People from all over the world come to the Hawai’i to enjoy the beauty of the islands. What many don’t realize are the variety of impacts of tourism upon the environment, but there are ways to have a positive impact! When you’re living on an island, you quickly learn the importance of preserving resources and existing more sustainably. Here’s our list of local tips on 12 ways to leave the islands better off than when you arrived – and enjoy some awesome eco-conscious adventures!

  1. Check out the Hawaii Eco Tourism site for certified eco-friendly businesses to support while you’re here. Start planning your vacation at
  2. Do you really need that plastic straw? We hardly think about it when we grab a straw for our drinks, but we’re using thousands daily, which are adding to local pollution. When they end up in the ocean they can impact and even kill sea life. Look for reusable bamboo, glass or metal straws instead of plastic. Many local Hawai’i natural food stores and farmers markets offer them and they’re easy to keep handy in your purse or backpack.
  3. When possible avoid styrofoam To Go containers. Ask if they have better alternatives. Bring a small food thermos or tiffin so you always have a reusable container for leftovers! Hawai’i is working on legislation to ban all styrofoam containers! Stay updated through the B.E.A.C.H. website.
  4. Speaking of styrofoam… we’re always looking for eco-conscious restaurants. Enter Surfrider’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants program. These restaurants are all committed to reducing plastic waste and implementing ocean-friendly practices. Discover your fave new place to eat:
  5. Chemical sunscreen pollution is becoming a huge problem in tourist areas across the globe. Aerosols sprayed at the beach, in the breeze, are inhaled by everyone within hundreds of yards – exposing you even if you don’t use them. Sunscreen ingredients like oxybenzone, octinoxate, octocrylene have a negative impact on the health of people, corals, marine life. Learn more at Ban Toxic Sunscreens. And look for Safe Sunscreen Certified shops that carry natural mineral options through the Safe Sunscreen Store Finder!
  6. Join in a beach clean-up! There are some amazing non-profits that organize around the islands to help clean up our beaches, which are impacted by local and Asia plastics and nets. These collect on our shores and are a danger to marine life. Beach clean-ups aren’t just an awesome way to give back, but an fun way to make like-minded friends. Check out Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and our Events Page for upcoming clean-ups.
  7. Are you the type of person who likes to hike it out?! Explore the islands by foot with Sierra Club who lead a variety of hikes on each island every month: Kauai, Oahu, Maui, Hawaii Island.
  8. Exploring Hawai’i underwater is on many visitor To Do lists. Hawai’i is the home to 85% of the coral under U.S. jurisdiction – a large percentage of which experienced a massive bleaching event. Do your best to not stress corals while you’re exploring. Besides using rash guards instead of excess sunscreen, take care to not touch or step on the corals. If you’re not an experienced swimmer, use a floatation device to assist you so you don’t accidentally stand on reef areas.
  9. Conserve water. The less water used means less run-off and wastewater entering the ocean. 
  10. Bring that Water Bottle! It may seem obvious, but some of us still forget it since we can’t bring water on the plane. Some places offer filtered water for free, or you can find purified water stations. There are also specialized carbon filtered bottles and straws that remove chlorine and some impurities, so you can clean tap water on the go!
  11. Bags. We don’t do plastic bags in Hawai’i. It’s much more effieinct and easy to bring a reusable bag to the store, even when you’re traveling. You can find compact totes and backpacks on island. Or grab one before your trip: Venture Pal Travel Backpack, Chico Backpack, or the Hollyluck Tote.
  12. Eco-Accomodations. Look for accomodations that are eco-friendly. It doesn’t have to mean you are staying in a tent! Some hotels and resorts are going green. There are also off-the-grid yurts, jungalows, and decked-out treehouses if you can find them. Spend some extra time researching. Try Hawaii Eco LivingGlamping Hub, Green Travelers Guide, Resorts and Lodges.


By Wilkie McClaren [Ban Toxic Sunscreens]