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Sections 24 Economics: Big Island Tea Eliah Halpenny is growing world-renowned tea by creating an entire ecosystem 26 Q&A: People Movers A conversation with the Alan Rice, Hawai‘i’s only authorized Segway dealer 28 Business: The Reincarnation Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha returns with a new focus on flavor and sustainability 30 Community: The Gold Standard Two Girl Scouts receive the Gold Award for their Exceptional Tree brochure 32 Science: Sore Subject Invasive khaki weed threatens bare feet and beach parks 46 Design: The Ho‘oilo House Lahaina bed and breakfast is something to write home about

34 Politics: Bag It

Maui County has a handle on plastic bags, but will the legal precedent resonate across state?

40 Conservation: Guerilla Conservation

Keith Robinson’s controversial friend or foe brand of environmental conservation

48 Food: Fast Food Times

Looking beyond convenience and finding the real value in a healthier public and environment

Sustainable Living 14 Almanac Aesthetics of the solar panel 15 Technology Clean energy app 16 Art Abigail Romanchak carves Tracked 18 Home Outdoor furniture 19 The Know Kanu Hawaii Energy Challenge 20 Outside 5 snorkeling spots across the islands 21 Health Safe and natural sunscreens 22 Film The Power of Community

Departments 06 Editor’s Note 10 Letters 12 Contributors 54 Marketplace 56 Advertiser Directory 58 Coming Next Issue

COVER PHOTO: Forrest Treadwell



Illustration: Orthreb Arios


Change of Ideas I grew up watching TV and eating fast food like most people in America, a homogeneous product of our consumer-based culture. On New Year’s Eve 1999, sick in bed with a terrible flu for the party of the century, I had plenty of time to come up with New Year’s resolutions and decided to give up TV for good, one of the biggest wastes of time possible in our short lives. Besides, the movie Poltergeist always freaked me out a bit. At 23 years old, I was on a path of self-discovery and in the summer of 2000 I headed south to Central America. For three months I worked as a volunteer trail guide at a private rainforest preserve in the central mountains. During my stay, I had another profound Ah-ha Moment. The 485-hectare private preserve was beset by a patchwork of pristine rainforest and pasture land, devoid of trees and trampled by cows. A rocky, rutted dirt road served as a lifeline from a small village to the rainforest preserve’s rustic lodging. The network of pastures were scattered along the dirt road, a testament to decades of clear cutting the forest to create grassy expanses for grazing cattle. You’re probably conjuring up some mental image of happy fat cows lumbering across picturesque, verdant terra firma, stopping to graze under a warm tropical sun. Picturesque as it may be, those cows were far from happy and fat. Emaciated and brittle would be a more accurate description. Hiking up the 15-kilometer road with backpacks



full of supplies, it was easy to see protruding hipbones, xylophone rib cages and open sores dotting muddy hides. These cows, bred solely for low-grade beef, would end up the base protein for TV dinners, pet food and burgers served at fast food joints around the world. I gave up fast food on the spot—the degradation of the rainforest, the lowest quality of food imaginable, the related detrimental health effects, the copious amounts of waste generated from all the take-away containers, all reasons of their own merit to do away with fast food in my life. Now, when I see cars and trucks queuing up through a drive-thru, pouring out onto the street to block traffic, I wish all those people could witness those same sick cows to visually link that rubbery byproduct patty to the detriment of the environment and their own health. Maybe they know the food is sub-par and just don’t care. Perhaps laziness, under the guise of a quick and cheap meal, is the root of the problem. Either way, fast food is the dumbing down of communities and cultures to their locally grown foods and regional cuisines, to their local eateries and home cooked meals. Maybe if we put a tax on big brand fast food, like alcohol and cigarettes, people would think twice about what they are spending their money on and putting into their bodies. And while we’re at it, we might as well tax soda, too. —Kevin Whitton

Published by Little Tree Publications VOLUME 3 :: NUMBER 4 :: JULY/AUGUST 2011 Editor Kevin Whitton Lifestyle Editor Aubrey Yee Contributing Writers Dr. Summer Baptist, Catherine Mariko Black, Stuart Coleman, Amanda Corby, Jade Eckhardt, Beau Flemister, Margaret Haapoja, Jack Kittinger, Ashley Lukens, Nicole Milne, Sarah Ruppenthal, Jessie Schiewe, Dr. Mark Shigeoka Art Director Kyle Tanaka Contributing Photographers Willi Edwards, Beau Flemister, Isaac Frazer, Ian Gillespie, Margaret Haapoja, Nicole Milne, Kyle Tanaka, Kevin Whitton, Michelle Whitton, Aubrey Yee Contributing Illustrators Orthreb Arios, Abi Braceros, Nicolette Davenport Sales Representative Lola Cohen Jessica Goto Ian Gillespie General Inquries GREEN P.O. Box 894061 Mililani, Hawai‘i 96789 To receive a free subscription to the GREEN eZine, the complete online version of GREEN, please contact us at Annual hard copy subscriptions are also available at $24 for six issues. Other than letters to the editor, we do not accept unsolicited editorial submissions. GREEN, Little Tree Publications and its associates are not responsible for lost, stolen or damaged submissions or the return of unsolicited material. One-way correspondence can be sent to: P.O. Box 894061, Mililani, Hawai‘i 96789 Email editorial inquiries to GREEN is trademarked and tradename registered in the state of Hawai‘i. All contents of this issue of GREEN are copyrighted by Little Tree Publications, 2011. All rights reserved. GREEN is printed in the USA on recycled paper. Please recycle this magazine. Pass it on to a friend and extend the life of this publication.


Photo: Kevin Whitton

Kahuku Wind; not the whole solution, just one piece of the alternative energy puzzle.

Down Under I would first like to say thank you for your publication. This type of local sustainable journalism is far and few between. I just finished reading your online version as I am currently studying for a master’s in water resource management in Australia. I was intrigued with your “Can’t Stop the Rain” article [May/June 2011] because mitigating stormwater runoff through water sensitive urban design is the focus of my thesis. I look forward to coming back to our home in the islands and helping Hawai‘i become a showcase in water management. In relation to other Polynesian islands, we are falling behind in this endeavor. —Matt Moore via email

O‘ahu Urban Garden Center Nice article on the Urban Garden Center [“Every Man’s Garden,” March/April 2011]. I took the class and it has enriched my life in many ways, but I have not seen the whole package covered as nicely as in this article. I hope more individuals will take advantage of this opportunity. I’d bet First Lady Michelle Obama would take this class if she were living on O‘ahu. Maikai! —Bob Leinau via email

Simple Words Of Appreciation Green is one of my favorite magazines out there: you all are doing such a wonderful job putting out a great product! Thank you once again. —Mae Moriwaki University of Hawai‘i at Ma-noa Library via email


Wind Issues I think you overestimate the value of wind power generation. On page 40 of your March/April 2011 issue, you state: “[The Kahuku wind farm] will provide approximately two to three percent of O‘ahu’s energy needs.” And “[The Kahuku wind farm] will replace 154,000 barrels of oil each year.” And you mention the cost of the farm is $120M, with replacement required every 20 years. Hawai‘i imports 50 million barrels of oil each year. Granted that a fraction is used on other islands, but 154,000 is only 0.3% of 50 million, not 3%. You appear to be off by a factor of 10. Also, if 40% of Hawai‘i’s energy is to be supplied by clean energy, and wind is the best we can do, then we will require the equivalent of 133 of the Kahuku wind farms to supply that 40% of our energy. Since the turbines need to be replaced every 20 years at $120M per farm, we will need to spend $16 billion every 20 years to keep the lights on, or about one O‘ahu rail project every 6 years. Stating numbers like “159 million pounds of carbon dioxide, 330 thousand pounds of sulfur” sounds great, but they are a VERY small fraction of what we generate now. Just because a number is big doesn’t mean that it’s significant. Curing our fossil fuel addiction is a far more difficult and serious problem than you imply. —Fred K Duennebier Emeritus Professor of Geology & Geophysics, University of Hawai‘i at Ma-noa via email

