Five Things You Can Do to Help Maui's Environment

April 20, 2018

When you live on or visit Maui, the first to thing to remember is that Maui is a small island in the middle of a large ocean. When you look around, one question that should come to mind is "where does all the garbage go?" The answer is landfills. At some point, there's going to be no more land to fill. As for the ocean, many of us live and visit here because of the clean beaches and ocean. But if the ocean becomes overly polluted and no longer supports the corals and wildlife, what happens then? When you're on Maui (or the other Islands, for that matter) there are things you can do to help us sustain our beautiful island. Here are five simple things you can do to keep Maui Maui.

Use Sunblock, Not Sunscreen
This one is not obvious or known to a lot people, but most sunscreens sold are devastating to coral reefs. Any sunscreen with the active ingredients oxybenzone and/or octinoxate contribute to coral bleaching, which in essence, kills coral. While these ingredients are in a majority of the sunscreens available in stores, there are reef friendly sunblocks that primarily use zinc oxide. The big difference between the products is that a zinc oxide-based sunblock literally blocks all UV rays from reaching your skin, whereas oxybenzone sunscreens allows some unharmful rays in. Many people find sunblock less convenient than sunscreen (you've seen people that look like ghosts on beaches), but in the end, they cause far less damage to the environment. On Maui, you can find reef friendly sunblocks at most surf shops and natural food stores. Even some of the larger stores are now carrying it.

Ah, plastic straws. Pretty much everywhere you go, you're bound to be served drinks with plastic straws. In the United States alone, over 500,000,000 million (half a billion!) plastic straws are used a day. The city of Seattle recently banned the use of plastic straws in restaurants and bars. While we would love to see Maui enact the same law, things don't move so quick here. Instead, you can do your part by simply declining a straw when offered. When you think about it, you'll use your straw for 30 minutes, but it will last in the environment for hundreds of years.

Water bottles
This one is a bit tricky because depending on where you are on the island, the tap water can either taste fine or it can be a little, uh, not so fine. That said, most of the grocery stores have filtered water dispensers. If you start your vacation with a couple of large jugs of water, you can use those to fill your own water bottles, rather than using plastic bottles that end up in landfills.

We're sad to say, Maui is way behind the times when it comes to composting and recycling. There's no county-run composting program and the recycling program is barely adequate. But don't let that stop you from separating from your recyclables and garbage. There are recycle centers all over island. When you head out, save a little time to drop off your recyclables. You may make enough on your bottles and cans to afford a latte at the airport.

Pick-Up Trash
For the most part, Maui is fairly free of loose garbage. The beaches are clean and most of the sidewalks are also debris free. This doesn't happen by magic. Most visitors and locals are conscious about picking up after themselves. But for every person who has no problem leaving behind trash, there's an equal or greater number of people who when they see garbage, pick it up.

Here on Maui we're lucky to have so many visitors who respect the land and the environment. We seem to get a different type of visitor than most tourist locales, even Oahu. Thank you so much!

Do you have any tips for locals and visitors of Maui to keep our island clean? Please tell us in the comments below.

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