Making Kaua‘i a leader in reducing carbon

LIHU‘E — Our carbon footprint and what we can do about it as individuals and a community was the theme of Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance’s meeting Tuesday at Kaua‘i Community College.

KPAA President and CEO Diane Zachary introduced the presenters with The Kauaian Institute statistics in which residents make the biggest contributions to the carbon footprint. Energy consumption is 30 percent of that pie, followed by transportation at 25 percent, food at 20 percent, buildings at 15 percent, and goods and services at 10 percent.

“As you think about what are the changes that you can make in your own life, what will make the biggest difference?” Zachary said.

Glenn Sato, sustainability manager and former energy coordinator for the County of Kaua‘i, said it is not an easy start because energy use is not set up in a way about which it is easy to gather information. He said the recent electric and fuel use study alerted them to this challenge that calls for major changes.

“Sustainability is such a broad, broad term when you talk about sustainable agriculture, water, land use, energy, everything can fit under that sustainability umbrella,” Sato said. “The county is trying to do is the first steps of collecting enough information to develop a baseline.”

The goal is to create an operations plan for staff and management to enforce no- and low-cost energy changes. The starting point includes ride-sharing promotions, paper reduction, office thermostat control, and a “disposable to reusable” campaign.

Ongoing studies will look at ways to improve water and wastewater efficiency. It begins with replacing leaky water pipes and looking at efficiency directives for public works and parks departments.

Replacing inefficient pumps, high-watt bulbs and installing photovoltaic systems is reducing grid-use at county buildings, neighborhood centers and sports facilities. Sato said the county is saving considerable money with smart meters, circuit level monitoring, optimizing daylight hours and use of natural ventilation.

An 85 kilowatt photovoltaic system in the Civic Center has the potential for saving $44,000 annually, he said. The fire stations are being equipped with 28 kilowatt PV systems.

The Lihu‘e wastewater facility may be the first to achieve a net zero goal with its 97 kilowatt PV system and two megawatt lithium batteries to provide reliable backup power. The county is also looking at development of biogas digesters at the Kekaha landfill.

Renewable energy projects include the purchase of five Nissan electric vehicles and five charging stations. Sato said one station is currently using a PV system and the long term goal is to have all of them PV in accordance with the multimodal transportation improvement plan.

Eric Knutzen, director of the Sustainable Living Institute at Kaua‘i Community College, co-founded renewable energy companies including Green Energy Hawai‘i. He is also director of Ho‘ouluwehi, which is part of the Sustainable Living Institute of Kaua‘i.

Knutzen said failing to create a non-sustainable society would result in pushing the debt of maintaining our carbon-based economy on to the next generation. He said future generations inherit the burden of economic debt, an environment of chemicals, and loss of culture through slash-and-burn policies.

There needs to be harmony within this discord, Knutzen said. A structural change begins by learning from our mistakes.

The presentation started with a model of Water, Energy, Affordable Living and Food.

Each category has long-term objectives of catchment, renewables, demand side management, self-sustaining homes and sustainable farming.

The Ho‘ouluwehi Center is partnering with the county on an affordable homes project. The technically self-sufficient homes made from recycled shipping containers would be built by KCC students.

Grand Hyatt shares examples

Diann Hartmann, public relations manager of the Grand Hyatt Kaua‘i Resort and Spa, runs the ENRICH program. It is a volunteer opportunity for locals and guests that includes recycling and improvement work.

The hotel started making significant environmental changes at its last renovation to the 602-room facility. New low-flow toilets and shower heads, carpets made from recycled materials, and wall paint containing low volatile organic compounds are just some of the examples implemented to meet energy and health goals.

The hotel has had a recycling program in place since 1995. The most recent estimate says their work diverts 22 tons of material that would otherwise end up at the island landfill.

“That is a 50 percent diversion rate,” Hartmann said.

Filtered water dispensers at all ice machines  encourage guests to refill plastic bottles. Bulk shampoo and body wash dispensers will replace tiny plastic bottles.

There is LED lighting and photovoltaic panels that produce 465,000 kilowatts of renewable energy. An on-site garden produces vegetables for restaurants and employee cafeterias.

The state’s first hotel charger for electric vehicles was blessed last week in the hotel’s parking lot. The hotel is also considering aquaponics and apiary projects.

Disconnect between policy and practice

Linda Silva, a teacher at Kalaheo Elementary School, and Pat Gegen spoke about a disconnect between policy and practice, and how the message must shape our value system and change behaviors.

Hawai‘i produces five times the national CO2 emission average, which is in large part because 90 percent of food is shipped to the islands, Gegen said. He encouraged residents to refrain from sending food or paper organic materials to the landfill where it creates methane, which is worse than C02.

Gegen, KIUC board member, created an award-winning student recycling program that raised $3059.47 and placed first in the 2011 Cash for Cans program.

The two discussed how student learning is put into practice in the homes as opportunities to educate residents on energy conservation in practical ways. Projects include a walking bus to reduce vehicle congestion at the school, and an energy meter to measures appliance waste by converting use into a cost per hour.

Gegen said the project shows the value of replacing constant use lights with a $27 bulb that may save $400 a year. It also helps people make practical decisions to get rid of wasteful appliances.

“I have had parents come to me and say, ‘You know what? We got rid of the beer fridge in the garage because I found out it was costing me $50 a month,’” Gegan said. “A little bit of education goes a long way. This is where the behaviors start to come in.”

Board members elected to new terms

Prior to the presentations, six of the 11-member board who had completed a two-year term were re-elected. They include Marissa Sandblom, chair; Beryl Blaich, vice chair; and members Helen Cox, Gilbert Peter Kea, Eric Knutzen and Jody Kono Kjeldsen.

The board members continuing their term include Mark Hubbard, treasurer; Sue Kanoho, secretary; and members Mason Chock, Joy Koerte and Own Moe.

Zachary updated the board on the current activities, including facilitating the Kekaha Host Community Benefits Committee. The nonprofit membership organization serves as a neutral convener on community and government projects that work on solutions.

Tommy Noyes presented on the Kalalau Trail Phase II park trail improvement that began Friday with a ground assessment of trail conditions to publish on the website. Phase one ended in 2011, and phase two will end in 2013.

The job requires helicopters, boats and repelling. The Friends of Kalalau Trail continue maintenance work as the project moves on to rough areas over the next nine miles.

“It’s going to be a complex and ambitious project to get all the personnel, materials and equipment out on the trail for extended periods of time,” Noyes said. “They are going to do the work up there and improve the safety of hikers enjoying the spectacular scenery.”

Other projects in some phase of development include a Kaua‘i comprehensive economic development strategy; a Waimea Sports Complex master plan and feasibility study; an arts and culture facility; a sustainability action team; and facilitation of the County’s Green Team.

Board member Mason Chock offered an update on new initiatives including Keiki to Career Kaua‘i feasibility assessment. He said the “ready to learn, ready for life” sustainable education model forms stakeholder partnerships on school activities, civic engagement, social strategies and job placement.

“This is a long-term, cross-sector initiative,” Chock said. “We are creating a collaborative and integrated system of services that fosters the academic, social, emotional and physical development of young people from birth to college to career.”

To volunteer, contact Kaua‘i Planning and Action Alliance at 632-2005 or email dzachary@kauainetwork.org. For more information, go to www.kauainetwork.org.

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