The goal of the Kahuku wind farm article was to introduce, inform and educate our readers about a single type of alternative energy that is powering O‘ahu homes. Wind-generated power is not the sole answer to our energy independence, but merely one piece of the puzzle. Whether it is a cost effective method of providing alternative energy I will leave up to our readers to debate. You are correct in pointing out an error in the statement on page 40 about the wind farm providing two to three percent of O‘ahu’s energy needs. The sentence should read, “…can provide enough energy to power approximately two to three percent of O‘ahu homes.” Big difference. My apologies. The figures stated in the article are sourced directly from First Wind’s EIS and confirmed by HECO and First Wind representatives. Perhaps we should have qualified “159 million pounds of carbon dioxide” by comparing that to the approximately 3,050 pounds of carbon dioxide a well maintained vehicle emits every year. Multiply that figure by the number of cars on O‘ahu’s roads and, well, I’ll let you do the math. —KW

Do you have insight, input, opinion, praise or criticism on the stories you’ve read in GREEN magazine? What are your feelings on issues of sustainability in general for Hawai‘i and beyond? If you want to raise your voice and have it heard by others on the pages of GREEN, please send your letters to the editor to


Photo: Courtesy

Sarah Ruppenthal Diploma in hand, Sarah Ruppenthal waved goodbye to a soggy college campus in Seattle, Washington seven years ago and boarded a one-way flight to Maui, searching for work and some much-needed Vitamin D. Today, she is an award-winning journalist, freelance writer and English instructor at University of Hawai‘i, Maui College. Sarah says she has discovered an endless supply of fascinating people, places and things in Hawai‘i—a writer’s dream come true. When she’s not hunched over her laptop working on a story, Sarah is relaxing at home on Maui’s iconic north shore with her husband and 115-pound puppy, Odie.

Photo: Matthew Shannon

Ashley Lukens Ashley Lukens attended Vassar College where she graduated with a B.A. in women studies and economics. She is currently a Ph.D. student in the department of political science at University of Hawai‘i at Ma- noa. Her research focuses on the politics of food, grassroots social movements and radical/insurrectional political theory. She is currently writing her dissertation on urban food movements and teaching “The Politics of Food.” Somehow, Ashley finds the time to co-own and operate Baby Awearness, a natural parenting and eco-friendly baby store in Ma- noa Valley; a labor of love born from her passion to inform and empower mothers to make choices that are good for their children, their communities and the Earth. When she is not running the store, taking care of her daughter, writing for GREEN or going to school, she is sleeping.

Photo: Courtesy

Margaret A. Haapoja



Margaret A. Haapoja is a former high school English teacher whose freelance writing career began after she took the Minnesota Master Gardener course 27 years ago. She’s written for dozens of national and regional magazines specializing in nature, gardening and travel. She and her husband live in the home they built in northern Minnesota, where they tend vegetable and flower gardens as well as a small tree farm and wildlife habitat planting. An avid traveler, Margaret has relaxed with Laysan albatross on Midway Atoll, tramped through remote wildlife reserves on Kaua‘i, traipsed along Minnesota’s newest birding trail and marveled at monk seals on Ni‘ihau. She and her husband have escaped Minnesota’s cold winters to soak up the sun on Kaua‘i for the past 20 years.

Photo: Laura Poirier


Integrated Solar

Redefining the aesthetics of the solar panel As homeowners and business owners increasingly tune into the financial and environmental advantages of a photovoltaic system on their rooftop, it’s comforting to know that demand is driving the design, aesthetics and functionality of solar panels. When it comes to how PV systems look and where they are installed, the light of creativity and technology are creating options for installers and consumers alike. Photovoltaic arrays can be mounted on rooftops, attached to ground mounted systems or directly integrated into building infrastructures, a process referred to as building-integrated photovoltaics (BIPV). These new integrated photovoltaic panels take an artistic approach to saving electricity and money by uniting renewable energy technology with building products and architectural design. Energy-saving 14


glass with photovoltaic power generation technology, flexible thin film modules, solar roof tiles and photovoltaic materials that are built directly into the exterior walls of buildings are all cutting edge examples of BIPV. There are also transparent modules that can be used with the dual purpose as a shade cover over a carport or lanai and a power generation system. While environmental and financial advantages of photovoltaic technology are realized more and more each day, building-integrated photovoltaics are bringing a much-needed aesthetic edge to residential and commercial distributed energy production, which will continue to flatter building products and architectural design. —Laura Poirier

Photo: Jyoti Mau





Outdoor Lounging

Smart outdoor furniture with comfort and high style Loll Outdoor Rocker Made from 100 percent recycled HDPE, a high-density polyethylene used in products like milk jugs, detergent bottles, margarine tubs and garbage containers, all Loll furniture is also 100 percent recyclable after you’re done with it. For every pound of weight in a Loll chair, there are an estimated eight recycled milk jugs being used. This comfortable and classic rocker is available in eight great colors to brighten up your lanai. MSRP $660

Mama Green Bogart Daybed A clean, modern take on the outdoor day bed, this piece from the Belgian designers at Mama Green makes a strong statement. Built with recycled, FSC certified teak and stainless steel, the cushions are covered in weather resistant Sunbrella fabric which is available in a variety of colors. MSRP $10,275

McGuire’s Reclaimed Teak Farmhouse Table A beautiful outdoor dining table made entirely with 200-year-old teak reclaimed from old Dutch farmhouses in Indonesia, this piece is great for indoors or out. The life of the wood is found in old nail holes, beautiful grain and wide boards. Left unfinished to truly appreciate the beauty of the natural teak, this is a piece that comes with a unique history and story to be appreciated for years to come.

Crate and Barrel Arbor Collection FSC certified wood is used for this classic outdoor collection. Think simple designs that can work in almost any setting combined with a reasonable price point, the Arbor collection is a great choice for someone wanting a basic, userfriendly collection for their outdoor environment. The Sunbrella cushions come in either a taupe or apple green.




Protect and Preserve

Make safe and natural sunscreens a fixture in your beach bag Summer is here and that means longer days and more time in the sun enjoying all the beautiful outdoor activities the islands’ offer. While you’ll want to protect yourself with a good sunscreen, it’s important to know what constitues a safe, natural product. When choosing a natural sunscreen, look for ingredients like zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which act as a natural physical barrier to the sun’s rays. Also look for antioxidants like green tea or lavender, and a “butter” for moisturizing, like shea butter or jojoba oils. —Aubrey Yee

NYR Organic Neal’s Yard Remedies Lavender Sun Screen Organic shea nut butter, sesame and sunflower oils create the base for this mediumprotection sunscreen, complete with skinsoothing herbs and lavender essential oil. It is rated as one of the top safest sunscreens on the Environmental Working Group Skin Deep database. UV Naturals Ranked as the safest and most effective sunscreen sold in the U.S. by the Environmental Working Group. California Baby Non-chemical and tear free, great for kids and adults. It’s also fragrance free for people with allergies.

Coola Organic Sun Care Using only organic active ingredients like zinc oxide and titanium dioxide along with a host of lovely organic oils, butters and extracts, Coola is a great choice for both sun protection and skin hydration. Badger Sunscreens Totally natural and chemical free, environmentally friendly and made with certified organic ingredients. Soleo Organics Organically produced all natural sunscreen safe for all ages and pregnant women. Created in Australia, it’s water resistant, biodegradable and has low skin irritability.




The Power of Community

How an island nation in the Atlantic succeeded in gaining self-sufficiency With the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, many miles away the small island nation of Cuba experienced its own major shock. Tied directly to the Soviet economy, some 50 percent of Cuba’s oil imports and 80 percent of food and medicine imports ceased virtually overnight. The period that ensued has come to be called the “Special Period.” For the world today, and Hawai‘i in particular, Cuba’s experience offers an incredible example of what may happen if our dependence upon foreign imported oil is suddenly challenged. The Power of Community: How Cuba Survived Peak Oil is a film about the positive ways that Cubans dealt with this crisis. Within months of the oil and food shortages, it became very clear that there would need to be drastic changes made very quickly or people would begin to starve. Idle plots of land were cleared and urban agriculture plots began to spring up all over Havana and other cities. Everyone who was able, including doctors, engineers and professionals, began to learn how to grow food. In 1993, the first team of permaculturists from Australia arrived to help in the efforts. They established a “train the trainer” course with just $26,000 USD and began a system of rooftop gardens and composting to improve soil. It became evident very quickly that cohesive communities would be essential to everyone’s survival in the new Cuban economy. As Patricia Allison, one of those initial permaculturists explains, “We can all plant fruit trees. It’s not the technology, it’s the human relationships” that really matter.

