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UH Hilo Sustainability Blog

10 Simple Things You Can Do to Live More Sustainably

10 Simple Things You Can Do to Live More Sustainably

Alright, I get it… you’re in college, sustainability is probably not the first thing on your mind. Papers, mid-terms, labs, work, family… you have a lot to do. But, what if I told you that living a more sustainable life was simple, didn’t take a lot of time, and was good for not only you, but everything and everyone you love. Sounds like a good habit to me. Below are 10 easy ways to live a more sustainable life!


  1. Refuse single use plastic bottles! Instead of grabbing single use bottled drinks, invest in a reusable, metal drink bottle. According to CRI, the Container Recycling Institute, more than 60 million plastic bottles are thrown away each day! There are bottle refill stations around campus and most gas stations will allow you to fill up your bottle with water (free) and sometimes soda (for a price)! You can purchase these reusable bottles anywhere and they’re CHEAP! See some of my favorites linked below.

      – S’well – a beautiful, no fuss water bottle

         – Klean Kanteena simple water bottle for all adventures


  1. Use reusable shopping bags & stop bagging your fruits/veggies! Plastic checkout bags are already a thing of the past here in Hawai’i, but all other states still allow them. Be sure to bring a reusable shopping bag when you travel (good for the store, beach, gym, dirty clothes, you name it). Take it to the next level and STOP bagging your fruits and veggies. Your fruits and veggies were all touching 2 seconds before you picked it up… those plastic bags are useless and wasteful. If you don’t want your produce to roll around in your cart… reuse a cardboard box or one of your reusable shopping bags to secure them while shopping.


  1. Bring your own to-go containers/silverware to restaurants. Sigh, we are all guilty of taking home numerous Styrofoam and plastic to-go containers but, did you know that according to Sciencing.com it can take over a million years for Styrofoam to break down! Plastics can take up to 1000 years to decompose according to The Balance Small Business. Thankfully, there is a more sustainable way to bring your goodies home; reusable, metal, to-go containers that double as slick lunch boxes and reusable/biodegradable bamboo silverware! HOORAY! 

Stainless Steel Bento Box – an easy 3 in 1 lunch/to-go box

Stainless Steel Bento Box – 3 tier lunch/to-go box

Thermos – great for soups or smoothies

Bamboo Utensils – sustainably sourced/made utensils for all adventures


  1. Say NO to plastic straws & use reusable metal/bamboo straws OR none at all! I get it, no one loves ice crashing into their face when they’re trying to get the last delicious drop of their iced mocha… but people, WAKE UP! According to Milo Cress, founder of Be Straw Free, an estimated 500 million disposable straws are used each day! EACH DAY! Think of the many disposable straws you can save from the landfill by purchasing a reusable metal straw, hundreds! I use one and I LOVE MINE. They’re also great, affordable gifts!

Metal Straw Set – set of 4 straws and cleaner


  1. Bike, walk, or car pool! Ditch the car and get your legs movin’! Not only is walking or biking good for the environment, but it’s good for you! More calories & less fossil fuels burning and more endorphins pumping! It’s a win – win. BUT, I’m not naïve! Hilo rains… a lot! So, next time you’re on the way to work or school, ask a friend to ride with you. One less car on the road = cleaner, happier air for us all!


  1. Shop locally! Yay farmer’s markets! Who doesn’t love loading up on beautiful, fresh, locally grown fruits and veggies?! It’s a produce bouquet in your arms! Buying local not only supports your neighbors, but helps cut down on the carbon footprint of your food. What’s a carbon footprint? Let’s let the experts answer that! According to Carbon Trust, a carbon footprint is “the total greenhouse gas emission caused directly and indirectly by a person, organization, event or product.” There you have it! Reduce your carbon emissions by shopping locally. P.S. if you’re on the SNAP program aka food stamps, your money is now worth double at farmer’s markets! Woohoo!

