By: Dena Sedar, Interpretive Specialist at Hawaii State Parks, Department of Land and Natural Resources
Inspiration for a project can come from multiple places, which is the case for the Hawaii State Parks water bottle filling station project, that will become a reality thanks to a NOAA Marine Debris Program Prevention Grant. The first seed for this project was planted when I volunteered with Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund to help with a cleanup at Kamilo Beach on the Big Island of Hawaii. Kamilo Beach is unfortunately not famous for its beauty, instead it is known as “Plastic Beach,” because of the large amounts of marine debris that washes ashore due to ocean currents. I was shocked at the amount of plastic on the beach, and it was this experience that inspired me to reduce the amount of plastic I use in my daily life.
The second inspiration for the water bottle filling station project came during a trip to Sydney, Australia. I was amazed at the number of water bottle filling stations located throughout the city. It was so refreshing (in more ways than one) to be able to refill my water bottle as I took in the sights throughout the city and on coastal walks. There was even a filling station on the ferry. As a Hawaii State Parks employee, I wanted to replicate that experience for our park visitors so that they are given the option to use a reusable water bottle, rather than depend on single-use plastic water bottles during a state park visit.
Sometimes the thought of trying to reduce marine debris or plastic consumption can be overwhelming. It can seem as if one person can’t make a difference, but if everyone makes small changes then those changes will add up over time. Those changes can include saying “no” to plastic straws, only using a travel mug when buying a coffee drink, or committing to having a reusable water bottle with you on a regular basis. Hawaii State Parks is working towards making those small changes a bit easier by installing water bottle filling stations in 15 parks on the islands of Hawai‘i, Maui, O‘ahu, and Kaua‘i. There is currently one bottle filling station at Diamond Head State Monument, a popular destination for hikers and those looking for scenic views of Honolulu. Through the development of educational materials and community beach cleanups, along with the installation of filling stations, it is hoped that the high usage of the Diamond Head filling station can be replicated in other state parks.
The final bit of inspiration for the filling station project came from a blog post about marine debris from the NOAA Pacific Islands Fisheries Science Center. The post included a photograph of an endangered Hawaiian monk seal in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands resting its head on a plastic water bottle from a bottling company located in Hawaii. By providing state park visitors with the option to refill their water bottles it is hoped that the amount of marine debris from single-use plastic water bottles will be reduced, making the habitat for Hawaiian monk seals and all Hawaiian wildlife safer and healthier.