Looking back on it, Upcycle Hawaii’s roots go as far back as my childhood where the seeds of creativity in my life were planted at a very young age. Combine that with the fact that I was literally raised in the wilderness with a deep connection to the environment, and it would seem natural that I would end up in creative and “green” business. Getting to this point, however, has not been as natural a transition as one may think. It has been a bit of an adventure and I’d like to share some of that story with you.
I have literally been crafting and creating as long as I can remember. From pottery to painting, woodworking to weaving, and even music to machinery, my childhood was full of the arts. I even won my first art contest in Kindergarten and, by the 8th grade, was simultaneously awarded the Golden Hammer in Woodshop and named the Home Economics student of the Year (thanks in large part to my sewing skills).
(Examples of early crafts, from childhood to adolescence.)
All of this creativity took place on a background growing up in one of the most amazing places in the world during what I consider a very special time. Life as a child on the Big Island of Hawaii during the 1990’s was really quite magical. We spent time doing everything from exploring underwater caves to observing active volcanoes. Our seasons were defined by surf, whales and school. We also grew up without the concept of “big box” stores or social media and were always able to (somehow) make due with the resources at hand. In fact, it was in large part due to this lack of conventional “art supplies” that would lead to my upcycling and repurposing at a very young age.
(Growing up on the Big Island. Volcanoes, Surfing, Ziplines and more.)
One of those unique places that we would visit as a child was known colloquially as “plastic beach” – a long stretch of coastline along our southern shores where massive amounts of marine debris and plastic pollution accumulate. These visits were treasure-hunting missions for the adults of the group; but were long, hot and dry hikes for us youngsters where we would entertain ourselves playing “king of the plastic mountain” and trash dress-up. Little did I know then how much this place would come to impact me to this very day.
(Plastic Pollution and Marine Debris. A big inspiration for Upcycle Hawaii)
Cut to several decades later when I was a young environmental science student at the University of Hawaii at Manoa. Not only was I already seeing the degradation of my own natural environment, but I was realizing the frightening scale at which we were changing our earth – and not for the better.
(Conducting research with the University of Hawaii at Manoa.)