Star-Bulletin Features

Tuesday, April 20, 1999

By Kathryn Bender, Star-Bulletin
Jeff Mikulina sorts through his recycling bins
on the steps of his studio in Manoa.

Time out!

This Thursday is Earth Day, a good time
to stop and take stock of how your habits
compare with the habits of the
more Earth-conscious

Bullet Earth Day rooted 29 years ago
Bullet Earth Day events

By Lori Tighe


Back in Paul Achitoff's college days, friends invited him to dinner and served him fish. As a vegetarian, he didn't eat fish, but he'd grown tired of making a scene so he said yes to the fish.

The next night, other friends invited him to dinner and served him chicken. He had said yes to the fish, so he said yes to the chicken. Sensitivity to his friends' feelings opened the door to his old carnivorous habits.

Although the environmental lawyer recycles, turns off the water when he shaves and resists the minivan trend, he still eats meat.

"I eat it because I like it. It's still something I have trouble with," said Achitoff, 43 of Kaaawa, who works for Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund. "I don't rationalize it. There are many imperfections in my life and that's one of them."

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Maile Bay fills the compost bin in her back yard.

Gasp! Do imperfect environmentalists really exist? Like many of us, Achitoff, who fights for whales and sea turtles by day, admits to struggling occasionally with the decisions he makes at home that affect the environment.

Thursday marks the annual celebration of Earth Day, but environmentalists in Hawaii try to walk the walk in their personal lives by doing a range of things to make a difference every day. They recycle, compost, use solar power, drive fuel-efficient cars, live minimally, ride bicycles, donate old belongings to charity, wear apparel made from hemp, wash their bodies with salt, and some swear off meat.

But like the rest of us, they stumble.

"It's hard to be an environmental consumer," said Jeffrey Mikulina, president of the Sierra Club in Hawaii, "and not be bowled over by these claims. Many companies, including Procter & Gamble, have jumped on the green bandwagon. We call it 'greenwashing.' "

All the environmentalists interviewed try to resist America's insatiable appetite to consume. Conserving resources goes beyond recycling, Mikulina said. It involves learning to use and buy less in the first place.

"It's consumerism that puts the burden on the earth," said Mikulina, 25 of Manoa, who lives in a Spartanly furnished studio apartment without a TV, but with a computer.

"Americans are gluttons. But it's tough to consume less because that conflicts with convenience. I just try to be mindful of everything I do."

Mikulina keeps his compost pile of fruit and vegetable peels in a bin in his freezer so it doesn't "rank." He uses petroleum-free dishwashing detergent and a natural laundry detergent called Planet. He tries to buy hemp clothing, even though it's more expensive than other fibers. A hemp shirt can cost $80.

He doesn't eat meat and avoids wearing leather, although he does own a leather belt.

"It's a problem because of the processing standpoint. A 1,000-pound steer uses enough water to float a destroyer. And the tanning industry to make leather is nasty," Mikulina said.

His biggest personal environmental choice is to ride his bicycle whenever possible, even though he owns a car.

He is constantly subjected to peer pressure about his green lifestyle from his sister, a preschool teacher who lives in Kahala.

"They just bought a Nissan Pathfinder," Mikulina said, rolling his eyes. " 'Why do you need this?' I asked them. They said, 'We need it to drive to the trails.' "

By Ken Sakamoto, Star-Bulletin
Paul Achitoff of Earthjustice Legal Defense Fund
strives daily to be more Earth-friendly.

Americans are becoming more environmentally responsible despite some of their decisions to the contrary. Although cars are growing in size, they are also being built to get better gas mileage. And electric cars are right around the corner. Even new homes today are 35 percent more energy efficient than 20 years ago due to new technology.

"The most important thing you can do for your house is to make it as energy efficient as possible," said Jim Motavalli, editor of E, an environmental magazine based in Norwalk, Conn.

Orienting your house to take advantage of the sun can make a big difference. Attic ventilation, skylights and insulation all help to keep Hawaii homes cooler and naturally lit, Motavalli said.

The Bay family, Maile and John of Honolulu, cut their electric bill by half by using solar-heated water.

Installing solar panels in their house and two rental units cost $7,000. But they paid $4,500 when figuring in the state tax credits and Hawaiian Electric Co. rebates.

"And the water is hot!" said Maile Bay, co-owner with her husband of Bay Pacific Consultants, a company dealing with environmental and land-use issues and native Hawaiian rights.

From the solar panels on their roof to the recycled clothes on their backs, the Bays lead the minimalists' life.

They've driven the same car for eight years. They installed low-flow showers and toilets in their home. They compost in their back yard. They recycle newspapers, aluminum cans and plastic bottles. They take their magazines to senior centers.

They donate their dead computer monitors to Mac Made Easy in Manoa Valley, and give away their outdated fax machines. They mail their empty printer cartridges back to Hewlett Packard.

"Recycling is the tip of the iceberg. We're talking about living a sustainable lifestyle," Maile Bay said. "We in America are way behind the times," she said. "We are still a throw-away society."

Her daughters, ages 5 and 17, are excited by shopping at Savers, a secondhand clothing and products store, because they can get more for their money. The Bays buy new toys for their children, and donate the old to others.

The girls don't balk at separating bottles and cans; turning water off when they're not using it; reducing the amount of water used in the shower and bath; and turning the lights out.

"We talk about conserving energy," Bay said. "Using two to three dishes in the oven at a time and covering pots when cooking. Putting errands together to save gas. Using the microwave which is really efficient, whenever possible, and using the toaster oven for smaller tasks."

Longtime environmentalist Susan Elliott Miller, 59 of Kailua, also believes in reuse-recycle. Her condominium, Windward Harbour, helps her too. The recycling proceeds from the condo-residents' newspapers and cans help pay gas and maintenance costs for a truck to haul away their trash daily.

