Archive for May, 2011

HECO's student home energy challenge

May 30th, 2011

HECO executive vice president Robbie Alm (left), Rep. Mark Takai and HECO Home Energy Challenge Coordinator Sam Nichols present $10,000 to students at Pearl Ridge Elementary School, winners of the Home Energy Challenge Contest. Photo courtesy HECO.

HECO executive vice president Robbie Alm (left), Rep. Mark Takai and HECO Home Energy Challenge coordinator Sam Nichols present $10,000 to students at Pearl Ridge Elementary School, winners of the Home Energy Challenge contest. Photo courtesy HECO.

One day, it's our kids who are going to tell us to turn off the lights or to switch to a CFL or to put that banana peel in the worm compost.

As part of the Home Energy Challenge (sponsored by the state education department and HECO), elementary school students across Oahu participated in a six-month program on energy conservation education.

Participating schools were offered educational materials and hands-on displays, drawing contests, workbooks and videos teaching simple, low-cost ways for families to save energy at home.

Pearl Ridge Elementary School students won a grand prize of $10,000 by reducing their home energy use by more than 6.4 percent. Kamiloiki Elementary came in second place, winning $6,000, while Manana Elementary came in third, winning $3,000.

Statewide, more than 1,300 families from 13 schools participated in the Home Energy Challenge, saving an estimated 106,000 kilowatt hours in home electricity over six months.

Students were also able to win $1,000 for their school by coming up with creative ways to teach the entire school about using energy wisely. Kahaluu, Kamiloiki, Mililani Mauka, and Pearl City Highlands elementary schools won prizes. Among their ideas: a video featuring Super Energy Man, a conservation-themed poster contest, CFL costume contest, poetry contest, a "Watts Down" video infomercial, and  "Off the TV" Tuesdays.

If you looked at your last electricity bill, you're probably wondering what more you can do, given the skyrocketing costs of fuel.

Oahu public elementary schools interested in entering next year's Home Energy Challenge or Energy Conservation Project will be sent applications this summer. Call Sam Nichols at 543-7511 for more information.

Shop for MA‘O Farms on Wednesday

May 16th, 2011

Waianae youth work at MA‘O Farm in exchange for a stipend and tuition waiver at Leeward Community College. They get Associates of Arts degrees as well as a certificate in community food security. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

Waianae youth work at MA‘O Farm in exchange for a stipend and tuition waiver at Leeward Community College. They get Associates of Arts degrees as well as a certificate in community food security. Photo courtesy Whole Foods Market.

This coming Wednesday, five percent of proceeds from Whole Foods Market Kahala will go to MA‘O Farms' Youth Leadership Training college internship program.

MA‘O Farms, one of Whole Foods' suppliers. is a non-profit that provides youth with college scholarships while teaching them agricultural skills. MA‘O is a regular fixture at Kapiolani Community College farmers' market, offering fresh basil, kale, sassy salad mix, limes, and other produce from its farm in Waianae.

For the last five years, MA‘O has hired youth from the community to work part-time on its certified organic farm in Waianae. Participants in the program get a full tuition waiver to Leeward Community College and a starting monthly stipend of $500 in exhange for 20 hours of sweat equity at the farm.

You can read the MA‘O Farms blog here.

The youth must commit to two-and-a-half-years, and receive Associates of Arts degrees and a certificate in community food security. A total of 25 youth are now participating in the program.

The Thomas J. Vincent Foundaiton of Kaneohe is also matching Whole Foods Market's donation.

Scholarship recipients Lindsey Ozawa (former executive chef of Nobu), and Martha Cheng, of MELT, will give a cooking demonstration at 4 p.m.

ReefQuest: 12-year-old makes a difference

May 12th, 2011

Reefquest Introduction
from IDEAS
on Vimeo.

Join Dylan Vecchione as he explains the work of ReefQuest on Kahekili Reef on Maui to monitor coral health and help protect fragile Hawaii coral ecosystems

Dylan Vecchione is just 12 years old, but he's already making a difference.

Dylan, a resident of Pacific Palisades, Calif., fell in love with coral reefs while diving on the Kehikili Reef on Maui.

Returning over the years, he noticed the reef was dying due to envrionmental stresses, so he decided to start ReefQuest, a global effort to monitor and care for the world's coral reefs. So far, more than 5,000 kids throughout the world are trying to make a difference by taking care of their local marine habitats.

Dylan is also a finalist in Ocean's 3rd annual Ocean Heroes contest. Winners will be announced on World Oceans Day on June 8.

ReefQuest is a project sponsored by the IDEAS Studio, an educational company developing new ways of teaching science. The ReefQuest programs are based on citizen science, and include a free curriculum, along with resources and online tools for educators, families and students.

ReefQuest has three goals — 1. Education: Making people aware of the importance of treading lightly on all marine habitats. 2. Monitoring & Surveying: Getting people to engage in citizen science to support scientific research, through monitoring and surveying of marine habitats and coral reefs. 3. Community Involvement: Getting the community to adopt local marine habitats to positively impact them.

