postheadericon Green Moment of Truth

I remember when I first started to feel the green, it was a normal day in the supply chain for me.  I had run out the door in a hurry and had to make a pitstop for a fast breakfast which came wrapped, rewrapped and packaged in stryofoam, foil, plastic.  In passing I noticed that it seemed like I received more packaging than food and wondered how that could be cost effective.

Off I went to purchase a new mouse for my computer.  Lo and behold it was the same deal – more packaging than mouse and this time it took industrial strength shears and determination to even get to the mouse.  Now I had actually thrown away more today than I kept, and in just two seemingly innocuous purchases.

As I headed up the Pali Highway to town I noticed a van in the right hand lane roll down a rear window and then to my horror two bags of McDonald’s styrofoam containers, straws, cups etc.  where thrown out onto the roadway.   I was shocked angry and yet there was nothing I could safely do to prevent or fix the situation.  After that day, I began to notice how much waste is inherent in our lifestyles, how much unncessary packaging there is, how simple things are not held in high regard.  I think most people have had experiences similar to mine, and I believe that this is what will actually start to make a difference in the choices that we make.

I pay attention when I buy and make a conscious decision to buy things that are less packaged, or in more earth-friendly packaging.  I think twice about anything that I’m going to throw away, can I fix it, can someone else use it, etc.?  I noticed that over time I started to re-value things in my life that I might have disposed of before.  It’s newly satisfying to me to “save” something, to re-energize something that would have been trashed before.

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 – Not So Fantasic

Plastic bag stats from Making Waves – the online newsletter of the Surfrider Foundation:

  • The amount of oil need to product a year’s worth of plastic packaging would fuel 480,000 cars for a year.
  • The United States alone produces 24 billion pounds for plastic packaging annually.  That is the equivalent of 300,000 gray whales.
  • If you stretched end-to-end 100 billion plastic bags (a year’s supply) they would reach from the Earth to the Sun every two years.
  • Americans purchase 28 billion water bottles annually, which could fill Madison Square Garden from top to bottom with water 92 times.
  • The cost to produce 1 plastic bag is 2-5 cents.  The cost to clean up 1 plastic bag is 17 cents.

Reprinted from the Honolulu Star Advertiser this editorial from Stuart Coleman of the Surfrider Foundation give us compelling reasons to eliminate single use plastic bags.  EcoPono will add to the posting with more information on plastics and their impact on our environment and health.

We are so overloaded that the City and County of Honolulu tried to ship tons of our trash to the mainland last year.In the past six months, we have seen our opala (trash) problem cause a huge fire down on the docks, where the huge bales of trash had festered for months. More recently, we witnessed a toxic flood of trash and medical wastes flowing from our landfills down to the Leeward Coast after the heavy rains in January.

Faced with such disastrous fires and flood, it’s time to talk trash. We have to reduce our waste stream and take better care of our island home.

As part of the Surfrider Foundation’s national Rise Above Plastics Campaign, tens of thousands of volunteers in Hawaii and across the country have stopped using single-use plastic bags and bottles. Every person who stops consuming these wasteful products saves each year an estimated 400-500 single-use plastic bags and 160 plastic bottles from going into our landfills and trashing our environment. Collectively, we have already made a huge difference, but we still have a long way to go.

Americans go through more than 100 billion plastic bags each year, yet less than 5 percent is ever recycled. Most of these petroleum products end up clogging our landfills, which are already overflowing. Studies show that removing plastic bags from the landfills will extend their use by years.

Some governmental officials say that the bags can simply be burned at the HPOWER plant, but this is a costly solution that only leads to more air pollution, global warming and tons of toxic ash that end up at the landfills (250 tons per day at $100/ton). This ash and residue is full of heavy metals and dioxins that are extremely toxic, and investigators are still trying to determine how much of this was spilled along the Leeward Coast last month.

Plastic bags are like toxic tumbleweeds, and our island breezes blow them out to sea. Floating in the ocean, they look like jellyfish and are often eaten by sea turtles and other endangered creatures. Plastics of all kinds are the No. 1 source of marine debris, and millions of seabirds, fish, marine mammals and sea turtles die each year due to ingestion and entanglement.

