Matt Lane works at the Peter Lik Gallery in Lahaina. But 12 years ago, when he was a server at Hard Rock Cafe just up the street, he organized the first Lahaina Town Clean Up. Saturday, Sept. 24 will see this year’s clean up, which has ballooned from a modest gathering of Lane and his trash bag-wielding friends into a well-funded, extensively sponsored event that enjoys tremendous support across Maui.
“This year’s clean up includes all the beaches, both boat harbors, and streets of Lahaina Town all the way from Puamana to Mala Ramp,” states the official event news release. “This event has taken place for 12 years in collaboration with Malama Maui Nui and the Hui O wa‘a Kaulua, making it not only one of the largest, but one of the most successful ongoing town cleanups in Hawaii.”
On Wednesday, Sept. 14, I spoke with Lane by phone about why he started the annual clean-up and where he intends to go from here.
MAUITIME: So what is the Lahaina Town Clean Up exact?
MATT LANE: It’s a community clean up. Grassroots. Your friends and family get together to take care of the neighborhood. Lahaina is a big neighborhood, so it helps to get a lot of people. We have so many people already–250 people already committed. There could be 400 to 500 people there–we’ve had that many before.
MT: What’s your role in the thing?
ML: I’m just a facilitator–I help everyone get together. Yeah, I’m the founder, but we’re just creating a model for everyone. The Lahaina Yacht Club wanted to clean up Mala; the Rotary Club was doing a clean up. It was perfect timing. Everyone’s already working on their individual efforts. Everyone’s just coming together.
MT: Who else is helping you?
ML: Magen Schifiliti with Trilogy, Sandy Schneider with the Rotary Club Lahaina Sunset, Andrew O’Riordan with Surfrider Foundation, Kristin McFarland with Maui Surf Clinics, Lahaina Harbor Master Miles Lopes, Javier Barberi of Down the Hatch, Christy Kozama of Malama Maui Nui and Keahi Ho of Lahaina Yacht Club.
MT: Why is this clean up necessary?
ML: A lot of waste accumulates, but education is important. Just picking things up makes you think about trash, about how you consume. You become conscious of how people treat the world as their ashtray. I’d prefer to not be cleaning up. I’d like to just be proactive–put up signs, do stenciling, hold workshops. We just can’t keep cleaning up the beaches. It’s better to do preventative measures.
MT: Have you seen any progress through the years?
ML: Over the last 12 years, the town’s a lot cleaner, for real. One year, we took 10 dump truckloads out of Moku‘ula. We’ve cleared multiple 40-yard dumpsters. It’s been a really good effort. Stuff that was out there five, 10 years ago isn’t coming back.
The County of Maui’s been good about picking up white goods–washers, dryers, etc.–so there are a lot less of those. And Malama Maui Nui has played a huge part in this. They facilitate all the community organizations doing clean ups, making it very easy for us.
MT: Why did you start this?
ML: I was walking down to the beach to surf with my friends in Lahaina. They really cared about how we treated the land. We talked about cleaning it, and I said let’s do it. It was their idea, and they all helped.
MT: What was it like that first year?
ML: We all just showed up with garbage bags. We gave away some boards at Hard Rock after. There were 80 to 90 volunteers.
MT: What did you learn from those first few years?
ML: We learned that having less waste cans around Front Street is actually better than having a lot of cans. People hold onto things, and throw away less if there aren’t a lot of cans around. Also, cigarette butts are our number one trash item.
MT: I was going to ask you what you’ve picked up the most.
ML: Cigarettes. That and bottle caps. Since the plastic bag ban went into effect, there has been tons less waste. We used to find hundreds of bags, but they’re just not there anymore.
MT: What else have you learned?
ML: That coming together as a community is really powerful. It’s wild to see kids grow up, in college now, and still participating. They’re not going to waste like we do.
MT: How do recent years compare to that first clean up 12 years ago?
ML: The participation–it’s incredible. We already have groups going down there, forming their own clean ups. There’s also a lot less garbage on the beaches today. It’s easier for us to clean up now so we can do stuff like preventative drain stenciling. Before, we just didn’t have the time.
ML: Yeah, the county wants us to measure the storm drains. We’re making a map of where all the drains are. Nobody’s done that in a really long time.
MT: I also noticed that your volunteers do data collection. What’s that?
ML: It’s part of the International Coastal Cleanup–the ICC. As people pick up trash, they record data on these cards.
MT: Such as?
ML: What are we picking up? How many cigarette butts are we picking up? How many plastic bags are we finding? Are there animals?
MT: Ok, so someone signs up to participate. What should he or she expect?
ML: They should bring a water bottle. They will come in the morning. Everyone will be put into groups. They’ll get gloves, maps and be assigned a route leader. The first objective will be Mala Ramp. Eight to 10 boating companies will help clean it up as well. Rotary will work on the tennis courts across from 505 Front Street. And one group will meet up with Trilogy and clean up the harbor. Then everyone fills out their ICC data cards. There will be some gifts–t-shirts, hats–and lunch will come from Pacific’O.
MT: That’s a lot.
ML: We’ll also be doing a bag-less clean up. We’ll be using reusable sacks provided by Maui Brewing Company. We’ve never had a clean up before where we didn’t use trash bags.
MT: Ok, for my last question, I noticed in your email signature that you’re part of something called Cultivate Media. What is that?
ML: That’s something that started with Community Work Day. We helped put together school gardens. All projects I do now fall into that. Putting on concerts, consulting–it’s all about cultivating relationships and the people around me.
ML: When I went on tour with Jack Johnson, I talked to venue owners. It makes sense to have water stations instead of having people use water bottles. It also makes sense to use local food and beers. We’re trying to change music venues around the world. I’ve been working on this for four years. I want to do music events that help change the way we consume.
For more information on the Lahaina Town Clean Up, contact Maui Surf Clinics at 808-244-SURF or click here.
CLEAN UP SCHEDULE
8-9am: Sign in at one of the Surfrider/Malama Maui Nui tents, located at Kamehameha Iki Park (next to the 505 Front Street) and Mala Ramp Coffee and Snacks
8am: Clean Up begins at Mala with the Lahaina Yacht Club, local boating companies, the Department of Land and Natural Resources and Maui Parks Department
8am: Diving Group meets at Kamehameha Iki Park to get assigned to leaders for both boat harbors
8-8:45am: Free Yoga with Passion of Movement Kamehameha Iki Park
9am: Clean Up begins. Volunteers head to Mala Ramp through town, assisted by all three Rotary Clubs of Lahaina, designated group leaders and Trilogy’s Blue Aina Clean Up, which will head to the Lahaina Harbor Clean Up
Noon: Lunch will be free, provided by Pacific’O, in Kamehameha Iki Park
1pm: Clean Up ends