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Eco year in review

December 31st, 2013


Looking back, 2013 turned out to be a decent year for some eco-positive changes, though I tend to see the glass as half-full rather than half-empty.

1. Frostpaw the polar bear  — President Barack Obama and family (including their two dogs) are still vacationing on Oahu, but haven't done much out of the routine. Frostpaw, from the Center for Biological Diversity, has made news headlines following the president around during his vacation. He is here to urge the president to reject the Keystone XL pipeline and take action on climate change. The 1,700-mile pipeline, which would carry tar sands oil from Canada to the Gulf Coast of Texas, will affect many endangered species along its path, says the center, and could create potentially catastrophic pipeline spills. Outside of Mid-Pacific Country Club last week, the president did see Frostpaw, if for a brief moment, and yelled, "Hey, polar bear!" Learn more about the center's efforts at

2. Solar consternation — Solar PV installations (ranked second in the nation in grid-connected PV cumulative installed capacity per capita) faced a new hurdle this year — the implementation of new rules in September (as well as a tightening of tax credit rules for multiple systems). HECO began asking customers to check their Locational Value Maps to determine which circuits they were on before installing a PV system to see if they are required to do an interconnection requirements study. The new requirements have slowed installations this year and lead to an outcry by Hawaii residents, who overwhelmingly support solar. Still, residents who installed solar PV qualified for 65 percent in federal and state tax credits this year.

3. Butts of the beach — Honolulu's new law, which prohibits smoking at all city beaches, parks and bus stops, goes into effect Jan. 1. No smoking signs have already been posted. The law is already in effect for a handful of beaches in Waikiki , at Kapiolani Park and Sandy Beach. As beach cleanup crews can attest, smokers have left thousands of cigarette butts in the sand — which harm the environment by leaving plastic filters and toxic materials on the shoreline, which in turn can wash into the ocean, harming marine life and ultimately, humans.

4. Plastic bag banHawaii island's plastic bag ban also goes into effect on Jan. 17 at all grocery stores, restaurants and other retailers. Consumers in the past year have been paying fees for plastic bags at checkout lines due to an ordinance adopted in 2011. On Jan. 17, customers will be able to use reusable or paper bags. Kauai and Maui counties already have plastic bag bans in place, as well. Oahu passed a plastic bag ban last year, but it is not due to go into effect until 2015.

5. Monk seal hospital — The Marine Mammal Center of Sausalito, Calif. has completed the first phase of its $3.2 million hospital and rehab facility for Hawaiian monk seals in Kona. The hospital provides a place where stranded or troubled monk seals can go, rather than be shuttled from island to island or to California, which was the case for KP2 (who has now found a home at the Waikiki Aquarium, and goes by the name of Ho‘ailona).


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LUSH: Take back the tap

July 25th, 2013

LUSH Cosmetics is holding a "Take Back The Tap" campaign, encouraging customers to bring reusable water bottles and drink from tap instead of purchasing commercial bottled water. Photo from

LUSH Cosmetics is holding a "Take Back The Tap" campaign, encouraging customers to bring reusable water bottles and drink from tap instead of purchasing commercial bottled water. Photo from

LUSH Cosmetics stores in Hawaii are asking the public to "take back the tap" by saying no to bottled water for two weeks starting July 27.

The Hawaii stores (Ala Moana Center and 713 Front St. in Lahaina, Maui) are part of 179 LUSH shops across the U.S. asking the public to take control of their water future and to switch to only reusable water bottles. In case you're looking, many stainless steel ones are available from Klean Kanteen, Crocodile Creek and Thermos Foogo. S'well bottles are really cool, too.

"Plastic convenience bottles are unnecessary as there are far superior, more viable options that exist," says Shama Alexander, environmental officer for LUSH Cosmetics North America. "Research proves it is far better for your health to drink from a glass or coated metal bottle than from a disposable plastic bottle. A personal bottle can be reused endlessly, saving plastic from being discarded and saving consumers quite a bit of money in the long run."

LUSH Cosmetics encourages consumers to carry a reusable  bottle, choose tap whenever possible and be educated about your local water supply.

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Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival

May 20th, 2013

Sometimes it takes a film to knock us out of our apathy and environmental ennui.

