Category Archives: environment

Website makes recycling used items easy

Here’s one to add to your browser’s bookmarks: trash nothing! (Found at

It’s a good way to keep used items out of the landfill. Your trash is someone else’s treasure, as they say.

How it Works

There are thousands of locally run, grassroots freecycling mailing groups around the world. Once you join your local group or start a group, you can create ‘Offer’ posts for items you want to give away, or ‘Wanted’ posts for items you need (as long as you follow some basic rules).

For example, here is how offering an item works:

You have a bike you don’t need and you want to dispose of it.

Instead of throwing it away, you join your local freecycling group.

You create a new ‘Offer’ post that is sent to the group and seen by all of the group members.

When I entered “Honolulu” as my location, the site provided these local groups that I could link to. Here’s an image of the groups that were found.

groups on Oahu

If you’re looking for something in particular, post a “wanted” notice. If you have something to give away, post an “offer.”

I didn’t check whether there are groups on the neighbor islands, but you can just go to and check that out.

It’s simple and straightforward.

Former project architects speak out about rail design

Pacific Business News reporter Kathleen Gallagher came up with two critical stories on Honolulu’s rail project over the past two weeks.

On March 15, she reported on the departure of the project’s chief architect, who warned that attempts to cut costs and reduce the projected cost overruns could ““decrease the level of amenity for the stations and other patron facilities to reduce cost in the aesthetically sensitive, downtown section of the city.”

And she noted: “Since there are currently no plans to fill Caswell’s position at HART, the design criteria and standards for the remaining sections of the rail route will likely be left to the discretion of the firms holding the design-build contracts.”

[See “Honolulu rail project’s chief architect departs, warns of project’s future“]

Then, in a follow-up, she tracked down one of the project’s first chief architects, who quit after just a year on the job after his criticisms and recommendations were ignored (“One of rail’s first architects speaks out about elevated design“).

Douglas Tilden was chief architect for InfraConsult, the projects main consultant, in 2007.

Tilden advocated for ditching the all-elevated design and instead adopting less expensive light rail technology, emulating transit projects all around the world.

“It is nothing short of a crime to run it elevated downtown and I told them that,” Tilden said.

The architect also had harsh words for the city’s political decision to begin construction in Kapolei and work back into downtown Honolulu, calling it “sheer lunacy.”

“The key goal of any transit system is to get the people interested by having it downtown first. Honolulu has made a huge mistake.”

He concluded: “I think Honolulu will be a poster child for how not to put a transit system in the city…they couldn’t be doing it any worse, it’s mistake after mistake.”

So here’s how it looks. The city paid big bucks to consultants, presumably to get the best available advice on how to make this transit project work. But the best advice of the consultant’s chief architect was ignored in favor of a plan that supported what the city’s political leaders favored. So the money paid for the architectural consultant was squandered because the city ignored his advice and counsel, and instead pursued its own course for other reasons.

You have to wonder how many other consultants are ignored unless they toe a predetermined political line.

Maui woman creates award-winning app

Here’s an interesting blend of activism and technology.

Rene Umberger, a Maui diver, activist, and executive director of For the Fishes, has created an award-winning mobile app to reduce consumer demand for coral reef wildlife.

Her free app, Tank Watch, was among the winners last month in the Wildlife Crime Tech Challenge to tackle wildlife trafficking.

The contest is an international initiative by the U.S. Agency for International Development in partnership with the National Geographic Society, the Smithsonian Institution and TRAFFIC.

Tank Watch – The Good Fish/Bad Fish Tool for Saltwater Aquariums aims to save fragile reefs and marine wildlife captured for household and small display aquariums worldwide by developing consumer awareness and ultimately reducing demand for wild caught aquarium fish.

According to the description posted at Apple’s iTunes Store:

Tank Watch helps you identify reef-friendly, GOOD FISH, for saltwater aquariums, whether in stores or display tanks. Our app brings you the entire list of reef and wildlife-friendly fish: those species bred in captivity and suitable for saltwater tanks. It also includes the most commonly held BAD FISH: those taken from coral reefs. Our “Search by Color” feature lets you quickly and easily identify species you may be unfamiliar with.

• Provides free, up-to-date information at your fingertips with beautiful images to aid in fish ID.

• Allows easy fish ID by color.
• Sort by family, common name(s), or scientific name.
• Quick access lists for “Good Fish”, “Bad Fish”, “Good Fish for Novices”, and “Most Common Bad Fish”.
• Includes additional common names, care level rating and more.
• Provides wildlife and reef-friendly alternatives for conscientious fishkeeping.

“We won over $20K in cash and training, and will compete this summer for a handful of Grand prizes in the $100K – $500K range,” Umberger said yesterday in an email. The Grand Prize awards are to support the winners as they scale their solutions.

“Of the 15 other winners, we are the only solution in the reduce consumer demand category, so we feel excited about our chances!”

Tank Watch is available now for iPhone or iPad, with an Android version under development now.

Oil bust bad news for many states

Rock bottom oil prices have been a boon for drivers.

But for states dependent on the oil industry, it’s an unfolding economic disaster.

Here’s a graphic warning about undue reliance on a single industry. It was part of an email analysis emailed to clients of Charles Schwab.

The graph, distributed shows the percentage of state tax revenues from oil and gas production in 2015. These are known as severance taxes. It shows that two states, Alaska and North Dakota, get more than half of their tax revenues from taxes on oil and gas.

I suppose that’s great, at least for state budgets if not for the global climate, during periods of oil boom.

But during an oil bust, like today, it’s likely to be bad news as those oil and gas revenues slump.

The resulting economic pain is obvious. Unemployment is now high in many of these areas.

Schwab warns that smaller counties or cities in the oil dependent states could have trouble keeping up interest payments on their municipal bonds, increasing the risk of defaults that could ripple through the economy.

And I’n wondering about the political impact of this kind of meltdown during the presidential campaign. Economic pain is a potent source of political motivation that candidates will be trying to harness.

Anyway, more to think about.

Source: Charles Schwab

Looking for unique gifts (for yourself or others)? Try Antique Alley!

Now that the gift-giving season is upon us, you may find yourself wondering what you can possibly get someone who won’t be impressed by the typical mass-market store-bought things. Someone special.

Well, our solution is to go someplace special. Antique Alley, where you will find the most interesting collection of artifacts reflecting Hawaii’s cultural history, from documents and books to jewelry, political buttons, familiar items of times past, and reminders of things long gone.

It’s long been one of our favorite haunts. But don’t take my word for it. Check out the comments visitors have left on Yelp!

Here’s a typical comment:

What an awesome store! My wife and I visited Antique Alley today in search of some antique bottles and we found a TON of great stuff (bottles, ukuleles, pictures, maps, etc…). If you are looking for anything antique/vintage from Hawaii or beyond, you will likely find it here.

But the best part of the store isn’t all the great stuff (although it really is awesome). The best part of Antique Alley is it’s owners Paké and Julie. The are very nice and generous. Tell them what you are looking for and not only will they help you find it, they’ll tell you the history behind it.

Click on the pictures below to get a better look around Antique Alley, found at 1030 Queen Street in beautiful downtown Kakaako.

Hawaii's cultural history