Archive for the ‘Plastic’ Category

Are you ready?

June 24th, 2015
By



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.

Targetsign

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

 

LiquorCollect

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

Related Video:

Jack Johnson

BYOC

April 13th, 2015
By



takeoutwaste

Takeout waste at Restaurant Row (Waterfront Plaza), 500 Ala Moana Blvd. Photos by Nina Wu.

Do you BYOC?

Bring your own container?

For those of us that love to eat out, or get takeout, yet are environmentally conscious of all the waste it creates, it's a dilemma.

A study by the Environmental Protection Agency estimated about a third of some 251 million tons of municipal solid waste in the U.S. can be attributed to food containers and packaging.

So I admit that I get takeout quite a bit — for lunch, Monday through Friday. I've aspired to bring my own, healthy and homemade lunch to work, but it just hasn't happened.

So what can we do about it?

For starters, I usually skip the plastic bag if possible. If I'm getting takeout and planning to eat right away, then I don't need the bag. I'm glad to see that some food vendors already do this — Pa‘ina Cafe, for instance, asks if you want a bag. Sandwiches can be wrapped in paper. Clamshells, another source of plastic and polystyrene waste — are self-contained, already, and don't require a bag.

So what about BYOC -  bringing your own container?

FullSizeRender

Takeout waste at the popular Eat The Street food truck rally.

I tried it at a few lunchwagons at Eat The Street last month, and was pleasantly surprised at how easy it was. One vendor piled the chow mein noodle order into my glass container without much ado. Another vendor smiled, as she put her plate lunch offerings in the container, and thanked me. She thought it was a great idea.

The downside is that because I prefer glass containers to plastic, they tend to be heavy to carry around. The upside is that whatever you bring home is easy to reheat in the microwave.

Here’s the rub, though. It turns out that the state Department of Health does not allow restaurants to serve food in a customers’ owner container, based on its interpretation of Hawaii Administrative Rules 11-50-32(p)(1), which refers to a “take-home container returned to a food establishment.”

The law is confusing because it sounds as if the rule refers to a customer bringing a take-home container back to the restaurant as opposed to bringing tupperware from home.

However, the health department says it is okay for a customer to pack their own leftovers in a reusable container after a meal at a restaurant. I think I'm going to do that from now on.

It is also acceptable to bring your own cup for beverages. Starbucks, for example, will pour a latte into a customers’ own cup and give you a 10-cent discount every time you do. I'm already a regular BYOCer there — by the way, besides the steel reusable cups that Starbucks sells, I'm a fan of Hydroflasks, which really keep your iced lattes COLD.

Also, it's perfectly acceptable to BYOC (bring your own chopsticks) plus utensils. There are lovely eco-hashi chopsticks wrapped in beautiful fabric that you can take around with you, or bamboo utensils or camping gear. But if you don't want to go out and purchase anything, you can simply reach into your drawer and carry a pair of chopsticks, or a fork, or a spoon, around with you.

So who actually cares enough to do this? I’m thinking it’s a small minority, but found three other in my circle of acquaintances.

>> Amanda Corby Noguchi, wife of Chef Mark “Gooch” Noguchi and co-founder of Pili Group, brings her own pair of wooden chopsticks and a wooden spork (combination of spoon and fork) in her purse wherever she goes. She uses them both for herself and one-year-old daughter, Elee.

>> Publicist Lacy Matsumoto, owner of Urban Pacific Communications, has been bringing her own food containers to take leftovers home for about three years. When in a bind, she’ll opt for restaurants that use biodegradable containers. She swore off straws after seeing so many pieces of them strewn along the shoreline at a beach cleanup. “At the end of the day, I know I’ve reduced my waste in some way,” she said.

>> Microplastics artist Shannon McCarthy says it’s easy to BYOC. She makes most of her meals at home in a Mason jar, but will also bring one with her for takeout. She also carries a pair of chopsticks with her, as well as a multiple-use camping gear tool equipped with knife, fork and spoon. Mason jars work well for soups, salads, and beverages.

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.

Q&A, Anissa Gunther, Kailua Sailboards

February 6th, 2015
By



Annissa

Q&A with Anissa Gunther, manager, Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks

Founded in 1982, Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks offers kayak, stand-up paddle and snorkel gear rentals while also offering adventure tours out to the Mokuluas.