Knowledge in Motion brings the Wild & Scenic Environmental Film Festival — A Climate of Change to Doris Duke Theatre from 5 to 9 p.m. on Saturday, June 1.


The festival offers 14 great, eye-opening films, along with live music by the Matty McIntire Project, ono local food by The Hawaiian Chef, an art and book sale, door prizes and more.

The films to be showcased at the Doris Duke Theatre (900 S. Beretania St., enter from Kinau St.) include

>>Seeds of Freedom narrated by Jeremy Irons, tells of story of how global agriculture has been changed with conflicts of interest and control of the food economy. Includes interview with Vandana Shiva, who says seeds are at the center or reproducing the culture of life.

>> The Last Ice Merchant a documentary filmed in Ecuador about a man who for the last five decades has made a living harvesting glacial ice in Ecuador.

>> The Water Tower by Pete McBride. Set in central Kenya, film tells the story of Mt. Kenya, home to a local water god and vial to providing the nation's water supply.

>> Scars of Freedom by Celine Cousteau. The story of efforts to save an entangled humpback whale with a net that had cut halfway through the left side of her tail.

>> and others.

Tickets are $12 general, $10 museum members. All ticket purchasers will receive a copy of "Facing Hawai‘i's Future" and "Hawai‘i Wildlife Viewing Guide." Visit or click on this link for more information.

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North Shore Cleanup Saturday

February 28th, 2013

Join Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for a beach cleanup on the North Shore Saturday (March 2). Meet at Turtle Bay Resort's West Lawn. Photo from

Join Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for a beach cleanup on the North Shore Saturday (March 2). Meet at Turtle Bay Resort's West Lawn. Photo from

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is hosting a North Shore beach clean up from 10:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. on Saturday (March 2). Meet at the West Lawn at Turtle Bay Resort and follow the blue flags. The general public as well as participants of Wanderlust Oahu Festival (a four-day yoga and music event) are welcome to attend.

Shuttles will transport volunteer teams to Kahuku Golf Course Beach and Kahuku Point at the James Campbell Wildlife Refuge to collect microplastics to be recycled by Method Home.

The whole family is welcome to participate. Some fun games include a hunt for hidden glass bottles during the cleanup to win prizes, including tickets to the evening Wanderlust concert featuring ALO and Kaki King, plus day passes to Sunday festival activities, as well as kids' clothing from Patagonia, Hurley and Quiksilver.

Water, a snack, gloves, tally sheets and other cleanup materials will be provided.

For more information, visit

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Welcome Back Whales

January 25th, 2013

Photo of a mother and baby humpback whale in Hawaiian waters. Photo by Dave Matilla, courtesy of the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary.

Photo of a mother and baby humpback whale in Hawaiian waters. Photo by Dave Matilla, courtesy NOAA.

Welcome back the humpback whales at a community celebration taking place from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. on Saturday (Jan. 26) at Turtle Bay Resort.

Besides scientists' lectures, there will be a whale observation station, education booths, children's activities, naturalist-led wildlife walks and hula by local keiki.

The "Welcome Back the Whales" celebration is sponsored by the Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary in partnership with the North Shore Ocean Education Coalition.

The event is free and open to the public, and a chance for all who love humpback whales to learn more about these magnificent creatures.

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Getting butts off the beach

December 3rd, 2012

Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii picked up 1,748 cigarette butts at Waikiki Beach within just one hour.  Courtesy image.

Volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii picked up 1,748 cigarette butts at Waikiki Beach within just one hour. Courtesy image.

Got your attention? I'm talking about cigarette butts.

Cigarette butts are probably the most ubiquitous litter left behind by humans at the beach, along with plastic litter. It's a serious problem.

City councilman Stanley Chang is proposing a bill (Bill 72) that would ban smoking at some of Honolulu's most popular beaches, including Ala Moana, Duke Kahanamoku and Kuhio Beach parks in Waikiki. It's not an entirely novel idea - after all, the Hawaii County Council passed a smoking ban at all its county parks in 2008. But it's about time.

A recent Star-Advertiser online poll showed that 71 percent of 2,092 voters supported the smoking ban.

