Archive for the ‘Green business’ Category

Solar-powered Rainbow

November 10th, 2014
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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.

Patagonia, Kina‘ole, invest in solar

October 23rd, 2014
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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.

Teleworking, coworking

October 13th, 2014
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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.

Hawaii businesses: Save energy plus LED exit signs

March 31st, 2014
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Universal LED Exit sign from www.simplyexitsigns.com.

Universal LED Exit sign from www.simplyexitsigns.com. Swapping to an LED exit sign can save a business substantial electricity costs plus qualify for a $40 rebate from Hawaii Energy.

Attention, Hawaii businesses.

Did you know swapping out your older, incandescent exit sign for an LED one can save you $80 to $100 a year? It's a no-brainer. Plus Hawaii Energy's offering up to $40 in additional incentive to businesses that do so from now until May 31.

An Energy Star LED exit sign uses only about 44 kilowatt hours annually compared to 350 kilowatt hours for an incandescent sign — about 87 percent in savings.

It's as simple as that.

The exit signs, a legally-required safety feature in case of an emergency, are on 24 hours a day throughout the year.

Businesses must complete an application and submit a paid invoice or show proof of purchase to qualify for the incentive.

Also, Hawaii Energy is offering small businesses and restaurants an opportunity to replace their old lighting with newer, energy-efficient ones for free from now until June 9. Incandescent bulbs and halogen lighting are swapped out for CFLs (compact fluorescent lamps) and LEDs (light-emitting diodes).

To qualify, businesses must have an individual meter and be on an electric rate schedule G, or occupy a workspace of less than 5,000 square feet. Restaurants on any electric rate schedule or of any size can qualify.

Pagoda took advantage of Hawaii Energy's lighting retrofit program to save costs. Courtesy photo.

Pagoda took advantage of Hawaii Energy's lighting retrofit program to save costs. Courtesy photo.

Pagoda Floating Restaurant participated in the program, and expects to save about $14,400 a year.

Visit www.hawaiienergy.com/retrofit to apply.

Lighting can account for nearly half of a retail businesses' overall electricity costs at 48 percent. For offices, it's about 27 percent, and for restaurants, about 18 percent.

Hawaii Energy's Small Business Direct Install Lighting program, launched in July 2011, has helped 1,790 small businesses and restaurants throughout the state — from hardware stores to surf shops, art galleries and bakeries. The program provides free consultation, lighting and installation.

Hawaii Energy is a ratepayer-funded energy conservation and efficiency program serving the isles of Hawaii, Lanai, Maui, Molokai and Oahu.

Visit www.hawaiienergy.com/lighting or call 839-8800 to learn more. On neighbor isles, call 877-231-8222.

Making the LEED list

February 18th, 2014
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Aulani, a Disney Resort, at Ko Olina, is the largest LEED certified project in the state. LEED Silver. Courtesy image.

Aulani, a Disney Resort, at Ko Olina, is the largest LEED certified project in the state. LEED Silver. Courtesy image.

For the first time, Hawaii has made the U.S. Green Building Council's list of "Top 10 States for LEED."

Hawaii placed ninth in Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED).

The list highlights regions around the U.S. that are at the forefront of the movement for sustainable building design, construction and operation. The goal of LEED-certified spaces is to utilize less energy and water, reduce carbon emission and contribute to a healthier environment.

"Hawaii's recognition as one of the top 10 states for LEED buildings speaks volumes about the vigorous and progressive actions taken by our government, education, hospitality and military communities," said Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie. "The state is committed to fulfilling its clean energy goals, and I applaud all of those involved for their continued commitment toward energy efficiency."

Some Hawaii projects that became LEED certified in 2013:

>> Aulani, a Disney Resort & Spa at Ko Olina, LEED Silver

>> Punahou School  Omidyar K-1 in Honolulu, LEED Gold

>> Kaiakea Fire Station in Kapaa, LEED Silver

>> Maui Community College Science Building, LEED Gold

>> Hickam Air Force Base F-22 composite repair facility, LEED Gold

>> Howard Hughes Corp. Ward Village, LEED-ND (neighborhood development) Platinum

According to www.gbig.org, Honolulu has 172 green buildings and about 3.2 million square feet of LEED certified space (most of it at the gold level).