But the watersports company also believes in stewardship of the natural environment and education. Last year, the company transformed the Malama Lounge, where visitors go to watch a safety video, into the Kailua Bay Education Center, offering interactive displays about plastic pollution's impact on the ocean, as well as information on Hawaii's endangered birds and Hawaiian monk seals.

They learn that eight out of the top 10 items found during last year's International Coastal Cleanup Day were plastics related to eating and drinking. While stand-up paddling and kayaking with pet pooches has become an increasingly common sight in Kailua, dogs are not allowed at Flat Island or the Mokuluas, all protected wildlife bird sanctuaries.

Two years ago, the business voluntarily stopped offering customers plastic checkout bags at its surf shop, offering paper or reusable bags instead. Kailua Sailboards & Kayaks is also certified by the Hawaii Ecotourism Association.

Gunther, 39, a kayaker, volleyball player and mother, also organizes habitat restoration trips to the Mokuluas in partnership with the state Department of Land and Natural Resources. A small group of volunteers helps restore the islets by removing invasive species from January through March. Kailua Sailboards provides kayaks and  equipment to get out there, plus lunch, and helps coordinate the volunteers. The partnership is in its fourth year. If interested, email anissa@kailuasailboards.com.

Q: How did you become interested in conservation?

A: I grew up on the East Coast of the U.S. mainland and became passionate about the ocean due to many summers spent at North Carolina beaches. When I was 15 years old, I talked my parents into taking me to the 1990 Earth Day celebration (I believe it was the 20 year anniversary) held on the steps of the Capitol in Washington D.C. The message to protect our planet really struck me and led me to earn a Bachelor of Science in Biology with a minor in Marine Sciences from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill. I was unsure of what field to pursue, so I took off on a world trip to think about it. I discovered a new passion in travel and adventure eco tourism, which eventually landed me in Hawaii to manage this amazing water sports shop.

Q: Of all that you do in educating others about Hawaii's natural habitat, what has been the most rewarding?

A:  It's too hard to choose which effort is most rewarding. Witnessing a healthy seabird habitat that was once riddled with invasive plants is a great reward. Hauling hundreds of pounds of plastic off of the beach is rewarding and so is winning the Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge. Knowing that the KSK team puts its heart and soul into protecting Hawaii's natural resources is truly gratifying.

Q: What are the most unusual items your renters have carried back from a trek out to the ocean? (Renters are encouraged to pick up trash during their adventures. These are all put on display for educational purposes).

A: Renters and tour customers bring back all types of marine debris — shoes, tires, wrappers, bottles and fishing industry debris. Some of the most unusual items are free weights, bullet shells, part of a laundry basket and a power boat seat.

Q: Next you plan to add a coral reef and Hawaiian honu exhibit. What else is on your wish list?

A: Volunteers. Experts who can contribute advice, time and effort towards helping us to create effective and impactful exhibits.

Plastic pollution collected from Kailua Beach Park on display.

Plastic pollution collected from Kailua Beach Park on display.

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.

Year 2014 in eco-retrospective

December 26th, 2014
By



 

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

Illustration courtesy of Surfrider.

It was a year of highs, and a year of lows for the environment. There were several milestones, and there remain many unknowns for the upcoming year of 2015. Below is a summary of the markers for the year 2014, as I saw it.

1. Plastic overload. The year 2014 was the year of plastic, as has been the case in previous years. This year, the alarm is at an all-time high. A new study published in December by the scientific journal, PLOS ONE, reported that an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic (enough to fill more than 38,500 garbage trucks) is floating in the world's ocean, and that's only the plastic that's on the surface, not the ocean floor. Not only that, but the plastic breaks down into more than 5 trillion pieces. The impacts of all this plastic in our oceans as well as the food chain (including the fish and seafood we eat) are still unknown. Read the AP story posted Dec. 13, 2014 at staradvertiser.com.

2. Plastic-bag free. Honolulu Mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 in September, officially banning retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags, including biodegradable bags. But the law doesn't go into effect until July 1, 2015. With that in place, Oahu joins Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic bags at checkout. Apparently, the reaction among our readers was to start hoarding plastic bags (49 percent of our readers, based on our Big Q poll). In September, California was the first to implement a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags at grocery and convenience stores.

