Author Archive

Sand sifter challenge winners

November 20th, 2014
By



Winners

Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks took first place in Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii and Rise's first Ultimate Sand Sifter contest last Saturday. Photos by Nina Wu.

It was a beautiful, sunny morning at Kalama Beach Park in Kailua.

Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, along with RISE, a core program of KUPU, organized the First Annual Ultimate Sand Sifter Challenge, and invited 20 finalists out of dozens of submissions to demonstrate their models on Saturday, Nov. 15.

The winner was a two-level screen sifter designed by Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks that offered an educational message while separating out microplastics from the sand. Second place went to photographer Ken G. Kosada and third place to surfer and beach cleanup volunteer Harrison Piho. Kailua Sailboards and Kayaks plans to use the $2,500 cash prize to enhance their educational facility and fund their island restoration projects. And, they decided to give $300 to Kosada and $200 to Piho.

As the winner, they get another $2,500 to replicate several of their sand sifters for use by volunteer organizations.

There was creativity, ingenuity and enthusiasm, but most of all, there was one goal in common — to figure out how to get these microplastics, pieces of plastics broken down by ultraviolet rays, out of the sand and out of the ocean.

Kailua, a five-mile stretch of fine, white sand, is often named as one of the most beautiful beaches in the world. It's the one that President Barack Obama once jogged on in his bare feet (before he was elected president). And yet, look closely near the high tide waterline, and you will see microplastic debris in that fine, white sand.

Saturday's event was an all-family affair, with plenty of enthusiastic students. Several teams from Punahou School (aspiring engineers from 7th to 10th grade), as well as a team of fifth and sixth-graders from Ho‘ala School in Wahiawa and a student from Kamakau Charter School who created a sand sifter for extra credit, were out demonstrating with their designs.

Ho‘ala School science, math and service teacher Maggie Pulver was able to teach several lessons at once while her students — Ian Shelton, Storey Welch and Christian Ward — designed and put their sand sifter to the test.

Ken Kosada, 2nd place winner, Ultimate Sand Shifter contest, created a spinning device out of recycled items.

Ken Kosada, 2nd place winner, Ultimate Sand Sifter contest, created a spinning device out of recycled items.

The designs were as simple as reused tubes, bucket and jars to more elaborate, spinning bins made from recycled bicycle rims and refurbished wood pallets. They had to be human-powered, without the use of fossil fuels, and designed and built for no more than $300.

Second-place winner Ken Kosada is already tweaking his design in preparation for the 10th annual Da Hui North Shore Clean-Up this Saturday (Nov. 22) at Turtle Bay Resort.

Piho, a regular beach cleanup volunteer and avid surfer from Wahiawa, had one of my favorite designs — a double baby stroller frame plus shoe rack that he found on the sidewalk left out for bulky curbside pickup. He said his design was mobile, and that you could push it across the beach, sifting debris out of the sand. He used simple twist-ties to assemble his sand sifter together.

Strollersandshifter

 

Third-place finalist Harrison Piho with his mobile, repurposed double stroller sandshifter design.

Third-place finalist Harrison Piho with his mobile, repurposed double stroller sand sifter design.

 

Solar-powered Rainbow

November 10th, 2014
By



Rainbow Drive-In installed a solar PV system that should shave 60 percent off its electricity bill once it's up and running. The solar array extends over beams that create shaded parking. Photo by Nina Wu.

Rainbow Drive-In installed a solar PV system that should shave 60 percent off its electricity bill once it's up and running. The solar array extends over beams — a solar canopy — that also offers shaded parking. Photo by Nina Wu.

Rainbow Drive-In, a longtime favorite in Kapahulu, has gone solar.

You may have actually parked  beneath the solar canopy, which provides shaded parking while supporting photovoltaic panels. While the 56.1-kilowatt system installed by Kama‘aina Solar Solutions hasn't been activated yet, it's expected to save the favorite plate lunch spot about 60 percent on its monthly electricity bill once it is.

