THE BLOG
11/11/2013 04:16 pm ET Updated Dec 06, 2017

5 Easy Steps Toward Sustainability

After attending the TechConKona technology and sustainability conference on November 2nd my head was buzzing with all the information and potential for action. Many of us care a great deal about making the world a better place, so here's five easy ways to do just that, all tips I picked up from the TechConKona presenters.

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1. Eat local.

We've all heard this one over and over but here's why you should care if you live in Hawaii: importing food from outside the island is costing us in more ways than one. Not only is food expensive but the cost to the environment is pretty huge; think of all the oil it takes to power those freighters back and forth and the effect it's having on the ocean and coastline. Here's a mind-blowing fact: Only 8 percent of food grown in Hawaii is consumed here. Why are we paying the rest of the world to feed us when we could do it ourselves?

People tell me a lot that they don't have the time or resources to go to farmers' markets or buy expensive, organically grown products. If you pay close attention at the grocery store, there are some items that are locally grown that are actually cheaper or equal to the same shipped in product, making it easy for you to make the sustainable choice. Sprouts, lettuce, papaya, some juices, most fish, and sea salt are just a few.

2. Textiles matter.

Amber Bieg, of Green Ideas, shared that the number one plastic pollutant in the oceans today comes from synthetic fabrics. Every time you wash your polyester top or stretchy yoga pants, tiny particles from those synthetics go down the drain with the waste water and eventually out into the ocean. Now I'm not sure what to do about the synthetic clothing I already own, but it will certainly make me do a double take next time I buy clothes or other fabrics. Examples of natural, non-synthetic textiles are cotton, wool, silk, and hemp.

3. Buy local.

Supporting local small businesses is easier than ever with organizations like Think Local, Buy Local which offers a business directory of locally run businesses on the Big Island. I find this one particularly difficult in the era of big box stores where prices can be significantly different compared to smaller shops. So let's start small: it's easy to buy your morning coffee from a locally run shop versus a large corporation, and sometimes even cheaper. How about buying plants from your local nursery instead of a big box store? And for all you small business owners out there, did you know putting up a sign informing customers that your business is locally owned and/or sells locally made products has been proven to increase sales? Do it now!

4. Keep your money close.

Part of moving toward sustainability is economic. The wealth that a community has should stay in the community because it keeps the money invested where you live. An easy way to close this loop is to bank locally. Credit unions are designed to keep the money circulating in the community by investing only the money deposited by members in each other. It gets even easier in Hawaii as Bank of Hawaii was named one of the best banks in the country by Forbes magazine. Take your pick of banking options, but keep your money local.

5. Get involved.

When it comes to caring for the community you live in, nobody is going to do it but the people who live there. When community members are invested and involved, it's less likely that outside investors will be successful in launching businesses that could be harmful to that community.

Not all of us have time to get involved in local politics, but voting when elections come around sure helps. Writing to your local representatives about issues that matter does not go unheard. Schools are always in need of volunteers, as well as conservation groups like the Nature Conservancy. It can be as easy as removing invasive plant species from your yard, picking up trash at the beach, or running a 5k to support a non-profit.

How are you striving for sustainability now? What else can we do to close the loop and make Hawaii more self-sufficient? I hope these tips have inspired you to take action, however small, in your community.