Most people in Hawaii now realize that wasting more than 350 million single-use plastic checkout bags each year is wasteful and bad for the environment. The solution is simple: Stop using them and bring your own reusable tote bags. That’s why we support Senate Bill 1059, which would ban plastic bags, and House Bill 998 and Senate Bill 1363, which would impose a small fee on all single-use plastic and paper bags in order to remind people to bring their own reusable ones.

There has been a groundswell of support in Hawaii and across the world for legislation to reduce the use of single-use bags. In Maui, Kauai and counties around the country, bans on plastic bags went into effect in January. In Washington, D.C., a 5-cent fee on plastic bags dropped usage 80 percent in the first year. The fee bills would also bring in needed revenue, and they are not taxes because they can be avoided just by bringing a reusable bag. Seeing the wisdom of this common-sense legislation, a coalition of stores like Safeway and Times and the Retail Merchants of Hawaii now supports the fee bills.

Most of us use plastic bags only for the short trip home from the store, but they last hundreds of years. How wasteful! That’s why the Rise Above Plastics Coalition supports these bills, which will charge a fee on single-use plastic and paper checkout bags to cover the “hidden costs” (almost 17 cents per bag) that taxpayers spend to subsidize the collection and disposal of these wasteful products.

Reducing the proliferation of plastic and paper bags is a win-win scenario for the state and the stores, the people and the environment. It’s time to take better care of our island home.


ALSO SEE ECOPONO BLOG:  Floating Plastic Garbage Dump

postheadericon CFL Recycling

You probably now know that CFL’s are preferable to incandescent light bulbs. They emit less mercury during production, they use less energy and they last longer. However, even if you have switched every light bulb in your home to a CFL, it is necessary to consider the environmental implications of production and disposal. CFL’s do contain trace amounts of mercury and they still use some energy, so how can we ensure that we are using them to their fullest potential?

Although CFL’s contain a relatively small amount of mercury, it is still important to ensure that this toxic liquid does not seep from our landfills into our waterways and land areas. Luckily, recycling resources provide us with plenty of opportunities to prevent this from happening. Programs, like, offer locators to find the closest CFL recyclers. Larger hardware and home goods retailers will also sometimes offer on-site CFL recycling.

All of these recycling programs use Bulb Eaters, machines that swallow CFL light bulbs and extract the mercury out. The mercury travels through a three stage filter within the Bulb Eater. The first two filters remove dust particulates, while final last carbon filter converts the mercury vapor into a non-toxic mercuric sulfide. The leftover aluminum and glass are then recycled to make other products, such as concrete and fiberglass.

Another way to prevent mercury pollution is to consider amalgam-based CFL’s. Such CFL’s contain a mixture of mercury and other metals, like copper and tin. It results in a less-toxic, solid form of mercury, meaning that no excess liquid mercury will lead to water pollution. Amalgam-based CFL’s also work better in a wider range of temperatures. While typical CFL’s are at 50% light capacity at 0°C, amalgam-based CFL’s reach full light output at temperatures ranging from -17°C to 65°C. Green Irene offers several light bulbs with amalgam mercury: the TorpedoPar 38 Floodlight and R30 Reflector bulbs, which are part of Green Irene’s wider range of energy efficient lighting products.

Changing over to CFL’s and recycling them properly can have a profound effect not only on your utility bill, but on you and the environment’s overall health. As opposed to incandescent light bulbs, CFL’s provide efficient and environmentally friendly lighting that will keep you going back to buy more… after you’ve recycled the old ones, that is.
Powered by Liz Mamer of Green Irene

In Hawaii, Home Depot and Lowes accept used or broken CFLs for recycling.  Place used bulb in a plastic bag and take to any Home Depot or Lowes store.

Waste Management, the nation’s largest waste and recycling company, has a recycling kit for CFLs.  Mail-in recycling kits for CFL can be purchased, filled with expired CFLs and placed in the mail. The website Think Green From Home explains step-by-step how to recycle CFLs, and will even provide you with a confirmation of recycling via e-mail.  Each CFL Recycling Kit is priced at $16.95, and can hold up to 15 CFLs. The kits come complete with a re-sealableVaporLok bag and a prepaid reutrn shipping label.

