Teenage eco-ambassadors clean up plastic trash from Hawai‘i’s shoreline


Hawai‘i is known for having some of the most beautiful and picturesque beaches in the world and it’s everyone’s responsibility to help keep them that way. A remote area on Hawai‘i Island’s southeast coast is littered with trash and marine debris carried by currents and trade winds. Items that frequently wash ashore include plastic materials, commercial fishing equipment and commonly discarded household goods – a troubling reminder of the current health of our oceans.

As a part of a responsible tourism project of a group of high school students from New Zealand, Australia and Japan are cleaning up that trash. In recognition of International Coastal Cleanup Day on September 21, the Sea Cleaners, a New Zealand-based environmental non-profit leader and the Hawai‘i Wildlife Fund have partnered with Hawai‘i Tourism Oceania, Hawai‘i Tourism Japan and Hawaiian Airlines to bring the young leaders to Hawai‘i Island for beach cleanups in this remote area of Hawai‘i Island. A crew from National Geographic is filming the beach cleanup for its EcoTraveler show, which will air in Oceania at a later time.

“The work we are doing is for our children and our children’s children,” said Hayden Smith of Sea Cleaners. “We must make changes now to the way we operate our daily lives without wasted consumption.”

The 12 students, who were selected because of their leadership in sustainability, will use their experience to steward youth in their respective countries. While on the island of Hawai‘i, they’re speaking with local students and will participate in a voluntourism experience in Waipi‘o Valley.

“As the hometown carrier for 90 years, we understand the tremendous responsibility we have in caring for these Islands,” said Debbie Nakanelua-Richards, Director of Community and Cultural Relations at Hawaiian Airlines. “Our hope this International Coastal Cleanup Day is to bring people together to mālama honua (care for our Island Earth) and inspire others to join us in protecting all that makes Hawai‘i special.”

The partnership underscores the organisations’ long-term commitment to sustainability and aims to raise plastic awareness by encouraging people to respect the environment both at home and when travelling abroad. Tourism dollars collected in Hawai‘i through the Transient Accommodations Tax are helping to pay for this responsible tourism initiative.