Photos: Courtesy


The view of agriculture in Cuba quickly and dramatically shifted from large state-run mono-crop farms to smaller private farms and co-operatives where farmers could use state land lease-free as long as they committed to using the land for growing food. The lack of access to petroleum-based fertilizers required that organic bio-pesticides, including compost and worm castings, be used. Today, Cuba’s agriculture is almost entirely organic. In Havana, some 50 percent of vegetables needs are supplied within the city limits. In the rural areas, this number is closer to 90 percent, creating a truly local economy. Farming is a highly respected field and being a farmer is seen as a profitable and highly regarded career path. Without access to cheap fuel and transportation, access to education was threatened. In response, Cuba decentralized their university system. Where before there were three universities, now there are 50. People started biking, and trucks and other public vehicles were converted to buses with ride sharing becoming commonplace. As a result of more fresh foods and increased exercise, as well as universities to keep training doctors and nurses, the average Cuban’s health improved. They maintained a life span and infant mortality rate equal to that of America while using only oneeighth of the amount of energy used by an average American. While it cannot be denied that the “Special Period” was difficult and frightening for the citizens of Cuba, the Cuban example provides hope and inspiration for an energy efficient, resilient future. As an island community, Hawai‘i can learn a lot from Cuba’s experience. Hopefully we will be able to make some important changes now, rather than waiting for a crisis to react. The result of a more sustainable lifestyle, as shown in Cuba, can be healthier bodies, healthier communities and a healthier environment. —Aubrey Yee


Photos: Jade Eckhardt

The pekoe, the fragile green tip of the tea plant, is the only part of the plant used to make Big Island Tea’s quality black and green teas.

Big Island Tea Complete Ecosystem Farming

Eliah Halpenny grabs a waxy, emerging shoot of one her prized tea plants and bends the pekoe, the growing tip of the tea plant and the only part used to make black and green teas, in my direction. At a 3,000-foot elevation, her Glenwood tea farm affords the perfect conditions for her crop. The Vancouver businesswoman turned Big Island farmer speaks of sustainability and farming with a passion akin to a kid in a candy store. “I knew I wanted to grow something, but I didn’t know what,” Halpenny recalls, reflecting on her venture into sustainable tea farming almost 10 years ago. Eliah, a proponent of all things sustainable, wasn’t always a tea connoisseur, but she was always adamant about farming without synthetic pesticides, herbicides or fertilizers. After five months of research she decided tea was the perfect fit for her vision and Big Island Tea was born.



Leaving behind a successful sales and marketing career in British Columbia, Eliah and her husband Cam, a biology professor specializing in conservation genetics at the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo, now own and operate the sustainable five-and-half-acre farm where they have approximately 6,000 tea plants growing on an acre and a half. Elements common to many commercial farms, such as machinery, chemicals, synthetic fertilizers, greenhouses and weed cloth don’t exist here. Eliah says it’s these tools of modern farming that were responsible for the poor condition of the land and soil when they purchased the property, their diamond in the rough. “The artificial environment created by greenhouses doesn’t promote the establishment of complete ecosystems,” explains Eliah, “and the lack of biomass recycling doesn’t promote diverse microbial communities in the soil.” According to

ECONOMICS Whole leaf green tea is a wonderful source of antioxidants and also has anticarcinogenic functions.

Halpenny, greenhouses actually create a susceptibility to pests and a dependence on artificial fertilizers. She also adds that weed cloth burns roots and stunts a plant’s growth, leading to a scarcity of worms and other beneficial critters. Unlike the tomatoes and salad greens that were grown with pesticides on the property by the former owners, her tea grows within an endemic Hawaiian forest canopy she is recreating herself to nurture a self-sustaining forest ecosystem. “Our goal is to reproduce a forest in which our tea is a community member,” explains Eliah. “This ecological design requires less intervention.” So far, she’s planted koa, maile, kukui, ‘o- hi‘a lehua, ha- pu‘u, about 120 trees in all, and many other native plants. To get the ecosystem back into balance, she is working on reestablishing the cycle of biomass recycling by mulching the ground with leaves and branches. She also pours an organic compost mixture brewed on site that enriches the microbial content in the soil. From healthy soil comes healthy, high yielding plants. All of their tea plants are unique, with slight variations in height, color and shape. Instead of opting for raising clones, Big Island Tea prides itself on raising seed-grown tea plants imported from India, China, Japan and Taiwan. “We need diversity and cloning stops that,” says Halpenny, explaining that cloned plants all flush (farmer talk for flowering) at the same time, which can lead to wasted tea when an entire crop must be harvested all at once. Since Eliah harvests her tea by hand, it’s important that she can keep up with the sprouting pekoe. To aid during harvest, she maintains the plants at the perfect height for her to pick. “If my husband worked on the farm more, the plants might be a little taller,” she jokes. As we slowly meander around the farm, Eliah points to small palms scattered throughout the property. “We just planted a bunch of oil palms. We’re going to process them into biofuel when they’re ready, right here on the farm,” she says, with excitement. “I’m bringing this up because we need to be able to barter for sustainability if the barges stop.” The palm oil crop was inspired by the propane drought on the Big Island earlier this year, where many residents rely on propane for heating water and cooking. “If that’s not a wake up call, then I don’t know what is,” says Eliah. “With locally produced biofuel we won’t have to worry about losing it.” After exploring the farm, Eliah pours us cups of her black and green, whole leaf tea, which are then emptied into another set of dainty cups so we can take in the tea’s scent before sipping. As we give in to the calming aroma and flavor, it leaves no wonder as to why Harrod’s of London just bought her entire 2011 harvest and will distribute it exclusively. The aromatic and flavorful tea is a prime example of why tea drinking has been a cross-cultural phenomenon for generations. Big Island Tea is experimenting with other ways to promote sustainability, from rainwater catchment to a neighborhood community garden on the property. Eliah also enjoys sharing her knowledge and botanical successes with agriculture students. Looking out over a Pu‘u O‘o vent smoke plume, Eliah sips her tea and says, “Hawai‘i can become sustainable. But in order to be sustainable, things really have to change.” —Jade Eckardt

Big Island Tea is a proponent of agro-ecology, growing their tea in the shade of an endemic Hawaiian forest to create a complete, self-sustaining ecosystem.




Let’s start out with the specs. What makes Segway an energy efficient alternative mode of transportation? There are models for just about any application, from city sidewalks or indoors to sand or rough terrain. The difference is in the tires. You can attach a chair to a Segway to use as a mobile unit. You can move 360 degrees in place without going forward or backward. Segway can go 24 to 25 miles on a full charge. There’s no safety check, no license, no insurance, no registration, limited maintenance, no break pads, no oil and no gas. Segway plugs into any wall outlet and reaches a full charge in six hours, which costs about 14 cents, according to HECO. It can go eight hours on a full charge and the only maintenance is replacing the tires and batteries every two-and-a-half to three years. Segways seem to be popular for taking visitors on tours, but what is your vision for their application in Hawai‘i? We’re the only authorized dealer in the state. We do all the sales and service for O‘ahu and all the neighbor islands. And we do mobile marketing for events, dress the machine in a wrap-around sign, but we want to focus more on sales to the public. The Segway is very functional. You can put saddlebags on the front and sides for carrying things. You can customize them with construction toolboxes. You can put a trailer and hitch on a Segway and tow a rickshaw with two adults. They’ve got a lot of torque. They can really haul. I’ve been getting a lot of calls from coffee farmers in Kona and from O‘ahu farmers who are considering the Segway to get around their farm because its environmentally friendly. There’s even a turf unit that is designed to ride on the grass on golf courses. It doesn’t rip or tear it.

