Archive for July, 2011

Another green home

July 28th, 2011

This five-bedroom home in Kaneohe has been achieved the national green building standards gold level. Courtesy photo.

This 5-bedroom Kaneohe home built and designed by Mokulua Woodworking/Archipelago has achieved the national green building standards gold level. Courtesy photo.

Another green home has been built  on Oahu.

This one – a five-bedroom, two-story family home in Kaneohe — is the first in Hawaii to be certified at the gold level by the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB) Another home in Kailua achieved the bronze level.

It seems as if the list is growing.

The spacious, five-bedroom home replaces a single-story, three-bedroom home built in the 70s.

Mokulua Woodworking Ltd. built the home, in partnership with Archipelago Hawaii, which designed the home.

While partially deconstructing the home, Mokulua salvaged the beams for reuse and sorted out plastic, cardboard, and wood for recycling, as well as metal and wood scraps. The crew created only one 40-foot dumpster of waste, compared to the average of four to six dumpsters for a project of this size.

The Arakawa family (with three kids and a mother-in-law) live in the home. Owner Kenny Arakawa says when thinking about the new home, he wasn't necessarily interested in being "green," but that he knew a solar PV system made sense. But it turned out building green fit into the budget, which worked out well — and will result in long-term savings on energy and water.

Green features include: A custom-designed 4.8 kw solar PV system powered by 15 panels (installed by RevoluSun), LED-recessed lighting throughout the home, Energy Star appliances, pre-engineered structural  beams, and recycled trim, drywall and flooring. The driveway leading up to the home is terraced, allowing water to drain back into the earth instead of hitting concrete and flowing into the street.

The inside of the home features zero-VOC paint, laminate flooring made of 80 percent post consumer product, carpet with recycled fibers. It's been insulated with ecobatt, so it's also nice and cool.

Though there is split-air-conditioning, the family won't need to turn it on too often, with the breezes flowing throughout the home.

Mokulua Woodworking says it was able to frame the home using pre-engineered beams and trusses, which minimizes the number of lumber cuts needed for regular homes. Also, what I found interesting - its goal was to pour down the foundation as fast as possible (12 days) to minimize runoff.

Like the New Hawaiian Home in Kaimuki, there is a generous, covered lanai area which serves as an outdoor dining room, leading out to the yard.

The home is  Mokulua's first to be certified as green, although it says it's been building similar standards in other homes all along - getting the certification requires paperwork. Mokulua intends to build many more certified homes.

It's nice to see the trend is catching on in Hawaii.

A public open house showcasing green features of the gold-level home is scheduled for 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. on Saturday, July 30, 45-610 Huinawai Place. A $10 donation benefits Habitat for Humanity. You can talk-story with Mokulua, Archipelago and other contractors about how to build a certified green home, plus what tax benefits you can qualify for.

Green films: Carbon Nation and Bag It!

July 27th, 2011

Cliff Etheredge Roscoe, a wind farmer in Texas, appears in "Carbon Nation" screening this evening. Photo by Peter Byck.

Cliff Etheredge Roscoe, a wind farmer in Texas, appears in "Carbon Nation" screening this evening. Photo by Peter Byck.

Punahou School and Kanu Hawaii co-host a free, public screening of the 2010 documentary film, "Carbon Nation," exploring creative solutions to climate change at 6:30 this evening at the Luke Lecture Hall in the Wo International Center on campus.

The documentary movie is an entertaining primer about why it's smart to be a part of the new, low-carbon economy, while delving into climate change solutions. The film premiered at the Environmental Film Festival in Washington, DC in March last year.

The screening is part of Punahou's film-and-discussion series, "Food for Thought," in conjunction with the Student Global Leadership Institute.

The screening will be followed by a panel discussion on clean energy, including Lt. Gov. Brian Schatz; Bill Waring, president and owner of Sustainable Strategies LLC; and Emily McCarren, Punahou Academy Summer School Director.

Free campus parking is available at Punahou, 1601 Punahou St. (Enter the main gate at Punahou St. and Wilder Ave.). The movie screens from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m.. Call 944-5871 for more information.

