How Prepared Are You?

by Becky Johnson

Nobody likes to think a calamity could hit them. Though every so often we get a reminder that a disaster could be just around the corner – such as the recent brush we had with several hurricanes. And after witnessing the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina in the Gulf of Mexico, it pays to be prepared.

Sometimes we put off preparation for a disaster because we do not like to think about the possibility of something bad happening. However, if we do not take preventative steps, we may wind up regretting it later.

There is the possibility that in Hawaii it may take longer for help to arrive in case of emergency, so extra food and water storage should be a priority – preferably a 7 to 10 day supply. And be sure to store food that is nourishing, tastes good and is easy to digest.

Here are some suggestions for healthy foods to pack in your emergency kit:

  • First and foremost: at least one gallon of water per day per person. Even though no one wants to fast during an emergency, if need be you can survive for weeks without food but only a few days without water.
  • Shop for healthy canned goods such as Amy’s organic soups and Healthy Valley vegetarian chili.
  • Ak mak crackers, Lundberg rice cakes and Ryvita crackers are wholesome and tasty.
  • Peanut butter and almond butter are high energy foods that can round out a meal or snack.
  • If you have a camping stove and a pot or two, you can also make things like rice and pasta. Instant soups are also warm and soothing, as long as you have hot water.
  • Cereals are good for breakfast and snacks and you can buy boxed soymilk or rice milk to go along with it.
  • Sports drinks and fruit juice are good for helping you to stay fully hydrated.
  • Don’t forget some bowls, napkins and eating utensils.
  • A good multivitamin and extra vitamin C will help your body get through a hard time.

Other important things to pack are:

  • Warm blankets or sleeping bags
  • At least one change of clothes, underwear, etc.
  • A first aid kit. (See article on “Natural First Aid” for tips on which natural remedies to include in your first aid kit.)
  • A nonelectric can opener
  • A battery-powered radio, flashlights and extra batteries
  • Diapers, baby food and formula if necessary
  • Personal hygiene things like a toothbrush, toilet paper, sanitary napkins, etc.
  • Prescription medications or other special medical needs
  • An extra pair of glasses or contact lenses
  • Extra cash
  • Photocopies of important documents such as credit cards, birth certificates, etc.
  • Fire extinguisher
  • Iodine tablets, chlorine tablets or household bleach for disinfecting water
  • Plastic garbage bags
  • Shovel and other useful tools
  • Compass
  • Map of the area
  • Pen, paper
  • Whistle.

Try to pack everything in an easy-to-transport waterproof container. If you don’t have a waterproof container, seal everything in zip lock bags. If gathering these supplies seems overwhelming, first focus on the water, then food and first aid, and then gradually try to add one or two items at a time until your emergency kit is complete. Remember, one well-stocked kit can be kept for several years, as long as you periodically re-stock expired food, water and medications, etc.

It is also a good idea to designate an out-of-state family member or friend as your emergency contact, so that if you get separated from family members, everyone knows who to contact.

Making the right preparations will help you remain in a calm, collected frame of mind in the event of an emergency. This way you can be of more help to yourself and others and ready to work on getting everything back to normal as soon as possible.

Teenage Tidal Wave

Out in the not too distant sea of eating, the food industry caught sight of a swelling wave moving towards the shores of the consumer market. Those in the National Cattlemen's Beef Association tried to say that it was nothing, just a passing trend. Now, as this tidal wave of change is breaking, America's beef producers are shaking—in their cowboy boots. America's youth is quickly losing interest in supporting an industry of slaughter and suffering and the numbers of those embracing a vegetarian diet is on the rise, particularly among teenage girls.

The younger generation, no doubt one of the greatest influences on consumerism, is vying for politically correct food choices. Gone are the days when grabbing burgers or going out for pepperoni pizza was just innocent fun. Due to the work of many concerned people making public the atrocities occurring daily in the meat industries, many teens and college students are making the switch to vegetarianism out of concern for the animals. Another contributing factor is seeing 50% of the population suffering from chronic diseases like heart problems, various types of cancers, diabetes and obesity. Surely this is making its mark in the minds of young people.

College campuses are finding that between 15-20% of their students are requesting vegetarian foods on the menu. Even high schools across the country are catering to students who would like to eat without meat. A pole from Teenage Research Unlimited reported that one out of every four teens thinks vegetarianism is 'cool'. Because vegetarianism has become more wide spread and accepted, parents are able to find ways to work out a family menu that suits everyone. Some nutrition experts concur that adopting a vegetarian diet does promote health consciousness, something often not found in teenagers. With the plethora of information available on the web, through books, and even local doctors, it has become easier than ever to learn about and maintain a vegetarian diet.

