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Creating solutions for SDG 12 (Responsible Consumption and Production) and SDG 14 (Life Under Water)

Hawaii receives plastic debris from around the world due to circulating ocean currents including the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Contamination in sensitive marine environments threatens marine life, marine industries, and tourism.

Microplastics have been found in humans and animals around the world and are likely to have adverse health impacts. Spanning a wide spectrum of size, shape, and material, microplastics and nanoplastics are difficult to identify and control.

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The ecosystem of organizations currently working and invested in this space is critical to the success of new ideas. UNLEASH Hacks USA - Hawaii is proud to have the support of the following organizations.

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UNLEASH is a global innovation lab for the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). The lab gathers talented youth to solve some of our world’s most critical challenges. The first UNLEASH Hacks were held around the world in 2020 to develop SDG solutions. 

UNLEASH Hacks are independently organized events with support from the UNLEASH Secretariat. In 2020, the USA Hack focused on solutions for homelessness in the San Francisco Bay Area. In 2021, the USA Hack focused on wastewater solutions in the Alabama Black Belt.

During the Hacks, participants go through an immersive innovation process facilitated by UNLEASH-trained facilitators and collaborate on solutions that solve important challenges in their local communities. They learn from experts and members of their community to ensure the novel ideas are truly fit for the people most in need.

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About the Problem

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July 2020 - The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has found the waters around Hawaii’s Kamilo Beach and Tern Island to be impaired by plastic pollution and ordered state officials to take corrective actions under the Clean Water Act.

In this episode, we’re learning about marine debris—the problems and issues as well as what our island communities are doing to combat the problem. We’ll visit the James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, a grass-roots micro plastic clean-up effort on Kauai, and the Honolulu based Nets-to-Energy program. We talk with the NOAA Pacific Islands Marine Debris Regional Coordinator, Surfrider, Ocean Friendly Restaurants, Kōkua Hawaiʻi Foundation, and Mālama Learning Center about the efforts we can all take as individuals to help stop marine debris.

People can post a picture or video of them sifting through the sand to win hotel tickets to Turtle Bay, and Outrigger, and they can also win a membership to the Bishop Museum.
Until June 3, you can post a picture of you sifting through microplastics at Hawaii beaches using the hashtag #siftfortheoceans.


Organizing Team



Innovation Program Manager, The Water Research Foundation
2022 UNLEASH Ambassador



Associate Specialist, Society for Science



Senior Manager, Water Science & Engineering Center, Water Environment Federation



Recent Ph.D. Grad, North Carolina State University



Program Associate in the Inclusive STEM Ecosystems for Equity & Diversity, The American Association for the Advancement of Science

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Government Relations Manager for the National Ocean Protection Coalition, Resources Legacy Fund

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Do I apply as a team or an individual?

Participants must apply individually. Teams will be formed prior to the hack based on the skills and backgrounds provided in the applications. Participants will work as part of the assigned team for the duration of the Hack.

The age range for Talents is advertised as "20-35" and I fall outside those boundaries, can I still apply? 

Yes! We are looking for applicants who are passionate about propelling the Sustainable Development Goals and have a desire to help develop solutions. 

Do I need to have prior experience in the specific hack topic or with the innovation process?

While familiarity and experience with the topic is a plus, it is not required in order to apply. Prior knowledge of the UNLEASH structured innovation process is not required. 

Does it cost anything to apply or attend the UNLEASH USA Hack?

No, it costs nothing to apply or attend the UNLEASH USA Hack. If selected, participants will only need access to a computer and internet.

Do I need to be a current or former resident of Hawaii in order to apply for the UNLEASH USA Hack?

No, you do not need to be a current or former resident of Hawaii in order to apply. Participants from across North America are welcome to apply.


Will I meet my team prior to the actual hack? 

Participants will be provided the opportunity to meet their team members prior to the hack. 

What tools do I need to participate in the Hack?

Given software and platform limitations, we recommend using a laptop or desktop computer during the 2 days of the Hack. Dialing in from your phone will take away from the visual content and your ability to partake in the event. 

You should also have relatively stable internet connectivity in order to ensure that your participation with your team members is as continuous as possible.

How much time should I expect to dedicate to the Hack between April 23 and April 30?

The formal program will run approximately 7am-4pm Hawaii time (12-9pm EST) on April 23 and 30. Expect to spend time working with your team in the intervening week.

What does a “Problem-Solving” hack mean? 

Problem-Solving is arguably the most important part of the structured innovation process. Participants will investigate issues by framing and researching both man-made and natural ecosystems. Participants will dive deep to develop solutions anchored in their well-rounded understanding of the problem. Learn more about UNLEASH here.


Are there partnership and/or sponsorship opportunities for this event? 

Absolutely! We are interested in partnering with organizations that share our hope of providing tangible and meaningful solutions to this community. Please email with “Partnership” in the subject line. We would love to schedule a time to speak with you. 

I am an expert in the Hack topic. How can I get involved?

Experts are critical to supporting participants as they develop solutions. We would love to include you as a mentor to the Hack teams during April 23 and/or 30, or to host office hours during the intervening week. Please email with "Expert" in the subject line.

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