Illinois got the top-ranking spot, with 2.29 per-capita square feet of LEED space in 2013; Maryland was second with 2.20 per-capita square feet; Virginia came in third, with 2.11 per-capita square feet.

California and New York tied for fifth place with 1.92 per-capita square feet of LEED space in 2013.

A Pono Home

February 10th, 2014
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Pono Home is a Honolulu-based startup offering to "green" your home, making it more energy- and water-efficient. It's an interesting idea. After all, many of us know what should be done, but how many of us get around to doing it?

Sometimes we just don't know where to start. Oftentimes we procrastinate.

Part of what Pono Home offers is the convenience as well as the expertise of knowing how to green your home.  And they do it for you. (I would be perfectly happy to have someone else clean out the refrigerator condenser coils).

I'm a green columnist, so of all people, you would think I know how to green a home.

Getting a solar photovoltaic system was a big step in that direction.  But having a solar PV system isn't an excuse to just hog up energy in your home, either. I don't know everything. And the water bill only seems to be going in one direction these days — up.

There are plenty of great resources on the web, as well as free workshops by Hawaii Energy. Even HECO gives you plenty of tips through guides like "101 Ways to Save" and "Cool Tips" as well as in its monthly newsletter. For a guide on what to look out for in household cleaners and beauty products, the Environmental Working Group publishes guides posted free online.

Here are a few tips I didn't know (from Pono Home's learning resources link for energy efficiency):

>> Did you know storing potatoes with an apple help reduce spoilage? Or that you should leave tomatoes at room temperature with the stem facing down?

>> Did you know that keeping the fridge and freezer two-thirds full results in a 5 to 10 percent reduction in electricity use? (from greenlivingideas.com)

>> It's best to turn off fans when not in the room. Fans only cool you, not the room.

Till the end of February, Pono Home, one of the startups selected by clean tech incubator Energy Excelerator has an indiegogo campaign that allows you to get the service while contributing $20 to an environmental non-profit of your choice, including SEEQS, the Blue Planet Foundation, Sustainable Coastlines Hawaii, and others.

Sandalwood Legacy Trees

January 28th, 2014
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The sandalwood, or iliahi sapling, is now part of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwood's sponsorship program. Courtesy image.

The sandalwood, or iliahi sapling, is now part of Hawaiian Legacy Hardwood's sponsorship program. Courtesy image.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods of Paauilo, Hawaii, is now offering the rare, endemic sandalwood – or ‘iliahi, as part of its sponsorship program.

The sweet smelling ‘iliahi, found only in Hawaii, was harvested nearly to extinction a century ago. ‘Iliahi are not easy to grow, according to Heidi Bornhorst in "Growing Native Hawaiian Plants: A How-to Guide for the Gardener," because it is often difficult to find the seeds.

It is also slow-growing, with wood that is considered very valuable. HLH does not plan to harvest the trees.

"The simple fact is that because it is so slow-growing, if you are planting it for harvest, you better be planting it for your grandkids," said CEO Jeff Dunster. "And yes, in fact we are planting it for our grandkids, and everyone else's grandkids too."

The Legacy Tree program offers the public the opportunity to get involved in the reforestation of Hawaii through sponsorships. Sponsor a Sandalwood Legacy Tree to celebrate an event, honor an individual or memorialize a loved one.

The sponsorship of a sandalwood legacy tree is $100, with $20 going to the charity of the giver's choice (plus $1 which goes to the Hawaiian Islands Land Trust).

HLH celebrated the planting of its 200,000th native koa tree on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii island in May 2013 three years after the program was launched. The goal is to plan 1.3 million koa treesKoa legacy tree sponsorships are also still available for $60 (with $20 going to a charity).

Each tree can be tracked through HLH's Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) system, basically a computer signature, which keeps tabs on the tree's growth, maintenance and geology.