Also, if haven't seen "Bag It" yet, which is a film about plastic bags and their impact on oceans and our health, there will be a free screening 7 p.m. on Friday (July 29) at the Mid-Pacific Institute's  Bakken Auditorium, 2445 Kaala St. The screening is sponsored by the Waimea Ocean Film Festival. Folks who arrive early will get free reusable bags from Whole Foods Maret.

Molokai residents "hui up" for energy-efficient fridges

July 26th, 2011

Molokai residents were able to swap clunker fridges for more energy-efficient models this morning as part of the Blue Planet Foundation's "Hui Up! program" coordinated by Sust‘AINable Moloka‘i.

Molokai residents were able to swap clunker fridges for more energy-efficient models this morning as part of the Blue Planet Foundation's "Hui Up! program" coordinated by Sust‘AINable Moloka‘i. Photo Courtesy of Blue Planet Foundation.

Molokai residents this morning lined up at Kaunakakai Regional Park to swap their old, clunker refrigerators for ENERGY STAR models at a significant discount price negotiated by the Blue Planet Foundation.

The options: An 18.3 cubic unit fridge for $250 or 25.2 cubic unit fridge for $750.

The newer, energy-efficient fridges are expected to save 56 households an average of $550 a year each, according to the foundation, which is close to $31,000 collectively.

It's all part of the foundation's "Hui up! program," which is being coordinated by Sust‘AINAble Moloka‘i. The goal was to help overcome cost barriers (shipping fridges to Molokai requires logistics).

The same group helped shepherd the CFL and incandescent light bulb swap throughout Molokai households last year — some 36,000 incandescent bulbs were replaced with CFLs.

Queen Lili‘uokalani Chidren's Center purchased fridges for two households.

The fridge swap started at 7 a.m. this morning and continues until 7 p.m.

Each Hui Up! participant also receives a Belkin Conserve Insight Energy Use Monitor.

Students from Alu LIke's Hoala Hou program for at-risk youth were trained to assess household energy use on Molokai in three training sessions earlier this year. The students will measure Hui Up! homes with the new fridges, and compare the energy usage to the old fridges.

Hui Up! is a program run by the Blue Planet Foundation in partnership with Hawaii Energy (which provided a $250 rebate for the purchase of energy-efficient fridges), Servco Home and Appliance Distribution and Maui Economic Opportunity. Financing for the rebates came from the DBEDT's energy office and American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (ARRA) funds.

Posted in Energy | 2 Comments »

Hawaii Conservation Conference in August

July 25th, 2011

Blue-black urchin. Photo by Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager, ©2005

Blue-black urchin. Photo by Susan Middleton and David Liittschwager, ©2005

You can see some of the most rare plants and animals in Hawaii, including the po‘ouli (Hawaiian bird species), which was last seen in 2004, and the unfurling blooms of puakala (poppy) at the Conservation Through Art exhibit coming up in August.

The exhibit is free and open to the public from 3:30 to 7 p.m. at the Hawaii Convention Center on Aug. 3.

The 19th annual Hawaii Conservation Conference takes place Aug. 2-4 at the Hawaii Convention Center, with the theme: "Island Ecosystems: The Year of the Forest" in alignment with the United Nations International Year of Forests.

The conference draws conservationists from throughout the world. Besides scientific and technical symposia, there will be forums, workshops and panel sessions related to Hawaii's forests and oceans.

Celebrated poet laureate W.S. Merwin will be a keynote speaker on the morning of Tuesday, Aug. 2, followed by a "Perspectives of the Forest" luncheon panel. Merwin, a two-time winner of the Pulitzer Prize who has pennedmore than 30 books of poetry, translation and prose, was chosen due to his dedication to restoring Hawaii's forests. Visit The Merwin Conservancy to learn more about his efforts.

There will also be a Conservations through Art exhibit. Haleakala National Park ranger Melissa Chimera's "Splendor: Portraits of the Natural World" features large-format paintings of rare plants and animals in Hawaii. The exhibit will be on view at the ARTS at Marks Garage from July 26-Aug. 13 (11 a.m.-6 p.m.Tuesdays through Saturdays).