For more information on mercury and CFL disposal, go to

postheadericon Waste – small steps are a big deal

I recently came across this photo of salvaged goods for sale in Cairo and also came across a blog that reminded me again that being green requires a new thought process that can be daunting and overwhelming at times.  The questions and responses below mirror the thoughts we all have as we find our Eco-consciousness but the responses make a good point, we can all make a difference and even small things count.  We all have things that we hold dear that we will not give up but there are many things we can all do to reduce waste.

  • The idea of reducing my waste makes me feel… I almost feel angry that I have to do this.  I look around and see all the rubbish in the street and on the beach and I think how much could I really help?  Yes, at times it is overwhelming to think “can this be recycled”, or I when have to throw away more things than I can recycle.   But then I stop, take a deep breath and think to myself: I’m already doing a good job, there’s no point in sweating the small stuff.
  • What keeps me from recycling/reducing more is… not knowing exactly whether something can be recycled or not and recycling that is limited to only 2 types of plastics, type 1 & 2. (Check the bottom of the container for the symbol in the triangle for the type of plastic.)  I know what can go at the curb and to the recycling depots, but what about the other stuff? Nearly all of the small plastic containers with butter, cream cheese, poki are type 5  or 6 plastics which could be recycled but are not part of the recycling program in Hawaii.
  • What does waste mean to you? Waste means I didn’t do a good enough job planning.  For example: meal planning. I made too much and had to throw away leftovers.  If  I can compost my leftovers  and composting food scraps for use in a garden it reduces a big part of the waste from the kitchen. Waste, for me also includes impulse shopping.  Yes, I’m guilty… I love to shop and I try to consciously try to pick more sustainable options like reusable packaging and shopping, rechargeable batteries, and a stainless steel water bottle.
  • One thing I can do right away to reduce my waste is… make a durable “to-go kit”. We eat out a couple of times a week; I can never finish all my food when we do, so I always have leftovers.  Instead of relying on the restaurant for those non recyclable plastic or worse yet, styrofoam, to-go containers, I need to make myself a to-go kit.  It could simply include a couple of various sized reusable containers with lids.  If I keep them either by the door or in my car (in a reusable bag) I’ll always have it handy and ready for those spur-of-the-moment trips when we decide to eat out.

So, how about each of you – how would you answer each of the questions above?

postheadericon Aquaponics: Eco-Synergy

In Hawaii, the use of fish to fertilize plants has a long history, beginning 400 or 500 years ago, when islanders irrigated crops with water from fish ponds. At some point, they had noticed plants watered from the fish ponds grew better than with plain water.  Aquaponics as a technology has been around for several decades, but it’s only become widespread in Hawaii within the past three or four years.

Aquaculture specialist Clyde Tamaru from the UH College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources recently commented:

“Since November 2009 we have been able to provide two informational workshops on Oahu and one on Maui with our Sea Grant counterpart Robert Howerton that in total drew over 300 participants. Outcomes of the workshops have been an ever increasing number of individuals establishing aquaponic and hydroponic systems both in their backyards and also in commercial settings on Oahu. Anticipated impacts will be the realization of a decreased dependence of imported food items improving our ability to be self sustainable.”

Aquaponic systems are a blend of two food producing technologies; fish farming (aquaculture) and growing plants without soil (hydroponics).  Aquaponics is the fastest growing form of US agriculture.  Aquaponics is a synergistic relationships between plants and fish that is beneficial to both, and to humans as well.

It works like this: fish waste from the fish tank is transported up to a plant bed (the bog) where plants are housed in rocks, rather than soil.  The fish waste (ammonia) is produced by fish, and becomes organic fertilizer.  Plants and friendly bacteria, living on the rocks, make this happen and simultaneously purify the water by removing ammonia.  Naturally cleansed water then filters back down into the tank, making it unnecessary to change the water or use a filter.  The cycle repeats itself every 1-2 hours on a timer.

Backyard units are often self contained and take up minimum space.  Traditional farming equipment is not needed, and because the plants on an elevated gravel bead, many common pest problems are eliminated all together. Oxygen and PH levels are also important factors in healthy and productive system.  These can be controlled and monitored with a home kit.  This type of system is 100% organic if the fish food is also organic, the fish are typically not able to tolerate chemicals and fertilizers.

The fish of choice for these systems is tilapia.  The second most cultured fish in the world, and extremely popular in Aquaponics systems. They are an ideal species for aquaponics for many reasons. They are easy to breed, fast growing, withstand very poor water conditions, consume an omnivorous diet and are good eating. Tilapia are also declared pest in many areas.

