Zero Waste Oʻahu is a community-based organization that cultivates an equitable, waste-free future in Hawaiʻi through community engagement, policy support, and zero waste demonstration projects. I am thrilled to serve as director of the organization, which I co-founded along with a collective of local change-makers (and awesome humans!).
I have worked on social and enviromental health for over a decade, in roles ranging from feild researcher, to environmental consultant, to program manager at a local NGO, to a sustainability coordinator at the University of Hawaiʻi. I got my start studying plastic pollution in the North Pacific Gyre (aka the Garbage Patch) and have been passionate about shrinking our collective waste footprint ever since. I love living on this incredible planet, I love being immersed in and connected with nature, and my kuleana (privelge and responsbility) is to build pathways for the changes needed to keep this precious planet healthy and well, while building resilient and just communities.
The Story of Zero Waste Oʻahu:
Prior to the launch of Zero Waste Oʻahu in spring 2018, our hui (or group) of local zero waste advocates would meet to share ideas, ispiration, and to collaborate on policy and outreach. While we all worked for organizations that focused on scocio-environemental issues related to zero waste (like plastic pollution and community resilience), none of us had mission or scope to focus on building the zero waste movement on Oʻahu. So, we worked with what we had and planted seeds of change where we could. We became tightly knit as friends, advocates, colleagues, and allied community organizations. We built expertise and made some progress in elevating zero waste conversations.
When the City and County of Honolulu began their 10-year Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan (ISWMP) update in early 2018 we realized this was a huge opportunity to change things for our community over the next decade. So, we formalized our coalition and became Zero Waste Oʻahu and put our expertise to work. Our first goal was to imbed waste reduction as a core approach in the County's updated ISWMP.
Honolulu cuurently manages waste by incinerating it (one of the US EPA's least preferable methods of dealing with trash). Unfortunately, the initial draft of the updated ISWMP maintained this status quo, planning for more trash and more incineration over the next decade. We got to work by providing input with ideas to build a different future for Oʻahu: one with less trash and less incineration, because less of both of these means a better world for everyone. We achieved our goal: while still not a comprehensive zero waste plan, we were able to shift the updated ISWMP away from just an ornamental nod to waste reduction into a plan with a full source reduction chapter, measurable waste reduction goals, an action plan, and a cross-sector Source Reduction Working Group.
In summer 2018 Zero Waste Oʻahu acquired 3-years of seed funding and I was appointed director. In just our first year of operations Zero Waste Oʻahu has taken off! We organized the first-ever Zero Waste Summit, ramping up community awareness about the management plan and the possibilities of a zero waste future and grew our social media following and email outreach list to over 2,000 people. We launched our first urban composting demonstration project, presented to over a dozen community groups and neighborhood boards about waste reduction, and passed SB 1522 in the State Legislature—a bill which created a statewide working group to address plastic pollution!
We look forward to continuing to energize the movement and build a Zero Waste network across Hawaiʻi!