Plastic Free Life

Five practical tips to reduce plastic, starting today.

  1. Re-use glass jars. There are a ton of prepared foods you can purchase in glass jars; think pasta sauce, peanut butter, salsa, pickles and so on. Instead of buying plastic containers, re-use your jars for leftovers, packed lunches or keep them for storing your dry goods. Which brings us to the next tip…
  2. Buy in bulk. Many stores provide items such as grains, pasta, legumes, nuts and cereals for you to buy unpackaged. Simply bring your jars and measure out what you need. You’ll save money as well as the planet. Remember to check with customer service before you begin, as each store has a particular method for measuring weights. Hint: cotton bags are another great option when buying unpackaged items, and often have their weight printed on the tag (making it easy to deduct at the checkout).
  3. Say no to plastic produce bags. Many of us already bring reusable bags for our groceries, but go that little step further and use them when buying your fruit and vegetables too. Global estimates report that 2 million plastic bags are used every minute. That translates into an unsustainable amount of waste being produced each day! To learn more about the impact of plastic production on our environment, check out our previous blog The Last Straw.
  4. Stop unnecessary packaging. You’d be surprised at the amount of plastic that goes into producing and packaging store bought items; even worse for mail order. In 2012, containers and packaging accounted for 75.2 million tons of solid waste generated in the US alone. Try picking up clothes and other items at secondhand stores and yard sales instead. If you really must order something online, choose a company that promote sustainable packaging. Are your favorite company’s not on the list? Let them know how important the issue is to you,  companies like Dell and Stonyfield Farm are already improving their wasteful ways based on customer feedback!
  5. Use an eco-friendly water bottle. I’m sure you’ve heard this one before and if you’re using one today, awesome! If not, it’s time to make that change. Bottled water produces 1.5 million tons of plastic waste around the world per year, and requires 47 million gallons of oil to produce. It’s overpriced and not necessarily any cleaner than the water you get out of your tap. Don’t be fooled, grab a reusable water bottle today.

Some of these tips you may have heard before but it’s time to start implementing them today. If it seems like too much, just choose one and build up your environmental stewardship with time. You’ll be making a major change in our world and setting a green example for others in your community.

Sources

Earth Policy Plastic Bag Facts

Environmental Protection Agency Waste Management 

Food & Water Watch

Top 10 Ways To Celebrate Earth Day

In honor of Earth Day, we wanted to share 10 ways to engage with Mother Nature. You probably already recycle, so here are ten alternative ways to help the planet:

10. Participate in a citizen science project to help marine life.

  • Whale & Dolphin Tracker is a mobile web-application to report sightings of whales and dolphins so scientists can learn more about their patterns. You can log sightings in real-time and view them on a map or review profiles later. Visit log.pacificwhale.org to register with your smartphone.
  • Match My Whale is a web-based app to help researchers photo identify humpback whales by their flukes. Learn more and join today at www.matchmywhale.org

9. Visiting Maui? You can Volunteer on Vacation through Pacific Whale Foundation. Help clean up beach debris, remove invasive weeds, or work on other environmental projects on the island to “give back” while also creating meaningful and lasting memories of your time on Maui.

8. Help conserve Hawaii’s coral reefs. Eyes of the Reef offers free public trainings on how to report changes in the coral reef conditions in Hawaii. This helps resource managers detect the early onset of coral bleaching, disease, crown-of-thorn seastars, and outbreaks of invasive species.

7. Eat only sustainable seafood, both at home and while dining out. There are now many apps, like Seafood Watch, that will tell you what is safe to consume.

6. Get the most out of your binge-watching with our environmental documentary top picks:

  • “The 11th Hour” is Leonardo DiCaprio’s 2007 film featuring interviews with various politicians and scientists, including Mikhail Gorbachev and Stephen Hawking. It presents an interesting thesis: that human society possesses the technology to reduce our environmental impact by more than 90%.
  • “The Cove” won an Oscar for Best Documentary in 2010 as well as the Audience Award at Sundance. Not many films have caused as much public outcry as this expose on the fate of 23,000 of dolphins every year in Japan.
  • “An Inconvenient Truth” lit the fire of climate change awareness around the world. Originating from Al Gore’s speaking campaign after his unsuccessful 2000 presidential bid, the film won two Academy Awards in 2006.
  • “Catching the Sun” captures the global race to lead the clean energy future. Premieres on Netflix April 22.

5. Do a bit of research and buy only from companies with sustainable practices. PWF Eco-Adventures prides itself on being eco-friendly and offers numerous “green features” as detailed on our website.

4. Reduce your carbon footprint by carpooling. Also, many employers, such as Pacific Whale Foundation, offer incentives for employees who ride the bus to work or who purchase ultra-high-efficiency vehicles. Contact your employer about your options.

3. Go paperless when possible. Sign up for online or mobile banking. Read the newspaper online. Use note-taking apps on your phone. Think twice about printing that email at work.

2. Cut down on plastic waste. Our marine debris surveys find that plastic is the most common source of garbage in Hawaii’s oceans. Plastics are also commonly found in the stomachs of whales, dolphins and turtles. Choose reusable food and beverage containers, purchase items with less packing, and bring your own shopping bags.

