Triple Crown Diversion

November 18th, 2015

Some keiki have fun while helping to diver waste at the Reef Hawaiian Pro last November at Vans Triple Crown. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is helping to divert waste from the international surf event for the third year. Courtesy photo.

Some keiki have fun while helping to divert waste at the Reef Hawaiian Pro last November at Vans Triple Crown. Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is helping to divert waste from the international surf event for the third year.
Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Where there are major events and a gathering of crowds, there is waste.

For the third year in a row, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is playing a major role in reducing the impacts of waste on the land and ocean from Vans Triple Crown of Surfing events, which run from Nov. 12 to Dec. 8.

"We work together to minimize the effects that the competition has on our waste infrastructure by diverting as many resources as possible away from the landfill and encouraging composting and recycling," said Kahi Pacarro, executive director of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. "This past year, we were able to divert 60 percent of all debris that would have otherwise ended up getting wasted."

What that means is that staff and volunteers from Sustainable Coastlines will divert waste from the events with the following comprehensive waste diversion strategies:

>> Recycle and compost. Pop-up tents that separate recyclables and compostables from trash. The compostable items (food waste) will be processed at Waiehuna Farm, where it will undergo a bokashi fermenting process using effective microorganisms and then be transferred to the soil. Recyclables will be donated to local families. Trash will be sent to H-Power.

>> Reuse. Contestants and staff members will all be given a reusable water bottle that can be refilled at water stations instead of plastic water bottles.

>> Educate. This year, Sustainable Coastlines is launching an Education Station, a mobile classroom in a 20-foot container just in time for the Pipeline event. The station is a fun way to educate the public, including keiki, about marine debris and waste.

During the competition last year, Sustainable Coastline's efforts collected a total of 1,402 pounds of recyclables, compostables and trash.

It's possible to hold a large event while minimizing waste if the promoter or event producer is on board according to Pacarro.

Vans Triple Crown 2015 is very much on board. It's designated as a Deep Blue Surfing Event, which means it is required to divert waste from the landfill, utilize renewable energy to power the contest and webcast and support local community groups and charities. An HIC Pro Beach Cleanup was held Nov. 7 at Mokuleia's Army Beach.

The Vans Triple Crown of Surfing kicked off its 33rd year Nov. 12 with the Reef Hawaiian Pro, followed by the Vans World Cup of Surfing Nov. 24, and the Billabong Pipe Masters on Dec. 8, where the Vans Triple Crown and World Surfing League World Champion will be crowned.


Diverting waste from Vans Triple Crown. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Diverting waste from Vans Triple Crown. Courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Surfer Kelly Slater in front of the waste diversion pop-up tent. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

Surfer Kelly Slater in front of the waste diversion pop-up tent. Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.


Every Kid in a Park Hawaii

November 12th, 2015


Every fourth-grader in Hawaii should have the opportunity to visit national parks under the Every Kid in a Park Program, thanks to a $100,000 donation for field trip grants from the Kokua Hawai‘i Foundation.

The Every Kid in a Park initiative, which President Barack Obama announced earlier this year as a way for young people to connect with the outdoors, allows every fourth-grader nationwide to obtain a free pass for entry to more than 2,000 federally  managed lands and waters nationwide for a year, starting Sept. 1, 2015.

"Thanks to Jack Johnson's generous support and commitment to conservation, Hawaii's fourth-graders will be able to visit the federal lands in their backyards," said Deputy Secretary Michael Connor in a press release. "Through new and innovative partnerships like the one with the Kokua Hawaii Foundation, we're helping as many fourth-graders as possible to get outside and build connections with their public lands and waters."

The Foundation, run by singer Jack Johnson and his wife, Kim Johnson, aims to reach all 17,000 fourth-grade students in the state of Hawaii. The partnership between the Foundation, U.S. Forest Service and U.S. Department of the Interior's National Park Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service was announced at a celebration at James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge on Oahu's North Shore this morning.

James Campbell National Wildlife Refuge, managed by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, features wetland habitat that is home to four of Hawaii's endemic water birds, all of which are listed as endangered species. It is also a site where tons of marine debris from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch washes ashore.

New home for chicks

November 4th, 2015


Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

Endangered Petrel chick. Photo by Andre Raine/Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project.

A total of 10 endangered Hawaiian Petrel chicks now have a new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge on Kauai, thanks to humans who care.

