Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii cleans up our beaches.
Sust ainable Coastlines Hawaii t alks t r ash ( and cleans it up!)
RARELY, IF EVER, HAS ANY LEADER OF AN ORGANIZATION UTTERED A DESIRE TO EVENTUALLY FOLD—TO DO ITS JOB SO WELL THAT IT NO LONGER is needed in the community. But this is the main objective Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii executive director Kahi Pacarro has for the nonprofit organization—and he means it, too.
“The ultimate goal of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is to go out of business as a result of not needing to need it,” he says.
With a desire to eliminate debris in the ocean and on shorelines—and to instill a sense of mindfulness among consumers—Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii has been instrumental in organizing community beach cleanups. While it regularly conducts cleanups statewide, what Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii really has become known for is its large-scale affairs that also feature entertainment, music, food, games and more. These, according to Pacarro, occur six times each year and sometimes welcome approximately 500-1,000 volunteers.
Their efforts have made a sizable impact, too. According to Pacarro, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii currently collects nearly 15-25 tons of debris annually—large numbers that eventually inspired another project the organization has undertaken.
Dubbed the Ocean Plastics Program, it initially began as a partnership with the cleaning product company, Method. Instead of sending the plastic it collects—mainly from O‘ahu, as well as other major islands and Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument—to landfills or incinerators creating even more waste, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii began turning over its collections to Method, which reused it in product packaging. Method since was bought out, and Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii now continues its efforts with Parley for the Oceans. But beyond physical labor, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii continues to make an impact in small and big ways. It frequently teams up with the likes of BAMP Project and World Surf League for its Waste Diversion Education Program, which sets up bins at events that feature waste, compost and recyclable compartments.
Education also remains a key initiative for the organization, which works with everyone from preschoolers to adults. Its Education Station, for example—a 20-foot mobile classroom—has found its way to schools, where students may learn more about pollution and how they can get involved. It's a way to target youths in particular, who may have too many extracurricular activities to attend beach cleanups, or parents who are uninterested in the topic—and Pacarro says it has been pretty successful so far.
“The beach is our best classroom, but the second-best classroom is our Education Station,” he says.
New to the organization is a program rooted in what Pacarro refers to as “voluntourism.” Dubbed IVHQ, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii welcomes out-of-state visitors for a week or two, during which they spend 4-6 hours each day completing service projects in the community—cleaning up beaches, participating in education outreach, or working at Paepae o He‘eia or Kako‘o ‘Oiwi. In return, volunteers are provided with breakfasts and lunches, as well as a place to stay. So far, the organization already has welcomed about 100 participants in this “voluntourism” program, who have traveled from places as far as Mexico and Japan, to Canada and the Mainland.
“That's a really powerful tool for us to really expand the issue of plastic pollution in Hawai‘i to a broader, international stage,” he adds.
Pacarro—along with about seven other friends—established Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii six years ago. As a surfer, watching the increase of debris in the ocean and on beaches has been personally frustrating for Pacarro.
In the years that have passed, Pacarro has witnessed Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii raising the level of awareness in the community. More people are showing up at beach cleanups or doing it on their own time— Pacarro recently observed kids doing their part at the beach—and bringing reusable bags to the store. More importantly, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii has been instrumental in using its data to push legislation along. It helped pass the smoking ban at certain beaches and plastic bag ban, for example, and continues to make its voice heard.
It doesn't take a lot for someone to make an impact. In fact, Pacarro first recommends people examine their own lives, assessing how much plastic they use. Plastic doesn't magically disappear—a point that Pacarro says is emphasized at each beach cleanup.
“After you've picked up the 50th straw or the 20th cigarette butt … you recognize that, ‘Hey, these are things that my friends and I use in our lives—who knows, this could have been mine,'” he says. “But if you never use that stuff, you know that's not going to be yours. These cleanups inspire consumer behavior change, and that's what we need.”
For more information and to get involved, visit sustainablecoastlineshawaii.org, and find the organization on Facebook and Instagram.