In 2011, eight friends sat in their living room in Kaimuki discussing a problem: plastic pollution increasing across Hawaii’s coastlines. Sharing inspiration and a few beers, they began conjuring up solutions. Fast forward 10 years, and we’re celebrating a decade of cleanups, hands-on community engagement with thousands of volunteers and our first ever office and education center, still right here, in the heart of Kaimuki.
Doors opened to the public on February 20th, 2021 with the one thing we at SCH know how to do best: hosting a cleanup. Thus, the Kaimuki Neighborhood Cleanup was born. The idea first came about when we moved into the office space and we noticed all of the trash along the street, in the river and parks nearby. There’s no better way to get to know your neighbors than sifting through single use plastics, cigarette butts and laughing about the odd things one can find in a stream (whoever forgot their surfboard down there was a loooong way from the beach). We know that what happens upstream will always make its way to the ocean. In Hawai’i you’ll often hear about Mauka to Makai, or the mountains to the sea, it’s all connected. What happens upstream will always make its way to the ocean. Upstream solutions to plastic pollution start with cleaning it up, and end with not making it in the first place.
Working with Keep it Kaimuki, we reached out to local businesses and organizations to partner with us for the big day. The support was clear, everyone was stoked and on board. From offering post-cleanup discounts to fueling our team with coffee and pastries (mahalo Bean About Town, Coffee Talk & Via Gelato)!
Knowing that we wanted to tackle a Pālolo stream cleanup, we reached out to organizations that have been doing some incredible education, restoration and conservation work throughout the Ala Wai watershed. We met with Cory Yap of Na Wai ‘Ekolu and Timothy Los Banos of Saint Louis School to learn more about the portion of the Pālolo stream that runs right behind our office - we learned a LOT from them. Connecting with those in the community doing great work and joining forces is a BIG part of our mission - together we’re just one big inspiration machine out here stoking and educating individuals. Empowering volunteers to have Kuleana (responsibility & privilege) to care for the land from streams to coastlines.
The morning of the cleanup began with a blessing from Hanalei, who is the cultural advisor for Bishop Museum. Have you ever listened to an Oli (chant) from a native Hawaiian and had the clouds part to reveal sunshine AND rain? Yeah, talk about chicken skin. Hanalei’s blessing set a beautiful tone for the day ahead, and the volunteers began trickling in.
THAT is incredible, that is what we live for. Families were cleaning parks together, college and highschool students helped collect data and some extra adventurous cleaners ventured into the Pālolo stream to remove car bumpers, razor scooters and everything you can imagine. Our data collection and sorting site was bustling with volunteers categorizing trash and logging numbers on all types of single use plastic trash - numbers that will be used to support important legislation to keep our waterways clean. All of the HI-5 recyclables were collected by Genshu, a 13 year old student who started Bottles 4 College, an organization that gives scholarships to Hawaii students to attend college. Our friends at 1800-GOT-JUNK? (shoutout to the guys who make trash hauling super fun) showed up right as the last volunteers finished cleaning and took it all to HPower (for those that don’t know, the island’s trash incinerator, more on that later).
Meanwhile, at the SCH office volunteers were able to check out our sustainable T-shirts, zero waste pop-up shop goods from our partners at Saalt, Allgood, Keep it Simple, Indigenous soaps, and other SCHwag. Volunteers were also able to see the unveiling of the Aaron Char Art mural! Char, as we call him, has been making SCH flyers and artwork since day 1. Students and adults were able to participate in a “where’s waldo” interactive and educational mural game to identify items and concepts with the bigger picture of turning off the tap on plastic pollution.
We at SCH believe that education always comes first. Let’s be honest, we really don't want to clean beaches forever. That’s why Our education team gave Zoom presentations leading up to the cleanup - reaching over 50 students total in 3 classes: Intro to Environmental Issues, Intro to Marine Environmental Issues, and Pandemics & the Environment.
“I like that they used Ahupua’a throughout their presentation. It helps to show the importance of indigenous knowledge as we move forward with environmental movements.” -Chaminade Student
Students from schools such as Saint Louis School, Chaminade and Punahou also participated in cleanup data collection, sorting trash and counting items like styrofoam, straws, bottlecaps, single use to go containers and more. Here’s a breakdown of what they sorted.
This was collected in just 1 DAY in Kaimuki:
Oh and remember that surfboard we found?
Well, @lastwaveco upcycled it into some beautiful art that now lives in our office.
We are open to the public! You can come by Monday through Friday 9:00am-5:00pm to check out our new mural by Aaron Char, updated sand sifters and waste diversion receptacle in collaboration with Design Lab Hawaiʻi and the Albizia Project, and the latest SCHwag.