The chicks were flown by helicopter from their montane nesting area to a new colony protected by a predator-proof fence at the refuge as part of a historic translocation project more than 30 years in the making, according to the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources.

More than a dozen people were involved in the translocation as part of a collaboration between the American Bird Conservancy, DLNR, the Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project, Pacific Rim Conservation and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Early in the morning, two teams embarked on to the mountain peaks in the Hono O Na Pali Natural Area Reserve. They were dropped by helicopter so they could locate 10 nest burrows that DLNR had been monitoring throughout the breeding season — each with a large, healthy chick.

The chicks were carefully removed by hand, according to DLNR, and placed into pet carriers, then hiked to the tops of the peaks where helicopters picked them up. The chicks' holding boxes were even seat-belted to ensure their safety. They were flown to Princeville Airport where an animal care team assessed their health, then driven to the 7.8-acre Nikoku area at the Refuge, their new home.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

The petrel chicks were carried by hand in carriers to a helicopter. Photo by Eric Venderwerf/Pacific Rim Conservation.

Michael Mitchell, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service's acting Kauai National Wildlife Refuge complex project leader said the translocation will establish a new, predator-free colony of the endangered Hawaiian Petrel to help prevent the extirpation of the species from Kauai.

"Petrels, like many other native Hawaiian species, are facing tremendous challenges with shrinking habitat and the onslaught of invasive species," he said. "Translocating the birds to Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge ensures that this colony of birds will be protected for our children and our children's children."

Endangered Hawaiian Petrels, or ‘Ua‘u, are one of two seabird species endemic to the Hawaiian islands and found nowhere else on Earth. Their population decline is caused by introduced predators, including cats, rats and pigs, as well as collisions with man-made structures during their nocturnal flights from breeding colonies in the mountains to the ocean, where they search for food.

Petrel chicks imprint on their birth colony the first time they emerge from their burrows and see the night sky, and typically return to breed at the same colony as adults. So these chicks are expected to emerge from their next boxes and return to Nihoku as adults. They will be hand-fed a slurry of fish and squid and monitored until they are ready to leave their new nest burrows and fly out to sea.

Next, the state is hoping to translocate a colony of Newell's Shearwaters to predator-proof locations.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

The petrel chicks at their new home. Photo by Ann Bell/U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Related video courtesy Hawaii DLNR and American Bird Conservancy:

Hawaiian blessing of the chicks' new home at Kilauea Point National Wildlife Refuge


NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest

October 22nd, 2015



Artwork of a Hawaiian monk seal among marine debris by Jacqueline Le of Hawaii. One of the winners from the 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest (to be featured in the 2016 calendar).

It's time again for the NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest, which opened on Tuesday, Oct. 20. All students from Kindergarten through 8th grade from U.S. states and territories are eligible to participate.

The deadline for entries (form here) is Nov. 30. Winners will be featured in the 2017 Marine Debris Calendar.

The phrase "marine debris" sometimes draws a blank stare — it's a formal name for basically, trash, or things that don't belong in the ocean. Examples include plastic wrap, plastic forks and spoons, plastic toys, metals takeout lunch waste, pieces of rope, plastic bags, paper napkins, derelict fishing gear and other items, which are prevalent from the ocean floor to the surface.

The five most common items tallied by the International Coastal Cleanup: plastic cigarette butts, plastic food wrappers, plastic beverage bottles, plastic bottle caps and plastic straws.

NOAA defines it as "any persistent solid material that is manufactured or processed and directly or indirectly, intentionally or unintentionally, disposed of or abandoned into the marine environment or the Great Lakes. It is a global problem, and it is an everyday problem. There is no part of the world left untouched by debris and its impacts. Marine debris is a threat to our environment, navigation safety, the economy and human health."

Where does it come from? Basically, humans (visiting the beach, leaving litter by sewers and throwing trash off of fishing boats). But every person has the power and ability to prevent it. Preventing the trash from entering the ocean in the first place is a good step.

Watch this video for an introduction to marine debris, where it comes from and solutions:

Here's a look at winners from 2015, which were just announced for 2016 calendar. A finalist from Hawaii has been chosen since the contest started in 2010, originally in the isles, before it expanded nationwide.


Artwork by Claire, California. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.


Artwork by Madison, Hawaii. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.

Artwork by Madison, Hawaii. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.


Artwork by Gautham K., California. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.


Artwork by Elizabeth, Florida. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.

