King Kamehameha I was reputed to be an agile surfer. It's also said that Queen Ka'ahumanu, his favorite wife, was an avid surfer in her own right. From chief to commoner, the Hawaiian people loved the ocean and respected it as their source of sustenance, reverence and recreation, something that has not been lost on many today that find the same ethereal connection in the water. It's no wonder that the beach is intimately woven into everyday life in Hawai'i.
And while enjoying the beach is ostensibly one of our greenest pastimesŠspending time outdoors, miniscule drain on fossil fuels, healthy activities and a natural community centerŠour modern oceanfront habits can actually have a negative impact on the environment. So in the interest of living fully but stepping lightly this summer, here are a few ideas for an eco-friendly day at the beach.
Consider the Bus:
Hawai'i's roads are overrun with cars. The beaches, landscaped with parked cars, are no exception. A trip to the beach need not start with a car ride. On O'ahu, The Bus has some great seaside routes. For townies, The Beach Bus runs from Waikiki through Hawai'i Kai, Sandy Beach and Makapu'u Beach Park, ending at Sea Life Park. You can even beach hop without the parking grind. Of course, Ala Moana and Magic Island Beach Parks are accessible from all points of town via bus. Enjoy the freedom of a day without the hassles of parking a car.
Use mineral-based sunblock:
What seemingly protects you can also harm you and it can seriously damage ocean reefs and marine eco-systems. The latest findings reveal that over 80 percent of sunscreen products on the market include chemical ingredients that are unhealthy for human consumption as well as the environment. Benzophenones, PABA, salicylates, cinnamates and parabens are just a few of these widely used chemical ingredients. Not only ineffectual for shielding UV rays, these compounds are washed into the ocean from users, which then disrupt the delicate symbiosis of coral life. These compounds actually hasten the demise of coral reefs by proliferating viruses that kill algae and coral. The entire ocean's ecology depends on the coral reefs for sustenance.
Every year the Environmental Working Group releases a guide on the best and worst sunscreens on the market. Go to: www.ewg.org/2010sunscreen to see how your favorite brand ranks.
Ditch plastic toys:
Seek out recycled, biodegradable and non-toxic alternatives to the typical plastic beach toys. The toxic chemicals common in most plastics are more likely to seep out of plastic toys in Hawai'i's year-round heat. While not as ubiquitous as mainstream brands, eco-friendly toys are available. For example, Green Toys makes a sand play set and tugboats that are perfect for beach play. These toys are made from recycled plastic, milk containers, and other eco-friendly, safe materials. They contain no BPA, no phthalates, use recycled packaging and are completely made in America. You can also pick up reclaimed and lightly used play toys at second-hand stores across the islands. A few pots and pans can keep your keiki busy for hours as you soak up the sea and the sun.
Choose Reusable Swim Diapers:
No one wants to bump into a dirty diaper bobbing in the shorebreak and disposable swim diapers leak toxic gelling agents into the ocean and force your kids to drag around a pound of water in their pants. Reusable swim diapers are easy to use, saves money and keeps your baby looking cute, a must.
Pack a waste-free picnic:
Instead of buying your bento, pack your own. Make a picnic using reusable containers and lunch boxes, including canteens for beverages and water. If you don't have a lunch container or want to avoid carrying a picnic basket, consider using a furoshiki, a type of traditional Japanese cloth often used for wrapping and carrying boxed lunches. A furoshiki cloth can also be used as a table covering. It is reusable and multifunctional.