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Green weekend

Peel yourself off the couch and embrace your inner environmentalist for a weekend (and, no, lying in the sand doesn't count)

The video game developers who are trying to transform their target demographic from blubbery glassy-eyed couch potatoes into energetic air-punching virtual-reality athletes have taken on an impressive task. Nintendo Wii—the system on which gamers play through the motions of bowling, tennis, boxing and even yoga—easily beats its predecessors in terms of physical fitness (and was there really anyone who didn’t cheat by just pounding their fists on the sensors of Nintendo’s Power Pad anyway?). So maybe it’s a sign of our age to be railing about how much simpler the fun from our childhood used to be—did we mention we also walked to school barefoot and uphill both ways? And, yeah, if the Wii was around when we were wee ourselves, we would have been playing, too. But there’s something wholly unsatisfying about going through the motions when the real thing waits outside, not to mention all the other stuff you can’t even begin to recreate in a game or on a screen. So now it’s up to us to remember what fun it can be to shut the laptop, turn off the cell phone and abandon all the monitors we seem to be staring into day-in and day-out. Grab your keiki if you got ’em, round up a couple of friends and get a jump-start on a recreational renaissance of your own.

Work hard

If you’re looking to help clean up your neighborhood beaches, nothing’s stopping you from showing up with a garbage bag and having at it. But there are plenty of groups on the island who help organize team efforts, which means you can help clean up the areas that need it most, with like-minded neighbors by your side. The following four organizations are great places to start for information on how and why to get involved.

The group Beach Environmental Awareness Campaign Hawaii, run entirely by volunteers, schedules everything from films and lecture series to educational day projects and beach clean-ups. With a focus on the effects of marine debris, B.E.A.C.H. aims to educate the community and get everyone involved in the push to keep our oceans clean and healthy. Check the Web site for a comprehensive list of local activities and activism. To find out when beach clean-ups are planned or how you can get involved, contact Dean Otsuki or Suzanne Frazer at 554-2902 or 393-2168, or visit the group’s

Kanu Hawaii has recently emerged to lead the way in showing the multi-faceted applications of sustainable living—and how powerful any cause can become once like-minded people join forces. Kanu emphasizes community values that promote unity, generosity and bettering ourselves in ways that simultaneously improve that which surrounds us. The nonprofit group’s Web site features a number of different avenues through which you can get involved in the community—whether it’s through learning more about legislative issues so that your voice can be heard in the debates that shape Oahu’s future or in making a promise to conserve energy and use less fuel. Kanu even features groups of people with similar interests, be it paddling, local art, running and more.

Even the most seasoned local hiking enthusiasts would be hard pressed to hit up every single trail on the island, but Oahu Na Ala Hele Trails and Access program works hard to make sure that you can if you want to. The group maintains trails and spearheads all kinds of educational and environmental initiatives. Every fourth Saturday of the month—that means April 25 this time around—Na Ala Hele seeks volunteers for its Makiki Watershed Awareness Initiative. The plan is to improve a portion of Makiki Valley by clearing two acres of the forest and replanting it with native Hawaiian plants. They’ll also build two redwood bridges to improve the hiking trail and weed some overgrown regions. If you can’t make it on fourth Saturdays, Na Ala Hele is willing to work around your schedule—an option that’s particularly helpful for church or school groups. Just round up 10 or 20 people and plan a date that works for you. And if you just want to reap the benefits of volunteers’ hard work, Na Ala Hele provides a comprehensive and interactive look at all of the Islands’ hiking trails. Just select your island of interest, then peruse a clickable map to learn more about the length and terrain of potential hikes and any hazards to look out for along the way. Be sure to review the safety information on the site before hitting the trails.

Contact: Aaron Lowe, 973-9782 or Chuck Burrows 595-3822

For more than 25 years, the Surfrider Foundation has made it its mission to protect the world’s oceans and beaches. The nonprofit’s Oahu chapter plays a major part in trying to curb overdevelopment on the island, addressing beach issues and minimizing the damage plastics have on marine environments. You can become a foundation member for $25 a year, $15 for students and $50 for families. Find out more at [www.surfrider.org].

