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Kilauea takes big step to become even more green

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Posted: Wednesday, April 30, 2014 2:00 am | Updated: 10:43 am, Wed Apr 30, 2014.

LIHUE — The town of Kilauea on Kauai’s North Shore is well known for its beautiful beaches, lighthouse, charm and even bird watching.

 Moving forward, however, visitors may remember it for something very different.

 “Every restaurant in Kilauea is Styrofoam free,” said Gordon LaBedz, treasurer of the Surfrider Foundation Kauai Chapter.

 On Tuesday, LaBedz, Yoshito L’Hote, president of the Kilauea Neighborhood Association, and Pam Burrell of Zero Waste Kauai installed two signs at the entrance to Kilauea.

 “Welcome to Kilauea,” the signs read. “A Styrofoam Free Community.”

 The new designation comes as a result of a new campaign by Surfrider and Zero Waste Kauai aimed at stopping island eateries from using non-biodegradable containers. The first step was to conduct a survey to find out which businesses were already implementing the Styrofoam-free vision.

 “We were pleasantly surprised,” LaBedz said of the results.

Of the nearly 250 restaurants on Kauai, 86 — or 35 percent — have already done away with single-use plastic to-go containers. That includes six on the Westside, eight in Lihue, 19 on the Southside, 24 on the North Shore, and 29 in Kapaa.

 Although encouraging, LaBedz and Burrell say they’re shooting for 100 percent compliance. And they’re not afraid to use pressure to get it done.

 “It’s called shame,” LaBedz laughed. “We’re trying to shame people into doing the right thing. We’re not embarrassed to say that.”

 The bottom line, according to LaBedz, is that plastics present litter, pollution and health problems.

 “Every piece of plastic that has ever been made is still here,” he said. “It’s a constant, persistent pollutant.”

 While they do not biodegrade, plastics, including Styrofoam, break down into small particles that persist in the ocean, absorb toxins and enter the food chain through fish, sea birds and other marine life, according to information on Surfrider’s “Rise Above Plastics” campaign site.

 In fact, they account for 90 percent of floating marine debris and kill 1.5 million marine animals each year.

 One of the businesses in Kilauea that has been at the forefront of the movement is Kilauea Bakery. In addition to biodegradable containers, it uses ecofriendly disposables — forks, knives, spoons, coffee stirrers and straws — made from corn and potato starches.

 “It’s all good,” reads a sign above them. “Just don’t eat them.”

 Owner Tom Pickett said he couldn’t remember a time when the bakery used Styrofoam.

 “For the record, I hate Styrofoam,” he said. “I cannot stand Styrofoam coolers or Styrofoam peanuts, cups, any of that … Those things are just terrible for the environment and they’re a pain in the butt.”

Joshua James, a bartender at Kilauea’s The Bistro, said the business was also one of the original “poster children,” for years, opting not to use single-use plastic containers.

Recently, however, the restaurant took things one step further by doing away with to-go orders altogether. Instead, James said, The Bistro promotes sitting down and eating food, not taking it home in a container that immediately ends up in the trash.

Burrell, who was in charge of surveying all North Shore eateries, said she was pleasantly surprised by what she found. However, the handful of restaurants she spoke with that were against getting on board, often citing higher costs, left her frustrated.

“Styrofoam is just one of the worst things that just blow around in our environment, especially when we live on an island,” she said.

 If it were up to her, she would get rid of not only plastic containers but also plastic water bottles across the island.

“I don’t want to stop,” she said of the movement. “I just see so much waste. It’s just needless waste — without thinking.”

Although Kilauea deciding on its own to go Styrofoam-free is a small step, L’Hote views it as an important one.

“I think it’s very important for everyone to make an effort to take care of this special place and each other,” he said. “Be proud to live in Kilauea and on Kauai because Kauai no ka oi (is the best) and Kilauea no ke alakai (is the leader).”

In 2009, Surfrider and Zero Waste Kauai successfully campaigned for the County of Kauai to ban the use of plastic shopping bags.

 If the remaining restaurants don’t jump on board with their Styrofoam free vision, LaBedz said the nonprofits are prepared to take the same route as they did with plastic bags by pushing for the Kauai County Council to introduce legislation.