People Movers

Segway of Hawai‘i founder Alan Rice redefines how we commute

Segway first touched down in Hawai‘i in 2003, at the Pro Bowl no less. Security personnel zipped around Aloha Stadium to the starts and stares of all in attendance. At the time, Segway was being billed as the device of the future. Soon, several models were rolling around on a regular basis, but mainly for commercial applications like police, security and for the utilities. Alan and Jeanne Datz Rice saw the potential Segway could offer Hawai‘i—a cleaner, more energy efficient vehicle to move around communities and the city center. In January of 2006, the couple saw their vision to fruition and officially became the first authorized Segway dealer and tour operator in Hawai‘i. Well versed in Town’s traffic woes, they feel that Segway is the perfect solution for residents looking for a new way to move about in their local community without leaving a footprint and that the machines could be an integral part of Honolulu’s mass transit infrastructure. —Kevin Whitton



How do you plan to change the image of Segway to one of a viable alternative for commuting? Segway is not a toy. It’s not about being lazy or being noticed. The reality is, all over the mainland, people truly use it to get around. It’s about people changing their own personal form of transportation. People have to start thinking about what they can do to make a difference for the environment. As a dealer, the margin on the sale of a Segway is very little, so for me to have a shop to sell Segways, it’s impossible. So we’re trying to partner up with stores that would be willing to display and sell the machines— moped stores, bicycle stores or other retailers that carry environmentally conscious products. So you could go to the mall in Pearl City, go to a store that carried it, try it out and buy it. In different parts of the world, you can buy a Segway at Lowe’s. How can a Segway be used effectively in an urban environment? When Segway Corporation wanted to get Segways out, they did it the legal way. They went through state legislatures, all 50 states. So Segway is legal in every state on the sidewalk, by law. People ask why can a bicycle not be


Are there features built in for public safety? Or do people need to get out of the way when they see a Segway coming down the sidewalk? Segways cannot run people over. If a Segway is going down the sidewalk and that thing hits you, it’s going to stop and retract back. There’s a computer on board. If the person driving falls off, the Segway automatically dies down and drops, so it doesn’t continue running around and run people over. Even if someone who was very heavy was on a Segway and they, by accident, ran over your foot, you wouldn’t even feel it because of the weight distribution of the machine. They are very, very safe. Anybody can go to the website and read the independent case studies for themselves. If you’re going down a hill, it knows you’re going down a hill. There’s a computer on board that will slow the machine down. And it will never fail because it has redundant parts, so if any one part fails, it has a back up to keep the machine running and then it will do a safety shutdown.

Photos: Segway of Hawaii

on a sidewalk, but a Segway can? The bicycle needs quite a bit of distance to stop, where a Segway can stop on a dime. A Segway can turn 360 in its own space, a space no bigger than the person themselves. Segways are not about replacing walking; they’re about a great way to commute. It’s saying, I’m not going to take my car, I’m not going to pollute, I’m going to take my Segway. And the Segway I2, you can take that on the city bus. The ramp comes down on the bus, you can roll it up inside, park it in front, sit down and they’re easy to strap down.

Will Segway be a part of Honolulu’s mass transit solution in relation to rail, if rail does become a reality? We were asked by state and city engineers to present to them the technology of the Segway earlier this year. If rail comes to fruition, it would be incredible for someone living in Kapolei to ride from their house to the train station, board with the Segway, go to Downtown, roll off the train, do all their business and then turn around and go home the same green way. It’s also been our goal since day one to set up a Segway share program so that regular people could use a Segway from one place to another. We want to partner with the state and rail in creating a Segway training program and licenses, because people do need to learn how to ride, how to control it. Then if you want to utilize a Segway at a train stop, you just slide your license, which is also a debit or credit card. Out comes the Segway, you keep that for as long as you want. When you put it back, that’s what will be charged to your card. Studies show that people were willing to walk only one mile after they get off the train, and recently they reduced that to half a mile. They need Segway and/ or bicycle stations to provide the means for commuters to go that extra distance.

Photo: Kevin Whitton

Alan and Jeanne Datz Rice of Segway of Hawai‘i.




Photos: Kevin Whitton

Bronson Chang (left) and Uncle Clay (right) have put a new, sustainable twist on a Hawaiian favorite at their Aina Haina treat shop, Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha.

The Reincarnation

Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha returns with a new focus on sustainability

For those who fancy themselves as Hawaiian treat connoisseurs, Doe Fang should ring a bell and pull a heartstring. Located in the Aina Haina Shopping Center, Uncle Clay’s little mom and pop store has stood as a symbol of pure aloha and “Magic Icees” since Clayton Chang purchased Doe Fang in 1996. Now, fifteen years and a twenty-something business partner later, Uncle Clay is reopening his house with a sustainable modern twist. For nearly a century, people from all walks of life left Doe Fang with a complimentary li hing seed. Providing that joy for others kept Uncle Clay happy, but due to the local economy, rising costs and the redevelopment of O‘ahu’s oldest shopping center, Doe Fang’s future wasn’t looking so positive. Realizing that it would be virtually impossible to



remain in the black for more than a few more years, it seemed yet another mom and pop shop was on its way out. Then in 2009, as things took a turn for the worst, a life changing call came from Uncle Clay’s nephew in Los Angeles. Bronson Chang wanted to come home to help save his uncle’s business. “Like Uncle Clay always told me, follow your heart,” recalls the Punahou and USC graduate. “Well, this is what my heart is telling me to do. I told [Uncle Clay] over the phone that day. He went silent for quite some time and that was the beginning of our magical journey.” From their multi-generational family business model to their financial and environmental innovation, Uncle Clay’s House of Pure Aloha (HOPA) puts a new spin on the prosperity of local businesses. The HOPA story is about a childhood dream transforming into a life calling


With locally sourced produce and goods and handmade syrups, shave ice has never tasted so good.

for Uncle Clay, and the reincarnation of this dream for his nephew Bronson. It’s about using a humble little snack shop in Hawai‘i as a vehicle to share aloha. Uncle Clay has always been there for his community, so when the day came that he needed their support, they returned the aloha through a novel vehicle known as Profounder. Profounder is an online crowd-funding platform that allows entrepreneurs to raise start-up or growth capital from their family, friends and community. Since October 2010, the pair has raised over $60,000 from the financial investments of their supporters. Uncle Clay’s has always been about serving the community and through Profounder, his new House was literally built through the support of the community he served. “It’s a win-win all around, and that’s the pure aloha way. The success of our innovative fundraising was a direct result of the rich and meaningful relationships Uncle Clay has made through the years,” Bronson remarks. Yet another enlightening aspect of the business is their product. The new House is a “Hawaiian treat shop” with a twist. The new shop features all-natural shave ice homemade from as many island-sourced ingredients from local farmers as possible. It’s their “hopa” to take one of Hawai‘i’s most iconic and refreshing snacks to the next level—more ono, healthier and more Hawai‘i. Their in-house Pure Aloha Culinary Developer, Chef Rena Suzuki, has dedicated over six months to formulate the initial line-up of 14 original syrup flavors including locally sourced traditional flavors like mango, papaya and pineapple, as well as new creations such as spinach, kale apple. HOPA will also feature other original local snacks like solardried fruit and eventually the duo hopes to implement all-natural li hing and crackseed products. Now it’s easy to say that pure aloha has returned to Aina Haina. —Amanda Corby


educate the community and visitors would be to develop a walking tour that features Honolulu’s Exceptional Trees and publish a corresponding brochure. With their plan solidified, it was time to divvy up the work and rise to the challenge. Cristin, with an interest in art and graphic design, decided to do the artwork for the brochure while Jelene took the pictures and wrote the copy. They strategically selected 23 Exceptional Trees in Waikı- kı- and Downtown Honolulu and plotted their tour using a Google Maps program. Continuing the learning process, the two had to seek funding to print the brochures. They wrote and presented their grant proposal to the board of the Kaulunani Urban and Community Forestry Program and were ecstatic with their response to help fund the folded, glossy brochure. “They were really impressed because they don’t get a lot of young people thinking about projects like this,” recalls Jelene. With the support of family, friends, the Aloha Arborist Association and other donors, their hard work and vision paid off and they were finally able to hold a finished copy in their hands. “The most enjoyable part of the project was putting everything together, sending our designs to the printer and seeing our hard work,” says Jelene. “I learned how to put words into action, because it’s one thing to say your going to do something and another thing to do it.” Cristin was also able to take away valuable life lessons from the project that will give her a leg up when she start college at USC this fall. “I didn’t realize that this niche of really passionate, committed environmentalists even existed,” she says, about the eye-opening experience. “Working with them made me realize that you can take something small and make it great if you believe that it’s possible.” Jelene’s and Cristin’s Exceptional Trees of Honolulu brochure is available at Foster Botanical Garden, the Hawai‘i State Library and Waikı- kı- -Kapahulu Library, and online at www.outdoorcircle. org. Because of their commitment and success, they both received their Gold Award this past May. And to make the moment even sweeter, as the two girls head off to college, Jelene to Texas and Cristin to California, they can take confidence and pride from their many experiences with the Girl Scouts, and their mothers can be proud too, both Girl Scouts in their youth. —Kevin Whitton

With countless sharp burrs, you’re sure to know if your bare feet encounter this invasive weed in parks and beach parks across O‘ahu and Maui.

