Archive for the ‘Eco Pono Actions’ Category

postheadericon Hawaii Endangered and Invaded

Hawaii is the Endangered Species Capital of the World. With 100s of plants and animals listed as Endangered or Threatened, there are more endangered species per square mile on these islands than any other place on the planet. Some of the reasons for a species demise include human intervention and pervasive alien introductions. Ecosystem destruction, species displacement, competition for food resources, and hunting have decimated the native fauna and flora of the Hawaiian Islands since European contact, states Bishop Museum which lists four categories on their Hawaii Endangered Species website, the category for “EXTINCT” lists 28 birds, 72 snails, 74 insects and 97 plants.

The impact of waste, plastic and climate change in addition to chemical and atmospheric pollution is a constant threat to all life on our planet.  Endangered animals such as humpback whales, Hawaiian monk seals and green sea turtles are protected and slowly increasing their numbers but are still challenged by pollution and human generated waste in ocean waters.  The list of threatened Hawaii birds alone has over 45 species listed, joining numerous fish, plants and algae among other plants and animals.   Another major contributor is the invasion of threatening alien species.

What is an invasive species? An invasive species is an alien species (plant, animal, or microbe transported by humans to a location outside its native range) whose introduction does or is likely to cause economic or environmental harm or harm to human health (U.S. Presidential Executive Order 13112).

Hawaii is in the midst of a growing invasive species crisis affecting the islands’ endangered plants and animals, overall environmental and human health, and the viability of its tourism- and agriculture-based economy.  Hawaii’s unique environment is home to more eco-systems than anywhere in the world.  It’s isolated location which has fostered unique plants, animals and sea life which are increasing at risk of extinction creating a biodiversity hotspot for the planet.

The Invasive Species Committees of Hawaii (ISCs) are island-based partnerships of government agencies, non-government organizations, and private businesses working to protect each island from the most threatening invasive pests. Each ISC partnership also has a paid staff and field crew to implement rapid response and control plans.

The ISCs formed on each island to address the need for rapid response and control work on new invasive pests that have the potential to severely impact the economy, ecosystem, watersheds, human health, and quality of life. A driving objective of the ISCs is to control the most threatening pests while populations are still relatively small and it is economically feasible to control or eliminate them.

The Oahu Invasive Species Committee (OISC) is a voluntary partnership of private, governmental, and non-profit organizations united to prevent new invasive species infestations on the island of Oahu, to eradicate incipient invasive species, and to stop established invasive species from spreading.OISC field crews survey the backcountry and residential areas for miconia, fountain grass, blackberry, and a host of other weeds. In partnership with the Oahu Coqui Frog Working Group, OISC responds to coqui frog reports and has conducted systematic treatment for coqui frogs at Oahu’s only naturalized population. In partnership with the Bishop Museum, OISC is cataloging new plant introductions to Hawaii and assessing their weediness using the Hawaii Weed Risk Assessment. This way, OISC can control invasive species before they “jump the fenceline” and become too costly to control. You are invited to join the Oahu Early Detection (OED) Projectto help locate incipient weeds on Oahu.OISC meetingsOISC holds public meetings to update its partners. Please call (808) 266-7994 for more information. Meeting notes and agendaare posted.OISC volunteer programHelp protect Oahu! OISC leads regular volunteer worktrips. to sign up. Expect rugged hiking and bring water, bag lunch, sunscreen, and raingear.OISC action plansThe following documents are in PDF format and can be read withAdobe Reader.

Contact usOISC staff welcome your questions, comments, and participation. Please see OISC contact information.Join our e-mail listFor up-to-date information about OISC activities, join the OISC e-mail list.Call the Oahu’s Invasive Species Hotline at 643-PEST

postheadericon Batteries – everyday toxins

Every year in the United States, Americans buy, use and throw out billions of batteries. The demand for batteries can be traced largely to the rapid increase in cordless, portable products such as cellular phones, video cameras, laptop computers, and battery-powered tools and toys. Because some types of batteries still contain toxic constituents, such as mercury and cadmium, they can pose a potential threat to human health and the environment if improperly disposed. Batteries, especially those with toxic constituents, should be recycled.

