Kirsten Whatley

Sarah Pacheco
Wednesday - December 10, 2008
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Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past year, you’ve probably noticed the ways everyone seems to be going green. But one persistent problem remains: Most people are still a little unsure of how to help save the planet beyond separating their trash or toting a reusable grocery bag.

That’s where Kirsten Whatley and her new book Preserving Paradise: Opportunities in Volunteering for Hawaii’s Environment come to the rescue. The comprehensive 164-page, go-to resource features short-term volunteer work on all of the Hawaiian Islands. All projects are free to join and most last one day or less. It’s what Whatley calls “a perfect solution to our busy lives.”

“I wanted to offer people a way to experience the wild places of our Islands that didn’t destroy those places, because even our presence, no matter how lightly we walk, has an impact,” she explains. “We need to make sure that impact is a positive one, which we can do by giving back to it.”

Perhaps the most novel part of this whole project is it offers a wide variety of opportunities for both locals and tourists alike to experience the Islands in a new, eco-friendly light. Of the 65 organizations mentioned in the book, there are 20 programs on Oahu sure to please even the most finicky of volunteers. Included is the Manoa Cliff Trail Project, a twice monthly native forest restoration project perfect for groups; the Surfrider Foundation-Oahu, where volunteers can choose to lead surf mentor-ships or help with beach cleanups and fundraising activities; and Malama Na Honu, one of the few year-round programs mentioned in the book, that trains volunteers to become protectors and public advocates for the green sea turtle population on the North Shore.

The California transplant now lives in East Maui with her husband Rick Rutiz, and spends her time helping Hawaii’s “real heroes” save the world.

“You might not think that one person pulling weeds for a day - or picking up trash on the beach or planting a few trees - is going to make a difference in the big picture. But what happens is when you’re working with a team of five, 10, 20 volunteers, what you can accomplish together is magic. It’s the real-life meaning of laulima (many hands working together).”

Preserving Paradise: Opportunities in Volunteering for Hawaii’s Environment is available at Borders, Barnes & Noble and all other major bookstores throughout Hawaii and the Mainland. For more information or to get in touch with Whatley, go to


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