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History Of Earth Day In Hawaii

Maui is an amazing place unique to all the Hawaiian Islands. The ancient Hawaiians knew this and many battles were fought for it’s control. Today new battles are being fought not only for the aina (land) but for a culture and it’s principles of caring for the land and having a sustainable lifestyle. Earth Day is our nation’s environmental legacy that is now a global day of celebrations and events.

Maui is a fantastic place to explore and learn about what it could be like for you to go green while on vacation! Check out our Ecotourism in Maui story and find out how you can help this beautiful island while visiting. From renting electric cars to enjoying the island’s many eco tours, you could find it’s easier than you thought to go green!

Earth Day has been part of America’s cultural story since 1970. On April 22nd of that year, the modern environmental movement was born. Spearheaded by Wisconsin Senator Gaylord Nelson, the first Earth Day was wildly successful as it activated 20 million Americans from all walks of life.

The event created widespread awareness and advocacy for land, air and water pollution and is credited with launching the modern environmental movement. In the years that followed the first Earth Day landmark environmental legislation was passed in Congress including the Clean Air Act, the Endangered Species Act, the Water Quality Improvement Act, the Surface Mining Control and Reclamation Act, the Toxic Substance Control Act and resulted in the creation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Earth Day Events In Maui

Twenty years after the first Earth Day the event went global. Two hundred million people were mobilized in 141 countries which put the environment and its preservation on the world stage. Today it is estimated more than 1 billion people participate in Earth Day events each year making it the largest civic observance in the world! If you’re in Maui during Earth Day come to check out these two festivals as they are located close by to one another in Kahului.

Maui College Earth Day

a tree in front of a building

University of Hawaiʻi Maui College Earth Day

The University of Hawaiʻi Maui College hosts the second annual UHMC Earth Day celebration on Wednesday, April 16, from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m.

The Earth Day event is free and open to the public.

College students from the Sustainable Science Management program at Maui’s University of Hawai’i campus are organizing an Earth Day event for the second time this year. Located in Kahului, the college students have done a tremendous job of bringing together some of Maui’s most revered environmental organizations in the spirit of the first Earth Day which was inspired by college sit-ins of the 1960s. Sustainability science is leading the way for innovations that will be very important in the coming years as the number of people traveling throughout the world expected to double in the next ten years or less!

Some of the local organizations at the event include Trilogy’s Blue ʻĀina Campaign, Humpback Whale Sanctuary, Boo Boo Zoo, Surfrider Foundation, Coral Reef Alliance, Maui Cultural Lands/Polanui Hiu, East Maui Watershed Project, Maui Nui Botanical Gardens, Pacific Biodiesel, Hawaiʻi Ecotourism Association, Haleakala Pacific Parks Association, Hui O Waʻa, Save Our Seabirds, Indigenous Crop Biodiversity Festival Group, and Hawaiian Island Land Trust.

Past And Present Come Together

For visitors, Maui is an amazing place to visit any time of year, but we like to remember that for the ancient Hawaiians every day was Earth Day. They held nature and the preservation of it in high regards as their survival depended on it!

a beach next to a body of water

Our modern technology has allowed us to discover more and more ways to study, learn and help preserve our environment. Just as the ancient Hawaiians were open to new and innovative ways to live it is important that we respect the Hawaiian culture and all that it has to offer. Please consider asking yourself this question (whether traveling to Hawaii or any other part of the world) “What is this culture doing better than my own culture”? You may return home with the best souvenir of all – a larger perspective!

Hawaii’s Ancient Land Management System

The Hawaiian concept of land and ocean management starts with the land. Throughout Polynesia the demi-god Maui is attributed to many supernatural feats. He is said to have snared the sun to slow its progress across the sky making the days longer. Legends also tell of Maui pulling the land up (the Hawaiian Islands) from the ocean with a fish hook. Interestingly the Hawaiian creation story is based on the aina (land) whereas in most of Polynesia the creation stories are more closely linked to the sea. It makes Hawaii unique even among the closely related southern islands of the Marquesas and Tahiti which Hawaii settlers migrated from some 1000 years ago.

a sign on the side of a mountain road

Aina is a term for homeland and identifies Hawaii as a food producer. The word is compounded from the verb ai – to eat, with the substantive suffix na, which makes it a noun. Therefore the word aina then means “that which feeds.” It’s possible the first settlers who arrived over 1000 years ago had little or nothing to plant. For generations, the small, slowly growing population established themselves along shorelines near streams that supplied water. Through the course of native settlement, voyaging canoes left and returned from the homeland with plants and animals with which to sustain the population. Today these are known as “canoe plants” and include kalo (taro) sweet potato, breadfruit, banana, and sugarcane. Though no one knows for sure why travel between the southern islands and Hawaii ceased around 1300 AD, we do know their arts, crafts, tools, skills and population advanced beyond those of their homelands.