Honolulu Battery Recycling

Battery Types

All batteries can be described as either primary or secondary. Primary batteries are those batteries that are used only once and then discarded; they cannot be recharged. Secondary batteries are the rechargeable batteries. 

Primary battery construction ranges from the basic construction used in carbon zinc and zinc chloride batteries to the more complex construction of more powerful batteries such as alkaline and lithium manganese. Changes in the components and the construction allow for the improved battery life of alkaline and lithium batteries.

Carbon zinc, zinc chloride and alkaline batteries are similar in that they each have a zinc anode, a manganese dioxide cathode, and a paste electrolyte. In carbon zinc and zinc chloride batteries, the zinc anode is the battery cylinder (or can). The electrolyte is a zinc chloride paste, and the manganese dioxide cathode mix is in the center of the can, surrounding a carbon rod electrode.

In alkaline batteries, the zinc anode is a zinc powder in the center of the can, surrounding a brass current collector. The electrolyte is potassium hydroxide, and the zinc and potassium hydroxide are combined in a gel. The manganese-dioxide cathode is contained between the can wall and the separator, which keeps the cathode and anode from direct contact. The can wall in alkalines is steel, rather than zinc.

Lithium batteries have a lithium foil anode, a manganese dioxide cathode, and a lithium-based electrolyte. Lithium manganese batteries use a variety of shapes and constructions, with the most common being button cells, solid-core cylindrical batteries and wound-core cylindrical batteries.

How It Works

Regardless of the battery type, all batteries operate in a similar manner. In broad terms, a three-way chemical reaction takes place between the electrolyte, cathode and anode. This reaction produces negative ions at the negative terminal (the base), and positive ions gathered at the positive post (the small post on top). The generation and gathering of the positive and negative elements creates the battery energy.

As energy is used, the effectiveness of the basic battery ingredients diminish. The cathode and anode materials become depleted, and the reaction between the anode and the electrolyte produces byproducts. As these byproducts build up, the battery’s voltage diminishes and performance drops. For this reason, the life of the battery increases as the amounts of the anodic, cathodic and electrolytic chemicals increase.


All battery types should be recycled whenever possible. Many states have specifically passed legislation prohibiting incineration and landfilling of mercury-containing and lead-acid batteries.

In 1996, U.S. legislation was signed that required alkaline manufacturers to phase out the use of mercury in their batteries. However, this regulation only addresses added mercury; small quantities of mercury are still present in most alkaline batteries as an unavoidable part of the manufacturing and mining processes. When the other metals in alkaline batteries, like zinc and manganese, are mined, small amounts of mercury are included in the raw ore.

Even for those batteries that are truly mercury-free, recycling should be attempted. Because of the heavy metals they contain, environmental health risks are still present.

As one example, cadmium can accumulate in the environment by leaching into ground water and surface water from landfills, and it can enter the atmosphere through incinerator smokestack emissions. Effective air pollution control equipment at incinerators traps cadmium, which ends up in the ash, causing problems of cadmium in ashfill leachate. Cadmium is toxic to fish and wildlife and can pass to humans through the food chain. It has been associated with numerous human illnesses particularly lung and kidney damage. Once absorbed in the body, cadmium can remain for decades.

Battery manufacturers are producing more rechargeable batteries each year, relative to the number of non-rechargeable batteries produced. The National Electrical Manufacturers Association has estimated that U.S. demand for rechargeables is growing twice as fast as demand for non-rechargeables. Manufacturers and retailers are partnering to help increase the collection and recycling of used rechargeable batteries.

Transportation Regulations

The U.S. DOT requires reporting of incidents involving batteries and battery-powered devices that result in a fire, violent rupture, explosion, or dangerous evolution of heat. Significant quantities of batteries should be labeled in accordance with DOT regulations.