And that's no small bill, at an average of $5,500 a month, according to owner and vice president Jim Gusukuma.

So the neon rainbow, fridges and other appliances at Rainbow Drive-In will all be solar-powered. Loco moco and milkshakes powered by sunshine-generated power in sunny Kapahulu – that's pretty cool.

Since there wasn't enough rooftop space for all 184 panels, Kama‘aina created the solar canopy. The canopy created shade for a few additional tables for the drive-in plus covered parking. It's a brilliant design idea, plus it qualifies for the 30 percent federal solar tax credit.

It's a smart move for the small, family-run business founded by Seiji Ifuku in 1961. Back then, you could get 50-cent chili with rice plate, 25-cent hamburgers and 14-cent French fries. Today, Rainbow Drive-In is one of the few places you can still get a hearty plate lunch for under $10.

The Rain Bowls (clockwise, from top, teri pork, boneless Rain Bowls, clockwise, from top, teri pork, boneless fried chicken, chili frank, and teri beef, are photographed inside the Hawaii's Favorite Kitchens store (Sun, Sept. 14 photo, Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino).

The Rain Bowls (clockwise, from top, teri pork, boneless fried chicken, chili frank, and teri beef, are photographed inside the Hawaii's Favorite Kitchens store (Sun, Sept. 14 photo, Honolulu Star-Advertiser/Jamm Aquino).

When the landlord offered a 25-year lease, Gusukuma said it allowed the small business to make improvements. Solar was at the top of the list.

The drive-in at 3308 Kanaina Ave., which was featured on Guy Fieri's "Drivers, Dine-ins and Dives"  expanded its offerings earlier this year, as detailed in this Honolulu Pulse post . At Hawaii's Favorite Kitchens next door (3111 Castle St.), you can now get Rainbowls (with brown or white rice), the KC waffle dog, a Poke Stop bowl or pick up some huli huli chicken from Hoku BBQ chicken.

In today's Green Leaf column, Gusukuma (who also drives an electric BMW i3) said: "I think, eventually, solar is the cleanest way to go. If you're able to do it, you have that obligation for the future."

Here's to another 50 years for Rainbow Drive-In, open 7 a.m. to 9 p.m. daily.

View of the solar canopy at Rainbow Drive-In from underneath. Photos by Nina Wu.

View of the solar canopy at Rainbow Drive-In from underneath. Photo by Nina Wu.

WEfficiency again

November 5th, 2014
By



The Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii is using WEfficiency to raise funds for more efficient lighting at its Clubhouses in Waianae, Ewa Beach and McCully. Courtesy photo.

The Boys and Girls Club of Hawaii is using WEfficiency to raise funds for more efficient lighting at its Clubhouses in Waianae, Ewa Beach and McCully. Courtesy photo.

It seems as if crowdfunding is everywhere these days — it's the new approach to fundraising, whether it's for a new documentary film, book, or even to make a potato salad.

WEfficiency is a new online fundraising platform that can make a real impact for local non-profits in Hawaii. You either make a donation or a loan that is repaid using a portion of the energy cost savings. The lender has the option of recycling the loan to another project.

The Boys & Girls Club of Hawaii partnered with the Blue Planet Foundation to launch its energy efficiency campaign seeking $60,000 to install high-efficiency lighting at its Clubhouses in Waianae, Ewa Beach and McCully. If successful, the funds would save about $18,000 a year in energy costs.

The campaign kicked off at the Art + Flea in Kakaako on Thursday, Oct. 30 and lasts until Tuesday, Dec. 30.

"By increasing energy efficiency at our facilities, we reduce energy cost and free up resources to better serve our keiki and provide them with programs that will help them to become responsible citizens of their communities," said BGCH president and CEO Tim Motts.

Hawaii Public Radio, the YWCA of Honolulu and Damien Memorial School have all funded energy efficiency projects successfully through WEfficiency.

