Cash for sustainability

  • Photo courtesy Kupu

    Kamaile Akau, left, and Anuhea Asquith set up lab equipment to distill essential oils at Kawaikini New Century Charter School in Puhi.

  • Photo courtesy Kupu

    Kelea Kaynor, left, and Kekaimana Aki-Jansson hold up binders that contain information about their essential oils at Kawaikini New Century Charter School in Puhi, created through a grant from the Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge mini-grant opportunity.

PUHI — Students at Kawaikini New Century Charter School have a batch of essential oils they can sell this year, thanks to a Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge mini-grant they secured in 2017.

That grant allows students to develop a business creating organic, earth-friendly essential oils from native plants and put them up for sale.

Kawaikini is one of more than 20 schools awarded mini-grants ranging from $150 to $1,000 in 2017. The amount was based on the scope of the project.

And now it’s time for schools to jump on board again.

Kupu and Kokua Hawaii Foundation are offering up to $20,000 in funding for the 2018-19 HYSC program. Students and educators in grades six through 12 at public, private and charter schools statewide are encouraged to apply.

Each team must include one teacher adviser, and will also be paired with an outside mentor to support project development.

Other projects that have qualified include sustainable businesses, marine debris cleanups, recycling and outreach programs, garden expansions, aquaponics, and restoration and waste-reduction projects.

“It is incredible how much our youth can accomplish and inspire others with just an idea and a little bit of support,” said Kupu CEO John Leong in a press release. “Through the Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge, we are empowering the next generation of innovators and creators.”

Oct. 19 is the deadline for schools who want to throw their name in the hat for a grant, which would support students who want to help their schools and communities go green and now have a chance to earn funding to back their ideas.

Grants are through the conservation and education nonprofit Kupu, in partnership with the Kokua Hawaii Foundation. The program has been in existence for three years.

A total of $17,525 was provided through the program in 2017.

Grant recipients will be selected in November for projects commencing in January.

Leong said he sees the program as a leg-up for Hawaii eco-preneurs and eco-engineers, but it’s also a win for the community at large.

“We have seen so many students generate innovative and effective projects that address pressing environmental issues. We can’t wait to see what our future leaders come up with this year,” he said.

For more information on Hawaii Youth Sustainability Challenge, visit


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