Play hard

Community Gardening

As any green thumb can tell you, gardening can be incredibly hard work, but it’s the kind of work that is also relaxing, mind-clearing and fulfilling enough that despite the energy it requires, it feels more like play than anything else. The backyard is always a good place to start, but for those with limited space or an interest in beautifying public spaces, check out the city’s community garden plots. There are 10 sites across the island where, for a small annual fee, you can find a little green patch of land to call your own.

Contact: Nathan Wong, 522-7063, [honolulu.gov]/

If you want to contribute to something even bigger, check out UH’s Ka Papa Loi o Kanewai cultural arts garden. The Mänoa garden’s organizers describe it as a refuge for educational groups, classes or community members “seeking information and knowledge through tours or hands-on experience by providing cultural education ranging from ahupuaa traditional resource management, Hawaiian scientific land tenure, mauka makai issues and water concerns, to the application of traditional Hawaiian values in caring for the loi and garden on a daily basis.” Groups are invited to come by, help out and learn first-hand about the garden on the first Saturday of every month. After a day of activities, participants are invited to gather around the imu for a potluck.

Contact: Director Hiapo Cashman, 945-1562; 973-0983

Sleep under the stars

When’s the last time you threw a football, some blankets and a cooler in your trunk and headed down to Kapiolani Park for one of those days that keeps you outdoors from sun-up until sundown? What about the last time you decided to literally stay out all night? We tend to think of Kauai when it comes to planning a good camping trip, but there are 21 state parks on this island alone, and plenty of options to pitch a tent among them.

Don’t be surprised if you get drizzled on at Ahupuaa O Kahana State Park, one of the four state parks on Oahu that allows camping. Look up from the lush windward valley and a blanket of rain clouds is often overhead. But if you don’t mind a little liquid sunshine (and the mud that can come with it), there’s plenty to keep you busy while you’re there. Trek through the rain forest along the 2.5-mile Nokoa Trail, on which you’ll twice cross the Kahana Stream. Before you hit the wilderness, take time to read up a bit on the stream, which is said to contain all but one species of macrofauna—or small but visible organisms—that are commonly found in unaltered Hawaiian streams. It’s also home to some fantastic rarities, like oopu ‘alamoo, a goby which scientists had long thought to be extinct, but was spotted in the stream earlier this decade.

Looking for something a little more laid back? Hike the Kapaeleele Koa and Keaniani Lookout Trail, a one-mile loop that will give you gorgeous views of Kahana Bay. There are all kinds of remnants of ancient Hawaiian culture around the camping area. Seek out the local halau, irrigation channels, stone walls and ancient agricultural terraces. There are 10 beach campsites in the park with access to the visitor center, restrooms, picnic tables, trash cans and outdoor showers. Be sure to call the State Parks office for a permit—$5 per night—in advance, 587-0300. And if you really want to make a learning experience out of it, inquire about cultural programs by calling 237-7766.

Plenty of people have lived here for years, even lifetimes, without visiting the little campground in the hills above ‘Aiea, nestled in a grove of Norfolk pine and lemon eucalyptus trees. Keaiwa Heiau State Recreation Area has just four campsites available, and you’ll need to call in advance for a permit, but hiking enthusiasts are sure to enjoy the nearly five-mile ‘Aiea Loop Trail, described as “moderately difficult,” which is lined with koa and ‘ohia trees and offers views from Pearl Harbor to the Waianae range. Some still claim to find remnants from the B-24 bomber that crashed along the trail in 1944.

The recreation area is named for Keaiwa Heiau, a medicinal healing temple with “life giving powers,” according to a plaque at the site, which state officials estimate was built in the 16th century. Today, a four-foot-high rock wall remains where the sacred structure once stood. In its usage, historians say the temple probably had a pili, or grass-thatched, roof, and a separate enclosure for steam baths.

