We’re having a great time on Kaua’i (mosquito bites notwithstanding), and despite the ubiquitous polystyrene foam foodware, we’re discovering some great plastic-free resources. Upon arrival at our hotel, the concierge handed us a list of farmers markets on the island.
There’s at least one for every day of the week, which means we never have to worry about plastic produce packaging because we brought our own bags.
Of course, I’ve got my reusable bamboo utensils, food container, mug, and water bottle to avoid plastic restaurant foodware.
By the way, the crust at Hanalei Pizza is amazing. The ingredients are: coconut water, hemp oil, hemp seed, flax oil, flax seed, flax flour, flax bran, poppy seed, chia seed, whole wheat flour, high protein flour.
Sounds too healthy to taste good, right? No way, man. It is crunchy and delicious.
Friday night, shopping in the little convenience store where we’re staying, I was happy to discover kombucha from Kauai Juice Company in glass bottles with metal caps.
I’m used to having Revive kombucha every morning, which not only comes in glass bottles, but the bottles can be returned to the store for refilling. I figured I would just be tossing the Kauai kombucha bottles into the recycle bin, until I happened to read the back of the label.
“50¢ redemption for rinsed bottles if returned to Kapaa brewing source.”
(2016 Update: The FAQ section of the website now says you can return them at their retail shops in Kapaa, Kilauea and Poipu.)
I was so excited that I looked up the website and called Kauai Juice Company to find out more. Kristal Scott, the owner, invited me to come by and visit the next day. So we went by on Sunday, returned our empty bottles, and chatted for a bit. The brew location is in the back of the Dragon Building in downtown Kapa’a.
Kristal said she started making kombucha after realizing how many products on the island have to be imported. She wanted to make something with local ingredients and sell it locally. Originally, she would collect empty wine bottles from local restaurants for her kombucha, but all the effort of collecting and cleaning the bottles was too cost and time prohibitive, so she switched to new glass bottles but asked her customers to bring them back.
She says she gets back about 20% of her bottles and hopes the rest are at least being recycled. When bottles are rinsed out right away, she can reuse them.
(Otherwise, old kombucha residue in the bottles can be difficult to deal with.)
Hoku Foods Natural Market
Behind the Dragon Building where Kauai Kombucha is located is Hoku Foods Natural Market.
As soon as you enter the store, you see a wall display explaining why they don’t carry water in plastic bottles and why plastic is a problem.
They also have a nice selection of bulk items; however, Hoku is not set up to allow customers to use their own bags and containers because they can’t deduct the tare weight. The staff member we spoke to said that it would be okay if people brought very lightweight reusable bags.
Papaya’s Natural Foods and Cafe
Papaya’s, on the other hand, will let customers use their own bags and containers. Just bring them to the checkout counter and have them weighed before you fill them. Then, the cashier can deduct the weight upon checkout.
Papaya’s also sells filtered water. You can bring your own jug to fill up. I was able to fill a 1 quart mason jar for 25 cents. Of course, we’ve been told that the water here is excellent and there isn’t any need for filtration. But that’s a personal decision.
Zero Waste Kauai and Ho’ouluwehi Sustainable Living Institute
Two organizations, Zero Waste Kauai and Ho’ouluwehi Sustainable Living Institute invited me to come and give a talk on Plastic-Free Living at the Kauai Community College campus on Wednesday night. These organizations, as well as Surfrider Kauai, are working on projects to reduce waste and environmental impact on the island. One project is to reduce styrofoam foodware.
Prior to my talk, I was able to give an interview to Dickie Chang, former County Council Member and local personality, for his cable television show Wala’au. He explained the culture of the island and was a lot of fun to chat with. I’ll post the interview here when it’s online.