11 Ways to Make Your Summer Toxic Free

By Kahi Pacarro

The beach boys are hustling for lessons and maybe a future wife. The sun’s cooking your shoulders as the wax on your overheated longboard barely sticks. Throngs of tourists do their cooked lobster impersonations while sitting on towel-sized oceanfront real estate. They spray sunscreen like it’s deodorant onto their melanin-challenged skin while most of it goes into the air. As you slide into the overly warm Waikiki waters, an oily sheen with the scent of pina coladas and bananas coats your board and body. You don’t even wear sunscreen anymore in Waikiki, because you can get a good coat just paddling out.

As you paddle out through Baby Queens, you wonder when the sign is going to be installed encouraging beginners to paddle towards Canoes and leave Queens to the experienced. As you stare over your left shoulder at Diamond Head, you also wonder how much longer this postcard lifestyle can sustain itself.

Here are a few ways that will make your summer a bit cooler on our environment and a path towards a sustainable paradise.


There are two types of sunscreens: Physical and chemical. Use reef friendly physical blockers like zinc, titanium, and fabric. A really good way to look at it is that if you can’t see your sunscreen on your body, you’re killing the reef. The active ingredient in most sunscreens is oxybenzone, and it is a proven reef killer. Chemical sunscreens are effective by absorbing into your skin, but they also absorb into your bloodstream while also killing the reef.

Bottled Water

Hawaii has some of the cleanest drinking water on the planet coming directly from our taps. When you’re buying bottled water, you’re not actually buying water, you’re buying convenience because you’re lazy. Get a reusable water bottle, fill it up and save your money for a surf trip.


You’re fighting the plastic fight yet everyday you start your day with a plastic toothbrush. Get yourself a bamboo toothbrush that biodegrades. Start your day off right: plastic free.


Did you know most coffee shop “to go” cups are lined with plastic? Ditch it altogether and bring in your own mug.

Shave Ice

It’s like every kid gets a trophy and every kid now gets a stupid plastic spill proof cup for their shave ice. You’re not a true local keiki until that shave ice falls onto your feet and the sticky syrup turns to glue between your slippers and your toes. Stop preventing your child from this experience. Lead by example and get the paper cup, no straw, the wooden spoon is ok, and don’t forget the ice cream at the bottom.


Look at your existing board and start making your next one greener. There are those protruding apparatuses under our board that cuts things, are made of plastic, and get in the way. Go finless or even better, ditch the foam and ride an alai’a.

Beach Cleanups

There’s not a better place to meet like minded individuals in minimal clothing. It’s also a known fact that beach cleaners get more waves.


If you’re gonna have a bonfire, don’t use pallets. Burnt pallets leave nails in the sand.


Our plastic bag ban is still in limbo. We have retailers handing out thick plastic bags calling them environmentally-friendly and one retailer even has the gall to write “Reusable, Help Protect our Aina”. Don’t buy into this madness. Bring your own bag and if you forgot your bag, carry it out. Stick your stuff in a box like at Costco, put it directly in the cart, turn your shirt into a bag, get creative, but whatever you do, don’t justify taking another single use plastic bag.


There are some good shows coming up and you know you’re going to go to at least one. A few simple things you can do include reusing your cup and ditching the straw. Why are you getting a straw anyways? Surfers don’t drink cosmos. Want to see how a concert should be hosted? Check out the Jack Johnson shows coming up in August.


After a long sesh, nothing really beats a plate lunch. Problem is, they often serve the best food in the least environmentally friendly packaging. Therefore, eat where they use compostable plates. If you must, hit up the spot using polystyrene (styrofoam), bring in your own container and cutlery. Chopsticks are better than the plastic cutlery.

Those are just a few way to mellow out your plastic vibe this summer. It’s going to take all of us pushing the needle towards a more sustainable Hawaii. We can’t point fingers at others if we’re not living pono ourselves. Learn more about what you can do to malama aina by following along on our Instagram at @sustainablecoastlineshawaii and better yet, join as at any of our upcoming beach cleanups across the state.

Kahi Pacarro is the Executive Director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.


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