Hawaii and the Environment
Sustainability—it's a word rolling off everyone's tongues these days. In a place known as the most remote island chain in the world (check your globe), Hawaii relies heavily on the outside world for food and material goods—estimates put the percentage of food arriving on container ships as high as 90. Like many places, though, efforts are afoot to change that. And you can help.
Shop Local Farms and Markets
From Kauai to the Big Island, farmers' markets are cropping up, providing a place for growers to sell fresh fruits and vegetables. There is no reason to buy imported mangoes, papayas, avocadoes, and bananas at grocery stores, when the ones you'll find at farmers' markets are not only fresher and bigger but tastier, too. Some markets allow the sale of fresh-packaged foods—salsa, say, or smoothies—and the on-site preparation of food—like pork laulau (pork, beef and fish or chicken with taro, or luau, leaves wrapped and steamed in ti leaves) or roasted corn on the cob—so you can make your run to the market a dining experience.
Not only is the locavore movement vibrantly alive at farmers' markets, but Hawaii's top chefs are sourcing more of their produce—and fish, beef, chicken, and cheese—from local providers as well. You'll notice this movement on restaurant menus, featuring Kilauea greens or Hamakua tomatoes or locally caught mahimahi.
And while most people are familiar with Kona coffee farm tours on Big Island, if you're interested in the growing slow-food movement in Hawaii, you'll be heartened to know many farmers are opening up their operations for tours—as well as sumptuous meals.
Support Hawaii's Merchants
Food isn't the only sustainable effort in Hawaii. Buying local goods like art and jewelry, Hawaiian heritage products, crafts, music, and apparel is another way to "green up" the local economy. The County of Kauai helps make it easy with a program called Kauai Made (www.kauaimade.net), which showcases products made on Kauai, by Kauai people, using Kauai materials. The Maui Chamber of Commerce does something similar with Made in Maui (www.madeinmaui.com). Think of both as the Good Housekeeping Seal of Approval for locally made goods.
Then there are the crafty entrepreneurs who are diverting items from the trash heap by repurposing garbage. Take Oahu's Muumuu Heaven (www.muumuuheaven.com). They got their start by reincarnating vintage aloha apparel into hip new fashions. Kini Beach (www.kinibeach.com) collects discarded grass mats and plastic inflatables from Waikiki hotels and uses them to make pricey bags and totes.
Choose Green Tour Operators
Conscious decisions when it comes to Island activities go a long way to protecting Hawaii's natural world. The Hawaii Ecotourism Association (www.hawaiiecotourism.org) recognizes tour operators for, among other things, their environmental stewardship. The Hawaii Tourism Authority (www.hawaiitourismauthority.org) recognizes outfitters for their cultural sensitivity. Winners of these awards are good choices when it comes to guided tours and activities. You can even rent a car that runs on biodiesel, a fuel made from used cooking oil.
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