Down to Earth is currently sponsoring a television show airing on Oceanic Cable channel 16 at 6:30 p.m. on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Saturdays called "Tasty and Meatless." The show provides tips on how to cook simple and tasty meatless meals, where to shop for meatless products, which restaurants offer vegetarian fare, and what health experts have to say about eating meatless. This show can definitely help anyone wanting to know about a meatless lifestyle for themselves or for the youngster in their family!

For some, vegetarianism is about health, for others it comes from a place of ethics and compassion, for the younger generation they can see that it encompasses both—and it is their opportunity to better the world, one bite at a time.

Curbing Global Warming - Your Everyday Choices Make a Difference!

by Michele McKay

Burning fossil fuels (oil and petroleum) releases CO2 into the atmosphere, contributing to global warming. Here in Hawaii over 90% of the energy we use for electricity and transportation is produced by burning oil!

Reducing CO2 emissions can seem like an overwhelming challenge, but the choices we make in our everyday lives can help curb global warming. If you think you can’t make a difference, check out the results of taking these seven simple actions:

If all the readers* of this article would..

  • ...eliminate one pound of meat from their diet each week
    we would save 41,184,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...unplug their electronics when not in use
    we would save at least 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...reduce their driving by one mile every day
    we would save 1,752,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...turn the air conditioner thermostat up by 2 degrees in summer
    we would save 4,745,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...wash their clothes in cold water
    we would save 2,400,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...line-dry one load of laundry once a week
    we would save 836,000 pounds of CO2 per year
  • ...replace one incandescent light bulb with a compact fluorescent bulb (CFL)
    we would save 730,000 pounds of CO2 per year

And if every reader took all seven actions we would save 56,392,000 pounds of CO2 per year!

Your actions do make a difference! Get started today… our planet will thank you.

For additional information from Hawaii on global warming visit


* Based on 4,800 monthly recipients/readers of Down to Earth’s e-newsletter and website. To sign up for our free e-newsletter, visit

The Great Diaper Debate

by Michele McKay

Cloth diapers vs. disposables... which is the more environmentally responsible choice? We all know that cloth diapers use water, while disposables use landfill space. But when you look a little closer, you will find other factors are involved.

Cloth Diaper Facts:

In the 2 ½ years from birth to toilet training, a baby will need a total of 3-6 dozen cloth diapers and around 25 diaper covers.


  • Cloth diapers use fewer raw materials than disposables
  • They generate much less solid waste
  • Fecal material goes into appropriate sewage systems, rather than into landfills
  • Handing down to other babies or recycling into rags provides many years of use

Negative impacts:

  • Laundering uses water, detergents and sanitizers

Disposable Diaper Facts:

Between birth and toilet training, a baby will use over 6,000 disposable diapers. 18 billion disposable diapers are used in the US each year, making up 30 percent of all our non-biodegradable landfill waste.


  • Disposables use less water than cloth diapers

Negative impacts:

  • Disposables require more raw materials than cloth diapers
  • They generate much more solid waste than cloth diapers
  • Each disposable diaper takes 500 years to decompose
  • Waste from disposable diapers could leach disease organisms into water supply
  • Dioxin, one of the most toxic chemicals known, is produced by the chlorine gas used in the manufacture of most disposables


There are several factors to consider when trying to make an environmentally responsible choice between cloth and disposable diapers. For many parents, using a combination may be the best option. Here in Hawaii, the best choice can vary from island to island – some areas may have a solid waste and landfill crisis, while others may have water or sewer shortages. One choice is clear: if you purchase disposables, make sure they are not treated with dioxin-producing chlorine. Chlorine-free diapers are available at Down to Earth stores.

Protecting the Islands from Environmental Disasters

by Michele McKay

We can not prevent hurricanes any more than we can fool Mother Nature, but we can anticipate their enormous force. And though environmental damage is inevitable from a large storm, we can minimize the man-made environmental disasters that often follow.

Natural Disasters

Tropical storms and hurricanes naturally sweep the Pacific Ocean, generating high winds, huge swells, and heavy rainfall. They also carry the potential for severe environmental damage when they encounter land. When Hurricane Iniki ripped across Kaua’i in 1992, the destruction included massive beach erosion and v egetation damage. Trees, shrubs, and ferns were broken and stripped of leaves, native forest enclaves were destroyed, and ridges were scoured to bare rock.

