Change Happens Best,
When It First Happens Within

By Amber Jacroux Bixel, Director of Sales & Events 

An expression from ʻŌlelo Noʻeau: Hawaiian Proverbs & Poetical Sayings states, “He aliʻi ka ʻāinahe kauā ke kanaka — The land is chief; man is its servant. This can be interpreted as, “land has no need for man, but man needs the land and works it for a livelihood” and as such, it is our duty, our obligation, our kuleana, to care for it. I think its safe to say, that as a people, we have not done the best at this over the past few decades and unfortunately, not only are the Hawaiian Islands affected, but the entire world.

At Bishop Museum, we decided that if we’re going to talk about and commit ourselves to sustainable practices, the first course of action is to do something about it, and thats what drove our commitment to becoming a single-use, plastic-free campus as of December 2019.

We first started making changes within our Events Department, where for the past two years, we implemented sustainable practices of changing all disposable wares to compostablesand worked with local food vendors to do the same when serving on our campus; using waste diversion from Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii for large-scale events; and creating guidelines for guests renting our facilities to help them make their events more sustainable. 

We then looked at other areas on our campus, particularly those that directly impact our visitors, and initiated the following:

  • Switched-out vending machine beverages from plastic bottles to allaluminum cans 
  • Changed plasticbottled water to options using aluminum-based reusable packaging 
  • Added water bottle refill stations throughout the campus 
  • Eliminated individual single-use, plasticbagged snacks in our gift shop and café

In our ongoing efforts, wcontinue to seek guidance from some of the leading sustainability organizations in the community: 

Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation– a nonprofit supporting environmental education in the schools and communities of Hawaiʻi, that assessed our goals and supported educational endeavors related to ocean sustainability programs.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii  – a nonprofit that inspires local communities to care for their coastlines and coordinate educational programs, waste diversion services, and public awareness campaigns. SCH has assisted us with creating more sustainable events on campus.

Surfrider Foundation Oʻahu– a nonprofit environmental organization dedicated to the protection and enjoyment of the world’s oceans, waves, and beaches for all people, through conservation, activism, research, and education. They advised us on the ocean sustainability feature in our Mai Kinohi Mai: Surfing in Hawaiʻi exhibit.

Change happens best, when it first happens within – working with dedicated representatives from our own team of employees, we created a Sustainability Hui which meets monthly to see how we can implement changes within our own offices to continue adopting sustainable practices within our campus. Many collaborative initiatives have come from this, including our Bishop Museum Press using repurposed packing materials for shipping out their products; a lei box and bag return; and our employee snack pantry switching to more eco-conscious products. But the most valuable achievement of our Hui has been getting people to think about how to make better environmentally sound choices.

We rely so heavily on our environment and yet, we continue habits that deplete it. If we’re able to remind ourselves that “land has no need for man, but man needs the land,” hopefully, collectively, we will continue to find ways to change, even in the smallest of ways, to become a more sustainable people.

Photo Caption: 

One of Bishop Museum’s Plastic Free Water Stations. 

Photo Credit: 

Theresa Robertson 

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