Article courtesy of Green Irene

postheadericon Waste Free Lunches

How can I pack a waste-free lunch for myself or my kids?


Packing your child’s lunch is essential for an eco-friendly family. The average school lunch generates a staggering 67 pounds of waste. Translated to an average school, that’s 18,760 pounds of waste per year, and that’s for just one school. In addition, many of the pre-packaged foods served at schools contain preservatives and chemicals that are not part of a waste-free lunch, especially where fresh fruits and veggies are involved. There’s also the cost factor:  when the same two lunches are compared, pre-packaged to waste-free, the waste-free lunch comes out ahead by over a dollar a day, or approximately $240 per year!

So starting tomorrow, if you have kids, why not make the move towards waste free lunches. Don’t have kids, no problem, bringing your own to the office has just as many benefits as it does for school kids.

Develop a “snack basket,” a flat rectangular basket about four inches deep. Once a week fill snack bags (like our Snack Pouches) with nuts, trail mix, dried fruit, cookies, pretzels, homemade peanut butter crackers, and plain whole wheat crackers, and lined them up in the basket with a selection of granola bars.

Buy foods in bulk and measure a serving (¼ cup for nuts and such, and two to three medium-size cookies is good) into each bag. Bags of fresh veggies (shop the supermarket salad bar, or cut your own), slices of real cheese, and peanut butter and jelly half-sandwiches go in the fridge, as do pudding (made with organic milk), fresh fruit, fruit gelatin, a dab of ranch dressing (for veggies), hummus, and yogurt (plain organic plus fresh fruit or fruit spread).

Get the kids involved; they’ll learn how easy it is to reduce lunch waste, and what a healthy school lunch really is. Even the smallest child can pick a set “menu” (such as one protein, one starch, one veggie or fruit, and one sweet treat) and drop their items into a reusable lunch bag (like our Waste Free Lunch Kit) . Drop in a stainless steel bottle of water, a cloth napkin, and a spoon if needed (get a few mismatched ones at a thrift store if you are worried about possible loss), and lunch is a go! If even this is too much, assemble and refrigerate the night before.

Make it a habit for each luncher to unpack and rinse her sack at a set time every evening (following their after-school snack or right after dinner may be low-stress choices), and bringing things home will become routine. Containers go right into the dishwasher, snack pouches get a quick rinse in the sink and hung up to dry, crumbs go in the compost, and the empty sack and napkin (unless really soiled) get ready for the next day. On weekends, send napkins hrough the wash for a fresh start next week.

If your kids refuse to get serious about bringing containers home, you may want to consider telling them that you will dock the cost of missing items from their weekly allowance…and follow through on it! They will whine and pout when you do (as another mother once told me this just means you are “doing your job”) but it won’t take many docks before missing containers will be a thing of the past.

Convenience food without the high cost, excess sugar, fat, and salt, or wasteful packaging of processed foods—what could be better?

Waste Free Lunch Ideas

Green Irene America’s Eco-Consultant

postheadericon Greener Pools

Ever wondered if there is a way to have a greener pool in your back yard?  This article from Green Irene has tips and info on reducing the use of chemicals to keep your pool clean.

What are some ideas for a “greener” pool in my backyard?


A variety of alternatives to chlorine are being used to keep pools clean. Salt is probably the most common today, but salt systems have their downside along with their upside. They do evaporate slower, so you save some water. And they do cut the amount of chemicals in your pool, so they’re definitely a step in the right direction.