Local Farmer’s Market Website


  1. Go electronic! One of the easiest ways to be more sustainable is to opt out of paper statements/receipts. Have your bank send you electronic statements by email (also easier to keep organized) and if your local businesses provide the option, have your receipt sent to you electronically or don’t print a receipt at all! *Your carbon footprint is shrinking further*


  1. Recycle! Everyone has heard this, that’s why it’s not number one on the list, but, it’s still IMPORTANT! If you end up using products packaged in plastics, cardboard, glass etc. Please be sure to recycle them properly! It’s simple, and many times you can get money back for certain aluminum, glass, and plastics products you use regularly. There are recycling bins placed all around campus, so keep your eyes peeled. To recycle follow these steps: wash your recyclable, look at the label on the packaging, throw it in the right bin. TADA! You recycled. Or if you’re recycling at home, keep two bins. One bin for all your recyclables that can be redeemed for money, such as, HI 5 plastics, aluminum cans, and glass drink bottles. Second bin for all your other recyclables such as, cardboard, other glass containers, other plastics, etc. If you’re uncertain if a product can be recycled… treat it as if it can be, take it to the dump, and ask one of the attendants. If it can’t be recycled, keep a mental note and try to buy a different product that can be!


  1. COMPOST! Ew, isn’t composting like dirty? Uh, yeah it’s “dirt”-y, but it’s also amazing! Did you know that UH Hilo has a composting program? No? Well, welcome to the light. It’s also super simple and fast! All you have to do is scrap your food waste into the composting bin, along with all other disposable paper products that do not have a wax lining (e.g. paper coffee sleeves, brown clamshell to-go containers, paper condiment packets, chopsticks, napkins) and boom! You’ve composted! All composting material is currently being used around campus to promote raised garden beds. One of the dreams of the Students of Sustainability (SOS) is to “provide students access to healthy and quality plant resources directly from campus”.


  1. Last but not least – wear oxybenzone/octinoxate free sunscreen! It was signed into law in 2018, that in 2021, all sunscreens sold in Hawai’i will be oxybenzone and octinoxate free. But why wait until 2021? I perused the aisle of some of our local shopping centers and found almost ALL of the sunscreens they sold had either oxybenzone or octinoxate. These ingredients kill coral reefs! One of my favorite things about Hawai’i are the reefs and the beautiful creatures you can find there. If you want to enjoy these reefs for years to come, like I do, be mindful of the ingredients in your sunscreen and purchase “reef safe” sunscreen. Watch this video – Reefs at Risk to understand how oxybenzone and octinoxate harms our coral reefs here in Hawai’i.

 – Sun Bum 50 SPF – if you’re into the lotion

Sun Bum 50 SPF – if you’re into the spray


So there you have it, 10 simple ways to live a more sustainable life. Many of these can be incorporated into your life TODAY. So why wait until 2021 to stop killing Hawaiian reefs? Why continue bagging your fruits and veggies? Why drive to school when it’s a rare, bright, sunny day in Hilo? Make a choice. Make the right choice for your life and for future generations to come. Mahalo!


Links to Sources:







Written by: Devyn Hanselmann

2019 Annual Earth Day Fair & Conservation Career Day

Each year an important event happens on the University of Hawaii at Hilo’s campus, The Annual Earth Day Fair & Conservation Career Day. Hosted by the University of Hawai’i at Hilo, Hawai’i Community College, and the Conservation Career Day, this event brings together a community filled with local non-profits, private organizations, Federal, State, and local County agencies, over 1500 students of all ages, teachers, and two educational institutions. This event is not only a celebration of the earth but also a celebration of community.

This engaging event provides students of all ages a day full of fun environmental education and provides middle and high school students an opportunity to learn about careers in natural resource management and local career opportunities. An AmeriCorps VISTA member serving a school in Kohala said “Many students did not plan on going to college before this event, but, many changed their minds after they experienced the culture and opportunities that college could provide.”

This year’s Earth Day Fair incorporated expert guest speakers, 40+ informational exhibits and science demonstrations, a motivational Keynote speaker, environmental science workshops, campus garden tours, hula, face painting and many other exciting activities.