A selection of images from Susan Middleton's and David Liittschwager's "Archipelago: Portraits of Life in the World's Most Remote Island Sanctuary," along with marine debris art (including mosaics made of plastic litter partially eaten by sharks) will also be on view at the conference's free open house 3:30-7 p.m.

The following is a schedule of conference events and highlights:

Tuesday, Aug. 2

9:30-11 a.m.: Keynote speech by celebrated poet laureate W.S. Merwin and William N. Kostka, Executive Director of the Micronesia Conservation Trust.

Noon: Perspectives of the Forest luncheon panel.

7-8 p.m. on Tuesday, Aug. 2: Screening of Struggle for Existence followed by a panel discussion.

Wednesday, Aug. 3

8 a.m.: Gov. Neil Abercrombie talks about "New Day Hawaii Aina" followed by a panel discussion with the heads of DLNR, the department of agriculture, and department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Noon: Lunchtime screening of short films from the Jackson Hole Wildlife Film Festival/UN International Year of the Forest Film Festival.

3:20-5:20 p.m. Free forum showcasing different environmental education programs and projects in Hawaii.

3:30-8 p.m. Free viewing of the Conservation through Art exhibit, including a presentation by photographer and conservationist Susan Middleton, and screening of the 1993 documentary "Listen to the Forest" with Eddie and Myrna Kamae.

Thursday, Aug. 4

12:30 p.m.: Luncheon featuring music by Kupaoa, the My Hawaii Story Project Awards ceremony, and presentation by professor James Juvik on how to manage conservation in a world that is continuously being transformed by human actions.

5 p.m.-8 p.m. Art and Conservation at the ARTS at Marks Garage, featuring exhibit walk-through of "Splendor..." with Melissa Chimera, and "Reimagining Biodiversity"  by Susan Middleton.

The Poouli Diptych, by park ranger Melissa Chimera, depicts a native Hawaiian bird last seen in 2004. Courtesy photo.

The Poouli Diptych, by park ranger Melissa Chimera, depicts a native Hawaiian bird last seen in 2004. Courtesy photo.

Seawater Air Conditioning: A cool idea

July 20th, 2011

Cold water from the depths of the ocean could help cool buildings in downtown Honolulu.

Cold water from the depths of the ocean could help cool buildings in downtown Honolulu.

Honolulu could very well be at the forefront of technology if it gets a long-talked-about seawater air-conditioning system serving downtown commercial and residential properties to become a reality. Honolulu would be just the right place to put it.

Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning LLC cleared a major hurdle today when it was granted a Conservation District Use Permit from the state to build and operate the offshore portion of its 25,000-ton seawater air conditioning district cooling system.

In one word: Cool.

Ever sit in an un-air-conditioned building, gazing out the window and wishing you could jump into the ocean to cool off? I guess that's the very idea, pumping water from the depths of the ocean (more than 1,700 feet below sea level) into a cooling system to cool off your home or building.

Apparently, it's been done in Sweden. The chilled water is delivered to the building at 44 degrees Fahrenheit 24/7. You can read more about the technology here.

It's an example of how innovation and creativity can help us get off of imported fossil fuels dependency.

Hawaii is the nation's largest per capita consumer of electricity , according to Anders Rydaker, chief operating officer of Honolulu Seawater Air Conditioning. The company estimates the technology could save downtown Honolulu tenants millions of dollars and eliminate the need for 178,000 barrels of oil per year.

So many offices in Honolulu are unfortunately designed to be closed-up, air-conditioned boxes (including our office at Restaurant Row). The reality is that offices are going to turn on the air-conditioning year-round, which uses a big chunk of electricity. It would be great to use an alternative source of energy.

The project is scheduled to begin construction this year, and to begin providing chilled water services to customers in 2013. Visit

A reusable cup of coffee

July 19th, 2011

Starbucks offers 10-cents credit for bringing your own reusable cup. That adds up after awhile, if you're a regular. Photo by Nina Wu.

Starbucks offers 10-cents credit for bringing your own reusable cup. That adds up after awhile, if you're a regular. Photo by Nina Wu.

