An Environmentalist Runs For A Cause

Lindy Shapiro runs and bikes across Hawaii in 30 days for a cause PHOTO COURTESY AMY JENKINS

Lindy Shapiro runs and bikes across Hawaii in 30 days for a cause PHOTO COURTESY AMY JENKINS

No planes, trains or automobiles for this Hawaii environmentalist. She is on a mission on foot and subscribes to the saying, “It’s not how fast you run but how long you run fast.”

For Lindy Shapiro, it’s more than just speed. It’s all about the cause that gives her the energy to run an unprecedented marathon.

Shapiro is determined to reduce Hawaii’s plastic footprint. She is running and biking throughout the Islands, covering some 750 miles in a span of 31 days, to launch a school-based conservation initiative.

The project is “Bottles for Change” or B4C, a program aimed at challenging keiki to look out for floating plastics in waters off our beaches.

“The initiative encourages children to reduce their use of plastic by not buying plastic bottled beverages. We are empowering them to be the ambassadors for change and having a huge, positive impact on our environment,” explains Shapiro.

Her running statewide is in response to a new study that shows there are more than 250,000 tons of plastic worldwide floating in oceans that are destroying marine habitat.

“This leads to the contamination of our water and food supply. It’s a global issue, and I strongly believe the best chance we have for sustainable change is by educating our youths,” she says.

Shapiro is an award-winning author and educator who lives on Maui with her husband and their two beautiful children.

In 2006, she founded Bodhi Education, a nonprofit organization that promotes awareness of the human experience and understanding of cultures, allowing people to connect with their world and, in turn, share the responsibilities for taking care of it. Her approach to education is to highlight issues and inspire Hawaii’s youths to take a stand.

“My monthlong coastal expedition around the state has never been done before,” she says.

Shapiro’s remarkable journey, called “holoHI” (“holo” in Hawaiian means to run or ride on, and HI stands for Hawaii) was launched just before sunrise Jan. 18 in Hilo.

She already has made her trek through Lanai, Molokai and Oahu, and is en route to the Garden and Valley isles.

“My journey will culminate with a celebration slated for Feb. 17 in Paia, Maui. I have and will continue to visit local schools to connect and launch this unique, student-led conservation project,” she explains. “Children are beautifully relentless and have the potential to inspire us all to change, to grow and to come together as a community.”

Through collaboration with Hawaii Wildlife Fund, Island Air, LifeFoods and other local organizations, B4C will conduct school and community presentations to increase awareness regarding the impact of plastics on land and ocean environments.

The program encourages youth participation in a “program challenge.” It is Shapiro’s wish that holoHI will continue to inspire others to support her mission.

Here’s how the challenge works: Participating students begin by finding an empty plastic bottle that has been abandoned or is headed for the landfill.

“This first bottle becomes each student’s ‘Bottle for Change,'” she explains. “Every time they or someone they know chooses not to buy a plastic bottled beverage and instead uses an environmentally friendly alternative, they put the money saved into their ‘change fund.’ Once their bottle is filled with $20 in loose change, the money saved becomes the fuel for continued environmental outreach programming.”

Shapiro’s plan encourages all schools to perpetuate and expand her program in their own way.

In addition to the program’s “change funds,” participating students receive “bottle points” for a raffle every time they volunteer at Hawaii Wildlife Fund or other B4C beach-cleanup events. Schools that complete the “B4C challenge” will receive free environmental educational outreach programming, supplemental materials and will be recognized on the Bottles for Change website.

Shapiro says this is just one example of the type of youth leadership and educational outreach programs that her nonprofit group offers. The ultimate goal is to build and sustain a leadership academy for integrated arts and sciences in Hawaii, with a strong emphasis on the environment.

Bodhi Education also plans to continue creating inspired educational and environmental programs similar to Bottles for Change that will empower youth leadership to embrace positive, sustainable change statewide.

For more information on the Bodhi Education Project, visit Lindy Shapiro is inspired daily by the children she teaches. The Maui resident is an avid runner through rain, shine, hills, flats, and even in sickness and in health.

“If you give me a day, I’ll find a way to run before the end of it. I don’t necessarily run super fast, but I manage to keep my feet untangled and find my way home. In the end, that’s all that really matters.”

Shapiro is here for the long run and continues to work toward solutions to solve challenges facing the environment today — one step at a time.