Artwork by Elizabeth, Florida. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.

Artwork by Ryan, Michigan. 2015 Marine Debris Art Contest winner.

Artwork by Ryan, Michigan. 2015 NOAA Marine Debris Art Contest winner.


Seven monk seals

October 16th, 2015

Kilo, the Hawaiian monk seal that NOAA rescued from Niihau, resting on an ohia log at Ke Kai Ola. Photo courtesy The Marine Mammal Center. NOAA Permit No. 18786.

Kilo, the Hawaiian monk seal that NOAA rescued from Niihau, resting on an ohia log at Ke Kai Ola. Photo courtesy The Marine Mammal Center. NOAA Permit No. 18786.

Ke Kai Ola, the Hawaiian monk seal hospital run by The Marine Mammal Center at NELHA in Kona, is rehabilitating seven seals.

The hospital has successfully rehabilitated and released eight seal patients over the past year, mostly malnourished pups from the Northwestern Hawaiian islands, or Papahanaumokuakea, that would otherwise had little chance of survival. The monk seal population at Papahanaumokuakea is in decline primarily due to poor juvenile survival — fewer than one in five survive their first year due to marine debris entanglement, predators and starvation.

Most recently, NOAA returned Pearl and Hermes to the atolls where they were found. Pearl and Hermes were pre-weaned pups that were able to pretty much double their weight at Ke Kai Ola. They were healthy enough for release after just four months.

Fewer than 1,100 Hawaiian monk seals remain in Hawaii. While the majority reside in the more remote isles of Papahanaumokuakea, a growing number of pups are being born in the main Hawaiian isles, which is home to between 150 to 200 seals. However, NOAA's Hawaiian Monk Seal Research team recently surveyed monk seal breeding sites along the 1,200-mile archipelago and found that 148 pups were born in Papahanaumokuakea this year, up 22 percent from 2014.

While Pearl and Hermes were transported back home (see pics below) aboard the Oscar Elton Sette, the team rescued six new patients — five female pups and one juvenile female — and transported them back to Ke Kai Ola. The team also rescued Kilo, a female monk seal pup found earlier on the island of Niihau. For the first time, all four of the pool pens at Ke Kai Ola are full.

For further depth and details on the journey, read the wonderfully descriptive and humorous Kim Rogers' Malama Monk Seal blog series, which will take you on the trip and get you acquainted with the remote isles and each seal.

"All of our research cruises have seals on them now — either seals headed to Kona for rehabilitation or headed back home fat, healthy and ready for their return to the wild," said NOAA's monk seal research scientist Charles Littnan. "This hospital and our ship-turned-ambulance means new hope for monk seals."

Current monk seal patients at Ke Kai Kola include:

>> Kilo (pictured above). Female pup and the first from the main Hawaiian islands at Ke Kai Ola. Her name means "sassy." She is doing well, and while she's still being tube fed, she's starting to show an interest in whole fish, which is a positive sign.

>> Ama‘ama, a female pup named for the French Frigate Shoals where she was born.

>> Puka, a female pup named for the scar on her neck.

>> Neva, a female pup named for Neva Shoals on Lisianski Island, where she was found.

>> ‘Ena‘ena, a female pup named for a small, silver plant native to Kure Atoll, where she was found.

>> Mahina, a female pup named after the super moon, when she was found.

>> Mo‘o, a one-year-old female named for the mythical Hawaiian lizards and shapeshifting dragons. Most of us will think of geckos.

8. Ama`ama and Puka_The Marine Mamal Center_NOAA Permit 18786

Ama‘ama and Puka resting at Ke Kai Ola. NOAA permit 18786.

7. Six new patients arrive at Ke Kai Ola_The Marine Mammal Center_NOAA Permit 18786

Six new patients arrive at Ke Kai Ola. Two rest by the pool. NOAA Permit 18786.

7. Hermes & Pearl_Credit Julie Steelman_NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1 (1)

Hermes and Pearl have returned to Papahanaumokuakea. Photo by Julie Steelman. NMFS Permit 16632-00 and 932-1905-01MA-009526-1.

Pearl and Hermes in shore pen. NOAA Permit 16632.

Pearl and Hermes in shore pen. NOAA Permit 16632.


