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June 05, 2015

PBN panelists weigh in on what Hawaii needs to do to be self-sustaining

Categories: Food | Energy | Waste

Published in the Pacific Business News on June 5, 2015 

The word sustainability sometimes gets lost in translation.

It’s more than ditching fossil fuels in favor of renewable energy. It’s more than growing your own food, or buying local. It’s more than recycling products, including entire buildings, instead of dumping them in the landfill.

It’s also all of those things.

Colin Yost began understanding sustainability at the age of 4 by living it in the forests of Oregon. It’s now the essence of his business at RevoluSun.

Jeff Overton sees it every day at Group 70 International, which has become a sustainability role model for other businesses.

Murray Clay fights for it every day at the Ulupono Initiative, which among other things wants Hawaii to be a food producer instead of relying so much on what arrives by cargo ship.

Jeff Mikulina wants an end to Hawaii’s use of fossil fuels — the mantra for the Blue Planet Foundation that he heads.

Quinn Vittum, who grew up helping his father build houses in New Hampshire, wants to see more deconstruction and less demolition when residents and business owners remodel their homes and headquarters. His nonprofit Re-use Hawaii stands ready to help.

These were among the topics discussed by PBN’s five panelists at a breakfast seminar last month. To read the highlights of what they said, see the following pages.

Murray Clay
Managing Partner, Ulupono Initiative
“Hawaii can provide more of its own energy and food. We can do better.”

Murray Clay believes that Hawaii residents are motivated to be as self-sufficient as possible. But, most of what they consume comes to the Islands by ship, and if those ships stop coming, we have a real problem.

“When we get 90 percent of our food and energy shipped in, basic necessities coming thousands of miles away sounds really bad,” he said. “We shouldn’t be digging more landfills. We are working on that. Hawaii can provide more of its own energy and food. We can do better.”

Clay noted that Ulupono Initiative did a market survey asking if people would support an effort to make Hawaii 100 percent renewable by 2040, and 85 percent said yes. Also, half of those surveyed said that both price and environmental sustainability are important.

Ulupono Initiative strongly supports dairy farms in Hawaii, and several employees recently took a tour of Mainland dairies, looking at four different dairies in two states.

“Last year, we toured grass-fed dairies in New Zealand, and it was one of the most inspiring experiences I’ve had,” Clay said.

In terms of looking into buying a Big Island dairy, he said Ulupono Initiative is still talking to the seller to determine if it makes sense.

“One of the dairies we toured, it was 600 cows,” Clay said. “The smaller scale is hard to pencil out. This guy was doing well, so it shows that smaller scale can work. That’s what we learned.”

On NextEra Energy’s proposed $4.3 billion acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co, he said it’s not just a “yes-or-no” answer. He said the right conditions need to be met to allow the state to reach its renewable-energy goals.

“The gold standard is aligning shareholder financial interest with renewable-energy goals,” he said. “Give the utility financial incentive to achieve renewable goals. If that happens, we will achieve those goals. The people with the big money will get more money if they reach those goals. But, if you can align those interests, this is the gold standard to making this merger happen.”

— Duane Shimogawa

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