Science

Hawaiian eco-entrepreneur unites people to fix the Big Island’s massive cardboard problem

He found a clever way to make use of climate-destroying cardboard.

evan lam, circlepack, hawaii recycling

Evan Lam is working to fix Hawaii's big recycling problem.

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The United States generates an incredible amount of paper and cardboard waste every year. The most recent EPA statistics from 2018 found that Americans throw away 67.4 million tons of paper and paperboard a year. Sixty-eight percent of it is recycled, with the remainder being dumped in landfills.

Cardboard will eventually deteriorate in a landfill but as it degrades it creates methane gas, one of the largest contributors to climate change. While carbon-trapping trees are one of the biggest ways to combat climate change, over a billion of them are chopped down every year to meet the country’s ever-growing cardboard demands.

In Hawaii, cardboard waste is an even greater contributor to climate change because the state lacks adequate recycling facilities. So, all of the country’s recycled cardboard is packaged and shipped five thousand miles to Thailand to be reprocessed.

Twenty-nine-year-old Evan Lam is improving the cardboard problem on Hawaii’s Big Island by upcycling the material into useful products that keep it on the island. He sees his work as part of a larger, global trend.



“One of the biggest responses that I see happening kind of all over the world, and here in Hawaii, is localization,” Lam told Eco Watch. “The more that we can do and process and take care of things at a local or regional level that’s kind of geographically bounded, the further we can get in just eliminating sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Lam created CirclePack in 2020 to make better use of the Big Island’s cardboard waste. The company travels to partner organizations throughout the island where people drop off clean cardboard that is shredded on-site by volunteers. The cardboard is repurposed into a flexible, perforated mat or smaller pieces of confetti.

The confetti cardboard can be used as sustainable packing supplies, animal bedding, compostable mailers, and garden or farm mulch.

The mesh cardboard is used by farmers as a mulching to kill invasive plant species. It also works as an organic weed cover and provides a home for worms in a vermicompost. Vermicomposting uses worms to convert biodegradable waste into organic manure.

As of April 2022, CirclePack has shredded 23,534 pounds of cardboard in just over a year of operation.

Lam says that Facebook and Instagram are invaluable tools to help him connect with community groups, volunteers, and environmentally conscious people. “Instagram has connected CirclePack with both community organizations and emerging businesses who prioritize and invest in sustainability. Facebook Groups particularly have helped us connect with community members who volunteer and bring cardboard to our community shred days,” Lam told Upworthy.

Lam’s work is further proof that digital communities can have a tangible impact on local ecosystems. “I post about our community shred days in local Facebook groups and people just show up,” he added.

Lam believes that our ever-growing cardboard use and the supply chain that moves it around the world is unsustainable. “The growth of online shopping will probably increase the use of cardboard. It's a system that needs to change, the global consumption of paper fiber is generally always increasing and we now live in a world where social, political and environmental issues are converging. We can't continue on this pathway and not expect to experience some sort of disaster,” he told Upworthy.

“The fact that my cardboard probably comes to Hawaii from Canada and ends up being recycled in Taiwan and then can be shipped back to Los Angeles to deliver cotton from China and pears from Argentina is surreal,” Lam added. “Who is making these decisions and benefiting from them?”

There’s no end in sight for cardboard consumption, so Lam hopes to share what he’s learned from CirclePack with other like-minded eco-entrepreneurs. “I would like to inspire and inform people how to act in their own communities,” he told Upworthy. “I want people to replicate and use whatever parts of this program to fit their needs where they are. It doesn't have to be complicated, big, or newsworthy to start doing the new, necessary things to benefit people and the places they live.”

Joy

Meet Eva, the hero dog who risked her life saving her owner from a mountain lion

Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva when a mountain lion suddenly appeared.

Photo by Didssph on Unsplash

A sweet face and fierce loyalty: Belgian Malinois defends owner.

The Belgian Malinois is a special breed of dog. It's highly intelligent, extremely athletic and needs a ton of interaction. While these attributes make the Belgian Malinois the perfect dog for police and military work, they can be a bit of a handful as a typical pet.

As Belgian Malinois owner Erin Wilson jokingly told NPR, they’re basically "a German shepherd on steroids or crack or cocaine.”

It was her Malinois Eva’s natural drive, however, that ended up saving Wilson’s life.

According to a news release from the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, Wilson had been walking down a path with Eva slightly ahead of her when a mountain lion suddenly appeared and swiped Wilson across the left shoulder. She quickly yelled Eva’s name and the dog’s instincts kicked in immediately. Eva rushed in to defend her owner.

It wasn’t long, though, before the mountain lion won the upper hand, much to Wilson’s horror.

She told TODAY, “They fought for a couple seconds, and then I heard her start crying. That’s when the cat latched on to her skull.”

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"I thought I was gonna walk across the stage to get my degree, instead I got my baby," Sayles tweeted, along with a series of photos. "My sweet face decided to make his way on MY big day (now his). Shoutout to my university for still bringing my graduation and degree to me."

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Sandy Hook school shooting survivors are growing up and telling us what they've experienced.

This story originally appeared on 12.15.21


Imagine being 6 years old, sitting in your classroom in an idyllic small town, when you start hearing gunshots. Your teacher tries to sound calm, but you hear the fear in her voice as she tells you to go hide in your cubby. She says, "be quiet as a mouse," but the sobs of your classmates ring in your ears. In four minutes, you hear more than 150 gunshots.

You're in the first grade. You wholeheartedly believe in Santa Claus and magic. You're excited about losing your front teeth. Your parents still prescreen PG-rated films so they can prepare you for things that might be scary in them.

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