Beaches are particularly vulnerable. Waves and heavy rain can quickly erode the sand, and storm surges can cause coastal overwash or penetrate inland. Some beaches may be totally stripped of their sand, leaving rock outcrops exposed. The sand that disappears may move inland of offshore. Coral reefs, normally protecting beaches by acting as natural breakwaters, may be damaged, resulting in beach erosion for years after a hurricane.

A wide beach is the best protection against hurricane-generated waves and storm surges. Measures that help to protect beach or dune areas, such as erecting new buildings back from the wave impact zone, conserving natural beach and dune vegetation, and preventing the mining of beach sand, will help to preserve the beach as a natural storm barrier. After a hurricane, beaches should be given time to recover naturally. Walls or other hard structures should not be constructed, as they may actually impede beach recovery. Sand that has washed onto beachfront property should not be sold or removed, but should be returned to the beach to aid its process of regeneration.

Man-made Disasters “Waiting to Happen”

The natural force of a hurricane has the potential to trigger an enormous man-made crisis in urban and industrial areas. Enforcing strong environmental regulations and planning/development codes before a disaster strikes is our best defense against the contamination of water, the release of oil, gas, sewage, and toxic chemicals, and the spread of disease. While stopping a hurricane in its tracks is impossible, we can protect our Islands from becoming, like the Gulf Coast, a man-made disaster waiting to happen.

A Recyclers’ Guide to Oahu and Maui

by Michele McKay

Approximately 800 million beverage containers are sold in Hawaii each year – that’s a lot of plastic, aluminum, and glass! The HI-5 program is helping to keep these materials out of landfills through a 5-cent deposit redemption, and the City & County of Honolulu is evaluating options for curbside recycling following a voter-approved charter amendment.

Recycling saves energy and water, lowers pollution and greenhouse gas emissions, improves air and water quality, reduces waste, and protects the land and its resources. To encourage recycling, Down to Earth offers this how-to guide for Oahu and Maui:

Where to recycle

On Oahu

  • HI-5 beverage containers can be recycled for 5 cents each at the RRR Recycling Services mobile “reverse vending machine” trucks, and at the Reynolds Recycling redemption centers.
  • Recyclables can be dropped-off in the bins located at 76 schools and shopping centers around the island. These take glass, aluminum cans, plastic, newspaper, cardboard, and white or colored office paper. Some neighborhoods have curbside recycling (we may see more in the future), and many have green waste pickup.
  • For redemption center and drop-off bin locations or other recycling information, visit, or contact or 692-5410.

On Maui

How to recycle

  • Glass, aluminum cans, plastic beverage bottles: Rinse, remove lids. Labels are OK.
  • NO plastic bags, food tubs, hard plastic, styrofoam, shrink wrap, foam rubber, ceramics, light bulbs, window glass, steel/tin cans, scrap metals, lawn furniture, building materials.
  • Newspaper, cardboard, office paper: Includes newspapers, corrugated cardboard, boxboard (cereal boxes), brown paper bags, office paper (boxed or paper-bagged).
  • NO magazines, telephone books, milk/juice cartons, wax-coated cardboard, food residue, plastic bags, rubber bands, string. Do not tie in bundles. Boxes must be flattened.
  • Tin cans, scrap metal: Oahu H-Power reclaims metals such as tin cans from trash. Steel, aluminum, copper, brass, and other metals can be recycled through scrap dealers on both Oahu and Maui. They can be found in the yellow pages under “Scrap Metals.”

Summertime Kokua

by Michele McKay

Summer is a great time to enjoy Hawaii’s beautiful mountains, beaches, and surf! Hiking, biking, snorkeling, swimming, wave riding, barbequing… whatever your pleasure, enjoy the outdoors with kokua, in a way that won’t harm people, animals or the environment.

On the Trails and in the Water

The land and the sea are connected, and both need our care. Litter, storm drain trash, waste dumped at sea, and old fishing gear harm ecosystems, they create hazards to human health/safety, and they kill marine mammals, turtles, fish and seabirds. Discarded fishing equipment is especially lethal, as it traps and kills marine life for decades.

  • Dispose of rubbish properly and pick up litter wherever you see it. Human trash is one of the greatest threats to the environment.
  • Clean shoes and tires after a hike or trail ride. Seeds from invasive species can be transported in the tread of muddy shoes and bike tires.
  • Participate in beach and trail cleanup projects. Be part of the solution!