Visit www.HawaiianLegacyHardwoods.com or call (877) 707-TREE to learn more.

 

 

 

Solar parking arrays

January 23rd, 2014
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Covered parking solar array at Liliha Square provides shade and lowers electricity costs. Courtesy image.

Covered parking solar array at Liliha Square provides shade and lowers electricity costs. Courtesy image.

There's a cool new trend in Honolulu's parking structures.

RevoluSun just installed a 155-kilowatt solar PV system atop a carport at Liliha Square Shopping Center. While it's not the first carport solar array for Oahu, it's a growing trend among Honolulu commercial property owners, according to the solar company.

It makes sense.

After all, why not use the top space of a parking structure as a way to lower your utility costs while providing shade?

RevoluSun can also create a custom-designed cover for an open parking structure.

Last year, the company created a shaded, waterproof roof for the top level of the uncovered parking structure at AIPA (Airport Industrial Park Associates). The 280-kilowatt system helps AIPA save money on its overall electricity costs.

"Essentially, business owners are killing three birds with one stone," said RevoluSun principal Eric Carlson. "by creating shade from the hot Hawaiian sun and in some cases, a waterproof roof from our frequent Hawaiian drizzles; the solar panels generate clean, renewable electricity; and saves the owner money on their electric bills."

Other parking structure solar systems by RevoluSun:

>> Kapiolani Medical Center for Women & Children, 280-kilowatt system.

>> HECO Ward Avenue Charging Station, nine-panels, with a battery storage system.

RevoluSun, Surfrider clear 400 lbs at Sandy's

July 17th, 2013
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RevoluSun donated this sandsifter to help sort out plastic marine debris from the shores of Sandy Beach on Saturday. Courtesy photo.

RevoluSun donated this sandsifter to help sort out plastic marine debris from the shores of Sandy Beach on Saturday. Courtesy photo.

Volunteers from solar company RevoluSun and the Surfrider Foundation cleared more than 400 pounds of marine debris and litter at Sandy Beach on Saturday (July 13).

While most people focus on large litter at beach cleanups, looking for cans, bottles and plastic bags left behind, this cleanup focused on small trash and microplastics that are more difficult to pick up.

Within an hour and a half, volunteers picked up more than 2,000 cigarette butts, 300 beverage containers and single-use food containers, along with plastic bags, polystyrene packaging, fishing nets/ropes, batteries, drug paraphernalia, condoms (yuck!) and more.

This year, RevoluSun also donated a mobile sand-sifter developed by local contractor Jason Tucker Hills (cool!). It's designed to clean sand by pulling out microplastics or plastic debris — small plastic particles generated from industrial pellets used to manufacture plastic products as well as plastic broken down from plastic products left from both land-based and ocean-based litter.

It was the fourth year in a row that RevoluSun partnered with the Surfrider Foundation's Oahu Chapter for the annual Sandy Beach cleanup.

Roselani's goes green behind the scenes

December 12th, 2012
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Producers of Roselani Ice Cream have taken steps to reduce waste at its plant in Wailuku, Maui.

Producers of Roselani Ice Cream have taken steps to reduce waste at its plant in Wailuku, Maui.

Maui Soda & Ice Works, best known as the producers of the popular line of Roselani Ice Cream, has taken a few steps to make its Wailuku operations greener. They've been making ice cream from scratch since 1932.

The company — working with University of Hawaii-Maui College students — set up recycling bins for mixed metals, mixed papers and miscellaneous recyclables plus invested in a cardboard and shrink wrap compactor which makes recyclable bales.

Maui Soda has reduced the amount of its trash going to the landfills by about three-quarters and lowered its trash bill.

"I think it is a win, win situation for everyone," said Brian Carvalho, who handles plant maintenance. "Recycling helps our environment and as a plus side you can also make a little bit of  money."

The UH students will also analyze the Wailuku plant's lighting system  to improve Maui Soda's overall energy efficiency.

Let's hope other companies will be inspired to recycle, if they haven't taken a few simple steps to do so yet.