Photo: Kevin Whitton


Sore Subject

Invasive khaki weed threatens bare feet and beach parks

At Kaimana Beach Park, across the street from Kapi‘olani Regional Park on the south shore of O‘ahu, outrigger canoes, stand-up paddle boards, tents, barbeques, volleyball nets and happy kids are a daily sight. You can imagine the stares and questions from park goers as they came across four people down on their hands and knees, pulling weeds in the grassy park. What could lead to such curious behavior at a public beach park? Alternanthera Pungens, also known as khaki weed. Native to South and Central America, khaki weed is an invasive weed that is most notable to most of us for the annoying pinch of its myriad burrs and its assault on parks and bare feet across O‘ahu and Maui. Kapi‘olani and Kaimana Parks have been heavily hit by the unassuming, yet callous weed. It has tiny green oval-shaped leaves and spreads very low to the



ground, even under established grass, making it especially tricky to spot and remove. It produces a plethora of sharp, light yellow burrs that have become a thorn in the foot for too many people. The burrs also stick to surfaces and release even tinier seeds along their journey stuck to shoes, clothes, blankets and skin. Khaki weed is a poster child for invasive plant species in Hawai‘i; it grows rapidly, it spreads fast and far, it out competes other plants and it is having a negative effect on our natural environment. You might wonder, why not just grab the weed whacker and go to town? Unfortunately, small pieces of the weed are able to root easily, so mowing and weed whacking actually spreads the weed around. Not to mention, weed whacking also aids in the dispersal of the tiny, very fertile seeds. Khaki weed must be removed by hand, roots and all, with no part of the


Photo: Andrew Laurence

To effectively eradicate khaki weed, the entire plant including the root must be removed from the ground.

plant remaining in the ground. Kapi‘olani Regional Park employees are well aware of the problem, but the spread of the weed is simply too broad for the staff to handle. Park managers have wisely decided to refrain from broadcasting herbicides to control the weed, citing environmental and public health concerns. Instead, they have offered their support to the public who are willing to chip in and pull some weeds by offering free trash bags and disposal of pulled weeds. The park manager’s offer sparked the first-ever Khaki Weed Pull this spring and was deemed a relative success by those four intrepid individuals who took part. With hats, sunscreen and water at hand, they managed to harvest about 30 pounds of khaki weed in about an hour, clearing a heavily infested 250-square-foot area along a highly trafficked walkway by the beach entrance. Hawai‘i is not the only locale where khaki weed has become a major environmental concern. South Australia has been so infested by the weed, dating back to 1957, that their state legislature has enacted laws prohibiting entry of the plant into the state, sale of the plant, mandatory notifications to the government of infestations and land owners are required to destroy any khaki weed on their land. Even with such measures in place, the plant has spread to the northeastern state of Queensland. Next time you’re at the park and you step on a burr that makes you hop on one foot, take notice, take a knee and pull that weed right out of the ground. —Kevin Whitton Want to organize or be part of the next Khaki Weed Pull? Email


Words by Sarah Ruppenthal

A trip to the Central Maui Landfill in Pu‘une-ne- probably isn’t at the top of your daily “to do” list, but if you want to see the effects of a plastic bag ban, it’s arguably a trip well worth taking. Omaopio Road, a winding stretch of asphalt that runs alongside the active area of the island’s primary landfill, is widely known for one notorious roadside attraction: a thirty-foot high litter fence designed to snare airborne garbage caught in the powerful crosswinds of Maui’s central valley. Installed over a year ago, the fence is impossible to miss, plugged and cluttered with errant blooms of plastic debris, like shrapnel from an unseen explosion. More than an eyesore to the community, the litter fence—virtually opaque with a trajectory of featherweight plastic bags—was indicative of a much bigger problem. Until now, that is. When it comes to Hawai‘i’s fragile and diverse ecosystems, stewards of the environment have long considered plastic bags public enemy number one. The seemingly ubiquitous, single-use bag can suffocate reefs, clog waterways, ensnare marine life and become tangled in tree branches. Unfortunately, very few plastic bags are actually recycled—only 20 percent, according to the Ko- kua Hawai‘i Foundation—and they can take an untold number of years to biodegrade.




With Maui’s primary landfill situated in the wind tunnel of the Central Valley, the problem of single-use plastic bags catching a ride on the thermals and littering the natural environment was hard to miss.




County of Maui Recycling Coordinator Hana Steel says residents and visitors together use an average of 50 million plastic bags each year, a staggering statistic that could only be eclipsed by the amount local taxpayers shell out for a private contractor to collect rogue plastic waste at the landfill: $11,000 every month. But today in Maui County, it’s unlikely you’ll hear the oft-repeated question, “Paper or plastic?” anytime soon. On January 11, 2011 Maui County (comprised of Maui, Moloka‘i, La- na‘i and Kaho‘olawe) sacked disposable, non-biodegradable plastic bags with the passage of Ordinance No. 3587, a measure intended to “preserve the health, safety, welfare and scenic and natural beauty of the County of Maui [and] encourage the use of environmentally preferable alternatives to plastic bags, such



as recyclable paper bags or reusable bags.” On the very same day, Kaua‘i followed suit, imposing a ban on single-use plastic bags for the Garden Isle. In Maui County, the ordinance prohibits retailers from providing plastic bags at the point of sale for the “purpose of transporting groceries or other goods,” leaving two options for business: distribute paper bags in place of plastic or ask their customers to BYOB, bring their own bag. For local businesses, there’s an incentive to play by the rules and the consequence for noncompliance is costly. Any businesses caught distributing plastic bags to their customers are subject to a fine of $500 per violation, per day (up to 30 days, and then a maximum of $1,000 per day thereafter). And if there were any doubts about the law’s enforceability, those

Photo: Forrest Treadwell


have been laid to rest. As of last month, Steel says the county is investigating seven businesses that violated Ordinance No. 3587. Take a walk through most Maui grocery stores and you’ll notice that “plastic free” does have its exceptions. The law allows for the use of “permissible” plastic bags, which include those thin, extremely hard to open bags used to package meats and vegetables, dry cleaners’ garment bags and bags that are “specifically designed and manufactured for multiple re-use, if the bag has handles and is at least 3.0 millimeters thick.” Dubbed by many as a “bold experiment,” the dream of creating a plastic bag-free zone within Maui County became a reality for Maui County Councilmember Michael Molina last year, after he introduced the

The litter fence’s special mesh construction was a Band-Aid solution to a much larger environmental issue. With the ban on single-use plastics in effect on Maui, the plastic-strewn eyesore has been rendered unnecessary.



Kailua's pristine white sand beaches.



Photo: Michelle Whitton

Hale‘iwa and Kailua are leading the grassroots effort for plastic-free communities on O‘ahu.

Photo: Willi Edwards


“Plastic Bag Reduction Ordinance.” It was a daring move for a popular tourist destination, but one that seems to have paid off in the end, particularly for the environment. In a unanimous vote, county officials approved the ordinance and on January 11, Maui County became Hawai‘i’s poster child for eliminating single-use plastics. It was certainly a victory for those who sought to purge Maui County of the single-use bag, but not everyone welcomed the new law with open arms. Prior to the passage of Ordinance No. 3587, a number of business owners testified before the Maui County Council in an effort to halt the ordinance, arguing that the law would ultimately leave them holding the bag. While many acknowledged the good intentions of the ordinance, distressed restaurant and shop owners argued that the ban would be bad for business, as it would inconvenience their customers (particularly visitors unaware of the BYOB policy) and increase operating expenses, as the average cost of a plastic bag is five cents, compared to about thirty-seven cents per paper bag. Valley Isle businesses aren’t the only opponents of the ordinance. Unhappy consumers have cited a number of complaints; namely, the hassle of bringing their own bag, as well as the unpredictable nature of paper bags, which can soil or tear easily. In addition, some have questioned the logic of replacing plastic with paper, as it seems to trade one problem for another. County of Maui Environmental Coordinator Rob Parsons says he’s received a generally favorable response to the bag ban, but acknowledges that it hasn’t curbed everyone’s appetite. But for many in the community, the ban is common sense. In terms of legislation, the passage of the ordinance is a milestone for Maui County. The ban has not only cut the use of plastic bags by drastic proportions, but it has also changed the mindset of island residents and visitors alike—one shopping trip at a time. According to Steel, the evidence is in the numbers. “The [Maui County] Recycling Section surveys grocery, drug and ‘big-box’ stores every three months to track consumer bag use,” she explains. “To date, about 50 percent of the shoppers either have their own reusable bag or refuse to take a bag [at the point of purchase] and about 50 percent of consumers are exiting the stores with paper bags.” Hawai‘i Sierra Club Maui Group Chairman Lance Holter couldn’t be happier about the ordinance banning single-use plastic bags. “It’s definitely one of the more successful new laws,” Holter says. “If you went to the dump pre-bag bill, there was a very large fence that attempted to keep the ever-expanding amount of flying plastic bags from being blown out of the Central Maui dump site into the island ecosystem. I don’t know how much was spent on this fence, but it captured hundreds of thousands of runaway bags in its unique mesh. But when I visit the landfill these days, it’s amazing. I don’t see any bags there. This is a great example of environmental laws saving the public money immediately.” Maui’s charge to put the elimination of single-use plastic bags into law quickly resonated to Kaua‘i. The Big Island is trying to follow suit and has advance Bill 17 through an initial vote by the County Council, but has not been adopted yet as public hearings were requested to gauge public temperature for the bill. And laws to slow and stop the use of plastic bags are spreading across