But salt systems still use chlorine-in fact, the salt itself is turned into chlorine, albeit in much smaller concentrations than a chlorine system. But you still have many of the same health risks as you do with chlorine, and you’re still contaminating the ground and surface water sources with chlorine when you backwash your pool. There are completely chemical-free pool cleaning systems out there, however.ECOsmarte makes systems that use copper ionization and liquid oxidation to sanitize pool water, using no dangerous chemicals in the process. Meanwhile, the company’s Filter Glass technology uses 100% recycled, post-consumer waste glass. Better yet, ECOsmarte contributes 5% of its profits to a non-profit organization (of your choosing) that works toward cleaner water and a healthier environment. There are also clean pools known as “natural pools,” which use plants to keep your pool clean. Not only are they chemical free, they also use natural materials to build the pools, giving you something quite close to a naturally occurring swimming hole in your backyard. The plants can either be in the pool, out of the pool, or both, and even conventional swimming pools can be transformed into natural pools.

Save Water and Energy

No matter what kind of pool you have, there are a number of things you can do to lessen its impact on the environment and your health. Here are a few handy suggestions:

Pool covers save water, decrease energy expenditures, and can help to keep your pool from polluting the air. In hot, arid areas, pools can lose 30 to 50% of their water volume per year due to evaporation. That water must be replaced from limited resources that are already in high demand. Worse yet, as pool water evaporates, it carries the harmful chemicals in your pool into the atmosphere. Installing a pool cover therefore not only saves water, it prevents pollution. Installing a pool cover can also help to retain heat in colder areas, saving up to 70% of the energy that would have been spent heating your pool. 
For the lowest impact, look forpool covers made of recyclable or organic material. Another option: liquid barriers produce a clear, molecule-thick layer of alcohol on top of the water. The odorless, tasteless film lasts for several weeks. Chlorine becomes toxic and even carcinogenic when it combines with organic matter-like dirt, leaves, skin, or hair, for instance. Showering before you get into the pool helps to reduce the amount of organic matter present in your pool that reacts with the chlorine.

If possible, set your pool’s filter and sweeper systems to run only during off-peak hours. When demand gets too high during peak hours, energy companies can be forced to use backup generators that are not as efficient as their main generators, and they’ll probably charge you more for the privilege, too.

Don’t run your filter and sweeper as long during the fall and winter months when you will not be using your pool anyway. A pool cover will help to keep it clean enough, and you’ll save on energy costs.

Installing a timer on your pool pump so that it does not run full time can save up to 60% of its energy use. Longer running times do not necessarily filter the pool better. Many people are happy using the pump only 3-6 hours per day. Start by having the timer run 6 hours per day (two hours at a time spaced evenly)  and monitor the pool. If it is clear, try decreasing the pump time. If it gets cloudy, increase the time by a half hour total per day until your pool is clear. Using an efficient pump can cut energy consumption by as much as 75%. Variable-speed pumps — which use the same permanent magnetic drive as hybrid cars — slow the water flow, which lowers resistance and therefore reduces energy consumption. If special features require a higher flow rate than just turning the water, the pump can be revved up for a set amount of time. The carbon savings is equivalent to driving about 10,000 miles a year less or planting about 3,000 trees. Variable-speed pumps cost about twice as much, $1,400 vs. $700 but homeowners can recoup the costs quickly. On large pools with multiple features, such as those at hotels and other commercial settings, the payback can come in one season. A bonus: Variable-speed pumps whisper compared to the 80- to 100-decibel roar of standard pumps.

Getting creative with the landscaping around your pool can have aesthetic benefits and keep your pool cool in the summer and warm in the winter. When designed as a windbreak, landscaping can even help to prevent evaporation.

While pools don’t need heaters in summer, spas do. And some pool owners opt for heaters to extend swim season a few months. Today’s heaters are about 40 percent more efficient than those made 15 years ago, and an efficiency rating in the 80s is desirable. After an up-front investment, pool owners can heat the water free using the sun. For most residential pools, solar panels will cost about $5,000. A gas heater costs about $3,000, he says; propane about $5,000. A 15,000- to 30,000-gallon pool will require seven 4-foot by 12-foot solar collectors, on average. An alternative to solar panels is a system that diverts water to the attic for heating. As the small unit sucks hot air from the attic, it also cools the home. Pipes carrying water from the pool to the attic and back usually areplaced along rain gutters and through soffit vents, he says. Estimated cost: $5,500 with average payback in two years.

