Stories from stuff: souvenirs from Hawai’i

Confession time: I love bringing home souvenirs from my travels. Aside from the physical representation of actually having been there, each one I bring home has a memory behind it. They also need to be something I’m going to keep: no pesky desk trinkets here.

The haul from my recent trip to Oahu and The Big Island:

1. Ref magnets!¬†My family collects magnets and I picked up the habit early on. And hey, magnets are useful! ūüôā I got the Hawaiian map magnet from Walmart (I know, I know, but it was the only one I liked) and the other magnets from their respective places. Waikiki Aquarium was small but nice, Diamond Head was a bit of a hike (I’m really not a hiking person) but the views were fantastic, and Hawai’i Volcanoes National Park was one of my favorite places in this entire trip.

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2.¬†A book! Specifically, Archipelago: the Origin and Discovery of the Hawaiian Islands by Dr. Richard Grigg. I love this book! I love well-written history books and I love well-written science books, so a well-written history AND science book is a magical unicorn for me. It mostly explains the science of how the Hawai’ian Islands were formed and how life arrived and evolved on the islands, but the last section deals with how the Polynesians discovered Hawai’i and how people have impacted the islands. I got this from the gift shop of the Pu`uhonua O HŇćnaunau National Historical Park on the Big Island. Tip: items bought in the gift shops of Hawai’i parks help support the parks and don’t get charged sales tax ūüôā

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Six steps for a sustainable Valentine’s Day

Author’s note: I originally wrote this article for our corporate blog but I couldn’t include links to other companies. To remedy that (and also to point people in the right direction), I’m posting the original article with the links to specific service providers here in the Philippines. Hope this helps!
The day of hearts is upon us again and thousands of Filipinos (and their sweethearts) will be joining in the Valentine’s Day festivities. Chocolate, flowers, and cards will fly off the shelves in the frenzy of gift-giving, while tables at the trendiest restaurants will be booked way in advance.¬†But in the haze caused by the heady romance in the air and the hustle and bustle of finding the perfect gift for your sweetie, we tend to forget to show some love for our mother too – Mother Earth. With only a little time and creativity, you can buy or create beautiful gifts that your significant other and the environment will thank you for.

1. Got something to say? Say it with a handmade card made of recycled materials.

Nothing says “I love you” and “I appreciate you” better than a card made with love, and the Earth will love you too if it’s made of recycled materials. If you’re not the crafty type, shops also sell cards made of recycled paper.
Merry Valentine's Day! PC
Cheesy yet effective. And Earth-friendly too!

2. Sweeten the deal with locally-made chocolate.

Give chocolate with a Filipino twist. Theo & Philo sells chocolate made with cacao beans from Davao and sugar from Bacolod, with varieties like Barako (milk chocolate with organic barako coffee), Labuyo (dark chocolate with chili), and Green Mango & Salt (dark chocolate with dried green mangoes and salt). My friend Rima vouches for the deliciousness of their dark chocolate.

organic spring flowers3. Flatter with organic flowers.

Did you know that¬†196 million roses were sold in the United States for Valentine’s Day 2011? It’s the #1 holiday for florists, catching 40% of holiday dollar volume. Unfortunately, most of those roses were imported from South America and grown on farms that use fertilizers and pesticides extensively.¬†Filipinos have it easier as most Philippine florists already grow their flowers locally, usually in Baguio, Tagaytay, or Mindanao.¬†To take it another step further, choose¬†locally¬†and¬†organically grown flowers.

4. Give stuffed animals with more heart.

Consider giving stuffed animals that do more than gather dust on a shelf. By symbolically adopting a giant panda or dolphin plush toy, you help WWF-Philippines raise awareness for endangered animals and habitat conservation, conduct dolphin stranding workshops, and buy dolphin rescue kits. Each adopted animal comes with a customized adoption certificate and species information card.

5. Cooking is caring.Sunday Cooking-6

For a more personal and healthier touch, how about staying in and cooking an organic meal together? It’s more quality time together as a couple, you avoid the (worse than usual) traffic that’s sure to surface on this day, and it’s good for your body¬†and¬†the environment. Perhaps you might even have those locally-made chocolates for dessert!

6. Spend a day outside. 
This can tie in with #5. Cook your organic food early, pack a basket, and picnic in a nature park or other protected area. Your park entrance fees go towards the protection and maintenance of the park and their environmental education initiatives. Both the¬†Ninoy Aquino Parks and Wildlife Center¬†and the¬†La Mesa Ecopark¬†are within Metro Manila and are easily accessible. Other possibilities are the Hundred Islands National Park in Pangasinan and¬†Apo Reef Natural Park in Mindoro Occidental.¬†For the ultimate and Earth-loving romantic getaway, consider a¬†luxury green hotel within the El Nido-Taytay Managed Resource Protected Area. Activities like snorkeling, diving, windsurfing, kayaking, birdwatching, and hiking maximize your enjoyment of nature’s wonders while minimizing your environmental impact. Their¬†partner airline¬†also offers a carbon offset program, where a minimum donation buys six seedlings that¬†will be planted¬†and taken care of in your name in the¬†Brgy. Villa¬†Libertad¬†watershed area.