Photo: Dianna Cohen


Dianna Cohen, artist and co-founder of the Plastic Pollution Coalition, raises awareness about the ill effects of plastic pollution through her creative repurposing of found plastics.

the Mainland, as far as New York City and Washington D.C., where lawmakers have upped the ante by imposing taxes on plastic bags. In doing so, both cities have successfully eliminated tens of millions of bags each month. Now that it’s out with plastic and in with paper and reusable bags, the “oops I forgot my bag” phrase is commonplace in supermarkets, pharmacies and retail shops across Maui County—proof that it can be tough to alter the status quo. To help residents make the adjustment, advance notice was broadcast several months before the ban was imposed. Maui residents were inundated with an onslaught of ominous “1-11-11” and “BYOB” warnings, thanks to a promotional campaign spearheaded by the county. “It will take some conditioning,” admits Parsons. “It’s a lifestyle change for a lot of people.” When will O‘ahu, the largest consumer of plastic bags in the archipelago, jump on the plastic bag ban bandwagon? Although similar bag bills have been proposed on both the county and state levels, no bills moved forward at the close of the legislative session. Of these, Senate Bill 1363, which would require businesses throughout the state to collect a ten-cent fee for each

single-use checkout bag provided to a customer (plastic and paper), seemed to be the most promising. But community groups on O‘ahu, including Plastic Free Hawai‘i, Ko- kua Hawai‘i Foundation, Plastic Free Hale‘iwa Coalition and Plastic-Free Kailua, aren’t giving up, and they are pressuring legislators to take action— and soon. These groups are also intent on educating the public. Ko- kua Hawai‘i Foundation, for example, strives to elicit “consumer activism” through its Plastic Free Commitment Campaign, an effort designed to rouse community support in reducing the consumption of single-use plastics on O‘ahu. Like so many others, Holter says he hopes Maui County will inspire O‘ahu to follow in its footsteps. “I’m a big proponent of the law, and I hope the rest of the state will see the light and ‘bag it,’” he says. “It definitely works.” Six months after it was passed into law, Ordinance No. 3587 does appear to be working. The proof is in the litter fence alongside Omaopio Road—or rather, what’s not in the fence.




Words by Margaret A Haapoja

A rusty 1974 Scout bumps along the narrow road lurching through deep potholes, red dust billowing out behind us. The truck rolls to a stop and Keith Robinson jumps out to unlock the first of several cattle gates. We’re on our way into his newest wildlife reserve, high above Makaweli on Kaua‘i’s west side. I wriggle around on the passenger side seeking a comfortable spot amid piles of old newspapers, Doritos bags, empty soda cans, mosquito netting and a week’s worth of mail. Ranting all the while about the loss of topsoil eroded by overgrazing cattle and the traffic of wild pigs and goats, he hops back out to relock the gate. Scion of the largest private landowner on the Garden Isle, Keith Robinson calls himself the black sheep of the family. He is a fifth-generation descendant of Eliza Sinclair who purchased Ni‘ihau from King Kamehameha IV for $10,000 in gold in 1864 and later expanded her holdings to nearby Kaua‘i where the Robinson family now owns approximately 51,000 acres. Of that land, Keith and his brother Bruce share ownership of 4,400 acres on Kaua‘i’s north shore and the island of Ni‘ihau. Wearing patched blue jeans, a denim shirt and his trademark green construction helmet, Robinson is strikingly unforgettable. Keith is a loner—reclusive, brusque, opinionated and somewhat paranoid. At the same time, he’s intelligent, articulate, generous, and he knows more than most about the native plants of Hawai‘i. Born and raised on the west side of Kaua‘i, Keith remembers an idyllic childhood that was greatly influenced by the strong religious and moral values and tireless work ethic of his parents and Uncle Aylmer Robinson. “I was raised to be very loyal to the family,” he says, “but in those days the family stood for something. These were quiet,



Photos: Margaret Haapoja


With deep pockets and an educational background in crop production and range management, Keith Robinson, the self-professed black sheep of the Robinson family, has been propagating rare and endangered native Hawaiian plants for conservation purposes since 1975, but only on his terms.




Co-owner of 4,400 acres on Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau, Robinson leased 100 acres from his family to establish a wildlife reserve on Kaua‘i, recently opening up a small section overlooking Olokele Canyon to public tour groups.

competent, hardworking people who had sets of morals and believed in the Bible.” The present generation, according to Keith, has strayed far from those early standards. Following his graduation from a private high school in California, Keith earned a degree in crop production and range management at the University of California, Davis. During his college years, he once helped police infiltrate the increasingly violent left wing anti-government movement on campus, an incident that served to isolate him from fellow students. After college he served in the Army where he was frequently the odd man out, rejected by his fellow soldiers. He returned home at the end of his tour to enter the family business where the ruling family faction assigned him the smallest and poorest department of their cattle enterprise. He worked 18 hours a day, six days a week for seven years in a vain attempt to make it profitable. During those years, Keith disagreed with



family members on everything from land management practices to security issues, to his unwillingness to work on the Sabbath. Matters came to a head when a relative demanded that he try to prevent the police from serving a rape case warrant on family lands, an order he refused to obey. Within a year, he was gone from the company. Frustrated and burned out, one day in 1975 he decided to go on a botanizing expedition with John Fay, then staff botanist at the National Tropical Botanical Garden. It was on that trip that Keith fell in love with Kokia kauiensis, one of the rarest trees in Hawai‘i. “I was so overwhelmed by the show that I told Fay then and there that I’d do my utmost to keep that species going,” Robinson recalls. He began to plan a wildlife reserve, but he needed capital to finance it. Robinson designed and supervised the building of a 32-foot fishing boat and spent several years as a commercial fisherman. By 1985, he had saved enough money to lease a site for the reserve from


Hibiscus Brackenridgii, Hawai‘i’s state flower.

Hibiscus Clayii

his family. He worked 12 to 18 hours a day for several years to establish a 100-acre wildlife reserve that once held more than 80 species of rare and endangered native Hawaiian plants. During that time he collaborated with botanical gardens and Hawai‘i’s Department of Land and Natural Resources to grow the seeds. Remembering that early reserve, Dr. John Fay, now a biologist with the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (FWS) Office of Endangered Species, admires Keith’s dedication. “Robinson was the only steward of 16 or 17 endangered species,” explains Fay. “But for him, they might not exist. I can’t think of another instance anywhere of anybody who can claim that record.” As time went on, more and more often Keith began to cross swords with governmental agencies and environmental groups, and their relationships grew increasing contentious. Finally, in the late 1990s he saw a FWS recovery plan that included the phrase “to secure and manage Keith Robinson’s land” for Caesalpinia

Donning his signature green hard hat, Keith Robinson stands next to one of the world’s rarest plants, Kokia cookei. He single handedly saved this species of small tree endemic to Moloka‘i from extinction.



CONSERVATION ‘O hi‘a lehua thrives in Robinson’s preserve, but many other fragile native species were not so lucky and perished as Robinson purposefully neglected them during a land dispute with the state.

