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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, April 22, 2007

It's in your hands

By Loren Moreno
Advertiser Staff Writer

Ken Kawahara, communication officer for the city's Office of Environmental Services, shows a special dumpster for white paper behind the Frank F. Fasi Building.

Advertiser library photo

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Gail Grabowsky

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"50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save Hawai'i" by Gail Grabowsky

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"50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save Hawai'i" by Gail Grabowsky, associate professor and director of the Environmental Studies program at Chaminade University of Honolulu (Bess Press, $16.95)

Grabowsky will sign copies of "50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save Hawai'i" from noon to 1 p.m. today at Borders Express in Windward Mall.


Aimed at Hawai'i's youths, "Huliau," by filmmaker David DeLuca, focuses on the state of Hawai'i's environment and what could happen if people became more conscious about their relationship to the land. Local musicians and personalities, such as Jake Shimabukuro, are contributing or appearing in "Huliau."

Tentatively scheduled for release in late fall.

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Teaching several classes a day on environmentalism has a way of making you feel like the world is spiraling out of control.

That's how professor Gail Grabowsky felt.

"When you teach class, you can get very depressed, because you're talking problems, problems, problems," said Grabowsky, associate professor and director of environmental studies at Chaminade University of Honolulu.

So when she was contacted by Bess Press to write the new updated "50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save Hawai'i," she jumped at the chance.

"What I loved about this project right away was that it was about solutions. The book is what you can do," she said.

Filmmaker David DeLuca, a friend of Bess Press publisher Buddy Bess, also liked the concept of "50 Simple Things" and decided to create a documentary that played off of the idea and target it toward elementary, high school and college students.

In production and set for release in late fall, DeLuca said the idea of the film, "Huliau," is to show Hawai'i's youths that there are things they can do. DeLuca and Grabowsky collaborated on the film project.

"The nice thing about the book and 'Huliau,' the film, is it's not bleak in nature. It gives a positive side to it, and it's really geared to help people motivate themselves," DeLuca said.

Unlike generic how-to-save-the-earth manuals, "50 Simple Things," is tailor-made for Hawai'i, Grabowsky said.

She notes that many people simply aren't aware of the Islands' singular environmental situation. "People don't know how cool Hawai'i is. People don't know that 97 percent of the plants and forests are unique and indigenous," she said.

So what are some of Hawai'i's most urgent issues?

Grabowsky said one of the most pressing problems is overfishing. But, she said, the problem is mostly caused by lack of information available on the depleting fish population in Hawaiian waters.

"This is one of those bad things that happens, but not because people are malicious, corrupt or evil. People love to fish. We have a tradition of fishing. There's nothing wrong with it, but we have to be more responsible about how we manage our ocean resources," she said.

Disposal of waste also is among our most critical problems, she said. The average American generates about 4.5 pounds of waste per day; the average person in Hawai'i generates about 6 pounds of waste a day.

"Currently, the majority of recyclables in Hawai'i are packaged, put on a boat and shipped back to the Mainland. I think that it would greatly benefit the state and the residents to have a recycling facility here that would prevent us from having to ship our waste," he said.

While the book and DeLuca's upcoming film focus on things we all can do, how much is really enough to make a difference?

"I hang out with some people who are super staunch environmentalists, and I know that you're going to get the argument that you can't nickel-and-dime your way there," Graboswky said. "But I definitely know the counter argument that doing nothing won't do anything."

Oft repeated tips like "take shorter showers" or "turn off the water while brushing your teeth," are valid behavior modifications, even if they seem really simple, she said.

"The fact is, we might all do a bunch of little things, and the ship still sinks. But we know if we do nothing, the ship will definitely sink," she said.

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The average person in Hawai'i produces 6.2 pounds of trash per day, compared with the national average of 4.5 pounds. Plastics, white paper, newspaper, paper bags, cardboard and glass all can be recycled.

Teach about the land
Take friends to your favorite swimming or hiking spots to allow them to experience and appreciate Hawai'i's beauty. They, too, may become inspired to help save the 'aina.

Cool your home efficiently
Choose windows that make use of Hawai'i's cooling trade winds, and plant trees around your home for shade.

Use less water
Hawai'i has a limited supply of fresh water, so do your part to conserve. Don't keep the water running when doing dishes or brushing your teeth. Check faucets and pipes for leaks. Take shorter showers. Decrease the amount of water used when you flush the toilet by installing a toilet dam or decreasing the water volume.

Perform an energy audit
Find ways to cut down on your energy bill by conducting a full examination of your home's energy usage. Visit www.eere.en ergy.gov/consumer/ and follow the directions.

Grow native Hawaiian plants
Many Hawaiian plants are less thirsty and help conserve water.

Don't support alien species invasions
Call the state's toll-free Pest Hotline 643-PEST (7378) if you know of illegal animals in Hawai'i.

Reduce the feral animal population
Neuter your cat or dog and never abandon a pet. Feral animals damage Hawaiian ecosystems by competing with native species.

Reproduce responsibly
Overpopulation has effects on the environment and puts a strain on resources. If each couple were to have no more than two children, we would achieve a "replacement level" fertility rate.

Avoid polluting runoff
Check septic tanks for leaks and report clogged storm drains to the city. Avoid fertilizing plants since it causes coral-suffocating algae growth. And use biodegradable, low-phosphorous car-washing detergent.

Source: "50 Simple Things You Can Do To Save Hawai'i" (Bess Press, $16.95)

Reach Loren Moreno at lmoreno@honoluluadvertiser.com.

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