Casita Chronicals; Return to Kauai 2019

One of my greatest joy’s and privileges is traveling. There’s nothing better than escaping the winter for any amount of time to travel to a warm tropical island! After 4 years, I was blessed to return to the Island of Kauai, the oldest Island in Hawaii and often considered a place of healing in the divine feminine energy this Island carries.

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I love the dense vegetation, abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables, the sounds of bullfrogs croaking and roosters crowing. I especially love spending time near the ocean where i can smell the moist salty air, listen to the sound of the waves crashing into shore or gently ebbing and flowing, walking barefoot in the sand, and searching for beautiful and unique seashells. These activities provide me with a limitless sense of renewal.

On the first day that I was dropped off at the beach and was heading out for my stroll, I was a bit shocked to see not the usual plethora of seashells, but brightly colored tiny pieces of plastic along the tide line. I really could not help but immediately start picking up the plastic. Even though I hadn’t brought a bag, it didn’t take long to find a larger plastic containers to gather it in. img_2739

Rather than my usual hobby of creating “love” from natural objects, instead I left this message in the sand.

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It was such an unfortunate confirmation about how I have been spending much of my time in the past few years trying to encourage myself and others to “Ditch the Disposables”. Most recently, I’ve been volunteering at the Girls and Boys Club to educate the kids by creating “trash bricks” which we will then use to make a bench. For the past three weeks, I’d been showing the kids YouTube videos about the plastic problems particularly in the ocean, then here it was right smack in the middle of my vacation!

I’d began thinking about life’s choices just before leaving, especially as a privileged white American. Our lives have been so formed by the proverbial,”American Dream”. After the Great Depression and WWII, consumerism became like a silent drug keeping us obediently buying goods. At first we were lured by making our lives easier, and as time went on we enjoyed the comfort, ease & pleasure “things” provided. However, it seemed to silently infiltrate our psyches by somehow creating the illusion of proving our worth by how much we have. This consumerism became an ingrained habit of the 1st world nations.  Habitually shopping without even thinking about whether we really “need” the item, what has gone into producing it nor what happens to it once it is doesn’t work anymore. Even in this current age where we are now aware of numerous global environmental issues, people still seem to go on with their lives  “business as usual”  buying and consuming  without thinking about the choices we make with every decision.

Even for those of us that do think about these things and care deeply for the health and wellness of our planet, we still can fall short of our ideals. Since this topic is something I do consider, before leaving I was reviewing several YouTube videos about individuals and even families living a “zero waste” life. I’d been following the single young hip Lauren Singer for a number of years with her “Trash is for Tossers” blog, but I was truly astounded by this family of four that generated only one small plastic bottle filled with trash for an entire year! Check this out. https://youtu.be/epTPhU4Hg4U

The “Ditch the Disposable Campaign” that Lucia Stanslaw of Lucy and the Green Wolf & I Initiated in Hot Springs, SD is guided by the desire to educate and inspire others to think about their daily choices and offer support to take small steps toward a more responsible lifestyle.  You can learn more about this campaign and how to create different lifestyle choices: https://www.facebook.com/DitchTheDisposablesHotSprings/

By being conscious about our choices we can easily switch from a throw- a- way society to a more responsible and balanced one.  I advocate to start small, creating one new habit at a time. This approach has helped me not feel overwhelmed but keeps me working toward a positive outcome. I started with simple things like bringing my own canvas bags to the grocery store, washing out any plastic bags I accumulate from other products sold in a plastic bag the re-using them. I bring my own coffee cup or water bottle for drinks, then later added using reusable dish ware when I go to potlucks, picnics or go out to eat in case I have left-overs. These items are all left in my car for easy access. I’ve also tried to make an effort to buy in bulk or buy products that have less packaging, compostable packaging or at least recyclable packaging. Theses efforts seem pretty minimal but if every one of us did at least these few things, wow imagine what an impact that would make.

