From local products to recycling services and clean energy initiatives, the tireless work of dedicated individuals is helping our communities tread lighter on this planet.
President and CEO, Hawaiian Electric Industries
Chairman of the Board, Hawaiian Electric Company
Chairman of the Board, American Savings Bank
What are the immediate steps you’ll take to achieve 100 percent renewable energy in the coming years?
“Hawaiian Electric is focusing on several important areas, but I’ll mention two that are nearer term. First, we want to bring more independent power producers into the mix, partners who can build renewable energy projects to keep making progress toward 100 percent renewable energy.
Hawaiian Electric and Maui Electric have asked the PUC to open dockets that would allow us to solicit more renewable energy projects on both O‘ahu and Maui. Our utilities are also working on technical research that will enable us to safely integrate more rooftop solar in areas where there’s already very high amounts of solar integrated.”
What is HEI’s renewed focus in 2017 now that the NextEra deal is of the table?
“As the parent company of the utility and American Savings Bank, we want to make it clear that we share our state’s vision for a 100 percent clean energy future and a strong, diversified local economy. Throughout the merger process and afterward, that commitment never wavered. Getting to 100 percent renewable energy while keeping service reliable requires substantial investments in our island grids. For example, through the first half of this year, Hawaiian Electric invested $157 million (more than twice its earnings for the first half of the year) in local infrastructure projects to modernize the electric grid and to integrate more renewable energy reliably. At HEI, we’re helping provide the financial resources to support that investment by our utilities.” Is there a misconception about
HECO that you come across time and time again?
“It bothers me when I hear people say our utilities are against rooftop solar because it hurts our profits. It’s not true—just look at the numbers. There are 78,000 systems installed or approved on the five islands we serve. Thirty percent of all single-family houses on O‘ahu have solar, the highest penetration in the country. Through our research and collaboration with the solar industry, we’re helping to integrate solar onto our grid in a way that doesn’t compromise safety or reliability. And because we have decoupled rates, which guarantee a certain amount of revenue to cover approved costs for providing service even as sales decline, there’s no financial motivation for us to be against solar.”
Executive Director, Aloha Harvest
Is there a correlation between the amount of food we import and hunger?
Hunger on our island is a big issue, whether the food is shipped in or not. There are many things that contribute to the amount of food going to waste. Aloha Harvest rescues excess food that is still good for human consumption and delivers it to social service agencies that feed the hungry and homeless. We use the term “excess” rather than “waste” because we all have this picture in our head that waste is ‘ōpala. This is not what Aloha Harvest rescues.
Businesses and individuals still have a long way to go to reduce the amount of food being thrown out. Each of us in some way can help make a difference, such as portion control, planning grocery purchases for what is needed for a shorter period of time, menu planning, repurposing unused food and sharing dishes when ordering out. According to economists, fresh fruit, rice and seafood are the most wasted foods in Hawai‘i by weight.
How do Aloha Harvest’s services help the community besides feeding the homeless?
In addition to feeding homeless and low income residents, our work also addresses the need to protect our environment and make more efficient use of our limited food supply. Each year an estimated 26 percent of the local food supply is thrown away. Aloha Harvest helps to alleviate this by diverting quality food from the overburdened waste-management system to feed the hungry. Last year, food donors contributed 1,956,150 pounds of food that would have otherwise gone into the waste stream.
We also work to improve the food security of our islands. Hawai’i imports 85 to 95 percent of its food and this makes it vulnerable to events such as natural disasters or shipping strikes that disrupt the food supply. The state is actively seeking methods to improve food security, including increasing both demand for and access to locally grown food, increasing production of locally grown food and providing policy- and systems-level support to improve food self-sufficiency. Aloha Harvest is actively working to maximize the use of local food to concurrently improve food security and reduce the burden of waste on our environment, while caring for our most vulnerable residents.
President & CEO, Martin & MacArthur
With very limited resources for koa wood, how do you meet the needs of production while still harvesting sustainably?
Martin & MacArthur only uses dead or previously fallen koa trees. We never cut down any trees or use wood from trees that were cut down. Because many koa trees die of natural causes after 60 to 80 years, we have a ready supply of beautiful koa from private plantations. We hand-select koa for our private stock, selecting only the most beautiful color and rippling curl. When we take dead koa trees from the forests, new koa trees grow from the seedpods that are naturally in the ground. Koa has been growing in Hawai‘i before the first Hawaiians ever settled here. There are innumerable dead koa trees on the Big Island. Furthermore, thousands of new koa trees are being planted through reforestation efforts that we support and allowed to grow naturally every year.
Founder and Creative Architect, Nu House and Nu Living Founder and CFO, Hawaii ADU
ADUs are a relatively new solution to O‘ahu’s housing shortage problem. How do they help alleviate the problem?
Accessory dwelling units are not just a solution to Hawai‘i’s housing shortage, but because of their size restrictions and zoning requirements, they will, by definition, be more affordable to produce, build and rent. Not only will they potentially add thousands of smaller rental homes in some of the most highly sought-after areas of O‘ahu, such as Kailua and the windward side, but they will also make it possible for more people to afford to live in those places. ADUs are a poignant step to sustainably increasing the density of people living in our most popular, high-cost-of-living towns.
