Zero Waste and Hawaii

Since my own zero waste journey started every time I go out into the world I see things differently than before. My recent trip to Hawaii was no different. There were many things I was impressed with and even some things I was surprised by.

Some zero waste things Hawaii got right:

  • No plastic bags at the grocery store. In July Hawaii got a bunch of news for their plastic bag ban in grocery stores. This is great for many reason including plastic isn’t biodegradable and more and more plastics are ending up in the pacific garbage patch.
  • There was a 20 cent charge for paper bags which was a great enforcement of good behavior changes. I saw many people bring their own reusable bags and most cashiers said “thank you” for bringing your own or saying no to a bag which was nice.
  • There is $500 fine for litter. I don’t think I saw any litter on roads and very little on the beaches. I even saw a couple people picking up the few pieces of garbage that were on the beaches we visited. This showed me how much everyone cared.
  • Many houses collected their own rain water and have solar panels. Two things I would like to start doing myself.
  • LED lighting or no street lights on highways, so little light pollution which was great for star gazing. If you want to know more about the impact of light pollution on people and our environment I recommend the documentary The City Dark.

Some things that need improvement:

  • It was hard to find many recycling cans. Now maybe all garbage get sorted before it goes to the dump. I was surprise either way.
  • I didn’t see anywhere to compost. Maybe this is only done on a individual level? I would image the islands could benefit with commercial compost considering all the farming that is done.
  • Holy huge portions! Large portions at restaurants, enough for two to three meals. I couldn’t believe the size of the food portions. I gained 5 lbs on vacation, thankful I have lost 4 lbs of it since I got back. This seems unnecessary, unhealthy, and wasteful.
  • I was surprised to see so many styrofoam take-out containers considering the no plastic bag ban.

Of the few issues I did see there might already be solutions in place that I just didn’t notice. All are easy to address if a solution isn’t already in place. All and all I was REALLY impressed with the progressiveness I saw in Hawaii, these are people who respect the beautiful land that they live in.


2 thoughts on “Zero Waste and Hawaii”

  1. Hawaii doesn’t have a huge recycling or composting presence. The recycling is partially because everything has to be shipped off island to actually be recycled, so that increases the cost making it harder to be cost effective. You can read what they recycled on Oahu while I lived there here:

    However you bring up an interesting point about composting. That is something they could/should probably do!

    They also weren’t charging for paper bags while I lived there..or maybe they did, I just used my reusable bag. You can ready about it here:

    But yes, Hawaiians care about the ‘aina (land)! So glad you guys had a great time.

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