer: Reuse and compost.

What I've found personally, even though I've brought my own bags to the grocery store for years is that you still have plenty of bags that come from somewhere. I have not run out of a supply yet, so just like everyone else, I reuse them. I get them when visitors, like my mother or mother-in-law, bring them into the house. I inherited a box full of plastic bags after helping a friend at her garage sale. I reuse bread bags and newspaper bags. I know some people are using post-consumer recycled paper bags that stores are giving out, too. I like the suggestion of using half-gallon milk cartons.

Nature mill home composters. No mess, no smells.

Nature mill home composters. No mess, no smells.

We DO continue to purchase tall, kitchen trash bags from Costco, which is no different from before. On average, we use one per week. Our plug-in NatureMill composter takes care of a lot of fruit and vegetable scraps, coffee grounds, leftovers, plus egg shells that normally would go into the kitchen trash, which leaves room to consolidate the trash from the bathroom. I call it the lazy person's composter, since you just open the top lid, put in your scraps, add baking soda and sawdust occasionally. Done. (I highly commend worm and bokashi bucket composters, as well). It's doable.

Reduce, buy in bulk

Natalie McKinney, director of program development at the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, said buying in bulk, reducing waste by recycling and not buying so many single-use items can help reduce the need for multiple trash bags per week.

Plus, if you bring your own bag, you get 5 to 10-cents credit per bag from most retail stores.

Got any other ideas or suggestions? Share them with us.

Here are singer Jack Johnson's Top 10 Plastic-Free tips.

Musician Jack Johnson's Top 10 Plastic Free Ideas.

Anti-plastic fashion show

July 23rd, 2015
By



Demonstrators from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation demonstrated against the thicker plastic bags that Wal-Mart is handing out at noon Thursday. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation demonstrated against the thicker plastic bags that Wal-Mart is handing out with a fashion show at noon Thursday. Photos by Cindy Ellen Russell.

More than a dozen demonstrators staged a plastic bag protest in front of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street at noon today. Donning self-made creations constructed from thick, plastic bags (the ones they were protesting), the demonstrators from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Surfrider Foundation put on an impromptu, sidewalk fashion show.

The purpose was to raise awareness over the harm that stores like Wal-Mart create when handing out a thicker version of plastic bags to customers at checkout which, they say, defies the spirit of the plastic bag ban that went into effect on Oahu July 1.

"What we're trying to do is shine a light on the fact that a lot of our local retailers are still skirting the law when it comes to the plastic bag ban," said Sustainable Coastlines director Kahi Pacarro, donning a plastic bag tie.

The Honolulu version of the law contains a loophole which allows retailers to give customers reusable bags, which is defined as a "bag with handles that is specifically designed and manufactured for multiple reuse." It can be made of cloth or other washable fabric or a "durable material suitable for reuse," which includes plastic that is at least 2.25 mils thick.

Wal-Mart is not the only one handing out the thicker plastic bags, which angered Anna Sabino and prompted her to start a change.org petition earlier this month. Longs Drugs, Times Supermarket, City Mill, Don Quijote, Tamura's, Thinker Toys and Chevron are culprits, too. However, Wal-Mart actually goes so far as to write the word "Sustainable" on its thicker, plastic bags, which is greenwashing at its finest.

While twirling and marching down the sidewalk, the demonstrators, which included kids dressed in plastic bag frocks, women in frilly, plastic skirts and a fully-decked-out plastic bag monster man, held signs to educate consumers about the harm that plastic bags cause.

They also handed out free, reusable canvas bags — part of a Bag A New Friend campaign that Sustainable Coastlines is running. Here's how it works: When you go shopping, bring an extra bag or bags to give to others that may have forgotten theirs or others that don't have any. Post it to social media with #BagANewFriend.

Demonstrators were also giving out their ideal, reusable bags in front of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street on Thursday, part of Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's #BagANewFriend campaign.

Demonstrators were also giving out reusable bags in front of Wal-Mart on Keeaumoku Street on Thursday, part of Sustainable Coastline Hawaii's #BagANewFriend campaign.

The protestors' signs said:

>> "10 percent of the plastic produced every year worldwide winds up in the ocean." — United Nations Environment Programme.

>> "The average American family takes home 1,500 plastic bags a year." — Natural Resources Defense Council.

>> "About 2 million plastic  bags are used every minute around the world." — Earth Policy Institute

While the thicker version of these plastic bags are available, they do as much harm to the environment as the thinner versions. They end up littering beaches and waterways, entering the ocean ecosystem and take even longer to break down. They may be reused a few more times than the thinner version, but are generally used only once.

Of the four isles (Kauai, Maui, Oahu and Hawaii island), only Oahu offers this loophole. Oahu's plastic bag ban also allows for compostable bags, even though there is no commercial composting facility on the isle.

The whole idea is really to reduce the amount of plastic.

The "plastic bag monster" participated in a demonstration fashion show in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku on Thursday.

The "plastic bag monster" participated in a demonstration in front of Wal-Mart Keeaumoku on Thursday. Photo by Cindy Ellen Russell.

The message of the demonstration was lost on Rose Pristow of Honolulu, who was sitting nearby. When she shops Wal-Mart, she takes the plastic bag for her purchases, which she had tucked into a reusable bag from Whole Foods Market. She takes the plastic bags to line her garbage cans at home, and does not see an issue with littering as long as she makes sure they go into the trash can.

"I'm for the environment, but I didn't understand what was going on," she said.

She was surprised to learn that some of the plastic bags end up at the beach.

Another shopper, Susan (declined to give last name), said she's been bringing her own bags since the ban went into place. On Thursday, she ended up buying more than she initially planned at Wal-Mart, so she used a few cardboard boxes to corral her purchases in the shopping cart, Costco-style. She keeps a bag full of other reusable bags ready in her car.

The majority of shoppers exiting Wal-Mart appear to take the thicker, plastic bags for their purchases, which are free, although a reusable bag is also available by the checkout stand for 50-cents. Many other retail stores, such as Safeway, are using paper bags while offering reusable bags for sale. Foodland offers customers who bring their own bags 5-cents credit per bag or Hawaiian Airlines miles. Some retailers, like Ross, will begin charging a fee for paper bags with handles, starting August.

Related video:

Q&A Kahi Pacarro

June 18th, 2015
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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 underneath...it 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...

PUT IT ON YOUR CALENDAR

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.

SCHJune27cleanup

No love for locks

June 10th, 2015
By



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.

Inspiring #808cleanups

May 11th, 2015
By



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
By



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.

bulkbag

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 trashfreeyear.wordpress.com.

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 zerowastehome.com (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 opala.org. You can follow Jen on Twitter @trashfreeyear.

Target's bagless move

March 7th, 2015
By



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 it.com; 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.

Opala.org 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
By



 FTR NATIVE KOKIO KEOKEO

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 nwu@staradvertiser.com. 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.

ABOUT ME

Mommy&B

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
By



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.

FOUNDWOOD CUTTING BOARDS

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 www.etsy.com/shop/FOUNDWOODworking.

GIFT OF FOOD, CSA SUBSCRIPTION

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.

THE GREEN HOUSE HOLIDAY GIFTS

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 www.thegreenhousehawaii.com to find directions. Call 524-8427 for more information.

ADOPT A WILD ANIMAL, SIERRA CLUB

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 sierraclub.org to learn more.

SierraWildAnimal

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

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.

GIFTS OF NATURE, THE NATURE CONSERVANCY

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 www.nature.org.

REUSABLE BAGS

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 ecolicious.com.

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 ecolicious.com.

A Pono Home

February 10th, 2014
By



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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 greenlivingideas.com)

>> 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.