3. Monk seal hospital. Ke Kai Ola, the new Hawaiian monk seal hospital in Kona, held its grand opening and blessing on Sept. 2. The Marine Mammal Center's $3.2 million facility is dedicated to giving sick and injured Hawaiian monk seals a second chance. Four young, malnourished monk seals, Kulia, Ikaika, Hala‘i and Maka‘ala, were admitted on July 9 after being rescued from the northwestern Hawaiian islands.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

Monk seal pup RF58 was found dead due to blunt force injuries, as a necropsy later revealed. She was one of two pups that had just survived a dog attack in July. Photo by Jamie Thompton/NOAA.

4. Monk seal death. This year also marked a sad occurrence, with the suspicious death of a monk seal pup on the north shore of Kauai in November. Monk seal pup RF58 died from apparent blunt force trauma to the head. She was only about 4 to 5 months old, the daughter of Rocky, or RH58. An initial reward offer of $5,000 doubled to $10,000. In an unprecedented move, The Garden Island newspaper also decided to offer a $10,000 reward.

5. Expanded protection. President Barack Obama in September, through presidential proclamation, extended the protection zone around the Pacific Remote Islands Marine National Monument by about 50 nautical miles. It was heralded as a victory by many conservation organizations in Hawaii who testified in favor of it.

6. HECO roller coaster. The Hawaii Electric Cos., the utility for the islands of Oahu, Maui and the Big Island, touched a major public nerve when its Aug. 26 plan was received by the Public Utilties Commission, proposing that the basic connection fees for customers in Honolulu be raised to a minimum of $55. On top of that, HECO attempted to drive a wedge between solar and non-solar customers, blamed its aging grid problems on solar PV customers and asked that new solar customers pay additional fees to connect. This came at a time when more than 3,500 solar PV customers were still waiting, from 9 months to a year, to get connected. Even DBEDT criticized the utility for putting its own profits above public interest while continuing to adhere to an outdated business model. Then in December HEI announced Florida-based NextEra would acquire the company for $4.3 billion, pending approval by the PUC. It's unknown how NextEra will treat individual solar PV customers. Let's just hope that battery storage systems become more affordable in coming years so that customers who want to get solar PV can do so, without worrying about the utility's grid.

7. Solar. It was not a good year for the solar industry in Hawaii. As reported in the Star-Advertiser business section, roof solar permits issued in Honolulu fell by 50 percent. Only 520 permits were issued by the city last month compared to 1,040 in November 2013 despite the availability of both state and federal tax credits (the federal tax credit is set to expire Dec. 31, 2016). Looking at the overall picture, though, the Hawaii State Energy Office noted that distributed renewable energy system installations increased significantly from 12,560 in 2012 to 18,316  in 2013. At the end of the year, the cumulative number of systems statewide totaled 40,717 with a total capacity of 253.5 Megawatt (MW). The state also ranked first in energy performance contracting in the nation with an investment of $235.74 per capita, and earned a third, consecutive Race to the Top award from the Energy Services Coalition in 2014.

8. Bronze for bikes. Honolulu earned its first bronze as a bicycle-friendly city from the League of American Bicyclists. Honolulu is the first municipality in Hawaii to achieve the bronze. Bicycle activists say Honolulu made strides in five areas, including engineering, education, encouragement, enforcement and evaluation. They also laud the new King St. Cycle Track as a big step forward.

9.  Invasive species. From downed albizia trees on the Big Island to little fire ants and coconut rhinoceros beetles, the year 2014 was a year to monitor potentially destructive invasive species. The state department of agriculture does the best that it can on a meager budget. The albizia trees got plenty of attention during tropical storm Iselle, when they fell like a row of matchsticks and downed power lines. The little fire ants made their way to Mililani Mauka. The latest coconut rhino beetle, previously discovered around Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam,  was found in a trap at Kakaako Waterfront Park. Add to the list, a coconut crab in Salt Lake, and an emu on the Big Island.

10. Electric Vehicles. The number of people driving electric vehicles in Hawaii continues to grow. As of October 2014, DBEDT estimated the number of passenger electric vehicles in the state was 3,026, up 54.5 percent, from 1,068 from the same month a year ago. More charging stations are also popping up around the isles. Volta just announced two free charging stations outside of Whole Foods Market in Kahului, Maui.

Hoarding plastic bags

October 1st, 2014
By



 

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.

So, now it's official.

Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell signed Bill 38 into law on Thursday, Sept. 25, which would ban retailers from distributing plastic carryout bags — including biodegradable  bags — starting July 1, 2015.

