As anyone who’s fallen in love with Hawaii knows, even during a quick visit, you’ll quickly start wanting to give back to the island chain. Luckily, that’s easy to do. Hawaii is home to a number of initiatives and companies that harness a craft to serve the greater good and to spread awareness of a certain cause, be it Hawaiian culture, history, or the environment. Of course, the tried-and-true beach cleanup sessions are always going on, but a new wave of local do-gooders has made it even easier to have your cake and eat it too—that is, to support the community at large while enjoying the tropical vacation you’d planned.
Dig Into Eco-Friendly Local Fare
When you’re looking for a restaurant to try, forgo Yelp in favor of another list: More than 100 establishments in Hawaii operate without the use of foam or plastic as part of the Surfrider Foundation’s Ocean Friendly Restaurant Program.
The goal is to eliminate the use of non-recyclable material, like plastic and foam, that typically ends up polluting the ocean and harming marine life. Go green with the breakfast sandwiches at Ed Kenney’s Kaimuki Superette in Honolulu, the garden-to-table vegetarian entrées at Ai Love Nalo in Waimanalo, or the beach sandwiches at Kalapawai Café in Kailua.
Toast to a Local Cause
Kailua’s newest neighborhood craft beer tasting room, Grace in Growlers, features a selection of locally brewed beers on tap and a bring-your-own-food philosophy. Even better, the tasting room was created by Tim and Holly Veling specifically as a way to fund and spread awareness of the ONEninetynine Initiative, which (among other things) provides laundry services to the homeless on the windward side.
Some locals who frequent Grace in Growlers even go on to volunteer at the nonprofit. “Sometimes people will come on a Saturday to help with our laundry service, and then they’re back in here drinking beer again the next night,” says Tim Veling. “Which is the most amazing thing. It’s exactly what we’re trying to do here.”
Keep Cane Alive with a Distillery Tour
Earlier this year, the last commercial sugar cane plantation in Hawaii shut down. While it is certainly the end of an era, it’s also an opportunity rediscover the history and tradition of cane that the commercial industry overshadowed for so long. One Oahu man has taken it upon himself to do just that.
Over the past few years, he has cultivated the largest collection of native Hawaiian cane in the state, growing more than three-dozen varietals at his farms in central Oahu. But he’s not a botanist or historian—he’s a rum maker. The tour at Manulele Distillers is half educational, half indulgent as you learn about the role of cane in ancient Hawaii and enjoy a tasting of rum made from different varietals.
Go for an Island-Friendly Paddle
Hawaiian Paddle Sports offers several different tours on Maui, including kayaking, outrigger canoeing, surfing, and standup paddle-boarding. But they’re not just tours you dream of taking in Hawaii—each month, the company highlights a charity, organization, community group, or nonprofit as part of its Malama Maui Monthly Give Back. The company then makes a financial contribution to the group or organization from its profits and donates volunteer hours to raise awareness of the charity’s cause. Hawaiian Paddle Sports says supporting its own community is part of its kuleana, a Hawaiian word meaning “responsibility.”
Join in the Festivities
Hundreds of potters throughout Oahu have joined together to make more than 3,000 clay bowls for the upcoming Empty Bowl Hawaii food festival and fundraiser on March 31. Each attendee will receive a handmade ceramic bowl and a locally sourced soup prepared by one of 22 Oahu chefs. The event is a symbolic salute to the local nonprofit it supports, Aloha Harvest, which “rescues” excess quality food from restaurants and delivers it same-day, free of charge, to nonprofit agencies. It took the Hawaii Potters Guild and the potter participants two years to make all the bowls, which attendees get to keep.
The Maui County Agricultural Festival aims to spread awareness of Maui’s agricultural community and to showcase its vital role in the economy, environment, and lifestyle through a series of programming events. The festival features food booths and special events, like the not-to-be-missed Grand Taste, which pairs 12 Maui chefs with different farmers. The event is held annually and takes place this year on April 1.
If you’re up for taking a trip this Thanksgiving and want to try out the ancient Hawaiian art of paddling, check out the annual Paddle For Hunger event, also on Maui. It’s a leisure race that raises money and food for the Maui Food Bank. In 2016, 264 paddlers were on the water and the event raised $8,000 and 1,050 pounds of food.
>>Next: Bermuda’s History Is Insanely Cool—Here’s How to Discover It