Pearl and Hermes official release. NOAA Permit 16632

Back home. Pearl and Hermes official release. NOAA Permit 16632

If you see a Hawaiian monk seal resting on the shoreline, give it space and let it rest. The monk seal hotline is 220-7802 (for Oahu) or 1-888-256-9840.

Hawaii: The Next 50

October 15th, 2015

Visual arts winner from last year's Next 50 contest by Bryson Manuel of Waipahu INtermediate School in the grades 6-8 visual arts category. Courtesy image.

Bryson Manuel of Waipahu Intermediate School was last year's winner in the grades 6-8 visual arts category.
Courtesy Hawaii: Next 50.

What will Hawaii's energy future look like in 50 years? Will we have reached our goal of reaching 100 percent renewable energy by 2045? Are we on the right track?

Lawmakers are calling on students in grades 4 through 12 to share their ideas on how to make Hawaii a renewable energy leader in the second annual Hawaii: Next 50 Contest. Students are invited to create an essay, poster or video in response to the question: Over the next 50 years, what can I do to help Hawaii reach its 100 percent renewable energy goal?

The contest, inspired by former Gov. George Ariyoshi's book, "Hawaii: The Past Fifty Years, The Next Fifty Years," prompts the next generation to think about what social, cultural, and economic roads we can take to keep Hawaii moving forward into the next century. Students are asked to read Ariyoshi's book (free copies available upon request) and then respond to the question in either essay form or visual arts form.

The deadline for all entries is 11:59 p.m. on Jan. 31, 2016. Winners will be announced in March 2016.

Last year, students were asked: What needs to happen in the next 50 years for Hawaii to be the best place to work and live? They responded with artwork, like the one by Kaydee Rapozo below, depicting renewable energies. One student, Dallas Kuba from Manoa Elementary School, wrote an essay about homelessness.

Kaydee Rapozo was last year's winner for the Grades 9-11 category. Courtesy image.

Kaydee Rapozo was last year's winner for the Grades 9-11 category. Courtesy image.

There were more than 450 entries from keiki across the state, according to Rep. Mark Nakashima, who spearheaded the revival of the contest.

"We were amazed to see the innovative range of their ideas," he said. "This year we wanted to take that same enthusiasm and focus it on one of our state's most pressing issues: the necessity of renewable energy to end our dependency on oil."

Ariyoshi said: "It's imperative that young people know they don't have to wait to graduate or become an adult to join the conversation in shaping our state. The book was my vision of a progressive Hawaii and it's exciting to see what concepts the up-and-coming generation develops if we just ask."

Judging criteria include whether the entry clearly provides an answer to the question, creativity and articulation.

Winners will be honored during a floor presentation at the Hawaii State Capitol and be invited to attend a luncheon with legislators. They will also receive a monetary prize and be published online.

Teyshaun Rosales, last year's winner, grades 4-5 visual arts category. Courtesy image.

Teyshaun Rosales, last year's winner, grades 4-5 visual arts category. Courtesy image.


Kupu Hawaii

October 13th, 2015


This quote is in the lobby of Kupu Hawaii's office in Kakaako.

This quote is in the lobby of Kupu Hawaii's office in Kakaako.

In the midst of all this redevelopment in Kakaako, it's good to see the rise of a non-profit focused on cultivating today's youth as tomorrow's leaders of sustainability, rather than another high-rise.

Empowering youth, Hawaii’s future, to serve their communities, is at the heart of Kupu Hawaii’s mission, The non-profit, founded in 2007, is named after the native kupukupu fern which means 'to sprout, grow, or germinate." it is the first plant to grow back after a lava flow.

Through Kupu’s many programs, young adolescents gain the skills they need to work in the emerging green jobs sector, whether it's in the field of conservation, natural resource management or renewable energy. To date, Kupu has worked with more than 2,600 youth and provided more than 230,000 volunteer service hours in partnership with 80 public and private organizations.

Kupu Hawaii's CEO, John Leong, said it's about empowering youth and giving them the tools they  need to make an impact on this world. Just as importantly, he said, it's about nurturing tomorrow's leaders with the right heart — a passion for sustainability as well as a desire to give back to the community.

“If we don’t prepare our next generation of kids to get involved, they’re going to be left behind,” said Leong. “We want to give our youth the capacity to move forward."

>> Kupu’s Hawaii Youth Conservation Corps gives students the opportunity to work outdoors with environmental agencies across Hawaii during the summer and year-round. In April of this year, nearly 30 interns spent a week helping to plant 20,000 koa seedlings at a natural reserve on the slopes of Haleakala for Arbor Day.