Sustainability Manager, Alaska Airlines
What are some of the main sustainable initiatives Alaska Airlines has in place?
Alaska Airlines uses a tremendous amount of fuel and inflight supplies to service 30 million-plus passengers each year. This creates a lot of carbon dioxide emissions and garbage. It’s only natural that the major focus of our environmental sustainability strategy is to reduce emissions and waste.
We are especially proud that the International Council on Clean Transportation (ICCT) named Alaska Airlines the most fuel-efficient airlines for the past five years. We have long- and short-term goals for energy efficiency and reducing natural-resource consumption. We’ve been especially good at reducing fuel burn and emissions by operating new, fuel-efficient 737s enhanced with aerodynamic improvements, such as split scimitar winglets, and using new technology to fly more direct, precise routes between cities. We’ve also taken initiative in using sustainable aviation biofuels.
This year we had demonstration fights with a new fuel made from corn residuals. The other major sustainability program is inflight recycling. It started as an employee-led effort years ago and morphed into one of our inflight service standards. Our fight attendants collect mixed materials for recycling—cups, bottles, cans, paper, boxes, trays—on all domestic fights. No other airline has as comprehensive an inflight recycling program as Alaska Airlines.
Looking ahead a few years, where do you think the next evolution in sustainability will take place in regards to Alaska Airlines and air travel?
I would like to see an evolution towards sustainable aviation biofuels used on every fight. Fuel made from renewable sources is the future of green aviation. However, there is not an adequate supply of sustainable bio aviation fuels available. My hope is that production can be scaled up so it could be delivered to our local airports in the next few years. Alaska also partnered with the Port of Seattle and Boeing to lay out a long-term roadmap to incorporate aviation biofuel into the infrastructure at SeaTac airport. The goal is to power all Seattle fights with sustainable aviation biofuel.
Founder and Vice President, Pacific Biodiesel
How does biodiesel fit into the state’s 100 percent renewable energy goal?
As far as utility power goes, Hawai‘i is ahead of our benchmark objectives at this date. We need to establish renewable energy goals for transportation now that it has been shown that setting the goal is an important first step. Biodiesel is the proven local-firm power fuel and an important component to back up wind, solar, wave and other types of renewable that depend on the elements. Also, biodiesel is the most beneficial in terms of providing local, family wage-earning jobs and energy security, which are not inherent in wind and solar energy.
Is there a consumer application for biodiesel as an alternative fuel source?
Right now, most of our locally produced fuel is sold to the utility backup market, but we have many Hawai‘i fleets using biodiesel blends, including the City and County of Honolulu and the County of Hawai‘i. Diesel trucking will be around for a long time, and using biodiesel is an easy switch, requiring no engine conversion. Also, we have several charter boat companies, farming operations and private backup generation systems across the state using biodiesel.
Founder & President, Ocean Vodka
What are the sustainable products and practices that go into making your spirits? Is producing an organic spirit more expensive?
We are lucky enough to be stewards of almost 100 acres of the most beautiful tropical island on Earth. Maui is very small and has limited resources. Our island also has a limited ability to overcome abuses of those precious resources. What others consider sustainable, we consider to be simply necessary and responsible. We have invested heavily in solar energy generation. The solar collection panels on the roof of our distillery have a 65-kilowatt capacity, enough to power about 13 homes. Our farming methods are dependent on clean practices like mulching, composting and targeted, low-volume drip irrigation. We do not use any synthetic fertilizers, herbicides or pesticides that could leach into soil and ultimately find their way into the Pacific Ocean.
Yes, organic farming and manufacturing has a reputation for being expensive. We try to offset those higher costs by doing other things better and more efficiently. Organic farming, when done properly, can be very efficient and productive. Organic manufacturing can also be just as productive and efficient as conventional methods, you just have to be willing to invest in proper systems and technology that allow you to compete. We make world-class products organically that cost us, and consumers, what our industry considers to be very competitive prices, plus we do it all from the slopes of beautiful Haleakalā. It’s the best of both worlds for sure.
President & COO, Lenox Metals
How does industrial recycling help Hawai‘i achieve its 100 percent renewable energy goal?
Lenox Metals’ industrial recycling capability can help Hawai‘i reach its renewable energy goal by recycling obsolete power assets and providing a rebate back to the energy suppliers. The industries that benefit most from Lenox’s services include utility companies, demolition contractors, construction companies, electrical and plumbing contractors, defense contractors, automotive repair and any other industrial entity that produces scrap metal.
Lenox is a local company that has been operating in Hawai‘i for over 25 years. As a result, we understand Hawai‘i’s market and logistical challenges. We believe that industrial metal recycling makes good business sense. Lenox helps many businesses assess their processes and can set up a customized recycling program that helps productivity and provides rebates back to the customer.
The metal recycling industry has grown over the years and Lenox Metals is compliant with all environmental, health and safety regulations. Identifying and auditing end-use facilities for the metal materials we ship out is very challenging, yet Lenox only uses established facilities that meet or exceed our customers’ requirements.