Sustainable UH takes on plastic - Ka Leo O Hawaii: News

Sustainable UH takes on plastic

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Posted: Sunday, January 22, 2012 4:42 pm | Updated: 10:15 pm, Tue Jan 24, 2012.

Americans use approximately 1 billion shopping bags a year - the equivalent of 300,000 tons of landfill waste, according to the Clean Air Council.

But conservation groups from around the island gathered in Campus Center Ballroom on Jan. 17 to help spread the word about plastic waste.

Students in attendance received information on the many "green" initiatives and programs going on at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa. Some of the groups represented included The Sierra Club, UH Mānoa Ecology Club, Styrophobia, Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawai‘i and Green Business Owner. The panels presented a wide variety of projects, from a board game for promoting energy efficiency to a petition asking restaurants to stop using styrofoam products.

Captain Charlie Moore, discoverer of the Great Pacific Garbage Patch and author of the book "Plastic Ocean" gave the keynote speech. Moore was invited by the Surfrider Foundation to speak about the plastic problem in support for its Rise Above Plastics campaign, which hopes to eliminate the use of disposable plastic bags on O‘ahu, an initiative already embraced by Maui, Kaua‘i and the Big Island.

In an effort to "start the plastic conversation," Moore spoke specifically about the new plastic ecosystems that are created from the waste, both in the ocean and on the shore. He held up a bag of plastic debris, a surface sample from a patch on the southern end of the Big Island that can be up to a foot deep. "It's killing more animals than climate change," he said.

After a light lunch, awards were given to three outstanding projects/individuals at the fair. Student Organic Farm Training received recognition for its gardens. Assistant Vice Chancellor for Facilities and Grounds David Hafner was presented with an outstanding leadership award for pushing to reduce energy costs, which were directly linked to tuition costs. The Kukui Cup, a green energy competition available to UH Mānoa freshmen living on campus, was recognized as a "Revolutionary Project."

President of Sustainable UH Nicole Ferguson organized the event and thought it was a great success. "It was a fascinating exercise in people management," she said. She hopes to hold a similar event again next semester with a different focus. "There are lots of ways this kickoff event can go," said Ferguson.

The event was put on in collaboration with Sustainable UH, KYA Sustainability Studio, Mānoa Sustainability Corps and the Surfrider Foundation.


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