Friday, May 27, 2011

Maui: Biodegradable Plastics

Perhaps you've noticed the lack of keeping track of plastic when we were in Maui. It's difficult to haul around your garbage with you when you're traveling (I'm sure you get it). But I assure you we didn't go off the deep end indulging in airplane peanuts and the likes (do they even still serve peanuts on airplanes anymore??!). Pre-trip I spent some time brainstorming ideas for things I could easily bring with me on my trip to reduce my plastic usage while I'm away from home.

-Travel mug (stainless steel) for Starbucks (you never know when your flight might be delayed... twice...)
-Lush has these great solid shampoo bars that come in zero packaging (we bought a travel tin to keep it in)
-I also have a Lush moisturizing bar that I bought last year still lurking around. I'll be bringing that with me too (also zero packaging, kept in a reusable tin)
-Rechargable batteries for cameras (and charger)
-We'll be hitting up the farmers market which means I'll be bringing a tote & my bulk bin bags! Maui actually banned ALL plastic bags on the island earlier this year- hurrah!
-Stainless steel water bottles

One thing that we took notice of when we were in Maui 3 years ago was the prevalence of biodegradable tableware. We came across this at Whole FoodsOno Gelato, and Maui Tacos. Before it was as mainstream as it is now, we were using potato based cutlery and corn based cups on our day trips out on the ocean. We also saw this on the side of one of the boats we were boarding.

An island who relies on tourism and wishes to maintain its pristine ecosystems has nowhere to dump it's waste and minimal land space for landfills. They chose an eco-friendly route out of necessity long before many of the rest of us did.

Now maybe you're thinking "What do you mean they have nowhere to dump their garbage? Ever heard of the Pacific Garbage Patch?". Currents carry debris from the west coast of North America to the North Pacific gyre in about six years, and debris from the east coast of Asia in a year or less. But what about Hawaii? Stuck in the middle of all of it. One surely cannot compare the population of one state (1.3 M) to that of all of Asia (3.9 B- that's billion!) plus the entire west coasts of the U.S. (47 M) & Canada (4.5 M), nor the trash that they produce respectively. But are they the ones that suffer? Absolutely... And there's more to come in the wake of the Japanese earthquake earlier this year.

Traditional Hawaiian culture places a lot of emphasis on nature and keeping things in balance with each other. Gorgeous beaches stretching as far as the eye can see, beautiful reefs teeming with colorful fish, sea turtles & humpback whales dotting the waters- this is the stuff of Hawaiian legend. And in order to preserve it all for future generations, as a society we need to make some changes.

Image from here.

You can't just pretend that it goes away when you throw it in the garbage can, or even when you recycle it. The key is to reduce your consumption. You know that grade school adage "reduce, reuse, recycle"? You are to do those in order!

Our Maui plastic tally*(in absolutely no order whatsoever!):
-3 Sample size conditioner packets/ bottle (existing)
-Sample size lotion (existing)
-Contact lens containers (2)
-Seal from bottle of contact solution
-Packaging from bar of soap (Christmas gift)
-Wrapping from travel size box of q-tips
-Hair serum bottle
-Caramel wrappers (the very last of the halloween candy!)
-Toothpaste tube
-Drinking straws at various establishments throughout our trip :(
-Plastic sword stabbed into one of our meals indicating that it was an allergy modified dish
-Deli-style container from shrimp bought from grocery store
-Several chip bags
-Goat cheese containers
-Packaging in jambalaya mix
-2 Salad tubs & seals
-Pamela’s pancake mix bag (brought from home)
-Goat cheese tasting sticks & cups
-Tasting stick from strawberry lavender syrup
-Steak wrapping
-2 Risotto packages
-Taco place knife & 2 forks
-4 Emergen-c packets
-Water bottle from goat farm tasting
-Wrapper from bottle of booze!
-Whole Foods forks
-In-flight drinks & snacks (even water)
-Realfruit gummies bag
-4 Sesame snaps packages
-Veggie sticks & ranch dip cup
-Burger styrofoam container
-2 Styrofoam containers from 'emergency' tacos
-Sushi place styrofoam container
-2 Chicken packages
-1 Fish package
-2 Ground beef packages
-Steak stir fry strips package
-4 Bread bags
-Salsa container
-2 Hummus containers
-2 Tags from pineapples
-Stickers on fruit
-Daiya bag
-2 Coconut milk yogurt containers
-2 Coconut milk ice cream tubs
-Tray in box of goat milk truffles
-Pull tab from carton of OJ
-2 Cups containing salsa accompanying meals 
-Cookie container
-6 Granola bar wrappers
-Macadamia nut container
-Pasta bag
-Baby carrot bag (left behind by previous condo tenants)
-Stir fry veggie bag
-Alcoholic beverage pouch
-Starbucks Frappuccino cup
-Several garbage bags
-Dip cup of ranch in airport
-Skor bar wrapper

*From departure day (April 22) through return date (May 6, 2011)

It's worth noting that we didn't purchase ALL of these items. We were traveling with two other individuals for the first week of our trip and their grocery shopping habits aren't entirely focused on plastic consumption as ours are. 

Things that I can do better/work on finding a plastic-less solution for (ya know, for our next holiday):
-plasticless cutlery for travel days
-remembering to ask for no straw in restaurants (or just drink martinis!)
-stop acquiring samples of stuff to use on trips like this
-make more snacks without individual packaging rather than buying
-leave stickers on apples so that customs doesn't take them away :(
-fill up water bottle after security/customs & before boarding flight

"Junk Food" by Option-G Found on

These things can be difficult when on vacation because you're suddenly immersed in an environment where you don't know what sort of differences there will be between what you're used to at home and what you will find in the new place. I brought along my beloved bulk bin bags, but Safeway didn't have bulk bins (the nearby health food store Hawaiian Moons did however). I'll still bring them next time. 

Another challenge is cooking meals for people that generally eat differently than we do. People with other allergies or medical conditions need to be considered when planning to feed more than just ourselves. It's not impossible to cook a meal that's gluten, soy, dairy, nut, shellfish & egg free while also keeping in mind how the meal will impact blood sugars. Difficult, sure. Impossible, no. Oh, and all the while reducing our plastic usage of course!

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