Kailua Girls’ Heroic Cigarette Butt Battle

Digging through buckets of sand for cigarette butts has just earned a Kailua girls school the title of Children and Youth Day Hero. Now in its fourth year, Huakailani School’s “Plant Your Butts Here” project was honored with Wyland-designed medals at a CYD awards luncheon Oct. 11 in Honolulu.

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Huakailani School won the Environmental Heroes award Oct. 11 from Children and Youth Day Heroes at Dole Cannery. Accepting the award and medals for the entire school were (from left) Kim and Isabella Kirschner, Leilani Moran, Mei Ling Dominques, Siena Settle, Scarlett Trotti, Keiko Akamine, Aleah Webb, Alisha Colton, Gemma Trotti, (front) Allysha Angeles, (back) Kaori Brown and Emily Camacho. Photos from Kaori Brown.

Wanting to rid Kailua of the toxins and the unsightly mess left from discarded cigarette butts, the initial group of second-graders decorated seven sand-filled flower pots in 2010 and placed them around the town at convenient spots for smokers. Today they maintain 25 colorful planters that are considered landmarks around the community.

But wait, there’s more.

Through diligent monitoring, sorting and counting, the girls estimate that they have kept more than 17,000 cigarette butts from entering the local ecosystem. According to school director and teacher Kaori Brown, the project has cut the number of littering butts in half, from 4,000 a year in 2010, to 2,000 in 2013.

“They not only continuously monitor and replace old planters and add new ones,” Brown explained, “they personally go around and clean out the planters on a weekly basis and remove improperly disposed butts from the area four times a year (with the help of the entire school).

“These girls have stayed 100 percent committed to their program and continue to be the change they wish to see.”

The inaugural CYD Heroes program, chaired by Angela Pratt, Johnny Kai and Dr. Lawrence Tseu, seeks to recognize children, teens and youth groups “for being compassionate, supportive, courageous and outstanding citizens.”