Greenies' wish list for 2010
BY MAUREEN O'CONNELL
Advertiser Staff Writer
Fewer plastic bags floating in Hawai'i's shoreline waters. More shoppers reaching for reusable tote bags.
Fewer incandescent light bulbs; more CFLs.
More rooftops lined with solar panels; and more planet protection efforts for the new decade.
These are among the hopes, goals and resolutions for 2010 at four of Hawai'i's green-minded nonprofits.
RESOLVED: RISE ABOVE PLASTICS
Surfrider Foundation's O'ahu chapter ranks its "Rise Above Plastics" campaign among the top priorities. In tandem with several other environmental groups, it plans to ask the Legislature to establish a statewide ban on single-use plastic bags or attach a small fee to each, which would no doubt reduce consumer use.
In October, the Kaua'i County Council voted to ban nonbiodegradable carryout bags, starting Jan. 11, 2011 — the same day that Maui County's checkout bag ban goes into effect. While Maui's ban prohibits all plastic bags, Kaua'i's allows bags that meet a biodegradable standard and contain no polymers derived from fossil fuels.
Stuart Coleman, Hawai'i coordinator for the Surfrider Foundation, said researchers estimate that "for each person who stops using single-use plastic bags and bottles, you save 167 plastic bottles and 400 plastic bags per year from going into the landfills or the ocean."
Other plans include lobbying state officials to maintain adequate testing of ocean water quality, Coleman said. There's worry that sampling will this year be less rigorous, he said, because recent state budget cuts eliminated four of five monitoring positions.
The group will also organize beach cleanups and continue to watchdog problems tied to public beach access routes blocked by landowners and others.
RESOLVED: KEEP HAWAI'I BEAUTIFUL
The Outdoor Circle is working with Honolulu and state Department of Education officials to keep the clutter of signs and banners down at public schools, in keeping with its policy of opposing billboards and other outdoor visual blight.
The organization is well known for helping push Hawai'i's strict billboard ban through the 1927 territorial Legislature. "We probably have six or seven generations of people in these Islands who have grown up without the undue influence of inappropriate advertising," said Bob Loy, the group's director of environmental programs.
Loy described the group's current campaign in an e-mail interview as an effort to reduce the "plague of inappropriate banners and signs posted on school property." Noting that last month he counted seven banners — each 8 feet by 4 feet — at a Kähala-area public school, he said, "It's time for our schools to stop being community billboards" for everything from sample surf sales to sports camps.
According to county rules, schools are limited to posting three signs — covering a total of 36 square feet — at any time. Also, all banners must be for events held on campus grounds or sponsored by the school.
Another goal: "Continue to be a strong voice for the protection of view planes, trees, communities and neighborhoods from the potential negative impacts of the Honolulu (rail) transit project," Low said. He added, "Whatever the final project turns out to be, there will still be a great need to protect these resources during the long construction" timeline.
The Outdoor Circle's 12 branches work within their communities to beautify public areas, plant trees, offer environmental programs for children and help stop inappropriate development, Loy said.
RESOLVED: BOOST RENEWABLE ENERGY
Leaders representing Blue Planet Foundation and the Sierra Club will soon be at the state Capitol focusing on renewable energy issues. Opening Day for the Legislature's next session is Wednesday.
Both groups supported a bill last year that would have raised the barrel tax on petroleum products by $1 (from 5 cents to $1.05) to provide alternative energy and food security programs with an estimated $31 million a year, and both were dismayed when Gov. Linda Lingle vetoed it.
"Energy is really that single issue that touches everyone every day across the state, from Hilo to Hanalei," said Jeff Mikulina, Blue Planet's executive director. "Getting off fossil fuel, we think, needs to be an absolute priority for our economy as well as our environment."
Blue Planet and other groups will ask state lawmakers to take another look at the bill. "I think there's support out there for an even more significant surcharge," Mikulina said, suggesting that a higher barrel tax could also help the state reduce its budget deficit.
Robert Harris, director of the Sierra Club's Hawai'i chapter, wants to draw the state's attention to solar financing programs similar to those under way in Berkeley, Calif., and other cities.
In Berkeley, property owners may borrow money from the city to install solar photovoltaic electric systems and repay the cost over 20 years through an annual special tax on their property tax bill. The tax is paid only by people voluntarily taking part in the program.
"It's not really that big of a crunch on the city," Harris said, because the program hinges on bond financing, which is "reasonably secure" because it is tethered to each participant's home rather than municipal coffers.
From the participant's perspective, Harris said, "It's basically saying, 'We're going to make sure you can have clean energy at your house today.' " While users slowly pay off the big-ticket item, their monthly electrical bill will likely take an immediate plunge.
The Sierra Club and Blue Planet would like to see Hawai'i offer the first state-backed solar financing program. "What a great gift for the Legislature to give" in the name of cleaner energy, Harris said.
Among other Blue Planet plans: Continue to give consumers one dollar and an energy-saving compact fluorescent bulb, or CFL for every old-fashioned incandescent bulb it receives. Last year, through school fundraisers and other efforts, the group scooped up 17,000 bulbs.
Finally, in addition to pursuing a 2010 calendar packed with advocacy and service projects, the Sierra Club chapter and other groups are encouraging people to take up pursuits that encourage a love of the land and appreciation for our natural resources — such as simply spending more time enjoying Hawai'i's hiking trails and shorelines.