 

Gubernatorial candidates on solar

November 3rd, 2014
By



LanikaiSolar

So where do Hawaii's gubernatorial candidates stand on solar and accessibility to solar?

The Green Leaf made the following queries a week ago, and down to the wire, here are how candidates Jeff Davis (Libertarian), former Honolulu Mayor Mufi Hannemann (Independent), former Lt. Gov. James "Duke" Aiona (Republican) and Sen. David Ige (Democrat) responded, in the order that they were received.

The candidates aired their perspectives earlier, including their views on LNG (liquefied natural gas), in an Oct. 14 Gubernatorial Forum on Clean Energy for Hawaii's Future hosted by ThinkTech Hawaii at the Laniakea YWCA.

In Florida, the "Sunshine State," solar has become a major rallying point for the race between the state's current governor, Rick Scott, and former governor, Charlie Crist. Energy, and the source of energy, for the Aloha State, is no doubt just as crucial, given that our electricity rates are three times higher than the national average.

Tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 4, is the last opportunity to vote, if you did not vote early or by absentee. Polls will be open from 7 a.m. to 6 p.m. Visit our voter guide to find out where to vote.

Do you feel HECO's action plan filed Aug. 26 is fair to solar PV customers in Hawaii, as well as to regular electricity customers in Hawaii?

Jeff Davis, solar contractor, radio talk show host, Libertarian

Since last Sept. 6, 2013, the PV world in Hawaii and our  bright future has come completely screeching to a halt. Now to suggest that there be two classes of rateplayers, and that certain people be grandfathered in is the continuance of absurdity with which the Hawaiian Electric Industries has dealt with its competitor, the PV industry, in general. Because we are their competitor.

Mufi Hannemann, former Honolulu mayor, Independent

HECO’s plan is seriously deficient, as the Public Utilities Commission made plain in its comments on the plan (Docket 2014-0183). In particular it has failed to embrace the full potential of renewable energy resources and it continues to rely far too heavily on fossil fuels. Electricity prices in Hawaii are 300% higher than the mainland. This is hurting families and businesses.

We need a much more proactive approach, one that encompasses solar and wind to the fullest extent possible and is open to geothermal power, the one energy resource that can really move the needle on fossil dependence and provide cheap, clean, renewable energy in very large amounts 24 hours a day. We need a smart inter-island grid that is more flexible, more efficient and can accept power generation from all sources.

Solar PV customers, all electricity customers, are being short changed by our current approach. And it is a self-defeating and ultimately pointless exercise to pit one set of customers against another. The job of the Governor is to ensure we free ourselves of our dependence of foreign oil, invest in alternative energy sources, build a new grid and lower electricity prices.

Duke Aiona, former Lt. Gov., Republican

If we have to change the system by creating a separate utility for transmission and distribution, in order to make alternative energies like solar more accessible to the community then I would consider that an option as well as neighborhood and community coops, which would empower neighborhoods as opposed to pitting them against one another.

David Ige, state senator, electrical engineer, Democrat

Did not respond to questions.

What will you do to help ease the hurdles faced by middle-class families that want to invest in solar but are faced with greater costs for doing so imposed by HEI (HECO, MECO, HELCO)? How will you help the 3,500 or more customers who invested their hard-earned money into solar PV systems but are still waiting to get connected to the grid, as well as those who have had to wait more than nine months?

Jeff Davis

In the simplest of terms, HEI must be taken out of the pay-to-play role. They cannot serve two masters — their shareholders and the public.  HEI must be, with aloha and grace, taken into a for-public coop and removed from being traded as a stock entity. There's no solving any of these problems without tackling the problem of a for-profit monopoly.

Mufi Hannemann

We are deeply concerned at the delays and uncertainties concerning HECO's ability to connect solar PV systems to the grid. The PUC should require HECO to immediately remediate the situation, and to impost penalties if they cannot comply. Otherwise, with federal subsidies for PV systems scheduled to end in 2016, possibly up to 200 Megawatts of commercial solar power production may now not go forward in Hawaii. This is unconscionable.