a painting of a beach

Archaeological evidence suggests Maui had a vibrant population by the mid-1500s and Hawaiian scholars at the turn of the century recounted the chants and stories of the great Maui chief Pi’ilani. During his reign he commissioned the building of the King’s Trail which circumnavigates the entire island, thus uniting the scattered villages and peoples of Maui. It was by this time the Ahupua’a system of land management was developed which divided the land into pie-shaped districts running from the mountains to the sea. Kalo (taro) was grown in terraced gardens along streams which in turn provided nutrients to the fish ponds built in the ocean at the mouth of these streams. It was an ingenious system that allowed the population to increase to an estimated 1 million Hawaiians living throughout the island chain.

Ecotourism In Maui

Hawaii is leading the way when it comes to green business and eco tourism as compared to much of the U.S. In fact, there are too many to list here so we’ll break it down to a few of our favorites included in the Hawaii Eco-Tourism Board’s certified tours and businesses.

The Hawaii Ecotourism Association was launched in 1995 and has grown to include a certification program which now has over a dozen ecotour operators who have qualified. Below are two of Maui’s most popular certified ecotours on land and sea. Check out the other certified tour operators and resorts HERE

Land Tour

a bus parked on the side of the road

One of the most exciting adventures in Maui is the road to Hana. The rainforests and waterfalls of this side of the island are the perfect examples of old Hawaii were ancient ways of life are still in use today. Taking a tour to the Hana side is arguably one of the best ways to learn about this ancient culture while reducing the impacts of crowding and traffic created by the estimated 1 million people who travel this road every year.

Haleakala National Park has taken major steps in reducing the impact of the nearly 1.5 million visitors who visit the park each year. The park now has a reservation system for sunrise that must be made in advance. However Haleakala sunrise van tours have their own permits making it much easier to just book a tour to ensure the spectacular sunrise adventure at the 10,000 ft crater rim.

Valley Isle Excursions is the first land-based tour company in Maui to be not only Hawaii Ecotourism Certified but also a member of the US Green Building Council and only Hawaii based International Ecotourism Society member. The company is showing their commitment to environmental sustainability and are continuously innovating their operations for their road to Hana tour. Aside from having fuel efficient tour vans Valley Isle is leading the way in green technologies and renewable energy and recycling programs at their base-yard.

a canyon with a mountain in the background

Ocean Tour

a person standing next to a body of water

Outrigger canoe paddling is a chance to experience real Hawaiian culture and Hawaiian Paddle Sports is committed to providing an authentic eco-tour that allows guests to discover and learn. The guides are certified marine naturalists who are passionate about Maui’s marine environment and the Hawaiian culture. Traditions of the Hawaiian Canoe (Wa’a) will be experienced firsthand on this tour as guests will actively participate in launching and landing as well as paddling throughout the tour. It is also part of the tour to immerse guests in the Hawaiian traditions of the Wa’a such a coconut fiber rope making and Hawaiian language place names, marine wildlife names and stories of ancient Hawaiian voyaging.

These sleek and rugged outrigger canoes are a mix of ancient Hawaiian culture and modern technology with a fiberglass design that allows for a more stable, performance-based vessel that glides through the water in rough seas. Groups are combined to fill the seats.

For an extra thrill check out Hawaiian Paddle Sports surfing canoe! This four-person canoe is much shorter than the traditional six-person canoe. With a shorter length and more curve to the hull allows it to turn easily and surf waves. Now you can feel the exhilaration of catching a wave without the need of a surfboard! Prices start at $189 per person


a large lawn in front of a house

The Hawaii State Energy Office’s Green Business Program assists and recognizes businesses that operate in an environmentally and socially responsible manner. Their Hotel and Resort Program features six Maui resorts dedicated to creating sustainable accommodations for their guests. The resorts listed below have gone beyond compliance particularly in the areas of energy conservation, waste reduction, pollution prevention, water conservation, natural resource preservation, community involvement and cultural preservation. Click on the links to check out the resort’s own website for booking and availability.