>> Kupu's RISE program offers college students paid internships with various private and public agencies focused on food waste reduction, renewable energy and sustainable schools. The internships can provide valuable experience and mentorship leading to jobs when they graduate.

>> With E2U, an environmental education program, participants work with public schools to launch a project focused on sustainability, take a field trip to a conservation site or start an after-school Eco Club.

>> CommunityU helps youth at risk, ages 16 to 24, with life skills and green jobs training that will allow them to get a high school diploma after completion of the program. These youth get involved in projects that restore fishponds, a lo‘i, plant native species or carve traditional Hawaiian poi boards.

Last November, the late navigator Mau Piailug's son, Eseluqupi Plasito, mentored students in a transformational project — the carving of a traditional, single-hulled canoe out of a large, invasive albizia tree at Kewalo Basin, with help from more than 700 volunteers.

Check out this Olelo video which celebrates the launch of the canoe earlier this year.

Kupu has raised about half the $5 million needed as part of its Ho‘ahu Capital Campaign for its Green Job Training Center.

The goal is to transform the "net shed," a rundown building originally used by aku fishermen to hang and repair nets near Point Panic at Kewalo, into a LEED-certified Green Job Training Center. Kupu envisions it as a gathering space with classrooms, conference rooms and hydroponic garden, along with a commercial kitchen and food truck that will feature locally sourced produce. Kupu hopes to settle lease terms with the state Hawaii Community Development Authority and begin construction on the center in March 2016.

As Kakaako undergoes a dramatic change in its skyline and population, it would  be great to see a place that nurtures the next generation of stewards for our islands.

Rendering of the Green Job Training Center that Kupu Hawaii envisions at Kewalo Basin. Courtesy Group 70 International.

Rendering of the Green Job Training Center that Kupu Hawaii envisions at Kewalo Basin. Courtesy Group 70 International.

Protecting Hawaii's endangered species

October 8th, 2015

Band-rumped storm-petrels in flight.  Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Band-rumped storm-petrels in flight. Courtesy U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Hawaii, known as the endangered species capital of the world, is home to 10 animals and 39 plants under review for U.S. Endangered Species protections. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced the proposal in late September.

The 49 species occur in 11 different habitat types, with 48 of them occurring nowhere else on Earth except Hawaii. These plants and animals are at risk of extinction due to invasive, non-native species, recreational activities, small population size and threats from erosion landslides and fire.

Listing these species, if approved, will boost ongoing conservation efforts to address these threats, prevent extinction and improve the ecology health of the islands.

Among the animals listed are the ‘ake‘ake, or band-rumped storm-petrel, which is a medium sized bird (primarily blackish-brown with a narrow white ban across the rump — found on the isles of Lehua, Kauai, Maui and Hawai‘i island, as well as Japan, the Galapagos islands and subtropical areas of the Atlantic. It is the smallest and rarest seabird that breeds in Hawaii.

"It's a very enigmatic seabird," said Andre Raine, Kauai Endangered Seabird Recovery Project Coordinator. "No one's actually found an active nest for the species in Hawaii but we do know that they nest here...We've recorded their calls."

The storm-petrels are vulnerable to predators, including Polynesian rats, barn owls and feral cats. They have shallow wing beats, but glide long over the surface of the ocean. They nest in burrows in a variety of high-elevation, inland habitats. Only a single egg is laid per season, between May and June; nestlings fledge in October.

Only the Hawaii population is being proposed for the list, according to the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, and not the band-rumped storm-petrels that occur in Japan, the Galapagos and subtropical areas of the Atlantic.

The list also includes seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees in response to petitions from the Xerces Society, the Orangeblack Hawaiian damselfly and Anchialine pool shrimp found on Hawaii island and Maui.

Hylaeus assimulans, one of seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees proposed for endangered species protection. Photo creditL John Kaia/Xerces Society.

Hylaeus assimulans, one of seven species of Hawaiian yellow-faced bees proposed for endangered species protection.
Photo credit: John Kaia/Xerces Society.

A total of 39 native plants, including the Maui kolea (Myrsine fosbergii), nanu (Gardenia remyi), Maui reedgrass (Calamagrostis expansa). Baker's loulu palm (Pritchardia bakeri) and ihi (Portulaca villosa). The Baker's loulu, named after Lyon Arboretum founder Ray Baker, is found in wet, windswept and grassy areas, and sometimes on steep slopes from about 1,500 to 2,100 feet at the extreme northern and southern ends of the Koolaus on Oahu. It has yellow flowers.