I confess: I go to Starbucks regularly. I've got to get my iced soy latte fix.

While I do like many independent cafes, I must say that I just like Starbucks because it's quick and consistent (and well, there's a Peet's, but only one, in Waikiki).

Starbucks, which started as a single coffee store at Seattle's Pike Place Market, is now the global, mega-chain of coffee.

And where there's coffee, there are disposable coffee cups. In Starbucks' case, thousands upon thousands, and millions, of disposable paper and plastic coffee cups that are tossed into the trash on a daily basis.

Americans go through 56 billion paper cups a year, according to statistics from International Paper — 3 billion of them come from Starbucks alone.

If you've ever been part of a beach clean-up in Hawaii, chances are you picked up a few Starbucks cups along with cigarette butts and other litter along the way.

Even when recycled (which only happens in a few markets such as Seattle, Boston and San Francisco), disposable paper cups  still use up a lot of energy and resources.

Still, I have to give Starbucks credit.

The Seattle-based coffee chain offers customers 10-cents credit for bringing in their own reusable cups, which are (of course) also for sale in the cafe. You can get a double-walled reusable cup for cold drinks and reusable mugs for hot drinks.

Starbucks reusable cups come with the cup, a screw-on lid, and straw, and say "Aloha from Hawaii." Mine has lasted, but it's easy to misplace your straw.

You can buy reusable cups pretty much anywhere these days — Long's Drugs, Walgreen's, Macy's, Nordstrom.

Starbucks is also working with municipal governments, cup manufacturers, environmental NGOs and experts from the academic sector (including M.I.T.) to find a recyclable cup solution by 2012. Its goal is to have front-of-store recycling in all company-owned locations by 2015.

Starbucks very well should, since it's such a large contributor to disposable cup waste.

Meanwhile, though, it may have to be consumers who make a difference by bringing in reusable cups.

Karin de Weille of Seattle has launched a campaign to punt the paper cup habit, according to a recent story in the Seattle Times. Visit to find out more.

New habits can be formed in about three weeks, with this particular one of bringing your own coffee cup on the easy side of the spectrum, she says. She's right — it's not particularly difficult. You can keep a reusable cup in your car and at your office desk.

Try it.

Hawaii clean energy pledge

July 13th, 2011

Taking the Hawaii Clean Energy Pledge online is easy enough.

You click, you put in a name, email, zip code and click a few boxes pledging to: Use hot water in your home more efficiently; Reduce energy used for lighting; Make your refrigerator more efficient; Find energy saving ways to cool your home; Save energy when doing your laundry; And ask others to help and take the pledge.

More than 400 local residents have taken the pledge, so far.

We have a solar water heater, so check. We use CFLs, so check. We have an EnergyStar fridge, so check. We don't have air-conditioning but just ceiling fans and floor fans at home, so check; We line-dry most of the time, so check; Tweeted this and blogging this, so check.

But there's a lot more we probably could do to help Hawaii reach its goal of 70 percent clean energy by 2030. A solar PV system would be nice. We have some areas of the home — like outdoors — which aren't using CFLs. We could probably update the washer one day to see if there's a more energy-efficient model.

Believe me, sometimes I wish we did have air-conditioning because our home isn't positioned to get the natural tradewinds. Maybe we should look into a whole house fan.

Cox Media Group partnered with the state Department of Business and Economic Development as well as local energy-saving providers to create the Hawaii Clean Energy Pledge website.

"In order to help Hawaii reach 70 percent clean energy usage by 2030, 30 percent of the effort needs to come from everyone in Hawaii reducing their personal energy use," said Mike Kelly, general manager of Cox Media Group.

The website's goal is to help residents learn more about how to reduce their energy use at home. If you take the pledge, you will receive an email series teaching you "5 Things You Can Do in 5 Weeks to Conserve Energy at Home," and be entered to win monthly prizes like a solar-powered attic fan.

Check out the Kids Corner, too – it has some great educational material for parents and teachers as well as kids, with answers for questions like: What is energy? And where does energy come from?