Oahu follows Maui, Kauai and the Big Island in banning plastic  bags at checkout. But California, not Hawaii, became the first state to ban plastic bags yesterday.

In the first version of the bill, biodegradable bags would have been exempted, until environmentalists pointed out they can be just as damaging in the ocean. Compostable bags that meet the standards of ASTM International are allowed.

The bag ban, though not perfect, is great news for our environment. It's going to be an adjustment for folks who take plastic bags for granted.

In our recent Big Q poll,  the majority of readers (346) said they plan to start hoarding plastic takeout bags in response to the news. I imagine some began hoarding as soon as they heard Honolulu was considering a ban.

How will you prepare for Oahu’s plastic-bag ban at stores, to be effective July 1?

  • B. Start hoarding plastic bags (49%, 346 Votes)
  • A. Start using recyclable bags (33%, 231 Votes)
  • C. Already stopped using plastic (18%, 123 Votes) 

It cracks me up because I know people like that — people like my mom, who believe if something's free, then take it. At the checkout at Marukai, I remember watching an elderly Japanese lady at a packing table by the exit, meticulously wrapping each purchase, big and small, in a separate plastic bag.

Why would you hoard plastic bags? So you can have a lifetime supply without ever having to purchase any plastic bags for your wastebaskets?

On the other hand, too many plastic bags do come with a cost – an overhead cost that businesses pass on to consumers for the convenience and a high environmental cost to this beautiful paradise we live in. On average, one shopper uses 500 bags in one year. Plastic bags are choking up our waterways, breaking into chemical-laden pieces in our oceans. They offer short-term convenience, but long-term consequences. Burning them at H-power is not the answer (not for the health of the air we breathe in).

Reducing them is part of the solution. That's what this law will do.

I've been bringing my own bags to the store for several years now, and believe me, life is still fine. Our home isn't completely plastic bag-free yet, due to visitors and other household members who sometimes bring them in. But there's just a small cluster, (which yes, I line my wastebaskets with), compared to a large monster ball beneath the kitchen sink. You start to discover that you don't need so many, certainly not that huge monster ball amount.

Here are some ideas on how we can use fewer plastic bags:

>> Consolidate. So maybe we don't need so many small, plastic bags. On trash day, dump the contents of your wastebasket into the larger trash bag before taking it out. Reduce the number of bags you use. When you have mostly dry waste, this isn't a big deal. Wet waste is tougher.

>> Compost. You can reduce trash by composting food waste - vegetable peelings, apple cores, leftover pasta and bread, and put it back into your garden.

>> Reuse. Think of the other plastic bags that we get which are still available. Get creative. Bread bags, newspaper bags, sack of potato bags.  Bread bags and newspaper bags work just fine for picking up dog poop, another common complaint about the ban of plastic grocery bags.

>> Recycle. Are there things that you throw out in the trash which can actually be recycled? Remember, No. 1 and 2 plastics go in the blue bin. That includes pretty much all shampoo bottles, laundry detergent bottles, etc., as well as glass jelly  jars, newspapers, corrugated cardboard pizza boxes, etc.

>> BYOB. Bring your own bags to the store - keep a dozen in your car, and at least one or two of the Chicobag, Envirosax or Baggu kind (that fold up small) in your purse or backpack. I like the large, square-bottomed and insulated ones I got for supporting PBS Hawaii. I also love the ones from Trader Joe's. Or, try the Costco method and keep an empty cardboard box in the car. I'm hoping people will be encouraged to bring their own bags instead of collecting piles of paper bags at home.

And when you have no choice but to use a bag for your wastebasket, there are alternatives out there like Biobags, which are compostable. Just don't let them get into the ocean.

Plastic bag monster sculpture created by the Shanghai chapter of Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots. From youbentmywookie.com.

Plastic bag monster sculpture created by the Shanghai chapter of Jane Goodall Institute's Roots & Shoots. From youbentmywookie.com.

Marine debris art

July 31st, 2014
By



Honolulu artist Shannon McCarthy painted this monk seal ocean scene on five reclaimed wood panels and a border made out of invasive strawberry guava wood. The panels will be on display at the Jack Johnson concerts Aug. 1 and 2. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Honolulu artist Shannon McCarthy created this monk seal ocean scene mosiac on five reclaimed wood panels bordered by invasive strawberry guava. The mosaic will be on display at the Jack Johnson concerts Aug. 1 and 2 at Waikiki Shell. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

 

So, what do you do with all of that plastic debris — small pieces of broken-down plastics, or microplastics — cleaned from the beach?

