Ocean Stew­ards

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.

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