Top 10 Ways To Be An Eco-Conscious Visitor in Maui
Updated: Sep 17, 2018
Photo credit: Maui Ocean Center
With fresh breezes blowing through your hair, the sun kissing your shoulders and the ocean lapping at your toes, you are loving every moment and so happy to be in Hawaii on vacation! But while having the time of your lives, it’s easy to forget that simple actions can have a big impact on our environment. By making responsible choices, you can help save paradise from the perils of pollution, and many more environmental impacts that could degrade the natural beauty and wildlife of Maui.
1. Rental Cars
Greenhouse gas emissions can really take their toll on the environment. You can minimize your carbon footprint by renting a car that has great gas mileage, choosing a hybrid, electric or green model.
Bio-Beetle Eco Rental Cars offers cars that use biodiesel, 50 mpg gas hybrids and cars that are fully electric. Gas guzzlers will not only hurt your wallet but the amount of fuel they are burning and releasing into the atmosphere is quite detrimental.
Also be conscious about your itinerary throughout the day, because minimizing the amount that you drive around also helps decrease the amount of carbon expended.
If you’re looking for a resort experience that still takes the environment into consideration, look no further than the Fairmont Kealani. They are part of the Green Partnership Program, “a comprehensive commitment to minimizing the hotels’ impact on the planet”. This partnership takes into consideration the hotel’s waste management systems, recycling and composting procedures, energy efficiency and local community outreach programs.
Utilizing homes that already exist, you can find some serious jungle hut steals, farm-based yurts and other eco-friendly options that minimize excessive utility usage, harness solar power, and even some that are completely off the grid.
3. Eating and Drinking
Maui has a smorgasbord of culinary delicacies to indulge in, but did you know that what you eat and drink can impact the environment in a big way? The distance that your food and drinks have to travel leaves a carbon footprint, and given that Maui is an island, a hefty portion of all the food and drink is imported.
Take a stand by eating at restaurants that source their ingredients locally, as there are a number of reputable island farms distributing produce and meat to local restaurants. With a plethora of fresh caught fish, Kula grown veggies and fresh fruit stands all over the island- it is actually quite easy to manage your carbon footprint and still eat delicious food that is both nourishing and sustainable.
4. Plastic Usage
While the state of Hawaii has already banned the distribution of plastic bags, there are still incidents where plastic rears its ugly head. From produce bags at the grocery store, to plastic straws with your mai-tais, making informed and aware decisions regarding your plastic consumption can make a big impact to marine life. Plastic bags that blow into the ocean resemble a sea turtle’s favorite snack of sea jellies, while plastic cutlery and straws can end up trapped in the nostrils or throats of other marine wildlife.
When a sea turtle eats a plastic bag, it’s stomach sends the signal that it is apparently full, however this signal continues to be sent to the brain while the turtle is continuously not ingesting any nutritious green algae or sea grass. In time, the turtle will become emaciated and starve to death. Use reusable bags to prevent situations like this from happening to other marine wildlife.
Metal or bamboo straws and cutlery, as well as reusable bags are all great essentials to keep with you to help prevent adding marine debris and polluting the oceans with plastic.
5. Sunscreen Usage
Protecting our skin from the intense Hawaiian sun can seem like a simple task, just go to the store and pick the bottle with the highest SPF, right? Believe it or not, the type of sunscreen you choose to buy can greatly affect the coral reefs of Hawaii.
There are two types of sunscreen, chemical and physical. Chemical sunscreens rely on chemical reactions to block out the UV rays, while physical sunscreen uses active ingredients that physically block the UV rays. Harmful ingredients in chemical sunscreens include oxybenzone, avobenzone and octinoxate. The chemical ingredients have shown degrading effects on coral such as DNA mutation, as well as inhibiting their resilience from the effects of coral bleaching.
Be wary of sunscreens that claim to be ‘reef safe’, as there is no over arching organization that credibly identifies ‘reef safe’ sunscreens. Look for those active ingredients of titanium dioxide and zinc oxide, but even better, try and cover up with sun shirts, sun hats and sun pants to minimize the amount of sunscreen going into the water.
Maui has an endless range of exhilarating adventures to partake in, but when you find yourself looking for an activity that is both fun and purposeful, look for environmental volunteer opportunities.
