Teenage eco-ambassadors clean up plastic trash from Hawaii’s shoreline
Hawaii is known for having some of the most beautiful and picturesque beaches in the world — and it’s everyone’s responsibility to help keep them that way. A remote area on Hawaii Island’s southeast coast is littered with trash and marine debris carried by currents and trade winds. Items that frequently wash ashore include plastic materials, commercial fishing equipment and commonly discarded household goods — a troubling reminder of the current health of our oceans.
But it’s getting cleaned up as part of a responsible tourism project, thanks to a group of high school students from New Zealand, Australia and Japan. In recognition of International Coastal Cleanup Day on Sept. 21, the Sea Cleaners, a New Zealand-based environmental nonprofit leader, and the Hawaii Wildlife Fund have partnered with Hawaii Tourism Oceania, Hawaii Tourism Japan and Hawaiian Airlines to bring the young leaders to Hawaii Island for beach cleanups in this remote area of Hawaii Island. A crew from National Geographic is filming the beach cleanup for its Eco-Traveler show, which will air in Oceania at a later time.
“The work we are doing is for our children and our children’s children,” said Hayden Smith of Sea Cleaners. “We must make changes now to the way we operate our daily lives without wasted consumption.”
The 12 students, who were selected because of their leadership in sustainability, will use their experience to steward youth in their respective countries. While on the island of Hawaii, they’re speaking with local students, and will participate in a voluntourism experience in Waipio Valley. Yesterday, the visiting group spoke with students at Konawaena High School about the importance of environmental stewardship, and were joined by big wave surfer and Konawaena graduate Shane Dorian. In addition, the group spoke with students at Honaunau Elementary School.
“As the hometown carrier for 90 years, we understand the tremendous responsibility we have in caring for these Islands,” said Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, director of community and cultural relations at Hawaiian Airlines. “Our hope this International Coastal Cleanup Day is to bring people together to malama honua (care for our Island Earth) and inspire others to join us in protecting all that makes Hawaii special.”
The partnership underscores the organizations’ long-term commitment to sustainability and aims to raise plastic awareness by encouraging people to respect the environment both at home and when traveling abroad. Tourism dollars collected in Hawaii through the Transient Accommodations Tax are helping to pay for this responsible tourism initiative.