1. Watch the United Nations Paris Agreement on Climate Change signing ceremony on April 22. Find out more about Sustainable Development Goals and the need to limit global temperature rise. All sessions will be livestreamed on http://webtv.un.org

Leave us a message in the comments and let us know how you are choosing to spend your Earth Day. 

Protecting the Ocean, One Purchase at a Time

Healthy oceans depend on a lot of factors – one of the most important being you and me. Our choices as consumers have a profound influence on the future of the marine environment, and believe it or not, can affect the smallest algae to the largest whale.

Unfortunately, the manufacturing consumer products typically comes with a big environmental price tag. A single t-shirt, for example, can use up to 700 gallons of water.  Not to mention the host of chemical dyes and pesticides that are associated with a shirt’s manufacturing.

As an organization committed to minimizing our environmental impact, Pacific Whale Foundation has taken numerous steps to green its retail operations. One way that we are making a difference is by substituting traditional products, like 100% cotton t-shirts made in China, with items that are more environmentally friendly.

One of our top sellers is the women’s v-neck, sea turtle shirt. What makes this shirt stand out is that it is made from 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton. Bamboo is considered a rapidly renewable resource due to its short growing time. Bamboo also has no natural pests and can therefore be grown without the use of pesticides. Compared to traditional cotton, bamboo requires 1/3 less water. In addition, bamboo fibers contain a unique microbe called “bamboo kun”. The “bamboo kun” makes bamboo fibers naturally antibacterial, antifungal and odor resistant. Bamboo-based fabrics are lightweight, strong and soft to the touch, making them great additions to any wardrobe.

 

Not your ordinary women's t-shirt!  Made from 70% bamboo and 30% organic cotton.

Women’s v-neck, sea turtle shirt

 

On the men’s side, we’re gearing up for the winter season with a new line of Eco-fleece sweatshirts. Eco-Fleece is a high-quality polyester fiber made from 100% certified recycled plastic PET bottles. Using recycled products instead of virgin materials prevents billions of plastic bottles from entering landfills.   Reusing materials also reduces millions of barrels of oil and harmful emissions that would go into traditional production. Eco-fleece fibers are as strong as non-recycled fibers, but are made without depleting the Earth’s natural resources. Each Pacific Whale Foundation Eco-Fleece sweatshirt is made with a single 20-oz water bottle that has been blended with cotton and polyester.

 

Eco-fleece made from recycled plastic water bottles

Eco-fleece sweatshirt

 

Our new child-proof line of dishware also makes use of recycled plastics. Created by Green Eats, a San Francisco-based company, this tabletop set is made from 100% recycled plastic. It is free of BPA, phthalates and melamine, meaning that your kids won’t be ingesting any harmful chemicals while eating off their plate. Compared to non-recycled plastic, every pound of recycled plastic used to make Green Eats dishes save enough energy to run a laptop computer for an entire month. Environmentally friendly, kid friendly, and pocketbook friendly.

 

Kid-friendly dishware, made from 100% recycled plastic.

Kid-friendly dishware, made from 100% recycled plastic.

 

While these products are all environmentally preferable, we realize that we still have a long way to go towards being completely sustainable. Nevertheless, we feel it is important to take the first steps towards inspiring “green” products and “green” consumers. To see our entire line of green products, visit the Pacific Whale Foundation Ocean Store.

 

 

 

PWF Awarded Sustainable Tourism Certification

Since its inception 35 years ago, Pacific Whale Foundation has remained committed to not only educating the public about the ocean environment, but also ensuring that our operations are as environmentally friendly as possible. We work to reduce our overall environmental impact, and have been an industry leader when it comes to practices like pumping, and not dumping, waste, replacing styrofoam containers with compostable products and mooring our vessels at snorkel sites instead of dropping anchor on reefs.

Pacific Whale Foundation guests and crew work together to remove a large net from the ocean during an Eco-Adventure

Pacific Whale Foundation guests and crew work together to remove a large net from the ocean during an Eco-Adventure

A main component of Pacific Whale Foundation trips is also inspiring passengers to take an active role in protecting our oceans – be it through making lifestyle changes or joining one of our many ocean advocacy campaigns.

We are excited to announce that the education and sustainability standards set by Pacific Whale Foundation, and other eco-tour companies throughout Hawai’i, are being officially promoted through the Hawai’i Ecotourism Association’s newly revamped “Sustainable Tourism Certification Program”. Formed in 1994, the Hawai’i Ecotourism Association (HEA) is a nonprofit organization that advocates for ecotourism as a means to protect Hawai’i’s natural environment and native cultures.

HEA Certification Logo Blue CERTIFIED Dates

Ecotours that receive the Sustainable Tourism Certification must meet specific criteria, including:

  • Provide a direct, personal experience of nature for customers;
  • Employ environmentally sustainable practices to ensure that their activities do not degrade the environment;
  • Maintain a written Sustainability Commitment Statement that guides operations and demonstrates a commitment to HEA Sustainable Tourism principles;
  • Make ongoing, positive contributions to the community annually, both economically and in contributing to local conservation initiatives;
  • Provide accurate interpretation of resources to guests during tour and ensure that staff are qualified and appropriately trained.