You can volunteer with wildlife organizations that focus on sea turtles, monk seals, humpback whales and even primates! Respectively, check out the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary, and the Pacific Primate Sanctuary.
For more environmental opportunities look to Surfrider Foundation, who focuses on the protection and preservation of oceans, waves and beaches through conservation, activism, research and education as well as the Hawaii Nature Center.
7. Beach Clean-ups
Various organizations, ranging from environmental ones like Malama Maui Nui to clothing brands such as eco-conscious bikini company, Manakai, will host scheduled beach clean ups every month. Maui Ocean Center, the Aquarium of Hawaii, actually incorporates a dive segment in their efforts where they have divers combing the reef for fishing line, old lead weights and other debris that could entangle wildlife.
Whether you are able to fill a whole garbage bag, or you only pick up three pieces of trash, your efforts can save the life of a sea turtle or sea bird, while also contributing to the overall health of our oceans.
8. Boat Tours
There is an endless selection of boats to choose from depending on the experience you are striving for, but there is not a wide selection that utilizes eco-friendly standards or practice ocean awareness.
Some boats can have hundreds of people aboard, generating huge mounds of trash, using grills that are designed to dump waste straight into the ocean and protocols that disrespect the coral and wildlife of Hawaii, so choose wisely.
Look for a ride on Aqua Adventure, a family-owned operation that maxes out at 40 passengers, compared to some boats who run with 125 people. Their use of bio diesel cuts down on their greenhouse gas emissions and as compared to other boats that will grill food during their charter, Aqua Adventure chooses to serve sandwiches and potato macaroni salad so as to avoid dumping charcoal, lighter fluid and other grilling detriment into the ocean. They also prefer to use a vendor located in the harbor to help minimize the carbon footprint when it comes to the delivery of the food.
Enjoying a beautiful trek along with the amazing rewards of vistas and waterfalls, you may forget how much impact your presence can have on the environment when hiking.
Make sure to always pack out what you pack in. Littering is one of the greatest offenses that you can commit to nature, and it’s an easy one to avoid. You should also be sure to stay on the marked trails rather than attempting to bushwhack your way through, as there may be vital species that you are impacting with your steps, be it crushing young sprouts, disturbing soil or even introducing new species that could clash with preexisting plants.
Even breaking branches is destructive behavior that we can avoid by staying on the marked trails. Something as simple as creating alternate routes can cause major disruptions in the water dispersal throughout the area and cause formerly safe trails to be washed out.
When enjoying the many hikes Maui has to offer, be sure to stay vigilant about where you walk, take only photos and leave only footprints.
At the end of your trip you may find yourself craving a souvenir of the amazing adventures that you’ve had on Maui, but before you reach for a piece of coral or a gleaming seashell, please think again.
Taking shells from the beach may not seem like it would influence much, but you could be taking away a hermit crab or even putting yourself in danger if you happen to pick up a cone snail, which contains a venom so powerful that the sting can sometimes be fatal. It’s difficult to tell for certain when a critter is home or not, so always best to leave the shells at the beach.
Coral sometimes has the ability to regenerate from mere fragments, the same fragments you may have deemed dead to the ocean and acceptable for you to bring home. Think before you decide to take a piece of coral from the ocean, and please never touch living corals on the reef as touching them can kill them while also potentially putting yourself at risk to the their sharp skeletons and stinging tentacles.
Or perhaps you may head to a souvenir store and they have baskets upon baskets of different kinds of shells and coral to choose from, but be warned, encouraging the sale of these goods hurts the ocean by demonstrating to the vendor that there is legitimate interest in this product. By abstaining from purchasing coral and shells, you can influence the amount of these goods that are sourced from the ocean.
Are you ready?
Now that you’ve equipped yourself with eco-savvy knowhow, prepare yourself to have a vacation that you can both enjoy and feel positively about, knowing that you are contributing towards a greener and more sustainable existence on our planet. While there are many tour guides, restaurants and adventures to choose from in Maui, we only have one planet, so its up to us to help preserve and nurture the environment as best we can. So pack up that mineral sunscreen, sign up for a beach clean up and reach for a reusable straw- your Maui vacation awaits!