Archive for January, 2015

Turning a new leaf

By
January 30th, 2015



 FTR NATIVE KOKIO KEOKEO

Dear Green Leaf readers:

First of all, a big mahalo and shout-out to those of you who have been reading the column and blog, which turns four years old in February. I thank you for following along. I'm always open to your comments and suggestions – and I welcome more interaction with you, whether you agree or disagree with me.

If you have any ideas for this column, I invite you to email me nwu@staradvertiser.com. You can also find me on Twitter as @ecotraveler and Facebook.

The first blog post, dated Feb. 25, 2011, was about "the plastic dilemma." Well, guess what?  We still have that plastic dilemma, only a much larger one (an estimated 270,000 tons of plastic in the ocean, to be more specific). It's funny, because the exact same dilemmas we had then are the same that we have now — without plastic bags, how do we line our wastebaskets or pick up dog poop? Back then, only Maui and Kauai had the plastic checkout bag bans in place. Then Hawaii island. Come July, Oahu's plastic bag checkout ban will go into effect, as well.

Wow, we've come a long way.

In four years, the number of homes with solar photovoltaic systems on their rooftop went from less than 1 percent to 11 percent. We have the largest number of homes with solar PV per capita than any other state in the U.S. This makes sense, given that our electricity rates are triple the average in the nation, combined with the federal and state tax credits available and lower cost of systems. But we've got a long road ahead towards reaching our Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative.

The blog has covered everything from plastic debris to recycling, climate change, invasive species, Hawaiian monk seals ( of course!), composting, bicycle-friendly initiatives, solar power (and the struggle to have solar power in Hawaii). All of these are still relevant, but have made it to the forefront because they affect all of us.

What else would you like to see? Have any suggestions?

On a personal level, since starting this blog, we took the big step of having a solar PV system installed on our home in 2012 (see post: "Time to go solar"). I'm grateful we were able to, considering how difficult that path has been for families that have been trying to in the last year. Since starting The Green Leaf, I also became a mom to an adorable, little boy, now age 4. In case you haven't noticed, I have a thing for Hawaiian monk seals, our official state mammal and a critically endangered species.

ABOUT ME

Mommy&B

So let's just start with this: I am not perfect, nor am I "greener than thou." I'm just someone who cares about the paradise we live in, and someone who believes in trying to make the Earth a better place, ideal as that may seem. Through The Green Leaf, I hope to educate, inform and inspire.

Where did I get that idealism? In all honesty, I think it came from my time as an undergraduate at the University of California at Davis, one of the greenest college campuses in the U.S. I rode my bike everywhere on that campus, alongside professors and recycling was part of the lifestyle. Later, I rode my bike around the urban jungle surrounding the University of California at Berkeley while going to journalism school (and still have that bike, which was good for hills).   I did not grow up in a hippie, granola family, though we were always frugal and conscious about waste. I moved to Hawaii because of a love for hula, which is also about connecting with and having a deep respect for nature.

Let's just get the following "non-green confessions" out of the way:

>> I used disposable diapers. Yes, for three years. But I also came back to work full-time at the Honolulu Star-Advertiser after three months of maternity leave, and my son was at daycare. I don't know of many daycares in Hawaii that would accept reusable diapers. So yes, guilty! But we're done with that, now. We've been fully potty-trained for a year now.

>> I forget to bring my own fork — a lot. I do have one of those bamboo forks (and actually, you can just take one from your kitchen drawer at home around with you). When I forget, I save my plastic forks and reuse them. One of my New Year's resolutions is not to forget as often.

>> I drive an SUV. Yes. a Honda CRV. Bought it when my son was born after driving a compact Toyota Corolla for more than 15 years. Pretty much all my life, I drove small, compact cars. I was on the verge of buying a pre-used Toyota Prius, but went to plan B when the seller decided she didn't want to sell after all. My family (my mother, most of all) insisted that I would need a bigger car to tote around a baby, with the carseat, stroller, and everything else that comes with a child. I fell for it. I have to admit, it has at times come in handy (for the in-laws, baby, dog and all) and it is supposed to be one of the more fuel-efficient SUVs. But lately, I've also been feeling the bulk of it, and I'm on the market for a hybrid or electric vehicle.

Solar PV + EV

By
January 15th, 2015



Wes Wada of Honolulu just installed a solar photovoltaic system on his home, which will help power the two electric vehiciles he and his wife drive around town. Courtesy Wes Wada.

Wes Wada of Honolulu just installed a solar photovoltaic system on his home, which will help power the two electric vehicles he and his wife drive around town. Courtesy Wes Wada.

Wes Wada of Honolulu is not your typical tree-hugger or environmentalist, but alternative energy has become part of his daily lifestyle.

Wada adopted alternative energy times three. He just hired Eco Solar to install a solar photovoltaic system (32 panels in all) on his rooftop in Honolulu last year to help power his home and his two electric vehicles. He's had the Nissan Leaf and Mitsubishi i-MiEV for three years, already.

So he's living the "Solar PV + EV" equation.

SOLAR PV + EV

Solar PV + EV means living on sunshine as your main generator of electricity, but of course, there are many factors to consider before making this investment. (Read "Living the EV/PV Dream" by GreenTech Media).