Campers will find picnic tables and covered pavilions with barbecue grills and restrooms in the vicinity. For more information on camping at state parks, visit: [hawaiistateparks.org]

For a more oceanic camping experience, consider Kualoa Beach on the windward side. Just past Käneohe, campers can pitch tents on a wide expanse of grass and make good use of the sand and surf looking out toward Chinaman’s Hat. Bring a kayak and make your way to the little island There are plenty of picnic tables and lots of shade beneath trees.

Call in advance to make arrangements: 237-8525

Party hard

The moments we crave most on the weekends ahead are those in which we can kick back and relax with friends and family. It shouldn’t be too much of a surprise that any gathering—whether it’s a blow-out birthday party or even just a little BBQ in the park—can be a real strain on Mother Nature. Read on for a few ways you can celebrate the good life and still go easy on the planet.

Digital invites

Whether it’s a mass text message or an evite, many of us already organize get-togethers digitally. Sick of evites or find them too informal? Check out sites like [invitastic.com], [socializr.com], [pingg.com] and [planypus.com]. One aptly-named site, [evitealternatives.com], lists a number of these and other alternatives across the web. For a more personal touch, design or hand-draw your own invite, then scan it and e-mail it to guests.

And while we’re on topic of paper, if the party you’re partaking in involves presents, wrap with fabric and a pretty ribbon—or throw your gift into a reusable tote. It makes for a better and better-for-the-Earth presentation.

Use reusable

Those red keg cups are such a beach staple for many of us that it’s easy to forget how bad they are for the environment. But no one’s going to take the dishes from their cupboard into the sand, right? Easy solution. Go to Goodwill and pick up a couple of plates, cups and utensils that can double your fine beach china. Yeah, it takes slightly more effort to hose them off than to throw them away, but if you get all your friends to join in, you can simply start by asking people to BYO flatware. Making each person responsible for cleaning up his or her mess not only makes the post-party a breeze, but it is also a perfect example of what sustainable living is really all about.

Serve local

Bring veggies grown in your garden (or at least locally-grown), whip up some classic local recipes made using produce from island farms and serve up organic beer or wine. If you have an iPhone, consider shelling out the $2.99 for the Locavore application. It detects where you are using satellite data, then provides information on which local foods are best at any given time of year, details the locations and times of area farmers markets and outlines government data for each state. Click on a food item and it’ll link you to all kinds of yummy recipes. And while you’re planning what to put on the grocery list, remember to try to buy in bulk when you can (what better excuse to upgrade from a case to a keg?). Less packaging means less waste and that’s always a good thing.

Fun and games

If you want environmentally-themed fun, there are plenty of green activities that are easy to pull off. It will take a little bit of craftiness, but a homemade Earth-friendly piñata is just eight steps away:

1. Blow up a biodegradable natural latex balloon

2. Cut newspaper into long strips

3. Coat both sides of the newspaper with white craft glue

4. Cover the entire surface of the balloon

5. Once glue has dried, pop the balloon

6. Cut out a flap and fill the piñata with treats (if we’re invited, consider mini-bottles of booze)

7. Glue the flap shut with more strips of newspaper

8. Adhere some rope or sturdy ribbon to the piñata, hang it and swing away!

Getting there

So you already know about carpooling, riding your bike and relying on public transportation as ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Honolulu’s bus system has earned numerous awards over the years for having what’s widely considered to be among the most Earth-friendly fleets around. But being the best requires constant improvement, which is why the City last week unveiled its latest model, known as The Compo. The 45-foot-long bus is made from what’s described as an “innovative composite material that is neither steel nor aluminum,” in order to stave off corrosion issues that now plague bus fleets. It will have 46 seats instead of the standard 37, as well as increase standing room space and larger windows. It’s built to run as a hybrid or on clean-diesel technology. The model is taking a series of test runs across island, and the City is asking bus riders to comment on their experiences with the Compo to determine whether or not to add the bus to its fleet in the future. Not geeked about a spacious non-corrosive bus ride? Fine. Look at it this way: not driving means more partying. All aboard!