Be An Eco Friendly Visitor To Hawaii
Being a eco friendly visitor to Hawaii is incredibly important. It will leave you feeling great about your experience, help to preserve the islands for future generations of vacationers and most importantly for the people and animals who call them home. It means getting off the traditional tourist track and helping to forge a new norm. Those businesses doing the right thing will receive recognition and others will be encouraged to adopt eco friendly visitor practices because visitors care whether they give a darn. By choosing to be an eco friendly visitor to Hawaii, you’ll encounter unique experiences, meet some incredible people and garner local respect ????
Leave the beach nicer than you found it
Hawaii is the most isolated center of population in the world, at 2,390 miles from California and 3,850 miles from Japan. its unique location has forced the islands to reckon with an unwelcome guest: plastic debris washing up in vast quantities, sullying its waters and threatening its marine life. Hawaii sits at the center of swirling ocean currents, just east of the Great Pacific garbage patch. As a result, its shoreline catches plastic from all over the world, some of it decades old. Kamilo Beach, located on the south-eastern tip of Hawaii’s Big Island, has been dubbed one of the most plastic-polluted spots on the planet.
While you understandably may not visit the plastic littered beaches while visiting on vacation, you can still be an eco friendly visitor and help to improve all beaches by leaving them cleaner than you found them. We like the ‘take 3’ rule which reminds us to pick up at least 3 pieces of trash every time we visit the beach and dispose of it properly.
Two local water women, Sarah Hauser and Paige Alms, have made trash picking fun with their ‘Trashy Selfie Project’ which encourages Instagram users to take a selfie with their findings and #trashyselfie♻️
Surfrider Foundation has chapters on the 4 major Hawaiian Islands (Oahu, Kauai, Big Island and Maui) where they host monthly beach cleanups open to all. Attend one on Maui and you’ll even receive a free t shirt and meal if you’re one of the first 50 eco friendly visitor volunteers to show up onsite.
Depending on your favored cause, there are so many one time volunteer opportunities appropriate for island visitors. You can choose to help animals , to maintain cultural sites , or restore native habitats.
Use reef safe sunscreen
One of the very best things about Maui lies under the surface. Our reef systems and marine life are some of the best in the world and can easily be explored from shore or on a snorkel cruise. But our reefs have suffered from decades of exploring by visitors intent on protecting their skin from the sun. Hawaii recently became the first state to ban certain sunscreens as a measure to protect the state’s essential coral reefs. While this law wont officially go into effect until 2021, you can choose to purchase reef safe sunscreen. Most convenience stores carry at least one reef safe option already (ABC stores carries Raw Elements). We also like popular brands such as All Good (also a 1% for the planet =win/win) and Salt & Stone for it’s easy application. Want high end reef safe products delivered to your hotel or vacation rental prior to your arrival? Check out Sun Bundles by Skin & Tonic on Maui.
Refuse single use plastics
Plastic pollution is a real world issue but we see it much more in Hawaii. The world’s garbage literally washes up on our shores, much of it in the form of microplastics which is a reminder that every piece of plastic ever produced still exists in some form today. It’s that shocking fact along with the challenges that come with recycling on these remote islands, that motivated Hawaii to become the first state to ban plastic bags in 2015. The best way to be an eco friendly visitor and help reduce plastic pollution is to refuse unnecessary single use plastics while on vacation. Carry a reusable water container and utensil kits, dine at Ocean Friendly Restaurants, refuse plastic straws and support businesses doing their part to combat this issue.
Support eco-friendly businesses
Do your research as voting with your wallet is truly the best way to make a difference when it comes to being a eco friendly visitor to Hawaii. Many tour operators and businesses are making efforts to reduce their environmental impact, to give back and to preserve Hawaii’s natural beauty.
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Give animals their space
Is seeing humpback whales, a monk seal or green sea turtle on your Hawaiian bucket list? Some of the worlds most magical creatures thrive in Hawaiian waters and frequent local beaches but did you know that Hawaiian monk seals are among the most critically endangered mammals in the world? Getting close to these animals may constitute a federal or state violation if the animal is disturbed or if your action has the potential to disturb its natural behavioral patterns. NOAA and DLNR recommend, for your safety and the animals’ protection, that everyone stay at least 10 feet (3 meters) from all sea turtles and monk seals. Federal law also states that no one may approach a humpback whale within 100 yards in Hawaiian waters. This means that all ocean users (boaters, swimmers, surfers, etc.) must stay at least 100 yards from any humpback whale at all times. Do your part to keep these animals safe from harm by keeping your distance and enjoying ocean activities with a reputable, licensed Hawaii tour operator.
Stay on the trail
Many areas contain sensitive habitats such as restorative plantings, bird nesting sites, burial sites or cultural ruins. Other trails may run through private property. It is also easy to get lost in Hawaii, especially in jungle or forest areas so stick to well marked trails and always hike with a buddy or Hawaii hiking guide.
Appreciate the beauty
Above all, Hawaii is one of the most diverse and gorgeous places on the planet. While it is officially part of the United States, there is a magical quality to these islands that isn’t found other places. Take time to soak that in and realize that if we don’t all do our part to take care of Hawaii, the lands, the people and the special creatures who thrive here will suffer.
Together we can all make a difference and keep Hawaii no ka oi (the best). Happy travels!
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