For Honolulu artist and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii volunteer, Shannon McCarthy, the answer is, get creative and make art.

She created a Hawaiian monk seal ocean scene (two adult monk seals, one pup) on the North Shore on five wooden panels constructed out of reclaimed wood with a border of invasive strawberry guava wood. The mosaic was first unveiled at a beach cleanup at Point Panic (Kakaako) in June, then went on display at Honolulu Hale. It will be up at the Jack Johnson concert at Waikiki Shell Aug. 1 and 2. 

The microplastics were collected using rudimentary sand sifters, then separated and glued to the panels. Students from Kainalu Elementary, St. John Vianney, St. Louis School,  St. Anthony, Kahaluu Elementary and members of Girl Scouts Troop 840 all pitched in on the artwork, as well as helped with beach cleanups over the past three months, collecting the marine debris.

"The mosaics are inspired by the need to spread awareness of plastics and marine debris in all the oceans," said McCarthy, "how to reduce or eliminate our daily impact on it, and how drastically beautiful Hawaii and its inhabitants are being affected by this pollution."

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii's first Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge, meanwhile, is still on. The contest encourages Oahu residents to create and build sand sifters to efficiently remove the microplastics from the sand on the beach.

"The hope is that this mural will directly inspire people to pay attention to the overwhelming amount of marine debris affecting our coastlines," said SCH executive director Kahi Pacarro. "Our Sand Sifter Challenge is meant to foster out-of-the-box thinking, entrepreneurial spirit and teamwork to tackle a growing problem that, if not addressed, will lead to an unsustainable future for Hawaii's coastlines."

The sand sifters must be human powered and built for under $300. The winning team wins a $2,500 cash prize plus an additional $2,500 to replicate five sand sifters. Submissions for the contest are due Sept. 26. Visit sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org/ultimate-sand-sifter-challenge to learn more.

 

Sand Sifter Challenge

July 3rd, 2014
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SandSifterChallenge

Got creative design and build talents?

Then get ready for the first Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Kupu. Both organizations are challenging contestants to design the ultimate sand sifter to remove microplastics from Hawaii's beaches. Microplastics, tiny pieces of broken-down plastic that wash ashore from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, are a hazard to marine animals that consume them.

If you've ever visited any windward Oahu beach, look down and what you may think are colorful shells are actually tiny pieces of plastic.

Deadline for online submissions is due Sept. 26.

Register with your name, affiliation, email, a phone number and then, simply, a drawing and description of your sifter design. The sifter must be human-powered (using no gas or fossil fuels) and should be designed and constructed for under $300, with an emphasis on reused, recycled and sustainable materials.

"Marine debris is going to continue washing ashore until we as global citizens drastically reduce our use of unnecessary plastics," said executive director Kahi Pacarro. "Until that time, in order for our beaches to remain the nicest in the world,  the public will need to #cleanyobeach! Sand sifters make our work easier and will promote newer ideas to make our work more efficient and educational."

Last summer, RevoluSun donated a sandsifter for a beach cleanup at Sandy's Beach. Check out their design.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii will announce the designs that have been green lighted Oct. 3. Participating individuals then have until Nov. 14 to build their sand sifters. The final competition will be held Nov. 15 at Kailua Beach Park. Winner gets $2,500 plus an additional $2,500 to build their sand sifter for partner organizations that clean Oahu's coastlines.

Can you design and build a sand sifter to separate out microplastics? Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Can you design and build a sand sifter to separate out microplastics? Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Polystyrene foam happy?

June 13th, 2014
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Polystyrene foam takeout boxes are common for plate lunches in Honolulu. We pretty much take them for granted, but Honolulu City Council recently proposed a ban on them due to health and environmental concerns. Is it ironic that they come with a happy face? Photo by Nina Wu.

Polystyrene foam takeout boxes are common for plate lunches in Honolulu. We pretty much take them for granted, but Honolulu City Council recently proposed a ban on them due to health and environmental concerns. Is it ironic that they come with a happy face? Photo by Nina Wu.

In my last Green Leaf column, I talked about Honolulu City Council's proposed ban of polystyrene foam takeout boxes (Bill 40). Thanks to those of you that emailed and called in with your suggestions of how to avoid them — bring your own food containers, choose restaurants that offer alternatives and, one caller emphasized, make sure people know not to microwave food in them.