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Blue Planet is hiring

May 12th, 2011

Looking for a green-collar job?

The Blue Planet Foundation is hiring for three open positions, including program director, operations director, and development director, with an expected start date of late June.

It's great to see green-collar jobs becoming available, with solar companies adding to their staff, and eco-conscious companies hiring sustainability coordinators. The Blue Planet Foundation, the non-profit launched by video game entrepreneur Henk Rogers, aims to end the use of fossil fuels in Hawaii.

To apply, send a cover letter, resume and writing sample (relevant to the position) to Applications are due by 5 p.m., Hawaii Time, on Friday, May 27.

Program Director
The Program Director serves in the key role of innovating, researching, developing, and executing Blue Planet’s clean energy programs and projects. The ideal candidate has an advanced degree in science or engineering; extensive experience in project management, development, and implementation; a deep understanding of both clean energy issues and social and cultural issues in Hawai‘i; and possesses a positive, team-oriented, enthusiastic attitude.

Operations Director
The Operations Director serves as the point person in the Blue Planet office, managing all aspects of administrative and nonprofit operations in a fast-paced team setting. The ideal candidate has at least five years of executive administrative experience; is an excellent communicator; has excellent organizational and computer skills (including graphics design software); takes initiative and can multitask fluidly; has a creative, adaptive problem-solving ability; possesses a positive, enthusiastic attitude, and enjoys working with a diverse, driven team.

Development director
This is the perfect opportunity for a development generalist to apply his or her experience to building Blue Planet's capacity to catalyze clean energy change. The Development Director will serve as the primary architect and implementer of all fundraising initiatives while working effectively with the Executive Director, Board, and staff to achieve aggressive fundraising goals. The ideal candidate has extensive fundraising experience through a variety of methods with a proven record in successful solicitation of major gifts and large grants. Blue Planet is seeking either a part-time employee or independent contractor to fill this critical role.

Building a green home in New Orleans

May 11th, 2011

 doctoral architecture students Frank Alsup, Sanphawat Jatupatwarangkul, Tuan Tran and Ramo Khem make up the Greenboy Design team.

The Greenboy Design team. Photo courtesy of

To win an award is one thing, but to see the real-life application of your hard work is a reward in itself.

Greenboy Design, a team of students from the University of Hawaii at Manoa's School of Architecture, is one of two finalists in the U.S. Green Building Council's 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition.

The team — which is made up of doctoral architecture students Frank Alsup, Sanphawat Jatupatwarangkul, Tuan Tran and Ramo Khem — will actually see their design for a single-family home built in New Orleans' historic Broadmoor district. The home is currently under construction.

The challenge was to create an affordable, energy-efficient home in a neighborhood under redevelopment. While incorporating green building principles, the team also maintained respect for the Broadmoor aesthetic, which won approval via a community vote held earlier this summer.

The 816-square-foot, two-bedroom home is on a challenging lot — narrow and rectangular.

Greenboy Design designed a contemporary, LEED Platinum home with an elevated deck surrounded by garden space and parking below. A covered patio becomes an extension of the interior living space, while the rear patio adds space to the master bedroom.

The team did a rigorous analysis of local wind patterns and daylight to figure out how to best bring natural ventilation and light into the home, added insulation beyond what was required, and planned landscaping that uses native ardisa for ground cover.

The design, of course, includes hurricane straps and tie downs, along with storm shutters for the windows that lock in place.

The team competed against more than 360 design submissions throughout the U.S. Final winners will be selected at Greenbuild's October conference in Toronto. More information about the 2010 Natural Talent Design Competition can be found at

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Congrats to Kevin of Kalaheo

May 6th, 2011

Congratulations to Kevin Killerman of Waimea High School in Kalaheo, Kauai, on winning second place in Planet Connect's Get Green Video Contest.

Killerman's video, "Kevin and Kyle Go Green," raised awareness about how everyday actions, like cutting a fishing line and leaving plastic bags behind, affect the ocean.

Nearly 150 high school students from across the U.S. submitted entries for the video contest, which was designed to give students a chance to demonstrate their creative abilities and environmental knowledge through a 30-second to 2-minute video.

Killerman won a Samsung HMW-T10 HD Camcorder, and his video will be shown at the Newport Beach Film Festival in Los Angeles as well as the Hawaii Ocean Film Festival in May.

Way to go, Kevin!

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5th Annual Butterfly Effect Maui

May 4th, 2011

The Butterfly Effect event on Maui last year was a hit. Courtesy photo.

The Butterfly Effect event on Maui last year was a hit. Courtesy photo.

Get ready for the 5th Annual Butterfly Effect Maui, which takes place on Saturday, May 7 at Ho‘okipa Beach Park.

The butterfly effect, founded by professional windsurfer Tatiana Howard, unites women in their passion for the ocean and healthy living through a non-competitive downwind, five-mile ocean adventure and beach cleanup.