Duke Aiona

I believe that the presumption should be changed. HECO should have to prove that solar installations can not be connected to the grid, rather than the solar customer having to prove it can be. HECO has the resources and the ability. Why should the responsibility be on the consumer?

David Ige

Did not respond to questions.

How do you plan to keep the Public Utilities Commission, and HECO, accountable in genuinely implementing Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative? How will you help us reach those goals?

Jeff Davis

Number one, for the interim between taking HEI to a coop, we need to beef up the budget and personnel of the PUC. We need to take the PUC's appointments away from the political party in power and perhaps we should put the PUC members on a ballot and elect them.

Mufi Hannemann

The PUC's mandate should be expanded to actively promote the development and distribution of all renewable energy resources. It must require HECO to invest meaningfully in renewables and hold it accountable by basing its rate decisions on performance against quantified goals not costs. We should give the PUC the resources it needs to do its job and stop the State from raiding its funds for other purposes.

Duke Aiona

The PUC deserves to be supported by the administration with resources and direction. My direction to the PUC will be to consider all options that reduce the cost of energy in Hawaii, while being sensitive to the environment.

David Ige

Did not respond to questions.

SolarcourtesyBPF

57 tons

October 30th, 2014
By



An endangered Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on large net at Pearl and Hermes Atoll Photo Credit: NOAA

Caption: Hawaiian monk seal hauled out on large net at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.
Photo Credit: NOAA

The 57 tons of marine debris that National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration divers removed from the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands during a 33-day mission this month is just a fraction of all that's out there. The Star-Advertiser story ran in the paper Oct. 29.

For the Green Leaf, the images are a reminder of just how much work remains to be done out in the isles, also known as Papahanaumokuakea Marine National Monument, as well as of the impact of all the plastic that ends up in the ocean ecosystem. For the team of 17 divers sailing aboard the Oscar Elton Sette, it was rewarding to at least have made a dent in the amount of derelict fishing nets and plastic litter in and around the tiny islands, atolls and sensitive coral reefs.

"The amount of marine debris we find in this remote, untouched place is shocking," said Mark Manuel, chief scientist for the mission. "Every day, we pulled up nets weighing hundreds of pounds from the corals. We filled the dumpster on the Sette to the top with nets, and then we filled the decks. There's a point when you can handle no more, but there's still a lot out there."

Divers encountered – and rescued — three sea turtles tangled in different nets at Pearl and Hermes Atoll.

They were also able to remove a "super net" measuring 28-by-7-feet, which took several days. The net weighed 11-and-a-half tons and had to be cut into three pieces and towed back to the Sette separately. Luckily, it will no longer be out there, posing an entanglement risk for marine wildlife like the sea turtles, Hawaiian monk seals and seabirds, or damaging corals.

On the shorelines of Midway Atoll National Wildlife Refuge, the team surveyed and removed nearly 6 and a quarter tons of plastic trash, paying special attention to the bottle caps and cigarette lighters that are commonly consumed by birds. They removed and counted thousands of pieces of plastic, including (take note):

>> 7,436 hard plastic fragments

>> 3,758 bottle caps

>> 1,469 plastic  beverage bottles

>> 477 cigarette lighters

NOAA has led the mission every since 1996, removing a total of 904 tons of marine debris, to date, including this year's haul. The nets are transported back to Hawaii and converted to energy through the Nets to Energy partnership with Covanta Energy and Schnitzer Steel.

"This mission is critical to keeping marine debris from building up in the monument," said Kyle Koyanagi, Pacific Islands regional coordinator for NOAA's Marine Debris program. "Hopefully we can find ways to prevent nets from entering this special place, but until then, removing them is the only way to keep them from harming this fragile ecosystem."