It may just have to come down to making a law and making sure it's enforced to get butts of the beach. On the other end of it is education, which is what Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is trying to do to tackle the problem of cigarette butt litter.

The group is seeing whether signs and portable ash trays at beach concession stands will make any difference. On a recent sweep of cigarette butts, the group cleared a total of 1,748 cigarette butts within one hour along part of Waikiki beach in late November.

It's astounding how many people, locals and tourists alike, use the beach as one big ashtray. There's a perception that it's okay, and that the butts will just go away somehow, buried somewhere in the sand. But they don't just decompose and go away — cigarette butts contain both toxins from tobacco as well as slow-to-degrade plastics in their filters.

The cigarette butts can end up swept into the ocean, where it poisons marine animals. They're also a blight for Hawaii's beaches and have a human impact. How much would you enjoy a walk along a shoreline, only to step on a few cigarette butts here and there? How fun is it to have your toddler making sandcastles, only to pick out a few dirty cigarette butts here and there?

Want to help? Here's a list of some upcoming beach cleanups:

Sunset Beach cleanup on Saturday, Dec 8. From 10 a.m. to noon, Surfrider Oahu presents the Sunset Beach Cleanup with Airwalk. Volunteers are asked to bring their own reusable water bottles and sunscreens and encouraged to bring reusable gloves for picking up trash. Lunch will be provided. Volunteers will also have the opportunity to meet Airwalk pro surfer Anastasia Ashley.

North Shore beach cleanup on Saturday, Dec. 29. Adopt a Beach and Save the Sea Turtles International holds its next beach cleanup on Dec. 29 (and every last Saturday of the month). Meet at 10 a.m. a Chun's Reef on the North Shore, t 61-529 Kamehameha Highway in Haleiwa. Call 637-2211 or go to for more information.

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Arbor Day Tree Giveaway is Nov. 3

November 1st, 2012

The Mau Hau Hele is a native Hawaiian plant, and the state's official flower. Courtesy Photo.

The Mau Hau Hele is a native Hawaiian plant, and the state's official flower. HECO is giving away free fruit trees, shrubs and plants on Saturday. Courtesy Photo.

There aren't a lot of freebies to go around, but here's one that will keep on growing.

The Hawaiian Electric Co. is once again giving away fruit trees, flowering shrubs and native plants starting at 7 a.m. on Saturday, Nov. 3 to celebrate Arbor Day. You might want to line up early, as there's usually a crowd.

For the first time, HECO is also giving away the Aimee Yoshioka gardenia, munroidendron and red sealing wax palm.

Arborists and volunteers from HECO, Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program, Urban Garden Center and others will help you select the right tree.

Only one plant will be given per family, while supplies last. Be sure to arrive early.

Waianae:    HECO Kahe Power Plant – 7:00 a.m.
Pearl City:  Urban Garden Center – 7:00 a.m.
Honolulu:   HECO Ward Avenue Facility – 7:00 a.m.
Kailua: HECO Koolau Base Yard – 7:00 a.m.
Wahiawa: Wahiawa Botanical Garden – 9:00 a.m.
North Shore: Waimea Valley – 9:00 a.m.

Visit for more Arbor Day events across the state.

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Minds in the water

August 24th, 2012


September is just around the corner — meaning dolphin slaughter season starts up again in Taiji, Japan.

If you love the ocean and the creatures in it, then "Minds In The Water," a feature-length documentary following the quest of professional surfer Dave "Rasta" Rastovich, is for you.

The film screens at 7 p.m. Monday (Aug. 27) at TheVenue, BambuTwo, 1146 Bethel St., sponsored by the Surfrider Foundation, Oahu Chapter.

Watch firsthand how one surfer's quest to protect dolphins and whales blossomed into a movement of like minds.

Rastovich goes on an international journey to help protect dolphins, whales and their ocean environment. His five-year journey takes him from Australia to the Galapagos Islands to Tonga, Alaska and Japan.

While unsure at first, Rastovich quickly found his activist sea legs and helped build a core team of filmmakers, journalists, musicians, eco-pirates, celebrity surfers and a professional mermaid to help spread the message. Others who make an appearance in the film include Hanna Fraser, Isabel Lucas, Jack Johnson and Kelly Slater.