Abutilon Sandwicense



kavaiense, an extremely rare species of small tree he was growing in his reserve. “I was furious,” Robinson remembers, “and 72 hours later that tree was found mysteriously dead.” His rocky relationship with the agency deteriorated further in 2000 when the FWS proposed listing thousands of acres of critical habitat on Kaua‘i and Ni‘ihau. Critical habitat is defined as the area an endangered plant or animal needs to survive and multiply until it is no longer endangered. Keith promptly canceled a planned endangered species reserve on Ni‘ihau and allowed about a thousand individual rare plants to die of neglect in his Kaua‘i reserve. As a result, major gene pools of half a dozen plants were lost. “I don’t like turning endangered species into a battleground,” says Keith, “but these people are using the issue to damage us, imposing critical habitat listings and trying to dictate how we shall and shall not use our land. This business of drawing critical habitat lines on maps is worse than useless. It is extremely expensive and wastes money, which should be used to grow and protect the plants in special ‘lifeboat reserves’ where the plants can be very intensively cultivated and carefully managed.” Over the years Keith has successful propagated many endangered plants. When O‘ahu’s Lyon Arboretum failed to get


Take a personal tour of the Olokele Canyon refuge with Keith Robinson. Tours are available Monday through Friday. Call 1.800.326.3356 or go to refuge-eco-tour for more information.

While his method and attitude toward conservation may be hard for some to swallow, Robinson is leading the tours of his preserve to fund his continuing work to preserve native Hawaiian plants.

The unique flower of Kokia cookei.

Photo: Keith Robinson

clones of the last remaining wild Cyanea pinnatifida to flower, they gave some of the plants to Keith. Under his care, three plants eventually flowered and produced some 2,000 to 3,000 seeds. He also grew several gene pools of Kokia kauaiensis, Hibscadelphus distans, Hibiscus brackenridgei, Hibiscus clayi, Munroidendron racemosum (Waimea Canyon variety), Sesbania tomentosum, Solanum sandwicense and Hibiscus waimeae ssp. hannerae. These endangered species were thriving in his reserve at the time he abandoned it in 2002 to protest governmental interference. One of his most successful projects involved Kokia cookei, a species John Fay called the world’s rarest plant, a small tree endemic to Moloka‘i. The last wild tree died in 1918 and no one had managed to produce seeds for 40 years. In 2002, Keith’s Kokia cookei flowered prolifically and produced hundreds of viable seeds, some of which he germinated and eventually outplanted. He estimates it took two years and cost him as little as $250, excluding fuel and labor, to grow the plants. In his opinion, government propagation of endangered plants is inhibited by a government work force that is highly paid, heavily unionized and often slow and inefficient. “A lot of these people—environmental organizations and lawyers—are just making money off the Endangered Species Act,” he says. “They don’t really care if the species survive or not.” Since the debacle that signed the death warrant of so many plants in his earlier reserve, Keith has established a smaller reserve overlooking Olokele Valley. Collaborating with Safari Helicopter owner Preston Myers, he now hosts eco-tours to help fund his continuing work to preserve Hawaiian native plants. The tour gives visitors a glimpse of otherwise inaccessible areas of the island. “What I’m doing here is planting a lot of the Ni‘ihau dryland species that are becoming extinct on that island,” he says. If the timing is right, tourists might see the delicate flowers of Ni‘ihau cotton (Gossypium tomentosum) or the tiny pink blossoms of Scaevola gaudichaudii, a plant descended from the last three plants in existence some 30 years ago. He will also show them one he’s especially fond of, Pritchardia alymer-robinsonii, the endemic Ni‘ihau fan palm named for his Uncle Aylmer. There are only two palms remaining in the wild on Ni‘ihau. Despite his success in propagating native plants, Keith believes it is only a matter of time before most of these rare species are extinct. “The real truth is that Hawai‘i’s endangered plants are biologically incompetent,” Robinson says, admitting he sometimes wonders why he’s taken on such a thankless task. “They evolved for millions of years in benign isolation where there were no significant threats or competition. Biologically incompetent species have gone extinct ever since the world began. That is a normal part of the natural process. There is nothing unusual about it. I’m just keeping them on life support.” In some ways, he and Hawai‘i’s endangered plants are both anachronisms. Keith’s old-fashioned morals isolate him from his own family members. Hawai‘i’s native plants find themselves overwhelmed and struggling to compete in a modern and vastly changed Hawai‘i.




The Ho‘oilo House

Lahaina bed and breakfast is something to write home about

Tucked away in the quiet beauty of the West Maui Mountains, the Ho‘oilo House, set on a sprawling Lahaina property with sweeping ocean views and lush tropical gardens, is nothing short of postcard worthy. Ho‘oilo, the Hawaiian word for winter, is an entirely appropriate name for the Hawaiiana style bed and breakfast, owned and operated by the Wistoff family, originally from Alaska. What sets Ho‘oilo House apart from the plethora of Maui B&Bs is what happens after guests check in, namely, a different kind of room service—a sustainable vacation experience. Since 2003, the Wistoffs have taken sustainable lodging on Maui to a whole new level, outfitting Ho‘oilo House with energy-saving appliances and “Zero Percent” amenities, as well as all-natural cleaning products, biodegradable souvenir water bottles, recycling bins for each room and a composting tumbler to feed the pesticide-free orchard. The fruit of the



orchard is harvested to feed guests at the breakfast table. And in a partnership with the Clean The World organization, all unused portions of soaps, shampoos and conditioners are recycled (after check out, of course), by being shipped to impoverished communities around the globe. With Balinese- and Asian-influenced décor accents, to outdoor showers complete with black lava rock walls, the Wistoffs recently upped the aesthetic ante with the addition of a 33.1-kilowatt photovoltaic solar array, which provides up to 100 percent of their electricity needs by generating an average of 4,700 kilowatt hours of electricity per month. The greening of Ho‘oilo House is an ongoing labor of love, according to family patriarch Jim Wistoff. “Our goal is to limit our footprint on Maui,” he says. “We’ve done a lot of little things so far, but they all add up.” —Sarah Ruppenthal


Photos: Couresty

The Ho‘oilo House is a new breed of Maui bed and breakfasts. The luxury accommodation is a fusion of Hawaiiana, Balinese and Asian influenced dĂŠcor set on a sprawling property with ocean views and lush tropical gardens. In addition to the aesthetics, the operators of the solar-powered house are doing everything possible to lessen its footprint on the Valley Isle.




Words by Ashley Lukens

Fast food is an easy enemy for the earth lover in us all. It’s extremely wasteful—all that packaging has to go somewhere. It’s dependent on mass produced commodities and additives—don’t believe the recent farm fresh marketing schemes, the food is still a concoction of high-fructose corn syrup and factory-farmed chicken, beef and pork. Fast food is also the primary culprit for the skyrocketing rates in heart disease, diabetes and obesity. Put a fish sandwich in a Styrofoam box in a paper bag and its common sense that fast food is antithetical to the values espoused by the health conscious and contemporary environmentalists. But there’s more to do than rant and rave about its greasy spread across Hawai‘i. We have to arm our communities and local farmers with the means to get healthy, fresh food to people in all communities at prices that buck the Dollar Menu mentality.



Photos: Kevin Whitton


Diamond Head Cove Health Bar’s version of a to-go meal—an acai bowl in a compostable cup.




Quick and easy meals have detrimental long-term social and environmental effects that aren’t posted on the drive-up menu.

The Lure of Fast Food Sitting in the parking lot of the Aina Haina Shopping Center, watching cars queue up four and five deep at the new double-lane McDonald’s drive-thru, it’s obvious that the eco-contempt for fast food hasn’t really caught on. Drive down Kamehameha Highway in Ka- ne‘ohe, Waialae Avenue in Town, straight through the heart of Hale‘iwa, or any other busy street with a McD’s drive-thru and the steady traffic jam is a testament to the fact that even as we face an unprecedented recession, the worst since the Great Depression, the profits of many fast food chains continue to rise. Fast food is, above all, cheap and convenient. Families don’t just eat fast food because its tasty, they eat it because they get a huge bang for their buck. For those who have seen the eye-opening documentary Food Inc., the grocery store scene should come to mind. A family tours the aisles looking for affordable food and finds that a piece of fresh fruit costs the same as an entire meal off the McDonald’s Dollar Menu. For families who are pinching pennies, it seems the choice is clear. Why is fast food so cheap? The bulk of the ingredients used are heavily subsidized by the U.S. government through an agricultural subsidy system designed to encourage, if not directly pay for, the over production of both corn and soy. This means that corn fed beef is



cheaper to grow, process and deliver than fresh fruits and veggies. The heavy processing of our food and the standardization of our diets has also allowed huge companies like McDonald’s, Burger King, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell to extend their reach and send readymade meal-components across the globe for easy on-sight preparation and sale. Fast food establishments (calling them restaurants would be an overstatement) also have the capacity to give back to ailing and underserved communities and institutions. They have developed silver-tongued marketing scheme that ensures future lifelong patrons, marketing directly to kids by placing their products directly in public school lunchrooms or offering field trips to their eateries. McDonald’s also has teacher workday programs, where teachers “work” at McDonald’s and the restaurant, in turn, donates sales to the school. Similarly, fast food restaurants often offer playgrounds and toys, luring children looking for fun and parents that might need a break.