Marine debris is a global, everyday problem that affects everyone. Anything manmade, including litter and fishing gear, can become marine debris once lost or thrown into the marine environment, but the most common are plastics. "There is no part of the world left untouched by debris and its impacts." Visit marinedebris.noaa.gov to learn more.

NOAA diver conducts towboard surveys at Midway Atoll. Photo Credit: NOAA

NOAA marine debris staff sorting marine debris on Midway Atoll after conducting shoreline surveys. As you can see, most of it is plastic. Photo Credit: NOAA

Patagonia, Kina‘ole, invest in solar

October 23rd, 2014
By



Patagonia, which has two stores on Oahu, is putting money where the sunshine is.

The Ventura, Calif.-based outdoor clothing company is joining forces with local solar finance company, Kina‘ole Capital Partners LLC  to create a new $27 million fund to purchase rooftop solar photovolatic systems in Hawaii. Patagonia is offering a $13 million tax equity investment. The fund will be available to all qualified solar installation companies in Hawaii to help purchase more than 1,000 rooftop solar energy systems in Hawaii.

Patagonia's investment comes through its $20 Million & Change fund, which was launched in 2013 to help innovative, like-minded startup companies bring about solutions to the environmental crisis and other positive change through business. As Patagonia founder Yvon Chouinard put it: "Working with nature rather than using it up."

PatagoniaSolar

"This is smart business for Patagonia and good news for homeowners in Hawaii, who pay way too much for dirty electricity," said Patagonia CEO Rose Marcario. "I hope other companies see how this strategy can bring strong returns and think seriously about doing the same thing.  Business is in a unique position to accelerate the creation of renewable energy infrastructure."

The announcement, made Oct. 15, comes at a time when many solar companies are in a difficult position in Hawaii due to hurdles created by the Hawaiian Electric Co. Approximately 3,500 solar PV customers in highly saturated areas (depending on the circuit they are on) are still waiting to get connected to the grid. Some have waited as long as nine months. HECO says they have to wait due to grid safety and reliability issues.

In addition, HECO recently outlined an action plan in late August — pending Public Utilities Commission approval — to raise the fixed connection fee for all customers on Oahu to a minimum of $55 (instead of $17), and an increase to $71 for new solar PV customers. At the same time, HECO proposes reducing the credit for excess energy produced by solar PV customers to just 17 cents per kilowatt-hour, half of what it currently offers. It is also proposing all new solar PV customers pay an additional, as-of-yet-unknown fee.

The plan has been criticized by the state Department of Economic Development and Tourism as one that embraces an outdated business model while doing more to benefit the utility than the public.

Still, solar is a great investment, and makes sense in a state that gets 271 days of sun annually. Despite the fees proposed by HECO , there will still be a return on your investment (even if it will take longer) — and best of all, it'll be a switch to clean energy, which is part of Hawaii's Clean Energy Initiative.

The solar energy systems purchased by the fund would potentially reduce 153,000 tons of carbon dioxide — or the equivalent of taking 29,000 passenger vehicles off the road. The solar investment also creates hundreds of jobs, including ones for Patagonia's surf ambassador Kohl Christensen and his Oahu-based solar company.

So kudos to Patagonia for leading the way!

Patagonia surf ambassador Kohl Christensen installing solar panels. Photo courtesy Patagonia.

Patagonia surf ambassador Kohl Christensen installing solar panels. Photo courtesy Patagonia.

Honu and Hina

October 21st, 2014
By



honu-and-hina-a-story-of-coexhistance-book-hawaiian-childrens-book-story-88

Nature artist Patrick Ching, author of "The Story of Hina" has another book in the works: "HONU and HINA, A Story of Coexistence."

His approach to this book, which addresses how we as humans live among protected animals like the honu (Hawaiian green sea turtle) and Hawaiian monk seal, is different. He's taking it on indiegogo. The goal is to raise $15,000 by Saturday, Oct. 25.