"It has been a dream come true to launch The Butterfly Effect on Maui, then take this event around the globe," said Howard. "My goal is to inspire all female water enthusiasts to nurture their relationship with the ocean and each other. This will help towards ensuring intergenerational sustainability of our pristine ocean environment for our future keiki to enjoy."

Tatiana Howard, professional windsurfer and founder of the Butterfly Effect. Courtesy photo.

Tatiana Howard, professional windsurfer and founder of the Butterfly Effect. Courtesy photo.

The day begins at 8 am. with a shoreline beach cleanup and native plant maintenance project with Community Work Day and Friends of Ho‘okipa. (Check in at Green Banana Cafe in Paia). Then instructors from Paia Yoga will lead an oceanside yoga session to prepare for the downwind ride at 11 a.m.

Female stand-up paddlers, windsurfers, kitesurfers and paddlers of all levels are invited to participate, although Maui's north shore is considered an advanced water sport location. The ride concludes at about 2 p.m. at Kanaha Beach Park with another beach cleanup and park beautification project.

Participants are also invited to a fashion show and closing ceremony at Thee Salon in Paia at 6 p.m. followed by an after party at Charley's in Paia at 9 p.m. with deejay Jay P ($10 cover charge).

Register for the event at Flatbread Pizza in Paia on May 5 between 5 and 7 p.m. The event is free, but a $20 donation will get you a goodie bag from sponsors, including an event T-shirt, raffle ticket, VIP entry to the fashion show and a free admission and drink ticket for the after party at Charley's.

Visit for more information. Questions? Email

Paper or plastic? Fee, please

May 3rd, 2011


Paper or plastic?

With the passage of  Senate Bill 1363 at the Hawaii Legislature this year, there would have been a fee for paper or plastic bags at checkout. It doesn't look like the bill will pass this year but watch out for a similar one next year.

The bill, modeled after one in Washington DC, would have been a good idea. It would have required  large businesses to collect a fee for each single-use checkout bag provided to a customer.

As the bill was written, the fee would have been 10 cents, though it seems to have fluctuated as high as 25 cents and as low as 5 cents. Interestingly enough, it also would have offered a waiver for low-income consumers on federal programs or food stamps.

Instead of a waiver, why not offer them free reusable bags?

Businesses would have been allowed to keep 20 percent of the fees, subject to taxes. On Maui and Kauai counties, which banned plastic checkout bags this year, the fee would apply to paper bags.

So for the first time, it seems as if environmental groups and businesses like Safeway actually agreed on this bill which aims to reduce single-use plastic bags, though they didn't see eye to eye on all the details.

I think it would actually make people stop, and think twice about plastic bags, and hopefully, change some lifestyle habits.

It's pretty much a mindless thing for most people — after all, we've got busy lives. We go to the supermarket, and at checkout, they automatically shuffle everything into plastic bags. That's customer service, after all.

I've already written a few columns on the plastic bag monster under the sink, the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the bits and pieces of plastic that don't break down etc. Don't forget the green sea turtles that ingest the bags, mistaking them for jellyfish.

It's alarming and heartbreaking to see images of Laysan Albatross chicks with stomachs full of plastic bits and pieces in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Much of the flying fish eggs the albatross like to eat is attached to plastic marine debris which end up in the stomachs of chicks.

If you watch Suzan Beraza's documentary, "Bag It," I think you might also be inspired to reduce your use of single-use plastic bags, plastic bottles and coffee cups.

The Surfrider Foundation and Sierra Club Hawaii also point out in their testimony that "free" bags come with costs.

Retailers pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to provide the bags. There are costs to produce the bags out of petroleum, and there are costs to the marine environment, as well as costs to taxpayers who foot the bill for counties that  clean up the bags. The costs to the community are an overflowing landfill that no one wants in their backyard, especially on an island.

If you BYOB (bring your own bag), then you won't have to worry about any fees. I've been bringing reusable bags to the supermarket for awhile now, and it's worked out just fine.

It helps to keep a stash of reusable bags in your trunk – as many as a dozen — if that's how many you need for your load of groceries. They've even become a fashion statement – great.

A Chico bag (which fits in your purse) comes in handy on those last-minute trips to the market when you don't have all of your reusable bags with you.

You know what's nice about it? Having no plastic bag monster under your sink.

Most supermarkets here also offer a 5-cent credit per bag at checkout, except for Safeway, which offers a discount on its line of green products. Hope that will continue.

Safeway submitted testimony saying it supported the bill, and that a fee is a preferable way to encourage consumers to bring their own bags. In San Francisco, the first U.S. city to ban plastic checkout bags, Safeway says it ended up spending more than $1 million to offer paper bags, which aren't necessarily better for the environment.

Readers have said, but what if I recycle the bags to line my wastebaskets or to pick up dog poop? Reusing a bag is a good idea, and even better, recycling it. But we also need to reduce.

If you read the bill, there are still plenty of options — the bill would not have included newspaper bags, produce bags, the bags used to wrap frozen foods, bread, meat, fish, flowers or plants, door-hanger bags, or garment bags.

I think it's time to BYOB.

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