She keeps newspapers in a box in her pantry near the washing machine, and plastic in a Safeway bag. In big ice-cream containers, she separates white and colored paper in her office. She keeps vegetable baggies in her shopping bag to reuse those at the grocery store.

To kill ants, she uses the natural chemical borax mixed with sugar. To clean, she uses Simple Green.

"Anything we can do to reduce the amount of products that end up in the air, water and land is to the benefit of those things."

But like the ant who takes back the sugar-borax to the nest and infests it, continued consumption may one day bury this planet. Miller hopes her environmentally responsible lifestyle will spread to the rest of Americans because it will take more than environmentalists to stop the pollution and resource depletion going on today.

"The more individuals step back and think about how they live, how much they use and throw away, the more difference will be made," she said. "It's collectively that we make a difference."

Stronger Earth Day
roots stem from efforts
planted 29 years ago

Stephanie Kendrick, Star-Bulletin

The first Earth Day, April 22, 1970, was a nationwide teach-in with the goal of focusing national attention on the environment.

According to the Wilderness Society, an estimated 20 million people participated in demonstrations all across the country.

Almost three decades later, local environmentalists see growing interest in the environment as a result.

It's not just the "earthy people" any more who are concerned about these issues, said Richard Joseph Lafond Jr., coastal lands conservation coordinator with the Sierra Club.

"We owe our very existence to a six-inch layer of topsoil and the fact that it rains," said Lafond.

Federal legislation designed to create cleaner air and water are testaments to the force for change inspired by Earth Day, said Jeffrey Mikulina, director of the Sierra Club, Hawai'i Chapter. And Earth Day continues to be important.

Busy schedules have created a tendency to compartmentalize, Earth Day provides a chance to focus people's attention on the environment, said Mikulina.

"Earth Day, every year it keeps building," said Ellen Okuma, instruction and outreach librarian for Hawaii Community College and organizer of the HCC event.

The HCC Earth Day fair was started 11 years ago by sociology teacher Noelie Rodriquez.

Part of the goal was to expose students to the work being done by the presenters who come to campus for the event.

"What it's done for us in Hilo is it's brought the community together," said Okuma.

Another legacy of Earth Day is the change it has wrought in year-round habits. "There's a general undertone of environmental thinking now that probably wasn't there before," said Barbara Kelly, project coordinator with Youth for Environmental Services. "People do things everyday that are more environmentally conscious."

Earth Day creates an awareness among people that their actions have broad ecological consequences.

"It gets the community together to do something about their neighborhood," said Kelley.


Earth Day statewide

April 22, 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., University of Hawaii at Manoa. Presented by ECO.
Bullet Informational booths at the Campus Center
Bullet Malama Kahakai, the Sierra Club's coastal lands conservation campaign, will be featured in a slide presentation. 11 a.m. in Campus Center Room 307.
Call 956-2031.

April 22
Bullet Diamond Head Restoration, call for details.
Bullet Sandy Beach Clean up. 150 9th graders from Radford High School will clean Sandy Beach of debris. They will begin at the eastern-most bathrooms. 9 a.m. -- noon. Volunteers welcome.
April 24
Bullet Ala Wai Watershed service projects include planting a variety of plants at Kaneloa Wetlands, Kanaha Stream, and Tantalus; trail work at Manoa Falls Trail and Manoa Stream Trail; stream clean-up at Palolo Stream; and storm drain stenciling in Palolo Valley. 9 a.m. - noon. Interested volunteers should meet in the second (smaller) parking lot on Monsarrat Avenue near the Waikiki Shell.
Call 957-0423.

April 22, 8 a.m., Foodland Market City
Fourth graders from Iolani School have created 500 original designs on grocery bags that will be given away to the first 500 shoppers. Foodland and Iolani Schools urge people to recycle and reuse their grocery bags.
Call 943-2252.

April 22, noon to 4 p.m., upper campus of HCC and University of Hawaii at Hilo.
Bullet Presentations by Mauna Kea Observatories, Big Island Resource and Conservation Group, Frank Chase and his hybrid electric vehicle, Recycle Hawai and Save Tibet.
Bullet Information booths at the library lanai and Campus Center
Bullet Garden tours by Dr. Fred Stone and his students
Bullet Entertainment at the library lanai will include Ke Oha Pono No Na Kupuna and Pacific Heart Players
Call (808) 974-7483 or visit

Bullet Maui airport expansion hearing in front of the state Land Use Commission. Public testimony will be taken April 22, 9:30 am until complete. Early registration is advised. Sandalwood Golf Course Clubhouse, Nahele Room in Waikapu. LUC will consider reclassifying 210 acres of agricultural land to urban use for airport expansion.
Bullet Shoreline clean-up from Kahului Bay to Waihe'e Stream.Teams from schools, churches, neighborhoods and businesses, as well as individual volunteers. Participants will be provided with trash bags, gloves, and lunch vouchers, but should bring their own water and sunscreen. Meet in the parking lot of the Maui Arts & Cultural Center by the banyan tree at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday, April 24.
Call Sierra Club Maui at (808) 573-3454 for more information.

April 22, 4 p.m. - midnight. Maui Metropolitan Museum, 2024 Main St. in Downtown Wailuku.
The evening will include an Hawaiian blessing, live music and dancing, performance art, speakers who will discuss island issues, and a networking salon. A buffet will be available. Cost is $25.
Call Adam Lilien at (808) 244-2280 or via email

April 24
Statewide community cleanup. Call for times and locations near you.
Call 877-2524

For more information on Earth Day nationwide, visit

Do It Electric
Click for online
calendars and events.

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