Seana Walsh, a conservation biologist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden, said: "Hawaii is so special for many reasons, one of them being our rich, highly endemic flora and fauna. Looking at this list of 39 plant taxa proposed for Federal listing, nearly a quarter of them are unique to Kauai, showcasing how narrowly endemic some of these taxa are. Every species depends upon others for its continued existence. If a species goes extinct, there is a cascading effect on the whole ecosystem, effects of which we may not immediately be aware."

The Portulaca Villosa is one of the native Hawaiian plants proposed for a federal Endangered Species list. Courtesy NTBG.

The Portulaca Villosa is one of the native Hawaiian plants proposed for a federal Endangered Species list. Courtesy NTBG.

Of the 39 plants proposed, 18 currently have 50 or fewer individual plants remaining in the wild. Walsh added that although these plant taxa are only now being proposed for listing, many dedicated people from a handful of agencies across Hawaii have been working diligently together for years to protect them from extinction.

"The Endangered Species Act is one way these taxa gain recognition regarding their status and support for protection," she said.

Requests for a public hearing must be submitted in writing to Field Supervisor, Pacific Islands Fish and Wildlife Office, 300 Ala Moana Boulevard, Honolulu, HI 96850 by Nov. 16.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service accepts comments and information through Dec. 1 at (in the search box, enter the docket number, FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125). Written comments and information can also be submitted by U.S. snail mail or hand-delivery to:  Public Comments Processing, Attn: FWS-R1-ES-2015-0125; U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, MS: BPHC, 5275 Leesburg Pike; Falls Church, VA 22041–3803.

Cooling our classrooms

September 21st, 2015

The ads on the radio play over and over again. There's the kid touting Hawaii Common Core Standards, and how they align with college and workforce expectations. Another ad goes on about the "smarter balanced assessments" in math and English language arts to reach our "55 by 25" goal. We just found out how we did on that. But all I can think of, as most parents with kids in public school are probably thinking right now, is, what about the heat?

The heat.

The 90-to 100-degree Fahrenheit heat and humidity brought on by El Nino has set record-setting temperatures in the Hawaiian isles this year. Students, teachers and staff are sweltering in stifling, hot classrooms as they're attempting to teach and learn. There's no relief in sight until the end of the year.

It didn't help that the first day of school was July 29, the height of summer.

Blame it on climate change.

The state DOE actually does. See the letter below.

Factors in building out air conditioning across the public school system


As the state's cooling tradewinds continue to decline and the heat index continues to rise due to climate change, HIDOE is challenged by the need to install air conditioning at all public schools. This involves more than installing AC units — there are budget and infrastructure hurdles to overcome. And we must approach it with an eye to sustainability so we aren't adding to the problem of escalating energy use.

The Hawaii Department of Education began deploying portable air-conditioners this week, but that's only a temporary solution, at best. The overall solution isn't so simple. The department says it will take $1.7 billion to cool the schools. The estimated figure, which seems quite high, includes the cost of upgrading infrastructure and installing central air conditioning in 256 schools in the state.

Portable air-conditioners are definitely not part of a long-term solution (and some say they aren't effective for a large classroom). With the hurdles of higher electricity costs that come with air-conditioning and issues of sustainability, a multi-pronged approach is necessary. Reflective roof coating, increased insulation and better building designs are contributing solutions. But solar technology should have been part of the solution, already.

The state DOE's fact sheet for cooling schools also blames old buildings and infrastructure as part of the challenge, but cites solar technology as part of the solution. Solar-powered ventilators make sense. So does solar photovoltaic air conditioning, which is being tested at a portable at Waianae High School. Kudos to students at Campbell High, who took the matter into their own hands and raised $19,000 for photovoltaic air-conditioning through a crowdfunding campaign called Fahrenheit 73. Another donated system is planned for Kalaheo High School. The department, however, is evaluating whether the high costs of the systems are justified.

In addition to the electrical upgrades needed to install air-conditioning, there are the costs of operating air-conditioning. The power bill at Pohakea Elementary School, for instance, more than doubled when AC was installed, according to the DOE, which currently spends more than $62 million a year on electricity, gas, water and sewage fees a year.