In Native Flora and Fauna Habitat

Releasing domestic plants or animals into the wild, picking native plants, and getting too close to wildlife can cause unintended harm to plants, animals, and ecosystems.

  • Do not feed, approach, or attract wildlife. Although you mean well, you may disrupt natural feeding patterns and you can cause injury, sickness, or death.
  • Do not touch or feed sea turtles and reef fish; avoid touching coral.
  • Remain at least 50 yards from dolphins and monk seals.

At the Beach and in the Park

Show your concern for the health and welfare of people and animals.

  • Respect others, and help them learn. Be considerate of people and private property. If others are behaving irresponsibly, politely help to educate them.
  • Enjoy picnics that are meat-free. Prevent environmental degradation and the extreme suffering of innocent animals by going veggie on your summer outings.
  • Barbeque responsibly. Avoid toxic charcoal lighter fluid and dispose of coals safely. Extinguish charcoal completely; never bury hot coals in beach sand.

For more information

Visit for statewide hiking trail information, and for outdoor sites and wildlife viewing areas. To participate in cleanup projects, visit Surfrider Foundation and the Sierra Club Hawaii

Low-Carbon Eating: Good for Your Health, Good for the Planet

Illustration: Carbon Footprint with Seedlings

by Michael Bond

Food is often overlooked as a component of our carbon footprint, yet what we choose to eat is one of the most significant factors in the personal impact we have on the environment. A recent study examining the impact of a typical week’s eating showed that plant-based diets are better for the environment than those based on meat.1 A vegan, organic diet had the smallest environmental impact while the single most damaging foodstuff was beef. Likewise, all non-vegetarian diets require significantly greater amounts of land and water resources. The United Nations and many leading environmental organizations—including the National Audubon Society, the WorldWatch Institute, the Sierra Club, and the Union of Concerned Scientists—have recognized that raising animals for food damages the environment more than just about anything else that we do. If you are concerned about the environment, consider these facts:

  • Consumption of red meat is responsible for 30% of our country's total food production-related green house gas emissions, while fruits and vegetables create just 11%.2
  • Raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined.3
  • Livestock production is responsible for 70% of deforestation in the Amazon, where rainforests are being cleared to create new pastures.4 (Deforestation increases greenhouse gas emissions by releasing carbon previously stored in the trees.)
  • Going vegetarian just one day per week would be like driving 1,160 fewer miles per year. Going completely vegetarian would be like driving 156 fewer miles per week.

So you can see why we often say, "The single most important thing an individual can do for the environment is to adopt a vegetarian diet.” By choosing a vegetarian diet instead of one loaded with animal products, individuals can dramatically reduce the amount of land, water, and oil resources that they consume and the amount of pollution they otherwise might cause. In addition to moving toward a plant-based diet, here are other food-related tips for reducing your carbon footprint:

  • Buy organic foods! In doing so you are promoting sustainable, earth-friendly farming practices.
  • Buy locally-produced food! Support your local farmers and vendors, and reduce your carbon footprint by reducing the distance it takes to transport the food you consume.
  • Buy in bulk! Each of us can prevent the release of 1,200 pounds of C02 per year simply by cutting our garbage output by 10%.
  • Buy natural foods! Junk food and other heavily processed foods take more energy to produce than raw or whole foods prepared at home.

If you'd like to examine your diet's specific carbon footprint, check out the food calculator provided by the Low Carbon Diet (

  1. Baroni, L., Cenci, L., Tettemanti, M. and Berati, M. 2006. Evaluating the environmental impact of various dietary patterns combined with different food production systems. European Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 1-8:
  2. “Guide to Low-Carbon Eating,” Seventh Generation.
  3. “Livestock a major threat to environment,” United Nations FAO Newsroom, Nov. 29, 2006:
  4. Ibid.

Strange Science in Our Island Farmlands

Photo Illustration showing Apple-Orange Hybrid

by Michele McKay

Corn modified with genes from jellyfish or hepatitis virus? Rice, corn, and sugarcane made with human genes? Does this sound like science fiction? Guess again! The State of Hawaii has actually granted permits for field trials of these genetically altered crops, according to Hawaii SEED, a statewide non-profit coalition that addresses the issues and risks of genetically engineered organisms (GMOs) in Hawaii. Disturbingly, our islands have more open-field, experimental GMO agriculture than any other state in the nation.

