Keep Green on Hawai‘i Island: Ten Travel Tips

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Travel industry studies, such as Virtuoso’s latest Luxe Report, show a growing interest in sustainable tourism.

On the Big Island, there are ways visitors can be green while on vacation this summer. Here are some suggestions.

Hike responsibly. Courtesy photo

1. Hike Responsibly

When hiking, leave the trail and forest in the same state—or even cleaner—than you found it. Carry any food wrappers, bottles or personal items out with you. Collect garbage you find on the trail.

Use an eco-bag for shopping. Courtesy photo

2. Avoid Plastics and Carry a Recyclable Bag

The theme for World Environment Day, June 5, 2018, 2018 is beating plastic pollution.


The Big Island is home to polluted beaches like Kamilo Beach, known as “plastic beach” because of the tons of marine debris regularly deposited on its shores.

Be part of the solution while visiting the island. Minimize use of single-use plastic containers when buying takeout food or drinks. Bring an eco-bag when shopping for groceries or souvenirs. Since 2013, a countywide law has banned stores from providing single-use plastic bags to shoppers.

Screen your sunscreen. Courtesy photo

3. Screen Your Sunscreen

Check the ingredients in your sunscreen lotion for oxybenzone and octinoxate.

Hawai‘i has passed a law banning the sale of lotions with these chemicals, because they have been found to be harmful to sea corals.


Although the law does not take effect until 2021, it’s not too early to protect the reefs.

Plant a tree. Courtesy photo

4. Choose Tours Wisely

You can select eco-friendly adventures like tree planting to help restore ancient forests. Some companies offer an option to offset your tour’s carbon footprint with carbon credits. Many tour operators have also integrated other sustainable practices into their tours, like offering reef-friendly sunscreen, monitoring fuel usage closely, and recycling.

The Hawaii Ecotourism Association has certified a number of local tour operators. See the list on HEA’s website.

Watch the wind. Courtesy photo

5. Watch the Wind


When setting up your beach chairs or picnic on shore, pay attention to your personal items. On Big Island beaches, the breeze can get stronger from one minute to the next. Keep plastic toys, picnic napkins, sunglasses, hats and other paraphernalia from flying into the ocean and adding to the marine litter already there.

Reuse towels. Courtesy photo

6. Re-Use Towels

Hang your hotel towel up on the bathroom rack to dry instead of using a newly washed one immediately. Skipping daily towel use reduces your hotel or rental’s water and energy consumption. According to the American Hotel Association, a typical 300-room hotel can cut its water usage by about 52,000 gallons a year with a linen saving system.

7. Go Strawless

Avoid using plastic straws. They are non-biodegradable and are harmful to marine life if they get blown or thrown into the ocean.

Buy local. Courtesy photo

8. Buy Local

The island has a bounty of farms that grow macadamia nuts, coffee beans, vegetables, fruits and honey, among many other products. Restaurants that provide farm-to-fork menus are aplenty. Check out the groceries and markets for fresh local fish and locally grown meat.

Leave turtles alone. Courtesy photo

9. Leave Turtles Alone

According to the Hawaii Wildlife Fund, green sea turtles basking ashore need to decrease their body temperature and to rest. The HWF recommends keeping at least 15 feet away from them, as well as avoiding flash photography, which disrupts their rest.

Attend cultural events.
PC: Dino Morrow.

10. Attend Cultural Events

Attend cultural events to learn about the island’s rich heritage. According to The International Ecotourism Society (TIES), Responsible Tourism is about “uniting conservation, communities, and sustainable travel”. Learning about the island’s history and culture may help you appreciate the island and its natural environment more.

Small steps by individual travelers, multiplied by thousands of visitors, can contribute to sustaining the island’s environmental health. Long-term, it means its residents can continue to enjoy the island and welcome more visitors in the future.

World Environment Day, today, June 5, 2018, is an important day for encouraging worldwide awareness and action for the protection of our environment.

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