Pacific Whale Foundation is one of only five tour operators on Maui to receive the Sustainable Tourism Certification for the 2014-2016 cycle. We are a proud member of the Hawai’i Ecotourism Association and look forward to promoting the values of sustainability throughout Hawai’i’s tourism industry.

The Plastic Problem: Part I “What are Plastics”

Plastics are everywhere – from cell phones to soda bottles, to trash on the beach and in our oceans. Yet while our lives are dominated by plastic, plastics and their environmental impacts are still largely misunderstood by many people. This three part series explores plastics—from their creation to what happens once they go in your trash can or recycling bin. Part I begins by answering the first big question: “What are plastics?!” 

While some plastics are naturally found in the environment, the majority are man-made. Man-made plastics are created when individual carbon molecules are chemically bonded together. These carbon molecules are typically extracted from oil, a non-renewable resource, but more eco-friendly alternatives use carbon derived from natural materials like corn oil. Individual carbon molecules are combined to create compounds like styrene, ethylene and formaldehyde. 

There are nearly limitless ways in which carbon molecules can be combined, which allows the creation of hundreds of types of plastics. One of the most prized characteristics of plastic is its ability to remain chemically inert when mixed with other substances.

This allows, for example, the storage of substances such as alcohol and gasoline in plastic containers, without compromising the integrity of the container itself. However, because plastic does not react chemically with other substances, it also does not easily decay. In fact, plastic never actually goes away in the environment—it just breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces.

clamshells_individual

Another important chemical property of plastic is its ability to be easily molded into a variety of shapes, a characteristic that allows it to be extremely versatile and used in numerous applications. Plastics can be divided into two major categories: thermoset plastics that retain their shape once cooled and hardened, and thermoplastics that are less rigid and can return to their original form upon heating.

Thermoset plastics are used for auto and aircraft parts, while thermoplastics are easily molded and extruded into fibers, packaging and films. Within these two broad categories are numerous types of plastics:

  • Polyethylene terephthalate (PET or PETE) is the main plastic in ziplock food storage bags;
  • Polystyrene (Styrofoam) is formed by styrene molecules. It can form a hard impact-resistant plastic for furniture, cabinets and utensils and when heated and air blown, forms Styrofoam;
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) is a thermoplastic commonly used for pipes and plumbing because of its durability and low cost as compared to metals;
  • Polyethylene is a type of plastic that comes in two forms: LDPE and HDPE
    •  Low-density polyethylene (LDPE) will float in a mixture of alcohol and water and is soft and flexible. It was first used to insulate electrical wires, but today it’s used in films, wraps, bottles, disposable gloves and garbage bags;
    • High-density polyethylene (HDPE) is a harder plastic than LDPE and sinks in an alcohol-water mixture.  Today, HDPE is used mostly for containers.

Plastics have proven revolutionary to our society, and we can thank plastics for hundreds of technological advances in science, medicine, space exploration, communication—you name it, plastics have played a crucial role. Yet despite the importance of plastic in today’s world, plastics have also proven to be one of the world’s biggest environmental issues.

Stay tuned for Part II: Where Does Plastic Go?

Hawai’i Conservation Conference

lauren_conference2Today marked the final day of the 22nd annual Hawai’i Conservation Conference, where the “who’s who” of the protection and management of Hawaiian ecosystems descend upon the island of O’ahu to discuss issues such as coral reef health, marine mammal protection, climate change adaptation and building local capacity.

I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to exhibit Pacific Whale Foundation’s fishing line recycling program during the conference, and connected with numerous individuals and organizations to help expand this important program throughout Hawai’i.

Fishing line wrapped around a coral head (Maui)

Fishing line wrapped around a coral head (Maui)

Popularized in Florida, fishing line recycling programs are now found throughout coastal states, and represent a voluntary, community-based environmental initiative. Anglers and fishermen are encouraged to not only recycle their line, but to sponsor bins that they (along with their community) will maintain in the future.

Improperly discarded fishing line can entangle wildlife (most notably turtles, fish, seabirds and wildlife), and also pose a hazard to boaters and ocean users. By encouraging anglers to recycle their line, the program both directly reduces the amount of line that ends up in the environment and reduces the amount of virgin plastic that is needed to make items such as tackle boxes or spools.  And as you may know, plastics are the number one most common piece of trash found in the environment – so the less plastic we create, the less trash we make!

Kahului Fishing Line Recycling Bin

Kahului Fishing Line Recycling Bin

To date, Pacific Whale Foundation has installed two separate bins – one at Kahului Harbor and one at Ma’alaea Harbor.  These bins have thus far collected over 5,000 feet of monofilament line!!

Marine debris is a serious issue throughout the world’s marine and coastal environments, but it is local initiatives such as recycling fishing line or encouraging the use of reusable bags and water bottles that will lead to a more healthy (and happy!) environment.  These types of initiatives, furthermore, put the change directly in the hands of the community, and in doing so, empower the people who rely directly on the resources.

To learn more about Pacific Whale Foundation’s fishing line recycling program, please visit Don’t Leave Your Line Behind.