Afterthoughts: Waste Not, Want Not

The world’s ending. Time to give up snack packs.


Katrina Valcourt

Everything I read, watch or listen to lately seems to be about the end in a not-too-distant future—Dark on Netflix, the album Doom Days by Bastille, the Amazon series Good Omens, The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood. But no matter how many studies show that humans are irrevocably damaging the environment and we have to make serious changes immediately in order to prevent further destruction, I keep choosing convenience over action, assuring myself that the government, corporations and rich people will step up and do the real work. You know, the stuff that makes the biggest difference.


Yes, I bring a canvas tote to the market, but I’m still buying products wrapped in plastic packaging. I’m in favor of Honolulu banning Styrofoam like the Big Island (the new law went into effect July 1), but that doesn’t mean I’ve stopped getting takeout from places that use it. I recycle, but HONOLULU did a story in 2015 on how it’s actually worse to recycle in Hawai‘i because of the environmental cost of shipping materials to facilities that can process them, compared to burning them at a local waste-to-energy plant.


In one of the more extreme reports that came out this summer, an Australian group says that human civilization could come to an end by 2050 because of what we’ve done. Even if that’s not the case, climate change is especially harrowing and noticeable in Hawai‘i, where if sea level rises just 6 inches—which it’s predicted to do by 2030, according to the Hawai‘i Climate Adaptation Portal—the beach at Hanauma Bay will pretty much be gone, as will the Waikīkī Natatorium. You can explore the Pacific Islands Ocean Observing System’s Hawai‘i Sea Level Rise Viewer here.


Scare tactics are working, at least on me. All of these videos, reports, articles and studies are finally starting to make me think of ways I can do a better job with the four R’s—reduce, reuse, recycle, recover. Here are five things I’m going to try:


SEE ALSO: 7 Eco-Warriors Weigh in on How to Live a Sustainable Life


sustainable living

Illustration: Kim Sielbeck



Grow more herbs, fruits and veggies at home. I’ve killed every pot of mint, basil, dill, parsley and cacao I’ve attempted to grow, but now that I make my own ceramic pots, that’s one more reason to try a little harder. We have a list of six fruiting plants that grow well in small spaces.


Bring my own reusable containers for things like nuts, granola and seeds at the grocery store. Our digital editorial specialist, Katie Kenny, even brings her own takeout containers to restaurants.


SEE ALSO: Eco-Friendly Cups, Flasks and Bottles You Can Buy on O‘ahu


Buy snacks in bulk and portion out serving sizes myself. One Costco-size bag of trail mix uses less plastic than 30 individual bags. But the trick will be training myself to dole it out into Mason jars instead of Ziploc baggies. Or just eat straight out of the massive bag.


Only use the refillable pod in my Keurig, not the single-use ones. Coffee dispensers at the supermarket offer freshly ground local coffee, which tastes better than imported pods that have been sitting on the shelf for who knows how long, anyway.


Skip produce bags entirely or bring reusable mesh bags. Putting apples or peaches straight into my shopping basket is a good reminder to wash them well, too.


These things might not make a huge difference in the end, but maybe someone reading this will be inspired to join me. Changing lifelong habits and my way of thinking seems daunting, but I’d rather change than continue to feel guilty. Find out how I did at the end of the month.