This is a travel blog right? Really, I am sharing my real life experiences and what I think about in response to my surroundings. I can’t help but notice the challenges I feel living in our consumerist/throw away society, even while on vacation. Before we even set foot on the plane I encountered my first challenge and one of my most difficult areas. We visited some family members with a new born. It was understandable why we choose take out food to bring home for dinner. That night, I ended up eating my dinner out of a styrofoam container, one of the worst products ever made in my opinion and something I try to avoid at all costs, yet here I was. I try to avoid Styrofoam because it takes more than 500 years to brake down (if at all) and is not recyclable in most places. Not to mention that it is made from Polystyrene containing styrene – a chemical compound that some evidence suggests can leach out of the foam food containers and cups when food or drinks are hot, yuck no thank you! Nonetheless, when I’m visiting someone else’s home and am being fed, I try to focus on my gratitude for the food and for their hospitality. I often don’t speak up because I don’t want to make others feel uncomfortable. Or perhaps I feel a bit insecure that people think I’m weird or controlling or what ever. Wonder why I would feel this way? I have been made fun of by several people in my life when I try to do the right thing. I choose to put my piece of pizza on the already used and spoiled styrofoam from the salad I ordered rather than also grabbing an additional paper plate like everyone else. So what other choice could I have made? I could have inquired from the place we ordered from if they could put the salad in our own container, borrowed one from our hosts or not ordered a salad knowing that it would probably have been pre-made and already in a disposable container. When I’m on my own, I find it easier to ask restaurants to accommodate my values. Not only are they likely happy to save the cost of the take out containers, but I also feel like I am creating a consciousness for business owners to consider. Yet, when I am a guest in someones home, I still feel shy to make a deal about it. When will the social stigmas get changed so that the people using disposables are the weird ones? For the meantime however I’ll have to be more courageous or go without.

The travel industry is notorious for disposables, though I have seen a little improvement over the years. I’m prepared with my water bottle, coffee cup, my bamboo spork and some snacks from home. When we arrived in our hotel room (pre-flight because we take off at 8 am) I reflected on the habit to use and even take home the complimentary shampoos & soaps usually provided with the room. As a professional organizer and even in my home growing up, I often observed how people take these home. I’m sure guilty of that. The mentality is the rationale that we’ve paid so much for the hotel, that we want to get the most out of it. In addition, it’s always handy to have little bottles when traveling now that they have restrictions on size of liquid toiletries, right? I have also reasoned that if you open & use some out of the bottle, you may as well take it with you because the hotel will likely throw out the unused portion. Most of these little shampoo bottles are not easily refillable and most likely are not even recyclable, so this time I choose not to use them at all. Additionally, most rooms have coffee machines with little packaged coffee, with plastic wrapped condiments. They did at least have ceramic mugs rather than the usual Styrofoam. However I realized that we would be heading down to the lobby soon where they would also have coffee made in a larger container, so I decided to wait. I may have only saved a couple of small plastic packages but I was happy that I even thought about it rather than just acting out of habit. I was also really happy that the hotel breakfast was served on real dishes, way to go Hyatt! The last hotel I stayed in served breakfast on styrofoam everything, I was distraught that I hadn’t brought my own containers on that trip.

Once on the plane, I averted a plastic cup by receiving the OJ in my own mug, though it came out of an aluminum can. However I did take the little snack offered. Again, old habit…yes I was a little hungry but I did have nuts in my backpack, so it was at this moment that I realized I could have chosen to say “no thank you” to the snack like I usual do for the plastic straw. Another habit that needs adjusting is if it’s free you’re obliged to take it.

Once we were settled at our friends’ home in Kauai, things got a lot better. We rarely went out to eat, so I didn’t have to think about it too much. With so many fresh fruits and vegetables available from the land you don’t produce as much waste. They did buy cheese & granola in small non recyclable plastic bags  which seemed could have been bought in larger quantities at least. I found the courage to discuss this with my friend in which he replied that he’d look into it with the producer of the granola whom is from the island.

One way that Kauai is taking a more proactive approach to our global crisis it that they have banned single use plastic bags. I know many don’t agree that we should have laws about this, but it makes a lot of sense to me. I can imagine just how much waste is being diverted from the landfill and the oceans! Not to mention saving the fossil fuels used to produce & transport the plastic bags.

It may not surprise you at this point to learn that I spent every day that I was on the beach picking up trash, mostly plastics, esp. micro-plastics. Our host was also obsessed with picking up plastic and together we filled a 5 gallon bucket each time. Even on my last day  at the beach before we headed to the airport  I intending to just relax & not pick up plastic trash. However, I was unable to stop myself and used a big buoy that had washed ashore to collect the smaller plastics in, I stuffed in as much as i could pack in there.

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Since all the plastic trash we picked up would likely just go back into the landfill, I had the idea to try to make a mosaic from the miscro-plastics. I sorted the plastic by color and used a styrofoam tray as the backdrop. I hope this will make a fun and engaging activity the kids when I get back to South Dakota.  Yup, i hauled it back. (thanks to Uriah)

So there you have it, how I spent a portion of my time on vacation. There were other more personal things I attended to and also spent time reading and relaxing.

So I ask YOU, the reader to consider these things…                                                                What habits do you have around shopping?

Do you only buy what is necessary or just habitual buy?

Do you think about ways to reduce your use of disposables?

Would you like to make a pledge?

Please check out our Ditch the Disposables facebook page for “switch to” ideas.

: https://www.facebook.com/DitchTheDisposablesHotSprings/

If you want to learn more about micro plastics, here is one of many videos on the subject

Maholo

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