Fairmont Kea Lani – Wailea

Wailea Beach Marriott Resort & Spa – Wailea

Marriott Maui Ocean Club – Kaanapali

Hyatt Regency Maui Resort & Spa – Kaanapali

Ritz-Carlton Kapalua – Kapalua

Westin Kaanapali Ocean Resort Villas – Kaanapali

Eco Vacation Tips

Malama The Aina (Caring For The Land)

There are some simple and easy things you can do so that your ecological footprint on Maui will be minimal. Whether you’re enjoying the beaches, mountains, ocean or just cruising around our beautiful island, there are some things to keep in mind to help preserve Maui’s fragile eco-system. Below are some helpful hints so you too can “Malama the Aina and Kai” (Care for the land and ocean)

a bus that is driving down the road

Transportation Concerns

Rental Cars — Most people visiting Maui seem to think “convertible” when they think of renting a car or they think “SUV” for off-roading. Car rental agencies do have a variety of cars to rent including electric cars so try to make a point of selecting a car which gets the best gas mileage. If you rent an electric car, there are charging stations on all side of the island except Hana. Also, ask for a white car as they reflect the sun and use less energy to air-condition that a dark-colored car.

Also you may want to consider not renting a car at all. Many of Maui’s best activities include hotel and condo pickup and return. We also have an island-wide bus system and plenty of available taxies and shuttles. Over 2200 cars are rented daily in Maui and believe it or not that is double the cars rented in Honolulu!

Caring For The Kai (Ocean)

a flock of seagulls are swimming in the water

Help Protect the Ocean

  1. It is now Hawaii law that all swimmers in Hawaiian waters use reef safe sunscreen to protect our reefs from bleaching. Researchers have proven that non-reef safe sunscreens have contributed greatly to the increase of coral damage. All ocean tour operators now carry this sunscreen on board.
  2. Do not touch anything in the ocean. Unless you are standing on the sandy bottom where the waves roll into shore, try not to walk or stand on the ocean floor. This rule of thumb is not only for the protection of the marine environment but for your protection as well. There are plenty of stinging, stabbing things out there that could turn your vacation into a nightmare. Fragile habitats for marine critters can be damaged forever by your heavy foot so please stay off the ocean floor!
  3. Do not feed the fish or any other marine creatures. They have their food and diet and disrupting the grazing habits of fish is contributing to the decline of Maui’s coral coverage. People food is harmful to marine life, and cheap fish food you may have purchased is even worse!
  4. Leave the ocean and beach area cleaner than you found it. If you see rubbish floating in the ocean (plastic bags, bottles, and so on) bring it to shore and dispose of properly. You may save the life of a fish, turtle, marine mammal or even a seabird by removing that trash. Plastic in the ocean kills hundreds of marine inhabitants every year. The same thing applies to the beach. Picking up trash, even if it’s not yours, will prevent it from ending up in the ocean.
  5. Look at but do not approach turtles or Hawaiian monk seals resting on the beach. Thankfully the number of turtles and Hawaiian monk seals is increasing due to the hard work of many volunteers and biologists. These animals are protected by law, and you must stay 100 feet away from them. Take photos but do not attempt to get close to these resting sea creatures.
  6. If you plan to go fishing, practice catch and release. Let the fish live another day. Ask your charter boat captain if they practice catch and release; if they say no, book with someone else.
  7. If you are environmentally conscious, consider booking non-motorized tours like kayaking, stand up paddle boarding or an outrigger canoe tour. You’ll have more personal experiences with Maui’s amazing reefs and shorelines without possibly harming them.

Caring For The Aina (Land)

a tree next to a body of water

Help Protect the Land

  1. Don’t litter. Tradewinds can blow almost anything into the ocean.
  2. Before you go hiking, scrub your hiking shoes (especially the soles) to get rid of seeds and soil. Invasive species are an ongoing problem in Maui so please help out by cleaning your shoes.
  3. When hiking, bring a garbage bag so you can carry out everything you carried in and if you see other garbage on the trail carry it out too please!
  4. Stay on the trail. Wandering off a trail can be very dangerous. Visitors rescues in Hana happen almost weekly (you can get lost, fall off overgrown cliffs, or get injured by stepping into a hidden hole).
  5. If you’re out hiking do not pick flowers or plants along the way. Just leave the environment the way you found it. Many native plants in Maui only flower for a short period so please leave them be.
  6. Book eco friendly tours – especially the road to Hana. It’s a crazy drive into one of the most pristine areas of Hawaii. Help keep it that way by joining a group instead of adding to the traffic and stress of the 500,000 people per year who travel this road.

A Hui Ho!

So there you have it! We hope your Earth Day is as beautiful as your next Maui vacation! If you’re wondering what else there is to do in Maui check out our blog…there is a little something for everyone in there who is visiting our amazing island!

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