The technology is known by many names – genetic engineering (GE), bioengineering, biotechnology, biopharming, genetically modified organisms, transgenic organisms – and this is how it works: All plants and animals are made of cells that contain DNA inherited from the parents. Short sequences of DNA are called genes. GMOs are created in a laboratory by inserting the genes of one organism into the DNA of another, breaching the natural breeding barrier between species in order to create plants and animals with new traits. The technology is imprecise, however, and altering DNA can produce side effects that are impossible to predict or control. For food consumers, the concerns range from changes in nutritional value to the creation of new allergens or toxins. For farmers, the risks are liability for crop contamination, loss of markets, high costs of testing, and loss of seed variety. For our islands and our planet, the danger is that inadequate containment may allow GMOs to enter food chains and ecosystems, causing irreparable harm.

In its mission to “promote diverse, local, healthy and ecological food and farming that supports real food security for the Hawaiian Islands,” Hawaii SEED has successfully worked with Native Hawaiians and taro farmers to stop the University of Hawaii from genetically engineering taro; initiated a GMO papaya cleanup campaign that gives farmers and gardeners support and solutions to GMOs; teamed with Earthjustice to prevent introduction of biopharm algae; guided an anti-GMO agreement in the Hawaii coffee industry; sponsored non-GMO seed exchanges; and produced "Facing Hawaii's Future," an educational book explaining the issue of GMOs in the Hawaiian Islands.

What you can do:

  • Become informed. Visit and to learn more about GMO concerns. Read “Facing Hawaii's Future” from Hawaii SEED.
  • Contact your state legislators. Type ‘genetically modified’ into the text search at for current bill status in the 2009 Hawaii State Legislature. Call, write, or testify to make your voice heard.
  • Don’t grow GE plants. Test papaya trees and remove those that are contaminated.
  • Dispose of papaya seeds carefully so they can’t grow. Contact Hawaii SEED at 808-331-1211 for papaya GMO test kits and for other farm or garden assistance.
  • Shop Down to Earth for GMO-free papayas and avoid GMOs by buying organic.

A Thanksgiving for the Earth

by Michele McKay

Go vegetarian – Eating vegetarian is the single most important thing you can do for the planet. In fact, in its 2006 report, the United Nations said raising animals for food generates more greenhouse gases than all the cars and trucks in the world combined. The negative effects of the meat industry are far reaching. Forests are being bulldozed to make more room for factory farms and feed crops to feed farmed animals, and this destruction causes soil erosion and contributes to species extinction and habitat loss. Raising animals for food also requires massive amounts of food and raw materials: Farmed animals consume 70 percent of the corn, wheat, and other grains that we grow, and one-third of all the raw materials and fossil fuels used in the U.S. go to raising animals for food.

Whether it's unchecked air or water pollution, soil erosion, or the overuse of resources, raising animals for food is wreaking havoc on the Earth.

For a wealth of festive vegetarian recipes, visit

Eat local and in season – Foods grown locally have a low ‘food mile’ count. That is, they create fewer transportation-related carbon emissions than products shipped from great distances. Plus, buying local food supports our local farmers!

Shop organic – Organic agriculture is good for the land and good for people. Organic products are grown without the synthetic fertilizers, pesticides and other toxic chemicals that seep into soil, run off into rivers and lakes, pollute the air, destroy wildlife, and end up in our food supply.

Decorate naturally – Use the beauty of nature instead of man-made plastic. Decorate with squashes and gourds, or step outside to gather leaves, branches, or flowers for beautiful, natural centerpieces.

Recycle and compost – Help reduce the amount of refuse going into landfills by recycling and composting your Thanksgiving waste. Here are your island contacts for more information:
Oahu: (808) 768-3200
Maui: (808) 244-0443
Big Island: (808) 329-2886 or (808) 961-2676

Reduce the carbon emission impact of your holiday travel – Web sites such as,, and The Nature Conservancy's carbon calculator at will help you calculate your travel-related carbon emissions and offer ways of offsetting the impact. If you are driving, check that your air filter is clean and your tires are fully inflated in order to reduce your carbon emissions… and to get better gas mileage!

Inspire and educate – Use your Thanksgiving holiday as an opportunity to educate others, inspiring them to adopt greener habits. You don’t need to preach – your example will be enough to plant the seeds of new, green Thanksgiving traditions among your family, friends, or community.