Traditional halogen pool lights are 400 to 500 watts and last about 2,500 hours. LED bulbs give the same light for about 70 watts and a 25,000-hour bulb life. Replacing a fixture will cost about $1,000.

If your pool needs a professional cleaning-wherein the entire pool is drained and the sides scrubbed with acid-make sure to use a green pool service that recycles your old pool water. This can save as much as 30,000 gallons of water!

If you live near an unpolluted lake, pond, or swimming hole, you’re one of the lucky ones because you get to swim in a pure, self-cleaning body of water. For now, city-dwelling swimmers will often have to settle for man-made pools, and hopefully these will all be as clean and clear as pristine mountain lakes some day. And if that’s what we hope for in the future, the future is already within our grasp…

For more information on how to make your pool energy efficiency, see the attached article.

Natural Swimming Pools

One exciting green design option that is slowly gaining acceptance in the U.S. is the natural swimming pool, which offers a refreshing, beautiful alternative to reliance on chlorine or other toxic chemicals.

Natural swimming pools have been somewhat popular in Europe for a few decades (where they are often called natural swimming ponds), and they work by fostering the balance of a small natural ecosystem. Managed properly, natural pools have alpine lake-clear water that requires no chemicals to maintain. They have lower maintenance costs than conventional pools, and their installation costs are typically not much more. The key is to establish a zone of aquatic plants around or adjacent to the swimming area, which filter out contaminants from the water.

There are a few companies designing such green oases in the U.S., and it’s likely that demand will increase sharply, as more and more consumers take interest in sustainability, and want to avoid industrial chemicals. Chlorine is known to be harsh on skin and hair, and a number of studies have linked inhalation of the chemical by swimmers to increased asthma rates.

postheadericon Live safer with Plastics

Plastics are everywhere and life without plastic is unrealistic these days.  For an entire century plastic was hailed as a modern miracle, taking the place of many natural materials that were being exhausted, but eventually the downsides of plastic started to emerge. There are ways to live safer with plastics by making the right choices and supporting the right legislation.  Discards, leached chemicals and the lack of biodegradability are wreaking havoc on the environment and on human health.  During the manufacture of certain plastics, toxic chemicals such as benzene and dioxin are released.  Other chemicals such as bisphenol-A leach into our food chain when we use plastics.  Discarded plastic containers tossed into our landfills take hundreds of years to break down, and some new evidence suggests that plastic polymers never fully biodegrade.  When this plastic breaks down it forms a dust that ends up in our waterways and can bind with other toxins like DDT and PCB forming super concentrated levels which are ingested by our marine life and ultimately end up in our food chain.  Plastics accumulate in our waterways killing aquatic life, it is estimated that 12% of the US solid waste is plastic.

By reducing your use of plastic, and choosing plastic products with care you can help to reduce the risk to your family and the environment.

Stop drinking bottled water!   Water bottle manufacturing guzzles 1.5 million gallons of fossils fuels to produce and take a vast amount of additional fuel and resources to distribute it around the world.  The Pacific Institute estimates that in 2006 producing the bottles for American consumption alone required the equivalent of more than 17 million barrels of oil, not including transportation impact, and produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide.  It takes approx. 3x the amount of water to produce a water bottle and fill it with water than the actual bottle holds.  It is estimated that the average American consumes 167 bottles of water annually.  Most of the water was sold in polyethylene terephthalate (PET) bottles, requiring nearly 900,000 tons of the plastic. PET is produced from fossil fuels – typically natural gas and petroleum.  PET bottles can be recycled but evidence shows that only 20-25% of these bottles are recycled and if left on their own would take nearly 700 years to decompose.  Not only is bottled water bad for the environment, evidence suggests that it may not be better for you.  Bottled water quality is regulated by the FDA while tap water is under much stricter EPA guidelines that disallow E coli.  Bottled water regulations do not include this restriction!  In addition there is mounting evidence that the chemicals contained in the PET bottles leach into the water.  These bottles are designed for “single use” to reduce the chance of leaching chemicals.  Single use materials and conveniences are a socio-economic and environmental nightmare that need to be eliminated from our sustainable way of life.  (This info is courtesy of Green Irene.)