You can find information on systems for sale at and DIY plans and education at:  This company also sells plans for DIY and offers free systems for non-profits:

Here is a good blog on aquaponics:

postheadericon International Coastal Clean-Up

The 25TH ANNUAL International Coastal Cleanup is slated for Saturday, September 25 — with additional cleanups scheduled throughout the months of September and October.

From Baltimore to Bangladesh, Ocean Conservancy leads the world’s most astounding grassroots cleanup effort. Every year in September, more than half-a-million people in 100 countries remove millions of pounds of trash from beaches and waterways all over the world—and collect data on what they find.

What’s it all about?  Go to:

All year long, organizations and individuals across the globe take part in Ocean Conservancy’s International Coastal Cleanup to remove trash and debris from the world’s beaches and waterways, identify the sources of that debris, and change the behaviors that allow it to reach the ocean in the first place.

During the amazing signature event each September, hundreds of thousands of volunteers from countries all over the world spend a day picking up everything from cigarette butts and food wrappers to lost fishing nets and major appliances. Because trash travels to the ocean by way of storm drains and waterways, they don’t just work along ocean beaches; these dedicated folks slog through mud and sand along lakes, streams, and rivers, too, often working far inland.

Many walk, some set out on boats and thousands more don scuba gear to seek trash below the water’s surface. People of all ages, from any walk of life, can participate. Friends, families, neighbors, club members, grade school classes—all kinds of people turn out on one day to work together in spirit across many time zones.

Local action, global change

It all began with one woman walking along the beach of South Padre Island, Texas. Appalled at the amount of trash she saw, Linda Maraniss immediately felt compelled to do something about it. As a former employee of Ocean Conservancy (then known as the Center for Environmental Education), she knew something about solutions. Teaming up with like-minded people, she organized a beach cleanup. In a mere two hours, 2,800 Texans picked up 124 tons of trash along 122 miles of coastline. Since 1986, that effort has rippled out across the globe, and over a quarter century has grown into a much-loved and much valued experience that nearly half-a-million people look forward to each fall—with more joining each year.

Data makes for good decisions

Working shoulder-to-shoulder, the volunteers in the Cleanup’s global network not only pick up trash, they record every item they find on standardized data cards. Ocean Conservancy compiles and analyzes the data each year, and publishes the world’s only item-by-item, location-by-location snapshot of marine debris in an annual report. By understanding what is out there, we can work together on solutions. For instance, each year volunteers collect more than a million beverage bottles from beaches, shorelines, and underwater in just one day. Clearly, that’s the tip of the iceberg.

Cleanups alone can’t solve the marine debris problem; we need to stop it at the source. Armed with knowledge about the most prevalent components of marine debris, elected officials can make informed policy decisions, and community leaders can more effectively tailor and expand recycling and other waste reduction programs. Corporations can see the need for improved technology and reduced packaging, and individuals are inspired to properly dispose of trash to keep it out of the ocean.

When we trash the ocean, we trash our own well-being

Whether we live along the shore or hundreds of miles inland, we are all intimately connected to the ocean. It drives and moderates our climate. It is the ultimate source of much of the water we drink and much of the air we breathe. It directly feeds millions of people. It also absorbs a great deal of the air and water pollution generated by a world population approaching seven billion people. But our ocean is sick, and our actions have made it so.

Marine debris kills

Every year, countless marine mammals, sea turtles, seabirds, and other animals are sickened, injured, or killed because of dangerous items we allow into the sea. They are poisoned, choked, or entangled in the trash we leave behind, from leaky paint cans to empty yogurt cups to cast-off fishing line. Trash also poses health threats to humans, contaminates marine environments, and clogs boat propellers.

Join forces for a clean, healthy ocean

Trash doesn’t fall from the sky, it falls from human hands. And human hands have the power to stop it. You and your friends, neighbors, family, and colleagues can truly make a difference through this remarkable experience of international camaraderie on behalf of the ocean.

In 2009, 60 percent of the debris collected and cataloged consisted of single-use, disposable items. Volunteers picked up 1.1 million plastic bags. And enough cups, plates, knives, forks, and spoons for a picnic for 100,000 people.