Utilities Overview FY16-17

While Hawaii recently boasted of being one of the states with the highest concentrations of rooftop solar per capita, those solar panels, unfortunately, did not land fast enough on its public school rooftops. To date, approximately 46 schools, or roughly 18 percent of Hawaii's schools, have installed solar PV as a result of Act 96 in 2006. To its credit, the department's Ka Hei program launched in 2004 has a laudable goal — it aims to reduce energy costs through energy efficiency measures while bringing STEM lessons to the classroom. McKinley High School is the latest recipient of a 100 kw solar PV system financed through power purchase agreements.

But this all comes more than a decade too late. Hawaii lags behind other states in this no-brainer decision despite having the best potential out of all the states in the U.S. in terms of sunshine. There was this extensive study conducted by MK Think that cited "solar gain" as "the single most important contributor to interior temperature" in schools. Solar technology could also be the single most important solution to cooling our schools.

>> Hawaii ranks No. 1 in states where schools that could save money by going solar, according to a study by the Solar Energy Industries Association. Yet Hawaii ranks No. 20 in school solar PV capacity, behind Texas, Arizona, New Jersey and California. And we only have one school district, while other states have multiple districts to contend with.


>> While we've set a goal of 100 percent renewables by 2045, why haven't schools been a higher priority? Board of Education Policy 6710 sets a visionary goal of reducing the Department's reliance on fossil fuel-based energy by 90 percent by 2040. Long-term visions and goals are nice, but the reality is our students are suffering TODAY.

>> Schools most in need of air-conditioning should have been chosen for the solar PV projects first. Likewise, schools with solar PV systems should have been among the top candidates for air-conditioning as well as the ones with the hottest temperatures.

>> HECO should fast-track connections for public school solar PV systems.

>> Solar companies can step up and donate systems to schools. I've seen systems donated to non-profits, but let's make our public schools, which have been neglected far too long, a priority.

>> HECO's Sunpower for Schools program (in place since 1996) ended in July of this year, just when public schools were getting started. Under the program, schools received free, photovoltaic solar electric or solar lighting systems. They were small systems, like the 2 kw solar electric system installed at Waianae Intermediate school in December 2006, made possible through a three-way partnership between HECO, the DOE and community (HECO solicited donations to fund the systems). HECO replaced that program with Smart Power for Schools, which installs and demonstrates emerging technologies, such as battery banks for energy storage and management systems for energy monitoring and management tools. That's all well and good, except for the fact that the majority of our schools aren't outfitted with solar PV yet.

>> So far, I haven't heard NextEra, the  $4.3 billion suitor from Florida seeking to acquire HECO, offer any promises or offers of contributions to Hawaii's public schools, specifically, in any way.

Here are some ideas of how schools across the U.S. have been able to integrate solar into their schools, whether to heat or cool their schools, with significant cost savings and a long-term hedge against rising electricity prices. Many were able to enter power purchase agreements with no upfront costs. The Berkeley Unified School District drew up a district-wide solar master plan and with a U.S. Department of Energy grant, even created a template for other school districts. So it's been done before. With the cost savings, some schools are even able to bring back arts and music programs that had been cut from the budget.

>> Solar parking arrays at Analy High School in Sebastopol, CA (Photo: SunPower).


>> Check out this 5,750 KW solar project in Plympton, Mass. that powers Plymouth Public Schools (Photo: Greg M. Cooper/ Borrego Solar).


>> The Scottsdale Unified School District in Scottsdale, Ariz. installed more than 2 MW of solar across four schools sites to lock in years of future energy. (Photo courtesy SolarCity). Wow, now that's a commitment to solar!


Q&A Chipper Wichman

September 18th, 2015


Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Chipper Wichman. Courtesy photo.

Charles "Chipper" Wichman, president and Chief Executive Officer of the National Tropical Botanical Garden, believed that the IUCN World Conservation Congress could be hosted by the U.S. and more specifically, in Honolulu. Wichman played a leadership role in bringing the Congress here, an effort that started as early as 2009. Wichman currently serves as vice chair of the WCC Hawaii Host Committee's executive committee and vice chair of its program committee.

The Green Leaf had a conversation with Wichman about the upcoming Congress, which marks a milestone because it's the first time it will be held in the U.S. The summit is expected to bring 8,000 to 10,000 leaders (from government, businesses, academia, NGOs and unique indigenous communities) representing 160 nations around the globe to the Hawai‘i Convention Center from Sept. 1 to 10, with possible attendance by President Barack Obama, Prince William and the Prince of Monaco.

