WEST MAUI - In an effort to combat polluted runoff that impacts West Maui's coastal waters and unique lifestyle, West Maui Kumuwai has created the Ocean Partners Program.
The aim of the program is to promote the sale and use of "Ocean Preferred" products - fertilizers and pesticides that have been identified as less harmful to the marine environment - and in turn reduce the amount of runoff containing potentially harmful chemicals that makes its way into the ocean when it rains or yards are over-watered.
To be considered Ocean Preferred, products must pose no or low hazard to fish or other aquatic life and contain ingredients that move through soil less easily, which results in fewer chemicals reaching Maui's shores.
Lahaina Ace Hardware Assistant Store Manager Martin Hussey shows off “Ocean Preferred” signage.
As of Nov. 1, West Maui Kumuwai's retail partners - Lahaina Ace Hardware and Hawaii Grower Products, a horticulture products supply store in Kahului - have helped take the guesswork out of choosing Ocean Preferred yard care products.
These retail partners have made identifying and purchasing these products easier by providing customer support and in-store signage when it's needed most - when customers are scanning the shelves, deciding what products to buy.
An eye-catching sign featuring an image of a man plunging into the ocean prompts customers to "look for the Ocean Preferred sticker," which can be found directly on the products or on the shelf next to the product tag.
This signage intentionally avoids showing images of an uninviting brown ocean or presenting facts on the rate of coral decline. Instead, it addresses the issue of polluted runoff through the use of positive images and messages aimed to highlight the beauty of Maui and motivate residents to take action by tapping into what matters to them.
"Evidence linking polluted runoff and the decline in coral health is just part of the story," said West Maui Watershed & Coastal Management Coordinator Tova Callender.
"West Maui Kumuwai aims to inspire folks to want to act - and offers ways they can, rather than make them feel like they should act."
"Our staff is very excited about the Ocean Partners Program," said Martin Hussey, assistant store manager at Lahaina Ace Hardware.
"The program provides a great opportunity to get the community involved in making positive decisions as customers that will help make our ocean cleaner and our reefs and fish healthier.
"I remember as a boy going diving with my cousins from early in the morning 'til sundown, only coming out of the water for a bite to eat," recounted Hussey.
"The water was clear, there was a ton of sea life, and the coral was vibrant and colorful, unlike today. As a father of two and having lived on Maui almost my entire life, I want to be a part of the solution. Because of the Ocean Partners Program, I feel I am," he added.
Shopping with the ocean in mind is a powerful way Maui residents can take action for the ocean. To learn more about Ocean Preferred products and other ways to become involved, visit www.westmauikumuwai.org or contact Callender at 214-4239 or firstname.lastname@example.org.