The film, produced by the Saltwater Collective, captures a key moment in Rastovich's life — when apathy is no longer an option.

Stay after the screening for a post-film discussion with Surfrider Foundation members.

You can check out the preview at Sign the visual petition.

Cost is $10 ($5 for student) at the door. Call 436-4326 for more information.

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Beach, invasive species cleanups

July 5th, 2012


The weather was beautiful for the 4th of July and we enjoyed picnics, barbecues and the beach — but let's remember that what we leave behind can have harmful consequences. I'm talking about plastic bottle caps, plastic toys and litter left behind — let's make sure that plastic litter doesn't end up in our ocean.

Two events are coming up next Saturday that you can help participate in to help our aina.

* Sandy Beach Cleanup: From 10 a.m. to noon on Saturday, July 14, RevoluSun and the Surfrider Foundation invite the public to participate in a beach clean-up at Sandy Beach. Enjoy a free lunch afterwards hosted by solar company RevoluSun. Look for the tents in the park between the lifeguard stand and shower. Call Fabian Toribo at 721-0012 on the day of the cleanup with questions.

* Invasive species cleanup: From 7 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Saturday, July 14, help the Oahu Invasive Species Club with their monthly removal of harmful invasive plants at the Lyon Arboretum. Volunteers will be removing two invasive shrub species, Ardisia virens and Ardisia sieboldii, from the grounds of the arboretum to prevent them from spreading into the native forests at higher elevations. The Lyon Arboretum is at 3860 Manoa Rd. Contact OISC to RSVP or to get more information at 286-4616 or

Hawaii's big tree champions

May 22nd, 2012

Coconut tree in Molokai is one of nation's Big Tree winners. DLNR Photo.

Coconut tree in Molokai is one of nation's Big Tree champions. DLNR Photo.

Hawaii is home to six big tree champions, which are now recognized by the National Register of Big Trees, a nonprofit conservation organization that advocates for the protection and expansion of America's forests.

And (drum roll), the six big tree champions are:

* Acacia Koa in Kona Hema Preserve, Hawai‘i
* Two Coconut in Kapuaiwa Coconut Beach Park, Moloka‘i
* Hau tree at Hulihe‘e Palace, Hawaii
* ‘A‘ali‘i at Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Maui
* Manele/Soapberry at Bird Park/Kipuka Puaulu, Volcano National Park, Hawaii

All of the trees, with the exception of the koa, are accessible to the public. Click here for a map and photos of the trees.

“With forests covering approximately 749 million acres in the U.S., it’s a special honor to have a tree recognized as the biggest of its kind,” said Paul Conry, Administrator of the Division of Forestry and Wildlife (DOFAW). “In a year with 14 different billion-dollar weather disasters, America’s biggest trees proved that they’re survivors. For trees to grow bigger than their competition, it usually means that they’ve been protected and nurtured over the years. And, they’ve been lucky. Having grown into large, healthy trees, they now do their own job of protecting and nurturing the plants, trees, wildlife and even humans in their habitats.”

Since more than half of Hawaii's original forest has been lost, immediate action is needed to protect the trees and forests that are essential to Hawaii's water supply and provide many other benefits. Learn about the state's plan to save Hawaii's forests at, which also includes a short video, “The Rain Follows the Forest.”

“We hope that including Hawai‘i on the national Big Trees register will help educate and encourage conservation of our native and culturally important trees,” said Sheri Mann, DOFAW Cooperative Resource Management Forester. “It is our goal to eventually create our own State of Hawai‘i Big Trees Program.”

Anyone can nominate a big tree for recognition in the program. Currently, 21 species are eligible in Hawaii.

To nominate a tree, three measurements are needed: Trunk Circumference (inches), Height (feet), and Average Crown Spread (feet). These are combined to assign the tree a score. DOFAW staff also needs to know the exact location to verify any candidates.

To learn more about the specific measuring requirements please review the guidelines at the American Forests website.

Please send measurements, GPS coordinates or specific directions to a candidate big tree to:

Sheri Mann, CRMF
1151 Punchbowl Street, Room 325
Honolulu, HI  96813

Or email her at