Kanu Hawaii is also running an Energy Challenge this month at It's a four-week challenge looking at ways to audit your energy use, adjust appliances to use less energy, get out of the car and explore new modes of transportation, and share what you learned with others.

Participants who make an online commitment get a chance to win a free solar water heater from RevoluSun, home lighting retrofits from Energy Industries, and $400 in gift certificates from City Mill.

Organic gardening, beach cleanup

July 8th, 2011

Looking for green ways to spend the weekend?


Organic Gardening

The University of Hawaii Urban Garden Center in Pearl City is offering a free organic gardening demonstration from 9 a.m. to noon on Saturday (July 9). Volunteers and UH master gardeners will talk about organic gardening methods. Visit for details and directions or call 453-6050 or 453-6055.

Beach Cleanup

Love the ocean? Here's your opportunity to give back by participating in the next beach cleanup, from 9:30 a.m. to noon Sunday, July 10, at Kailua Beach Park. The cleanup is organized by Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii. Afterwards, enjoy a potluck BBQ, some fun games, and races. The whole family is welcome.

The mission of Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii is to inspire local communities to care for their coastlines through hands-on beach cleanups of the Hawaiian Islands. Last month, at the Makapuu Beach Cleanup, 123 volunteers picked up nearly 1,600 pounds of trash, with the tally including: 2,964 cigarette butts, 1,047 bottle caps and lids, 1,610 pieces of plastic, 713 bottles and can, 592 food wrappers and containers, 280 polystyrene foam items, 271 fishing related items, and 229 cigarette box wrappers.

What's fun about this beach cleanup is that there's a game included — if you find hidden glass bottles during the cleanup, you may win some prizes, including hand boards, clothes, art, and surfing lessons (There's a Grand Prize, too, but it's a surprise).

More than 100 volunteers helped clean Makapuu beach in June, clearing it of nearly 1,600 pounds of trash . Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

More than 100 volunteers helped clean Makapuu beach in June, clearing it of nearly 1,600 pounds of trash . Photo courtesy Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii.

New Hawaiian Home is ready

July 7th, 2011

The New Hawaiian Home is energy-efficient, with solar PV and solar water heating, plus strategically placed windows and awnings. Photo by Nina Wu.

The New Hawaiian Home is energy-efficient, with solar PV, ecobatt insulation, plus strategically placed windows and awnings that keep it cool in the summer. Photo by Nina Wu.

It looks like the landscaping and final touches have been put on to the New Hawaiian Home in Kaimuki, which will host two more "open house" days in July to showcase its green features.

If you haven't heard of it, the "New Hawaiian Home" is an energy-efficient home outfitted with a solar water heater, solar PV system, Techshield radiant barrier, icynene foam and ecobatt insulation.

It was built by BIA Hawaii as a prototype of a green home, with participating contractors from all over the isles pitching in the best of green technology and design.

A giant whole house fan, reflective metal roof, awnings, and most importantly — strategically placed (low-e, double-pane and tinted) windows that allow cross-ventilation in the rooms will keep the home cool during hot summer months.

How many of us are sweltering in homes that were just positioned the wrong way and feel like sweat boxes during the summer? If only the tradewinds from outside could cool the house inside.

The open-floor plan of the kitchen and living room, which lead to an outdoor dining room and the back yard, are my favorite part of this home. It's like a great room, incorporating indoor and outdoor living the way a home in Hawaii should be.

The open-style kitchen was furbished with a recycled concrete countertop and equipped with EnergyStar appliances.

The open-style kitchen was furbished with a recycled concrete countertop and equipped with EnergyStar appliances.

Walking through the home at noontime, you'd be amazed how cool it is without air-conditioning.

The home was flipped to take advantage of natural tradewinds as well as to create a southwest-facing roof  for the 4.7-kilowatt solar PV system. The whole house fan is an interesting idea -- it supposedly draws hot air out of the top of the house (and Hawaii Energy is now offering a $75 rebate).

The interior is designed to bring in plenty of natural light -- the master bedroom, for instance, has generous windows high above and won't require too much lighting during the day. The garage door also has translucent panels, letting light through.

