Earth Day 2019: 7 Eco-Warriors Weigh in on How to Live a Sustainable Life

From educators to a fishery-to-table liaison, these local eco-warriors give us their suggestions to live more sustainably.


Sustainable Coastlines Shaka

Photo: Courtesy of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi



We don’t take the term eco-warriors lightly.


These are individuals who fight for environmental justice despite all conflicting forces. Even when single-use plastic bills in the legislature fail, when they find their favorite beaches continually littered with trash, or when their efforts seem minuscule compared to the grand scheme of environmental issues, these are the ones who continue to advocate and implement change in our communities in the hopes of making a positive stride toward a more environmentally viable tomorrow.


We honor those who continue to do unrelenting work for the environment, and above all, treat every day like its Earth Day.


David Aquino

Creative Director at Blue Planet Foundation

David Aquino


Hometown: Kalihi, O‘ahu, Hawai‘i


Biggest accomplishment for the environment: “The statewide CFL Bulb Blitz. We exchanged every light bulb on the island of Moloka‘i from old incandescents to the (at the time) energy-saving CFLs. We did 36,000 bulbs on Moloka‘i, took that model to every island in the state and ended up doing over 300,000 exchanges to CFLs and LEDs. It was set to save residents, over the next eight to 10 years, 42 million dollars amongst every island.”


What can someone do to live more sustainably: “Be more conscious of how you’re using energy in your home and how you’re using energy to transport yourself.”


SEE ALSO: Should Honolulu’s Recycling Program Go Up in Flames?


Natalie McKinney

Executive Director of Kōkua Hawai‘i Foundation

Nicole McKinney


Hometown: North Shore, O‘ahu


Biggest accomplishment for the environment: “One significant accomplishment has been the partnership with Hawai‘i’s Department of Education, particularly around Farm-to-School programming. We have built gardens on school campuses and have been successful in getting local food on the school lunch plate. Students are taking these lessons home and starting compost bins, worm bins and [having] a greater awareness of the environment. Also, seeing student activism on a higher level, particularly at the legislature, has been especially rewarding.”


What can someone do to live more sustainably: “Participate in the great outdoors. Go to the beach or go on a hike. The only way someone can truly care for something is if they fall in love with it, so make a direct connection to it and the rest will follow.”


SEE ALSO: Jack Johnson on Staying Local, Environmentalism and Superstardom​


Ashley Watts

Managing Partner and Owner of Local I‘a

Ashley Watts


Hometown: Wewahitchka, Florida


What Local I‘a does: The group provides sustainably caught or raised seafood from local fishermen to chefs and consumers who pay in advance to get a shipment each week: providing transparency in how the fish was caught and where it comes from.


Biggest accomplishment for the environment: “With Local I‘a, we’re starting to get fishermen to ask what is needed and what is requested from the community instead of just fishing for anything. We’re actually making a difference with the local populations and trying to get them to target the species that are not overfished and getting the customers to [become familiar with] more species other than the normal ones you hear of, so they can relieve the pressures on those populations.”


What can someone do to live more sustainably: “Be a mindful consumer. Inquire about the origin and choose to support certain businesses because they have higher values and sustainability in mind.”


SEE ALSO: What to Expect From an Environmentally-Friendly Cooking Class


Rebecca Mattos

Director of Education and Outreach at Sustainable Coastlines Hawaiʻi

Rebecca Mattos


Hometown: San Francisco, California


Biggest accomplishment for the environment: “Being able to educate over 15,000 students about plastic pollution and ways to protect our oceans and coastlines.”


What can someone do to live more sustainably: “Be able to educate yourself and others about what you’re using in your everyday life. Be able to tell the difference between something you really need and something you’re only buying out of convenience, and be able to share that with other people.”


SEE ALSO: These 9 Stylish Eco-Friendly Products Will Help You Save The Planet


Anny Barlow

Co-Coordinator at Ocean Friendly Restaurants Hawai‘i

Anny Barlow


Hometown: Kailua, O‘ahu


What Ocean Friendly Restaurants Hawaiʻi does: Recognizes local restaurants for providing plastic-free and ocean-friendly practices, spanning from utilizing compostable or reusable utensils to having proper recycling practices.


Biggest accomplishment for the environment: “With now over 200 local restaurants working with Ocean Friendly Restaurants Hawai‘i, my co-coordinator Natalie Wohner and I work to educate these restaurants so that it has a positive impact on our local culture.”


What can someone do to live more sustainably: “Carry a reusable utensil set on you and remember to use it!”


SEE ALSO: 10 Local Ocean-Friendly Restaurants on O‘ahu to Try Now


Camilo Mora

Professor at the University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa in the Department of Geography and the Environment

Camilo Mora
Mora looks over the propogated seedlings for his tree planting this year, in which he hopes to plant more than 10,000 trees in one day.


Hometown: Palmira, Colombia


Biggest accomplishment for the environment: “While I have made a lot of accomplishments scientifically, contributing to the understanding of how bad things are for the planet on the student level as well as the public level is one of my biggest accomplishments.”


What can someone do to live more sustainably: “Plant 10 trees every year. Ten trees can offset any [carbon emissions] that you produce on average.”


SEE ALSO: 7 Eco-Friendly Cups, Flasks and Bottles You Can Buy on O‘ahu


Nicole Chatterson

Director of Zero Waste O‘ahu

Nicole Chatterson


Hometown: Palmdale, California


What Zero Waste Oʻahu does: Provides zero-waste education, resources and programs to promote a zero-waste mindset as well as civic engagement.


Biggest accomplishment for the environment: “Working on the state’s Integrated Solid Waste Management Plan, because when we showed up, there wasn’t a lot of discussion of the possibility of reducing the amount of trash that comes onto or is generated from the island, and when we left, there was an understanding that it was possible.”


What can someone do to live more sustainably? “Pay attention. We are connected, so what you do impacts this place, which then impacts you, your family and the ‘āina.”