 While it is easier and cheaper to pollute, LaBedz said the result on Kauai is that more than 3 million pounds of Styrofoam ends up in the local landfill every year.

 “People do the wrong thing all the time. We’re trying to change that,” he said. “I think we can do it.”

• Chris D’Angelo, environment writer, can be reached at 245-0441 or cdangelo@thegardenisland.com.

© 2015 Thegardenisland.com. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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  • AnonyMouse posted at 8:05 am on Mon, May 5, 2014.

    AnonyMouse Posts: 784

    I love what Joan Conrow said: "Still, there's more than a little irony in the fact that many of these biodegradable containers are made from — you guessed it — the very same GMO corn and industrial agriculture practices that Surfrider reviles."

  • parsingparsingyo posted at 7:58 pm on Fri, May 2, 2014.

    parsingparsingyo Posts: 61

    Really? You ought to swing by the food mart and see if styrofoam is present there. Guess cup o' noodles is outlawed in Killawea...

  • WestKauai posted at 10:36 am on Fri, May 2, 2014.

    WestKauai Posts: 212

    Seems like LaBedz is continually pulling "facts" out of thin air, especially when he is on-air at KKCR...

  • Eagle 6 posted at 7:52 pm on Thu, May 1, 2014.

    Eagle 6 Posts: 1110

    George Carlin maybe twenty five years ago had a funny skit on this subject. Look it up, and try not to laugh your tail off.

  • Eagle 6 posted at 7:47 pm on Thu, May 1, 2014.

    Eagle 6 Posts: 1110

    Surfrider Foundation, let's take a real look-see at the makeup of surfboards.
    Let's ban surfboards in Kilauea, you can hem and haw, it works both ways.

  • bellachefa posted at 4:17 am on Thu, May 1, 2014.

    bellachefa Posts: 51

    I remember fondly my first visit to Molokai. I picked up a styrofoam cooler at the hardware store and provisions in town and headed to our cottage on the far east side. 4 days later, I handed the hardware store manager back our once used cooler for him to recycle to another tourist. Good work!

  • happyfeet posted at 10:00 pm on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    happyfeet Posts: 5

    Mostly everything is bad for you!..If you want this place to be a FREE of something place you should live in the forest!..now days business charge more for take out containers and yes its good for the ones that are starting no Styrofoam but some business just don't have that money to buy those products! ..I'm not against it but but I know those corn or biodegradable products are expensive to get!..This is an island were not too much people are RICH or have a good money making job look at it people are having a hard time to find the right affordable home to rent and now it's trying to get everyone Styrofoam free.no plastic bags.GMO FREE What else is next?everything will go up in prices that not all of us can afford

  • truthislaw posted at 5:53 pm on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    truthislaw Posts: 1011

    Thing is, after they make their styrofoam stand, itʻs off to the big leagues, next stop will be running for office.

  • truthislaw posted at 5:51 pm on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    truthislaw Posts: 1011

    Truth you speak, Eagle 6 but donʻt you have some rather high expectations of TGI?

  • PeteAntonson posted at 1:31 pm on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    PeteAntonson Posts: 2383

    Given the weight of this substance, do you have any idea how much it would take to make up 3 million pounds annually? Gordon sure doesn't!
    Gosh, it's amazing what you can say when people are already on your side!

  • Malu posted at 9:11 am on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    Malu Posts: 10

    Recently I saw that the George of the Jungle food truck still uses styrofoam. Probably not for long! This is great news for K-town.

  • violet lotus posted at 6:10 am on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    violet lotus Posts: 18

    Any forward thinking person or business owner will see the wisdom in this step.
    Those who won't participate are those who do not want to spend the extra money for an alternative take-out container, or those who simply do not care.
    I am no longer supporting businesses that cannot be on board this trend.

  • StevenMcMacken posted at 4:52 am on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    StevenMcMacken Posts: 169

    Mahalo nui loa, to Surfrider and Zero Waste Kauai for their efforts in making this happen. It goes without saying that Kauai—and all the Hawaiian Islands, for that matter—should be styrofoam-free.

  • Eagle 6 posted at 2:32 am on Wed, Apr 30, 2014.

    Eagle 6 Posts: 1110

    Let's not let two people waving like polititions create more divide around here. C'mon TGI, your throwing gas on a fire. Very "real" stories are right in front of us, and this ain't one of them.


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