That covers the cost for the first print run of about 4,000  books by Island Heritage Publishing, not including the painting and writing time, but the production, graphic art work, editing, printing, binding and shipping. The books are scheduled to be available in early November.

A former ranger for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Patrick Ching lived among turtles and seals on the protected atolls of the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands.

"The Honu and Hina book will bring to light important facts about these species' history, life cycles and current status at a time when people are very curious about them," says Ching in his Indiegogo blog. "The colorful illustrations were done with the help of many artists of all ages and even some professionals!"

>> For $10, get a personalized mahalo email from Ching.

>> For $25, get a personally signed Honu and Hina mahalo card with original cartoon from Ching.

>> For $50, get a Premier Edition book, autographed, personally dedicated and cartoonized.

>> For $100, get a Premier Edition book, autographed, etc., plus an 8 x 10 inch "Dreams of Paradise" matted print featuring Honu and Hina.

>> For $200, get two Premier Edition books, plus a $97 value Ching Canvas Giclee of your choice.

>> For $1,000, get four Premier Edition books, autographed, etc. plus a $675 value Patrick Ching Canvas Giclee of your choice.

Keep the Sea Free of Debris art contest

October 15th, 2014
By



NOAAMarineDebrisartcontest

The "Keep the Sea Free of Debris" art contest is on.

NOAA Marine Debris invites students from Kindergarten to 8th grade to create artwork that shows 1) how marine debris impacts the oceans (and Great Lakes) and 2) what you are doing to help prevent marine debris.

The contest officially starts today (Wed., Oct. 15). Students have until Nov. 17 to submit entries (postmark date).

The goal of the contest is to raise awareness. Winning entries will be featured in NOAA's 2016 Marine Debris calendar. To learn more about marine debris, visit www.marinedebris.noaa.gov.

Each entry must include a piece of artwork and description, to be filled out on the entry form. The entries must be on a single sheet of 8.5-by-11-inch paper, landscape direction, using any art medium including colored pencils, crayons and paint. However, the artwork must be hand-drawn by the student. Computer graphics will not be accepted.

The entries can be mailed to:

Marine Debris Art Contest
ATTN: Asma Mahdi
NOAA Marine Debris Program
1305 East-West Highway Rm #10203
SSMC4, 10th Floor
Silver Spring, MD 20910

Click here for complete contest rules and to download an entry form.

Teleworking, coworking

October 13th, 2014
By



ProtoHUB

ProtoHUB Honolulu, soon to become ImpactHUB Honolulu, is the newest co-working space to arrive in Kakaako. The space comes complete with lockers, free WiFi, organic coffee, meeting rooms, a nap nook and wellness room. Photos by Nina Wu.

Times have changed in terms of how we work.

With mobile laptops, tablets and smartphones, work is now defined as wherever we are, as opposed to "the office." Which is why the time has also come for the advent of "co-working" spaces like BoxJelly, ZenWorx and ProtoHub Honolulu (soon to become ImpactHUB Honolulu).

Walk into any Starbucks, and you can pretty much see, it doubles as an office.

I think telecommuting is a great idea. If more companies would allow their employees to work in a mobile mode, then we could probably alleviate traffic during "rush hour," reduce carbon emissions, as well as that influx of energy usage right at 5 p.m. when everyone supposedly goes home and turns on their appliances.

If official work hours could be more staggered, or flexible, in terms of when and where, then we could avoid that congestion.

Coworking spaces like ProtoHub are cool, too, because they serve as hubs for innovation and interaction. If there was one in every neighborhood, people could walk or ride their bikes. For people who run their own businesses, it's an ideal meeting spot. You can be a part-time or full-time member, depending on your needs.

ProtoHub co-founder and director Shanah Trevenna believes in the triple-bottom-line of  a "people, planet, profit" economy. Sustainability, in other words, leads to a thriving economy that benefit both people and the planet.

