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Upcountry Sustainability Launches Re-Use Forum

Environmental group holds first Maui meeting. “What we need now is to get a handle on recycling in our community.”

March 22, 2012
Madeline Ziecker , The Maui Weekly

Despite the week's relentless rain and flooding on the North Shore, Upcountry Sustainability presented its first Maui Re-use Forum on Tuesday, March 6, in Pukalani's Hannibal Tavares Community Center.

The forum was held to educate the public about Maui's existing re-use programs, and to create an environment where interested parties could voice their opinions and suggestions for re-use of the island's discarded materials. Panelists included some of Maui's re-use experts.

The meeting began promptly at 7 p.m., led by Creative Conflict Solutions owner Melanie Stephens.

Article Photos

Community Work Day Program's Rhiannon Chandler (third from left) speaks on the issue of tire re-use at Upcountry Sustainability’s first Maui Re-use Forum on Tuesday, March 6, in Pukalani’s Hannibal Tavares Community Center.

"We've been wanting to do this for a long time," said Stephens.

To start off the meeting, Stephens asked the five panelists to share information about their organizations, and to discuss what they think Maui needs to be a functioning recycling and re-use community.

Panelist Joy Webster spoke first about her nonprofit organization, Remade Maui, which seeks individuals and businesses that divert waste material into value-added products.

Remade Maui was founded in 1977 with grant funding from Maui County and the state Department of Health as a successful re-use program that works with large corporations, including Pacific Biodiesel and Eco Compost.

Webster explained that Remade Maui, owned by Maui Recycling Group, is currently a dormant organization that wants to become more active in the community. Remade Maui currently has only 15 active participants, but Webster thinks that numbers will grow as the economy worsens and people search for ways to make the most of our existing resources.

"Now, with the increased green awareness and more people involved in recycling and re-use, it's an opportune time for us to get back in operation," said Webster.

Webster presented examples of products that were designed from re-used materials, such as shoulder bags made from old table cloths, purses made from wallpaper, gift boxes made from old calendars, and lei made from bottle caps.

Webster finished her segment by passing around a bowl of wrapped candies, urging members of the forum to put the wrappers back in the bowl because "they will be re-used."

Jacqueline Ambrose spoke next about her organization, Aloha Shares--an example of how modern technology can be used to handle re-usable waste material on Maui.

Funded in part through a grant from the county and entirely Web-based, Aloha Shares takes unwanted, re-usable items as donations on the Internet. When Ambrose gets a donation, she sends a mass email to members of Maui's nonprofit community and chooses a recipient.

Presently, not many donations have been coming through Aloha Shares, but Ambrose is hopeful that more will be presented as the community becomes savvy on the importance of re-use.

Jerry Isdale shared information on Maui Makers, a group of hobbyists who gather to restore or fashion everything from electronics to aquaponics.

"Maker spaces" are fun collectives where members can have their own workshops without having to spend money on expensive equipment.

Isdale said that one of his favorite recent projects--and a new trend among like-minded hobbyists--is called "chip tuning." In chip tuning, electronics that are programmed to make a certain noise are modified to make a completely different noise.

He also gave examples of simple re-use tips, such as using empty toilet paper or paper towel rolls to keep cables organized and using old printer motors to create new electronics.

With organizations like Maui Makers, Isdale said, anyone can combine fun with helping the environment to create a greener Maui.

Rhiannon Chandler, the executive director of Community Work Day Program, spoke next about one of Maui's most active environmental nonprofit organizations.

Community Work Day Program has partnered with businesses and the government to conduct community cleanups, gardens and recycling projects since 1991. The organization's main mission is to find a solution or an alternative to spending tax money to ship re-usable materials off the island.

"We try to fill the need wherever the need exists," Chandler said. "We exist as a resource for the community to do good things. What we need now is to get a handle on recycling in our community."

She explained that her big wish for this year is to find a solution to spending money to ship old tires off of the island. Community Work Day Program alone spends $10,000 a year to ship tires.

Chandler also spoke about Community Work Day Program's exciting upcoming art exhibit, "The Art of Trash," in which members of the community employ re-usable materials to create and present custom artwork.

"'The Art of Trash' really gets people thinking of how we can impact our environment," Chandler said in closing.

The fifth and final speaker of the evening was Habitat for Humanity ReStore Manager Karen Motooka. The ReStore accepts donations of new and used construction/remodeling materials and resells them to the public at 50 percent or below retail. All proceeds from the store go to the building of Habitat for Humanity homes in Maui Nui.

There are currently 650 operating Habitat for Humanity ReStores on the Mainland, one in New Zealand and six in Hawai'i. Maui's ReStore partners with other nonprofits to divert 40 to 50 tons of material a month.

Motooka said her goal this year is to educate the public about how to recycle.

After each panelist was heard, Stephens began a group brainstorming session in which meeting attendees were invited to contribute their ideas on how to initiate the Maui re-use movement. Despite the small attendance, several community members shared reuse ideas, which were documented for further examination at the next Maui Re-Use Forum.

Maui Re-use Forums will take place twice a month and are free and open to the public. Next month's meeting will be held on Monday, April 2, at 7 p.m. at the same location. Maui County Planning Director Will Spence will speak on the heated issue of the Maui Island Plan.

For more information on Maui Re-use Forums, or to find out how to get involved, call Stephens at 573-9260.



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