Styrofoam – convenience at an unacceptable cost: Medical evidence suggests that chemicals, as benzene & styrene in EPS foam are carcinogenic and may leach into food and drink. Polystyrene is produced from styrene, a known human neurotoxin and animal carcinogen, attacking the central and peripheral nervous systems. Factory workers who work with styrene have been documented to have suffered from a variety of neurological and hematological disorders. Not only is there styrene left over from EPS manufacturing, but styrene has been shown to leach out from EPS packaging under a variety of circumstances–most notably when in contact with an acidic food (such as adding lemon to your tea), contact with hot foods, or when food containing vitamin A, which breaks down EPS, is microwaved.  EPS cups, containers and plastic bags, are a major source of pollution on our beaches – especially after a rainstorm. EPS breaks down into small pieces, often mistaken for food by marine animals, birds and fish. Once swallowed, it either acts as a poison or fills the stomach causing reduced appetite and nutrient absorption, often leading to slow starvation. According to Alguita Research Institute (, the ratio of plastics to plankton (a major food source for many marine animals) in the oceans is currently 6:1 and rapidly increasing. Reprinted from Styrophbia’s website.


  1. Use a gallon water filter in your fridge of cold water instead of bottles.It will help reduce the negative environmental impact and give you more space.
  2. Purchase a portable water bottle formember of your family.  Keep them in your vehicles so they are accessible.  Avoid hard, clear reusable plastic bottles made of polycarbonate #7 plastic which mayBPA a harmful chemical.
  3. Try using seltzer-bottle replaceable CO2 to created bubbly water or soda on demand.
  4. Carry a stainless steel reusable coffee mug in your car so you aren’t tempted to do a “fly-by” coffee mission and end up throwing away a Styrofoam cup.

See fun and eco-friendly personal soda maker at Green Irene


postheadericon Plastic Free Haleiwa

Plastic Free Hawai’i

Plastic Free Hawai’i is a coalition of community members and business owners that strives to educate the stores, schools restaurants, residents and visitors of Hawai’i on the environmental and health benefits of going plastic free in order to minimize the consumption and pollution of plastics in our islands.

Plastic Free Hawaii Goals:

  1. To minimize the consumption of single-use plastics.  Single use items include   plastic bags, food take-out containers, styrofoam, plastic utensils, water bottles, etc.
  2. To promote the human and environmental health benefits of going plastic free.
  3. To provide a list of cost effective alternatives to single-use plastics:  including re-usable bags and bottles, compostable bags and food wares.
  4. To support and assist local government in passing plastic free legislation.
  5. To keep the campaign tone positive and looking towards a healthier future, rewarding those that participate without condemning those that do not.

Recently I was able to help out with Plastic Free Haleiwa at the Hawaii Kai Farmers market. One of the great things in doing this is introducing these concepts and practices to our keikis.  Culture is about cultivating values and it starts with the keikis.

learn more about Plastic Free Haleiwa

postheadericon Stainless Steel Water Bottles

Plastic water bottles not only get thrown into the landfill but they leach out toxic chemicals into your drinking water.

The EZ Green alternative is to buy a Stainless Steel water bottle and fill it with your filtered or tap water.

I bought one similar to this for $6.95 at Longs Drugs but I have seen them in more and more retail outlets.

Now it is my constant companion and I am well hydrated while sprouting another green leaf in my life.

Look for our special deals on Stainless Steel water bottles in the near futures.

We’d love to hear from you!
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