‘Bottles of Change’

A new study estimates there are more than 250,000 tons of plastic floating in oceans around the world, destroying marine habitat and contaminating water and food supply. One local teacher is taking a unique approach to highlight the issue and to inspire Hawaii’s youth to be the catalyst for change.

Lindy Shapiro, founder of the nonprofit Bodhi Education Project on Maui, plans to take a month-long 750 mile coastal expedition around the Hawaiian Islands by foot and bike. This remarkable journey – named holoHI (the Hawaiian word “holo” means to run or ride on) – kicks off before sunrise Sunday in Hilo, Hawaii, followed by Lanai, Molokai, Oahu and Kauai, and wrapping up with a celebration scheduled for February 18 in Kahului, Maui.

Throughout holoHI, Shapiro will be visiting 20 local schools to launch a unique, student-led conservation project – ‘Bottles for Change’ (B4C).

“Children are beautifully relentless and have the potential to inspire us all to change, to grow, and to come together as a community,” Shapiro said. “Through collaboration with Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Island Air, LifeFoods and other local organizations, Bottles for Change will be making school and community presentations to increase awareness regarding the impact of plastics on our land and ocean environments, and to encourage youth participation in the Bottles for Change Challenge. My hope is that holoHI will inspire others to support this vitally important work.”

Shapiro is an author and educator who lives on Maui with her husband and their two children. In 2006, she founded Bodhi Education Project, a nonprofit that promotes awareness of the human experience and understanding of cultures, allowing people to connect with their world and, in turn, share responsibility in taking care of it.

Lindy is also an avid runner.

“I’ve been running forever. Rain, shine, hills, flats, in sickness and in health, if you give me a day, I’ll find a way to run before the end of it,” she said. “I don’t necessarily run pretty or super fast, but I manage to keep my feet untangled and find my way home. In the end, that’s all that really matters.”

Here’s how the Challenge works.

Participating students begin by finding an empty plastic bottle that has been abandoned or is headed for the landfill. This first bottle becomes the student’s “Bottle for Change.”

Every time they, or someone they know, chooses not to buy a plastic bottled beverage and uses an environmentally friendly alternative, they put the money saved into their “Change Fund.” Once their bottle holds “$20 for Change,” they hand it in at a designated bottle drop (school office, teacher representative, community partner) to receive their B4C reusable water bottle and T-shirt, and to be entered into a raffle for great prizes.

In addition to their Change Funds, participating students receive “bottle points” for the raffle every time they volunteer at a Hawaii Wildlife Fund or other B4C beach cleanup event, or complete a project from the B4C website.

Schools that complete the Bottles for Change Challenge will receive free environmental educational outreach programming, supplemental materials and will be recognized on the B4C website.

Shapiro said this is just one example of the type of youth leadership and educational outreach programs that Bodhi Education Project hopes to offer in the future.

“Our ultimate goal is to build and sustain a leadership academy for integrated arts and sciences on Maui’s North Shore,” she said. “In addition to serving the Maui community, we plan to continue creating inspired educational and environmental programming like Bottles for Change that empowers youth leadership for positive, sustainable change statewide.”

Info: www.holoHI.org or www.bottlesforchange.org

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