A beautiful Kīpaepae to set the foundation for the day.


The Students of Sustainability (SOS) had an interactive booth that educated students on how to properly dispose of their waste.


Students crowded around Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance’s interactive booth. Mauna Kea Watershed Alliance taught students the difference between native and invasive plant species.


UH Hilo’s Sustainable Agriculture classes gave students tours of the student grown gardens on campus. These gardens are part of the hands-on learning experience in AG230.



Hakalau Forest National Wildlife Refuge taught students about the importance of protected lands and the native bird species found there.


The Earth Day Fair & Conservation Career Day is not only about reaching out and educating the growing minds of the younger generation, but about reinforcing the importance of community. This event goes to show that when brought together, communities can execute wholesome, educational events that guide the next generation towards a better future for themselves and for everyone.

Special thanks to our sponsors Kamehameha Schools, the UH Hilo Pacific Internship Programs for Exploring Sciences (PIPES), and volunteers. Without the dedication from our sponsors and volunteers, Earth Day Fair & Conservation Career Day wouldn’t be possible. Mahalo!

2017 Hawaiʻi Sustainability in Higher Education Summit

Last month, UH Hilo students and faculty members attended this yearʻs Hawaiʻi Sustainability in Higher Education Summit at UH West Oahu. They experienced the “Meeting of Wisdoms” panel, and connected with other Sustainability action-oriented students from different UH campuses.

In the event of the awards ceremony for the 2017 Presidentʻs Green Initiatives Award, UH Hilo students rejoiced:

  • Alexis Stubbs won the  the $10,000 Green Project Implementation Award for her  “Waste Sustainability Initiative through Vermicomposting and Composting” project.
  • Zoe Whitney won the S1,000 Green Student Leader Award and a Green Project Implementation Award for her “Choose to Reuse” project.

Check out the full article posted at UH Hilo Stories!

As Vulcans, let us continue to make the recycle, compost, reuse, and think about sustainability and our environment!

Think you have an awesome project idea involving Sustainability in mind?

Please keep yourself updated through this blog or the University of Hawaiʻi News for the application on next yearʻs Presidentʻs Green Initiatives Award.

We would love for more sustainability Vulcan victories!

Spring 2017 Sustainability Survey

To better understand student behaviors and actions toward recycling and composting, the UH Hilo Sustainability Committee is currently distributing the Spring 2017 Sustainability survey! The intent of the survey is to utilize collected information for improving sustainability practices and opportunities in the UH Hilo.

Click on this image to take the survey!

The data will be distributed each semester to track the student bodyʻs common understanding of on-campus recycling and composting. So, if you have responded to last semesterʻs survey, please respond to this Spring 2017 survey.

Link: https://docs.google.com/a/hawaii.edu/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLScgXcFtITGhpaLv7j7JHxCA2nXY15hQt3EBuzQhjJrv40P13w/viewform

Sustainability efforts aim in reaching the universityʻs goals of being a zero-waste institution.

With your honest feedback and helpful responses, we can achieve toward sustainable compus! Mahalo!

Ala Wai Challenge

An international design challenge has been launched to rehabilitate a critical Oʻahu watershed that contains one of the nation’s most polluted bodies of water. During the September IUCN World Conservation Congress, University of Hawaiʻi President David Lassner announced the Make the Ala Wai Awesome Student Design Challenge, with up to $10,000 in total prize money for the winning entries.

“We are seeking ideas from the brightest young minds around the world to help us envision an inspiring, large-scale, systems thinking approach towards comprehensive ecosystem restoration of the Ala Wai watershed,” Lassner said. “This competition should generate creative integrated approaches that address flood mitigation, ecosystem restoration and preservation, community engagement, cultural connections, public private partnerships and improvement of the visitor experience.”


Visit the Make the Ala Wai Awesome Student Design Challenge website

or read more about this initiative at UH System News.