See EcoPono’s Malama Aina Calendar for details on the Kailua Beach clean up in conjunction with this event!

postheadericon Sustainability Floats!

Kamanu Composites is a locally-owned and operated outrigger canoe manufacturer here in Hawaii. They are well recognized for pushing industry standards, and many of today’s best paddlers rely on their designs. Recently, I had a chance to talk to Luke Evslin, one of the founders of Kamanu Composites, about the positive steps they are taking to be an eco-friendly company. For Luke and his partners, it is a challenge to be green in an industry that relies so heavily upon synthetic materials: standard epoxy, foam and carbon fiber are just a few of the ingredients required to produce an outrigger canoe, none of which are biodegradable or earth-friendly.  However, the guys at Kamanu know that the right way isn’t always the easiest. They’ve taken steps to minimize their impact on the environment, such as repainting their building white to deflect heat, recycling paper/aluminum/cardboard, and planning for the installation of photovoltaic panels. They even developed re-usable shipping materials to eliminate the need for bubble-wrap. Just think of all the styrofoam peanuts we could save if everyone were to do this!!

But, of all the changes they’ve made since founding the company in 2007, the most impressive is what they refer to as “The Green Layup.”  Kamanu took their well-known and highly sought after canoe design and turned it into a green canoe by replacing 2.6 pounds of foam, 7 pounds of epoxy and 7 yards of S-glass with renewable, sustainable alternatives like hemp, cork and bio-resin epoxy. It’s a complicated process, and I’m sure it was no easy feat for the engineers and well-minded folks at Kamanu, but the end result adds up to a LOT of good. The best thing about it is that they consider the design a work in progress, and are determined to continue to push the envelope and move their company towards sustainability. Companies like this deserve recognition and applause for their hard work and commitment to eco-consciousness. For more information on Kamanu Composites and the bright minds at work, visit

postheadericon Are cigarette butts litter?

Dirty little habits, they invade our lives at all levels, ours, theirs, after awhile we get desensitized, don’t even notice them anymore.  Next time you are at a traffic light pay attention to the guy/gal in the car in front of you – you know the one with the cigarette butt dangling lazily from the end of their fingers.  Now look on the median strip or shoulder next to you and I’ll bet you there are hundreds, maybe thousands, of cigarette butts covering the ground.   It’s just crazy to me that so many people don’t even consider cigarette butts litter.

Cigarettes have over 4000 chemicals, many that are released into the air as toxins when they are burned, then adding insult to injury a vast majority of cigarette refuse ends up on our roads, our yards, our beaches and washes into storm drains that empty into the ocean.  Most cigarette filters are composed of cellulose acetate, a form or plastic.  The white fibers you see in a cigarette filter are not cotton, but a plastic that can persist in the environment as long as other forms of plastic.  Some estimate as long as 8-10 years.  The 470 billions cigarettes consumed in the US in 1998 translated to a total of 176,250,000 lbs. of discarded butts in one year.

In addition to educational programs aimed at reducing the smoking population it will take a multi-tiered effort to bring cigarette litter to the into focus.  Combinations of public ashtrays, volunteer clean up crews, enforcing litter laws, distribution of pocket ashtrays and raising public awareness will be necessary to change this silent behavior.  But it starts with personal awareness, look around and see Hawaii being used as an ashtray and it’s hard to turn away.

postheadericon Green Beer!

Kona Brewing Company recently released it’s first organic beer which has been certified by the Hawaii Organic Farmer’s Assoc.  ”Oceanic Organic Saison” is a Belgian style wheat beer, and it’s only part of the company’s commitment to become one of the greenest breweries in the U.S.  In addition to their new organic beer, Kona Brewing has installed solar/PV panels in their Kailua-Kona brewery that are expect to generate over 50% of the operating power for the business.  Other green initiatives have been replacing dish soap with a non-toxic option, using soy based cups for company marketing functions, using food waste for animal feed and composting, and using locally grown & organic ingredients whenever possible.  CEO Mattson Davis stated that becoming green is a major part of Kona Brewing’s mission and says “It’s better for our guests, better for our business–and most of all, better for our planet.”  (Quote from Honolulu Weekly)  Now what could be better than beer that’s good for the planet?  I haven’t personally tried Oceanic Organic Saison but if you have let me know.  I will be back with my review once I find some!!

We’d love to hear from you!
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