Mike Loftin is the co-founder of 808 Cleanups a 501(c)(3) environmental nonprofit organization committed to restoring Hawaiʻi’s natural beauty. According to Mike, that entails, cleaning up “everywhere, literally” –hiking trails, roadsides, parks, beaches, parking lots, underwater, litter removal, graffiti removal, illegal dumping removal and invasive plant removal. Loftin came to Hawaii in January 2006 after completing his Peace Corps service in Jamaica working in environmental management at the Montego Bay Marine Park Reserve. After working in Hawaii as a divemaster, and then as a crew lead in the solar industry installing PV systems, he found his way back to stewardship and ecosystem restoration.
Q: What was the genesis of 808 Cleanups?
A: It started very small and the turning point for us at the time (Myself and Wayde, Board of Directors) was an alarming increase in nature tagging at some gorgeous hiking locations. So, our journey began by researching and taking action to remove graffiti tagging from natural surfaces. We were tired of the talk.But very quickly we realized how much litter there was, and illegal dumping, and pallet bonfires leaving nails in the sand. We were truly a Mauka to Makai organization, cleaning everywhere.
Q: Isn’t clean up the job of the City & County? Do you partner with other organizations or local governments?
A: For the most part it really shouldn’t be anyone’s job to clean up after other adults, but here we find ourselves. That being said, someone’s got to do it and there are many proud community members who take action for any number of reasons. City & County have staff to manage parks but as we can see there’s a lot of space and tasks to cover and they can’t solve it all alone. That doesn’t even cover the jurisdictional gray zones where no one can agree to take charge.
I’d love to see that change- where instead of multiple agencies pointing fingers and walking away, they compete with each other to show the most initiative. That’s where 808 Cleanups comes in. If it’s a public space in need of help, we go for it. We believe in positive action without all the roadblocks and gatekeeping. Don’t even wait for us! Everyone should think about taking their own initiatives, and we’ll do our best to support you. I tell people every day, their actions big and small are all significant. We partner with a number of other community groups, organizations and all levels of government where it makes sense to and is productive.
Q: How is your work integrated into the local community?
A: Community members are the heart and soul of 808 Cleanups. There would be no 808 Cleanups without the community, and we are here to serve everyone and also grow and progress together. We are all interconnected, and there are lessons of the past and present to study to prepare us all for the future. Together we can make the islands the best they can be- that means clean, safe and strong communities for everyone. That’s a natural right. To make that happen, we all need to take responsibility to make that happen. It isn’t going to get handed to us, and it shouldn’t fall onto the shoulders of the few. We also need to look big picture at how we get there. At 808 Cleanups we see the connections across space and time.
The importance of Hawaiian people, culture, practices, knowledge is central to our organization. Several years ago, Kimenona Kane, a respected Hawaiian practitioner, joined 808Cleanups to help expand our activities. For example, he is currently helping us restore Puʻu o Kaimuki, a park that was once the site of a heiau. Kimeona’s huge efforts as a kumu to bring these practices to life. Litter and graffiti removal was only the beginning for us- we’ll have native plants return, fishponds return to function, coral reefs restored and sea levels stabilized. Team work both here and worldwide will get us there.
Q: How do you fund yourselves? Do you have sponsors?
Right now we receive about 14% of our revenue from individual and employee workplace donations, 6% from business donations, and 80% from grants. My top priority this year has been to diversify our funding, that includes writing grants every month as well as looking to how we could expand our revenues. We have some ideas on the table that we hope to test out this coming year. Regarding sponsors, we’ve had the greatest success with folks who know us, participate with us and follow our work thoroughly. In addition to funding, I tell everyone, your most valuable contribution is your TIME! Mahalo nui to everyone who donates any amount of money and time- it makes a huge difference to everyone, believe it!
Q: If I want to be a volunteer, how do I get involved?
A: 808cleanups.org is the one stop shop for our events calendar and information on our Adopt a Site program! We even have our own free app that’s available for Apple and Android. What’s great is you can track all your volunteer hours in your app’s portfolio, get exact GPS pins on cleanup locations, and find other volunteers and projects in your area!
Q: Anything else you care to add?
I just want to thank everyone out there who has supported us through thick and thin. We’re working harder than ever through the pandemic and that is in large part thanks to all of you both financially and for donating your time! Many of you want to stay active and give back, and that’s why 808 Cleanups is giving more events and support to you than ever before. Let’s keep up the great work!
Robert F. Kay is a business columnist for the Honolulu Star Advertise is the author of two Lonely Planet guidebooks and Fijiguide.com.