Ian McMillan, a retail entrepreneur from Volcano, Hawaii, recently signed up for part-time membership because he comes to Oahu to sing for the choir in Hawaii Opera Theatre. So yes, he's here for the production of Puccini's "Madam Butterfly."

He sees coworking spaces as a source of inspiration.

"When you work by yourself, you sort of get in a rut," he said. "Being around different people exposes me to a lot of new ideas and new energy."

Plus, you can check out what's for lunch on Wednesdays, when various catering companies and chefs will fix a "Sexy Salad" using local, organic produce, for just $7.

Som Tum, or green papaya salad, prepared by George Yarbrough of Pono Aina Catering. Sexy Salad Wednesdays offer a fresh, organic salad made from mostly local produce for $7.

Som Tum, or green papaya salad, prepared by George Yarbrough of Pono Aina Catering. On Wednesdays, ProtoHUB's kitchen offers a fresh, organic salad made from mostly local produce for $7.

Keiki Garden Adventure

October 7th, 2014
By



Keiki planted herbs and vegetables into a patch of rich soil at The Green House. Photo by Nina Wu.

Keiki planted herbs and vegetables directly into a patch of rich soil at The Green House. Photos by Nina Wu.

Gardening seems like a natural hit for keiki — get your hands dirty, hold earthworms and learn how plants grow. I spend more time writing about gardens than actually gardening myself (I need more time - that's my excuse). My four-year-old likes to tag along, help water the few native plants and pots of herbs in our yard and pick lemons from our tree.

So when The Green House  held it's hands-on Keiki Garden Adventure workshop on a recent Saturday in Pauoa Valley, I decided to sign up. It made for a fun Saturday morning. My son was shy, at first, but when I asked if he had fun later that afternoon, he said: "Yah!"

Here are a few tips I learned:

>> When planning an edible garden, think about what will grow based on sunlight, soil composition and moisture. Observe what's growing well in your neighborhood to get an idea — bananas, papayas, citrus, avocados, sweet potatoes all do well in a tropical climate.

>> You can create healthy soil through composting and sheet mulching. No matter what type of soil you have, adding compost and vermicast to poor soil will improve overall soil quality.

>> When taking a plant out of a pot, using  your fingers to fluff out the end roots is helpful before planting in the ground. You want to plant it just right, not too low, not too high, to make it happy

>> Ecoscraps, an all-organic compost mix, is available at Home Depot. This mix is made from a variety of composted fruits and veggies, with no chemicals. It was started by two college students, Daniel Blake and Craig Martineau, who noticed how much food was being wasted at an all-you-can buffet –what began as a dorm room project grew into a business venture.

Betty shows the keiki some examples of seeds, explaining how they grow into plants.

Betty shows the keiki some examples of seeds, explaining how they grow into plants.

Betty Gearen, the teacher, started the morning by having the kids shape "wormies" out of a chocolate-cinnamon dough that she later baked up as a yummy treat.

She brought out a few examples of seeds and explained how they grew. Then the kids got to get their hands dirty making "seed balls" — a mix of soil, compost, and a little clay — sprinkled with various flower seeds. Add water and shape into small balls. A reused paper egg carton makes the perfect container.

Drill three holes into a plastic gallon container and you've got a watering can.

The Green House is now offering the new EcoExplorer Learning Center for two to five-year-olds from 8:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Monday through Friday.

"With the Aina as our playground and Mother Nature as our guide we have created an innovative place where keiki will blossom in a fun, safe, nurturing eco-environment that has been created just for them to imagine, wonder and explore.

Keiki will learn creative arts, literature, math, cooking, gardening and yoga through the center, which embraces Montessori and Waldorf philosophies. To learn more, contact program director Karla Meek, karla@thegreenhousehawaii.com.

Keiki examining peeled beans under magnifiying glasses.

Keiki take a close look at peeled beans to see how seeds grow and examine the soil with magnifying glasses to find useful bugs.