Our unscientific poll of 1,490 readers found that slightly more people (53 percent) do not think polystyrene foam clamshells, commonly used for takeout food, should be banned on Oahu because of environmental concerns, while 47 percent voted yes.

So what's the big deal about polystyrene foam?

Well, let's take a look first of all at styrene, which is found in polystyrene foam. According to the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, styrene is widely used to make plastics and rubber, such as insulation, food containers and carpet backing. It's "reasonably anticipated to be a carcinogen." The International Agency for Research on Cancer has also determined that styrene is a possible human carcinogen. Here's a handy fact sheet from the ATSDR (Agency for Toxic Substances & Disease Registry).

That doesn't sound too comforting to me, but really, I guess it's a consumer's choice.

In a recent "Island Voices,"  representatives of the Hawaii Food Industry Association, Hawaii Restaurant Association and Hawaii Food Manufacturers Association, say that polystyrene food containers have met stringent FDA standards and that a  ban would only increase the cost of doing business (read increase cost to consumers) when paper products and even compostable products end up at H-Power, anyways.

To be honest with you, most of us are more interested in what we're getting for lunch than what it comes  in. When getting lunch, we consider  what we're getting to eat, and for what price.

But as consumers, we can also make choices, too. I take note when an eatery offers alternatives.

I like to be on the safer side, when possible, considering that close family members of mine have been diagnosed with cancer. I wish I could take it for granted that the FDA makes sure what we eat and drink is safe, but they don't have a very good track record, so far, in my opinion.

The jury's still out on Bisphenol A, according to the FDA. Canada and Europe have banned it in children's products. While it's being debated, U.S. consumers, meanwhile,  are seeking BPA-free children's products and it seems as if retailers are trying to meet that demand. The European Union and Canada go with the "banned until proven innocent" approach while the EPA goes with the innocent until proven harmful approach. Which would you rather take?

I do have sympathy for small businesses and mom-and-pops facing increased costs. After all, you have to serve take-out food in some sort of container. Polystyrene foam almost seems synonymous with our plate lunch culture (read, "Cheap Eats"), but maybe we need to ask ourselves, what's the long-term cost to the environment and health in Hawaii?

Manufacturers of polystyrene foam have launched www.foamfacts.com, claiming there is no harm to microwaving food in foam. But the Environmental Working Group, a non-profit in Washington D.C., recommends microwaving food in glass as a better choice over any plastic containers in its Healthy Home Tips.

At beach cleanups, little pieces of styrene foam floating around are also a pain to pick up, and we definitely don't want them being consumed by marine mammals or ending up in our ocean ecosystem. EPS foam is one of the top five items found during beach cleanups, according to Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Polystyrene (No. 6) can be recycled, but the fact is that it's not being recycled in Hawaii. Only No. 1 and No. 2 plastics are being accepted by the city of Honolulu's blue bins for curbside pickup.

There's a MoveOn petition if you agree that polystyrene foam food containers should be banned in Honolulu.

Honolulu is not the first to introduce a proposed polystyrene ban — Maui County did so in 2009, though it did not pass. The folks in Kilauea, Kauai, have made it clear that's what they want. More than 70 jurisdictions in California already have the ban in place, including Berkeley, Calif. in 1988. New York City may be next, with its ban set to go into effect July 2015.

Here are some businesses that have taken note over the concerns over polystyrene foam:

>> Kudos to McDonald's for deciding to no longer use polystyrene packaging for beverages, which it will replace with paper cups instead. It was, perhaps, a response to consumer concerns. In his testimony on Bill 40, Victor Lim of McDonald's of Hawaii said polystyrene is only in its coffee cups and breakfast platter bases, but these are scheduled to be replaced in the near future.

>> A number of Honolulu restaurants have voluntarily made the switch, including Duke's Waikiki, Hula Grill Waikiki, Morning Brew, La Tour Cafe and others. Snackbox in Kakaako is offering salads and drinks in mason jars, with a discount if you bring it back. If you know of other restaurants that have gone foam-free, let me know. I'll list them here.

>> It's easy enough to bring your own reusable mug or cup to places like Starbucks, but there aren't a lot of folks who would bring their own food takeout containers. At least one place, Sweet Home Waimanalo, offers a discount to those who do.

BYOC