For Wada, it's worked out well, as part of the Hawaii lifestyle.

"That's really the way to go, in my opinion," said Wada. "The key thing, No. 1, is you need to know what the daily commute is going to be."

On an island like Oahu, chances are your distance is going to be pretty short compared to what it might be on the U.S. mainland. The investment in the electric vehicles which he and his wife use have worked out, when rebates were factored in. If he were to do it all over again, Wada says he would lease the Nissan Leaf  instead of purchasing it. That way, he says, you don't have to worry about the battery two years later.

Consider us lucky, too, given that we have sunshine, lots of it, through most of the year.

For Wada, once named an "Energy Hero" by Hawaii Energycost savings and convenience were the main motivation for going green.

"Imagine never having to line up at Costco again for gas," he said. "In five to six years, the solar PV system will be paid off, then you get free electricity for the home and the cars. The convenience factor is really big."

PERKS OF AN EV

The other perks – use of the HOV lane regardless of the number of passengers, free parking at meters and  the airport (there's a 30-day limit, according to the Hawaii Department of Transportation, but it's free of charge if you have an EV license plate), and dedicated parking stalls all add up.

The energy climate in Hawaii, today, is more uncertain, with NextEra's pending acquisition of HECO, plus the state utility's plan to raise fees for all electricity users, with extra fees for owners of solar PV.  Connecting the solar PV system to the grid is also a big uncertainty, with folks that have waited up to a year. If you've already got solar PV in place, the next natural step would be to consider an EV. At the same time, HECO is also offering a discounted time-of-use rate for owners of electric vehicles who charge up at non-peak hours.

Wada said he opted not to go with the time-of-use option, but he's definitely glad he opted for Solar PV + EV.

If you can't get approval for photovoltaic panels, Wada says there are still a lot of things you can do to cut back your electricity bill — LED light bulbs, a solar water heater, energy efficient appliances.

ON THE HORIZON

Most people worry about running out of electricity while on the road, but more charging stations are in the works, plus a start-up company is working on a mobile charging service for electric cars, according to Dave Rolf, executive director of the Hawaii Automobile Dealers Association. That sounds like a great idea.

"I would do it again, knowing what I know now," said Wada. "If people are really concerned about surviving in Hawaii and doing more with less, I think PV + EV is kind of a no-brainer."

What about you? Have you thought about investing in an electric vehicle in Hawaii? The number of EVs in the state reached 3,166 in December 2014. Are you more comfortable with a hybrid (with 19,256 in Hawaii, they make up about 1.7 percent of total passenger vehicles)?

EXCITING NEWS

The Toyota Mirai, Toyota's first fuel cell vehicle, is scheduled to be launched in Hawaii in November this year. A prototype will be available at the First Hawaiian Auto Show in March.

Bikeshare heading this way

By
January 8th, 2015



Two bikes, "Jen" from Seattle's bikeshare program, and "Mike" from New York's Citibike bikeshare program, will visit Oahu in January to help raise awareness about a bikeshare program in the works here. Courtesy photo.

Two bikes, "Jen" from Seattle's bikeshare program, and "Mike" from New York's Citibike bikeshare program, will visit Oahu in January to help raise awareness about a bikeshare program in the works here. Courtesy photo.

Get ready for Jen and Mike.

Jen is the name of a bicycle from Seattle, and Mike is a bike from New York.  Both are part of established bikeshare programs in their respective cities. They'll be visiting Honolulu, starting Monday, to help raise awareness about the program in the works here.

Bikeshare Hawaii, a non-profit run by Lori McCarney, a former senior vice president at Coldwell Banker Pacific Properties and Ben Trevino, a founder of Interisland Terminal, is planning to roll out a program here, with the first phase set to begin in Honolulu in early 2016. The goal is to offer about 2,000 bikes at 200 stations from Waikiki to Chinatown. Similar bikesharing programs are established in numerous U.S. cities.

"The vacationing bikes will get to enjoy some of the experiences our wonderful island home offers, just like other visitors do," said McCarney, Bikeshare Hawaii CEO. "We will bring the Jen and Mike bikes to a variety of events and locales and you'll be able to follow their adventures and learn about opportunities to meet them in social media."

The bikesharing program allows customers to make short trips between a network of unattended bike docking stations. The idea is to offer customers a transportation system without the hassles of ownership, including storage, maintenance or parking. At the same time, the goal is to encourage more people to ride bikes to cut down on pollution for short trips.

A pilot program offering short-term bike rentals, called B-cycle, was launched in Kailua in 2010.

Jen and Mike are hoping to visit the Pow Wow Murals on Cooke Street; the Kuhio Beach torch lighting and hula show; the King Street Cycle Track and the Sony Open while they are in town. Follow Bikeshare Hawaii on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, with hashtags #MikeTheCitiBike and #JenTheProtoCycle to see where they are during the visit here.

Mike is part of a bikesharing program in New York sponsored by CitiBank. Courtesy photo.

Mike is part of a bikesharing program in New York sponsored by CitiBank. Courtesy photo.

 

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