By Kahi Pacarro
Going on four months now, Freesurf has allowed us at Sustainable Coastlines to present difficult environment topics while shining light on a path towards a more sustainable future for surfers and ocean enthusiasts alike.
In this article, we decided to summarize many of the topics we’ve discussed thus far and highlight a few specific solutions to guide us in the New Year, a year that presents the opportunity to become more sustainable.
Issue: Plastic lasts indefinitely. Almost every single piece of plastic ever created is still here on Earth. Creating a piece of plastic meant to be used for just a few minutes made out a material that lasts forever is an unsustainable dichotomy that truly needs to be absorbed by us.
Solution: Refuse, Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Execute those suggestion in order, as they are most effective. Refuse is the most important “R”, and the least effective “R” is recycling. It’s a last ditch effort that in the case of plastics, simply delays the inevitable. A plastic bottle can never become another plastic bottle. Rather it is downcycled into something of lesser value until no longer having value. Therefore, choose glass and aluminum over plastic because they can be truly recycled back into the exact same item.
Issue: Plastic is made from fossil fuels like oil and natural gas (fracking).
Solution: We need new materials and increased demand for existing alternatives like bamboo, glass, aluminum, and organic cotton. Companies need to invest in the creation of new materials that can replace plastic.
Issue: Pollution is the result of failed design.
Solution: Use the power of your wallet to purchase products that consider impact on the environment into their design. For those creating the products we buy, design products that have the end of life considered into its creation. Focus on an end of life design that is actually the start of its next life cycle. In other words, when the product has reached the end of its life, it is easily recycled into something new.
Issue: Commercial fishing is resulting in polluted beaches, life endangering obstacles, and dwindled fishing stocks.
Solution: Support local small scale fishermen like your friends and family. Don’t know any? Take some beer down to the docks like Haleiwa or Waianae and make some fishermen friends. You can also try Local I’a, a company aimed at connecting fishermen with you.
Issue: Single Use Plastics are everywhere. Most of us start every morning with a plastic toothbrush and then encounter single use plastics throughout the day only to end it again with a plastic toothbrush.
Solution: Put your day into the right frame of mind and pick up a bamboo toothbrush or utilize a brand that minimizes virgin plastic use like Sonicare or Preserve. Pick up a reusable utensils kit that includes the items you use most like a fork, spoon, knife, chopsticks, and straws. Get a reusable water bottle and indulge in some of the best tap water in the world. Simple do without single use plastics. It’s easier than you think.
Issue: Most restaurants continue to utilize plastic bags and other single use plastics.
Solution: Look for the Ocean Friendly Restaurant sticker. This means that they do not hand out plastic bags, styrofoam, or other single use plastics. You can learn more at www.oceanfriendlyrestaurantshawaii.org.
Issue: Companies are creating a false sense of environmental stewardship in the form of Greenwashing. This is when a company uses the environment without actually benefitting it. For example, the thick plastic bags from certain retailers that say “Malama Aina” and “Reusable, Help Protect the Aina”.
Solution: See it for what it is: pure Greenwashing. Then, do not support these retailers. Or bring your own reusable bag to their store and mention your disdain to the management. Also, identify other greenwashing tactics used by companies. For example, keep an eye out for a green cap on a single use plastic bottle calling itself an eco-bottle.
Issue: Standard surfboards are not eco friendly.
Solution: Find a local shaper that will shape you a board that is made of more recycled materials. For example, one that uses recycled foam or other material for the blank, uses bioresins, and materials instead of fiberglass like hemp.
We have an exciting and challenging year ahead. Incorporating these solutions into our lives will help Hawaii and the surfing and ocean community lead by example. Considering we spend as much time in the ocean as we can, it only makes sense we do everything in our power to protect it.
Kahi Pacarro is the Executive Director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.