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  • Emmanuel Bartolome

Environmental Efforts in Hawaii

There are various efforts by individuals and organizations to preserve the environment and wellbeing of Hawaii residents.


Climate change has been recognized by many residents as being a threat to the health and wellbeing of Hawaii communities. It’s easy to see why residents worry considering that Hawaii is a string of islands stranded in the Pacific making it susceptible to rising sea levels.


Hawaii is further compromised considering it lies within the Ring of Fire, a set of volcanoes aligned on the Pacific. In the Ring of Fire many continental plates meet and collide against each other resulting in natural disasters such as tsunamis, earthquakes and volcanic eruptions.


These concerns are further worsened considering that Hawaii is a state with many people on very little land. On Oahu there are almost a million people stuffed into 600 square miles. According to Population Connection, the Oahu landfill reached maximum capacity in 2012. This came as Oahu residents produced about six and a half pounds of trash everyday, two pounds more than the national average.


Due to these factors many local residents and organizations have volunteered their time, money and efforts into making a difference. This can be seen through various volunteer efforts by private citizens and governmental actions to improve environmental wellbeing.



A budgetary document from 2020, reveals the State of Hawaii spent 279 million dollars on environmental efforts. These funds would be spent into pollution control efforts by the Department of Environmental Services, environmental regulations by the Environmental Protection Agency and efforts to educate and encourage residents into developing sustainable practices.


One education-based program would be Oahu’s Tour De Trash program which allows residents to see how trash is disposed and managed. Tour De Trash makes a return following its brief closure during the pandemic health concerns. Due to its abrupt return, the program is running only two of its five tours.


Tour one and five, the only available tours look into how waste is recycled and processed. Tour two looks into how manufacturing and construction firms reduce waste production. Tour three looks into how local businesses promote sustainability. Tour four looks into how non-profit organizations such as the Salvation Army reuse and recycle for the benefit of local communities.



Another conservation effort is the Hawaiian Legacy Reforestation Initiative, a private effort which seeks to restore Hawaiian forests and the strengthening of watersheds or locations where surface water accumulates in one single point.


The initiative seeks to restore the environment by educating residents and visitors on how to respect the environment and adopt sustainable practices. The initiative has put forward the bold goal of planting one million trees of which it has planted half a million trees. To sponsor a tree through the initiative costs $84.


Another conservation effort is the ambitious Ola Oahu Resilience Strategy. The Ola Oahu Resilience Strategy was developed by Honolulu officials such as former Honolulu mayor Kirk Caldwell and various private organizations such as the 100 Resilient Cities Network which was created by the Rockefeller Foundation, a wealthy philanthropic organization to promote economic, social and environmental sustainable futures for cities across the world.


The Ola Oahu Resilience Strategy is a policy plan detailing how the government and the private sector will promote environmental causes alongside a livable future in Hawaii. The initiatives introduced by the Ola Oahu Resilience Strategy will be impactful to the future of Hawaii considering their ambitious policy goals and the involvement of various influential non-profit organizations, government officials and oligarchs in the creation of the plan and its ongoing operations.


The strategy proposes a reworking of the tax code to increase taxes on the rich to reduce international and mainland investment into local real estate as it would reduce the cost of real estate and to better fund affordable housing projects.


The strategy also proposes the ambitious goal of achieving a carbon neutrality status or the balance of CO2 creation and CO2 elimination by 2045. This would be achieved through the transition of water vehicles to renewable energies by 2035 and the transition of land vehicles to renewable energies by 2045 and various other policies.


Leina’ala Mahi, a recycling specialist for Opala, Honolulu’s residential waste management branch notes that when supporting environmental causes it’s best to “reduce the amount of trash/waste that they generate… Prolonging the life of items by repairing, repurposing, renovating, reusing things makes a huge impact with the amount of garbage we generate. This also includes food waste; 40 [percent] of food in the US is thrown away.”


Food waste is a prominent issue for environmentalists as it makes a majority of waste. This issue is one also experienced by schools and families which often see food wasted. Nora Kissel, the cafeteria manager at Farrington High School reveals when students eat lunch, much of it is left uneaten forcing the school to dispose of the waste in dumpsters.



The Mayo Clinic recommends several methods to reduce food waste such as taking an inventory of one’s pantry to avoid over buying, storing food appropriately to prevent spoiling and the use of composting to put spoiled items to good use. In addition, food that may be wasted can be put to good use by donating to charities like the Salvation Army and Feeding America.


While it is true that climate change may be a worrying issue for many, communities can avert the issues of the modern era by taking consistent and methodical actions towards sustainability. These actions can include simple things such as not buying too much food, planting saplings and throwing used soda cans into recycling bins to more complex actions such as volunteering, donating food that may be wasted to charities and abandoning a week of car ride for peaceful strolls down the street. All in all, every action towards environmental sustainability be it large or small is ultimately a step towards a brighter future.






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