Held only once every four years, the Congress, which helps shape the direction of global sustainable development, also presents plenty of opportunities for Hawaii residents to get involved.

The Congress is expected to address topics rangig from climate change (on the heels of the UN Climate Change Conference in Paris, November to December) to watershed management, conservation of marine resources, renewable energy and endangered species. The theme is "Planet at the Crossroads."

The United States has 84 IUCN Member Organizations, eight of which are in Hawaii (including the NTBG). The U.S. Department of State will need to process quite a lot of visas, and the state of Hawaii's host committee needs to raise $13 million to support the event. Visit for updates.

Green Leaf: Where did the inspiration for bringing the Congress to Hawaii come from?

Wichman: We started talking about it right after the World Congress in Barcelona in 2008. It was actually a couple of colleagues of mine — Chris Dunn, director of Lyon Arboretum at the time, Penny Levin, who is involved in protecting indigenous crops...We thought, the world could learn a lot from visiting Hawaii. It would really put the fantastic work that's going on here on the world stage. Hawaii is a microcosm of all the issues the planet is facing in a very condensed and focused way because we live on islands. And the islands are engines of evolution...We're recognized as one of the world's unique regions. We're also recognized as an endangered species capital of the world...

GL: So this Congress is often described as the Olympics of conservation. Why?

W: The World Congress is an unbelievable event. To call it the Olympics of the conservation world is true. It's the only event that brings together delegates and participants at the cutting edge of conservation — thought leaders from 160 countries around the world...APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation, which took place in Honolulu in 2011) is made up of 20 leading economies. This is 160 countries, not 20. So it's much bigger and much more diverse...

GL: So you feel Honolulu has a lot to offer the world in possible conservation solutions?

W: We have a lot of challenges here, and those are challenges everyone else in the world is facing. What's compelling is it's brought together indigenous knowledge, practices and pride, and combined with cutting-edge, western science, to create conservation programs that are community-based, which are much more powerful and effective than programs that don't involve indigenous communities. We're really at the cutting edge of those bio-conservation programs that are engaging cultural knowledge and practices and wisdom...

GL: What does Honolulu have to gain from the conference?

W: On the reciprocal side, we will be infused with ideas from people who are at the cutting edge in their part of the world. It's amazing to participate in one of these events — the exchange of ideas, practice, knowledge and connections made. The value of these personal interactions can't be replaced by online webinars. There's nothing that can replace the face to face personal meetings and relationships that take place in a venue like the World Conservation Congress...

One of my dreams (I refer to it as a Big Hairy Audacious Goal) is that the president of the U.S. and governor of Hawaii will stand up at the stage of the World Congress in front of all these people from around the world, and say, we recognize the importance of the biodiversity that exists in Hawaii. We recognize the importance of Hawaii and our Hawaii culture, and we are committed to creating a biosecurity plan that will protect Hawaii, that's as strong as any other biosecurity plan in the world.

In hosting it, all these people come to Hawaii and have a wonderful Congress, but if we haven't left a legacy behind us, then I feel we've missed the boat. I've been spending a lot of time focused on engaging our community to think about how to use this as an opportunity to create a legacy...I would never have undertaken this opportunity if I did not believe hosting this would not lead to a transformation in Hawaii.

GL: What kind of transformation?

W: I think that the majority of people in Hawaii, although they know the term 'conservation' and may know Hawaii has unique flora, most people in Hawaii don't truly understand the issues that we face. And this is a way of raising the profile of these issues so that the public can really understand it. Ultimately, if the public doesn't understand it, then we will never elect political leaders that have the will to make the right choices, and to put in place the kinds of regulations and laws we need to affect our environment. I see it as transformational in raising public awareness, in terms of engaging the hearts and minds of our students in Hawaii. I would love to see every student in Hawaii, kindergarten to 12th grade, and maybe even at the university level, be aware of this and be touched by it in some way...We're hoping we'll be able to find a philanthropist to say, 'I'm willing to sponsor all the school kids in Hawaii because I think this is so potentially transformative and inspiring'...If you can plant that seed of conservation, that's our future. Our children are our future. So I see the Congress as being potentially transformational, inspiring the next generation of leaders of our state...