In the yard (which isn't huge), there is a vegetable and herb garden, fruit trees, aquaponics system and a clothesline, just steps away from the laundry room.

With an aquaponics system, you cultivate fish and plants at the same time.

With an aquaponics system, you cultivate fish and plants at the same time.

Other green features include low-flow water fixtures, (the toilets are ZURN, by the way, manufactured in Germany), countertops made from recycled paper and recycled concrete, EnergyStar appliances, and FSC-certified wood cabinets.

All in all, it's a comfortable family home.

More than 80 contractors, and five architect firms, worked on the New Hawaiian Home. Find a list of participating contractors on BIA's blog.

Kaimuki is an eclectic neighborhood with a mix of 50-year-old cottages and newly remodeled homes. It would be great to see more green homes like the New Hawaiian Home there.

The New Hawaiian Home will hold open house from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Sunday, July 10 and Sunday, July 17. Visit for more information.

Beautiful beaches, but how clean?

July 5th, 2011

Hawaii is home to some of the world's most beautiful beaches, but how does the state rank in terms of water quality? NRDC came out with its annual report.

How does Hawaii's beaches rank in terms of water quality? NRDC came out with its annual report.

Hawaii may be home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world (rated tops by many travel publications), but how do they stand in terms of water quality? A recent report by the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) reveals that the state could do better.

NRDC's annual survey of water quality, "Testing the Waters," focuses primarily on bacteria-related beach water quality concerns.

Pollution from stormwater runoff contributed to the majority of 4,215 closing/advisory days in Hawaii last year, according to NRDC's 21st annual beachwater quality report, up from 2,352 days in 2009.

Hawaii is home to more than 400 public beaches stretching along close to 300 miles of coastline. Overall, Hawaii ranked fourth in beachwater quality, but what's still alarming is that three percent of samples exceeded national standards in 2010.

And they were all on Kauai, one of our most beautiful isles:
  • Lumaha‘i Beach on Kauai
  • Kalihiway Bay on Kauai
  • Waimea Recreation Pier State Park on Kauai
Most closing and advisory days in Hawaii resulted from "brown water advisories" caused by heavy rainfall, but the following were causes for concern in 2010 as well:
  • Wastewater plumes were found off the island of Maui due to municipal wastewater that was being injected into wells.
  • The state health department is also working with the Kauai chapter of the Surfrider Foundation to investigate wastewater constituents in the waters of Nawiliwili Bay.
  • The county of Maui shut down power to low-lying coastal wastewater pumps in response to a tsunami warning in late February 2010. If the tsunami had hit, there would have been extensive damage to pumps, and sewage would have flowed to the ocean. Still, four pump stations experienced minor overflows.
  • Mokauea Island in the Ke‘ehi Lagoon was under warning nearly every day in 2010 because several homes were directly discharging sewage into the ocean. The homes now have a dry compost system.
Stormwater runoff was also the primary known source of pollution in beaches nationwide, along with sewage overflows. Runoff from storms and irrigation carries pollution from parking lots, yards, and streets to waterways.

Last year, the city and county of Honolulu reached a settlement with the Sierra Club, Hawaii's Thousand Friends, and Our Children's Earth Foundation, for violations of the Clean Water Act due to illegal sanitary sewer overflows. The city agreed to a $1.6 million penalty as well as additional measures to comply with the act.

One way to prevent pollution from our beaches is to invest in greener land infrastructure — whether it be porous pavement, green roofs, parks, or rain barrels. Anything that helps rain filter back into the ground naturally can help prevent polluted stormwater from reaching our oceans.

Robert Harris, director of Sierra Club Hawaii says: "Plainly, as a state, we need to do a better job of protecting our fragile marine environment for the enjoyment of residents and tourists alike."

You can see the full, detailed report for Hawaii — and look up your favorite beach —  by downloading a pdf file at (scroll d own and click on Hawaii under individual state summaries).

Some simple steps people can take to help prevent beach pollution, according to NRDC:
  • Pick up pet waste.
  • Maintain septic systems.
  • Put swim diapers with plastic covers on babies.
  • Keep trash off the beach.
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