The Ingredients of Convenience If fast food is a ubiquitous part of the modern American diet and an antidote to the diminishing amount of time our culture devotes to cooking and eating, then what are


With the number of fast food establishments and obesity on the rise in Hawai‘i, spending a few dollars more on nutritious meals can cut medical expenses down the line.

we putting into our mouths and into our communities when we increasingly opt for fast food? If we vote with our forks and vote with our dollars, what kind of world will a fast food vote get us? If you peruse the menu items at most fast food joints, you probably won’t see corn anywhere on the menu. But corn is omnipresent in fast food. And lots of corn means lots of oil. And not corn oil, crude oil. Fast food relies entirely upon the industrial system of food production, which is held up by commodity crops like corn and soy. And this doesn’t mean the bulbous, sweet yellow kernels on the cob. In fact, the majority of corn grown for industrial food production isn’t edible in the traditional corn-on-the-cob way. Rather, corn feeds the animals, which we consume. Corn is heavily refined and processed into artificial flavors, sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup has been rebranded as corn sugar because of the recent enlightening bad press), fats like partially hydrogenated corn oil, fillers, emulsifiers and preservatives. Most surprisingly, corn is grown to produce corn-based ethanol, the fuel needed to distribute these ingredients around the global. Fast food is, as its name suggests, fast and convenient. Not only are these restaurant chains popping up everywhere, but they also deliver hot food to your table in minutes. This successful recipe makes them particularly attractive for timecrunched Americans who are increasingly eating their meals on the go.

Is Your Health Worth The Risk? • In

2005, almost 20 percent of adults in Hawai‘i were considered obese.

The proportion of Hawai‘i’s obese population has nearly doubled between 1996 and 2009, from 12.9% to 22.9%. (BRFSS, 2009)

In 2005, among the adult residents of Hawai‘i, Native Hawaiians had the highest rates of obesity at 43%, followed by Others (24%), Whites (18%), Filipinos (13%), and Japanese (10%). (Hawai‘i State Dept. of Health 2010; Hawai‘i State Dept. of Health 2007)



FOOD Handmade, home cooked, healthy and proud of it.

It’s cheap, too. The average cost of a fast food meal is under $10. Highly processed fast food is also high in calories. Despite recent attempts to “healthify” the fast food meal with salad and fruit options, the staple menu items are notoriously high in fat, carbs and calories. On a larger scale, the carbon footprint of the typical fast food meal is huge. Petroleum is used through the industrial food process: growing the corn uses petroleum-based pesticides, herbicides and fertilizers, oil powers the harvesting machinery and the worldwide fleet of distribution vehicles, and the food itself is full of artificial flavors, many of which are also petroleum-based. In addition, the meat used in almost all fast food items (thankfully, local fast food outlet Zippy’s did recently switch to local beef) is farmed on mainland CAFOs (Commercial Animal Feeding Operations), which emit large amounts of methane, a deadly greenhouse gas.

Fast Food Fault Lines Fast food has had a profound impact on local economies and on local communities, particularly in terms of public health. Today, one in three kids eats fast food every day, a habit partially responsible for the sharp rise in obesity among adults and children. During the past 40 years, the obesity rate among American preschoolers has doubled. Among children ages 6 to 11, it has tripled. Two-thirds of American adults are obese or overweight. Obesity is an increasingly serious and expensive health problem, demonstrating that while fast food might initially be the cheapest available option, its long-term costs are bankrupting us. Obesity has been linked to asthma, cancer, heart disease and diabetes. Economists estimate that obesity is now responsible for 17 percent of the nation’s annual medical costs, or roughly $168 billion. In Hawai‘i, just as in the rest of the country, our rates of obesity are climbing along with the number of fast food restaurants, which have been steadily increasing. For example, between 1970 and 2005, the number of L&L Barbeques went from 1 to 36; the number of Zippy’s grew from 1 to 18; McDonald’s spiked from 1 to 31 (peaking at 41 outlets in 1995). The proportion of Hawai‘i’s obese population has



nearly doubled between 1996 and 2009, from 12.9 to 22.9 percent, not a surprising correlation. Jay Maddock is a professor of public health at the University of Hawai‘i at Ma- noa. Maddock’s research on the relationship between fast food and obesity found that the higher incidence of fast food at the state level led to a high incidence of obesity, even when controlling for all other variables. “This means that we cannot just analyze fast food consumption at the individual level,” explains Maddock. “Research has consistently indicated that we also have to look at community level factors, like access to healthy alternatives or an environment that encourages physical activity to explain why certain communities have higher rates of obesity than others.” Fast food restaurants are increasingly opening shop in low-income neighborhoods, driving up demand for its low-price, ready-made meals in the context of communities who have few healthier choices. “This makes perfect business sense,” says Maddock. “When you have a family where both parents are working two full time jobs, struggling to pay rent and get food on the table, a dollar goes a long way at a fast food restaurant.” The negative effects are then externalized into the community.

Alternatives and Solutions If fast food is a response to a lack of time, lack of money or lack of healthy food alternatives, a social problem causing increased waste, diet-related health problems and exacerbating climate change, then can we design solutions and alternatives that understands the socioeconomic system within which fast food has emerged a desirable food option for many families? While the cynic in us might say fast food is here to stay, many programs and individuals don’t just think otherwise, they’re taking actions to prove it. In her eight-part cooking lecture series, “Easy Whole Foods Cooking”, local Chef Leslie Ashburn has begun to take some of the values espoused by fast food lovers (cheap, convenient, and delicious) and rendered them more sustainable. “The main emphasis of these classes is to identify the hidden costs of fast food consumption and challenge


people to think about the long-term implications of their food choices,” she says. For Ashburn, this is not only by identifying the health impacts of industrial food, but also the kind of food system that these choices endorse. “Industrial food has had a profound impact on Hawai‘i’s land, people and environment,” explains Ashburn. “By showing how eating habits affect not just individuals, but also their communities, participants begin to understand their diets in new terms.” Ashburn uses recipes with fresh (as opposed to frozen or canned) and local ingredients and she equips her students with the capacity and the confidence to navigate the produce section with an eye for saving—both in time and in money. “As people start to eat more and more fresh whole foods, they notice a variety of changes happening: more energy, weight loss and better sleep,” observes Ashburn. “This encourages them to really commit to new diets and eating habits. I don’t tell them what to eat, or how to eat. I give them the knowledge for them to make the decisions themselves.” Food trucks are part of our local culture that offer untapped potential in the realm of sustainable fast food delivery. Across the continent, food trucks are delivering sustainable meals with locally sourced ingredients in hard to reach places. These vendors don’t just give eaters a sustainable option on the go; they can also directly serve Hawai‘i’s farmers by providing them new outlets for their produce. For example, in Washington D.C., Moto Bene is a mobile pizza joint that travels to area farmers markets, cooking up whatever is in season (a little reminiscent of the North Shore Farms pesto pizza at the Hale‘iwa, Hawai‘i Kai, and Kapi‘olani Farmers’ Markets). By limiting packaging, transporting food waste to worm bins, using eco-friendly cutlery and containers or encouraging diners to bring their own and retrofitting trucks with solar panels, food trucks have allowed chefs and entrepreneurs with little capital to bring big ideas to the sustainable food scene. As a community, we don’t have to accept the encroachment of fast food into our every day lives, our families or our schools. In fact, communities across the U.S. have adopted clever policies to keep the growth of fast food at bay. Ever the eco-loving liberal enclave, San Francisco recently passed a resolution to effectively “ban” the happy meal concept within the city limits. This means that if a meal contains anything beyond a set level of calories, sugar and fat, it cannot offer a toy with purchase. In 2008, the Los Angeles City Council banned the opening up of fast food outlets for a year. The pressure came from the community, where people were demanding policy makers to find ways to encourage the growth of healthier businesses and restaurant chains. We can move beyond fast food and we can do so in ways that takes the forces behind the fast-foodification of our diets seriously. Keeping fast food at bay must be coupled with initiatives that improve access to healthy foods, particularly for those communities who have limited incomes and might not have the time to prepare three meals a day from scratch. Equipping farmers’ markets with EBT transfer stations (so people can use foods stamps), helping small farms get food safety certified (so they can accept food stamps) and encouraging our city planners to adopt resolutions that would outfit all of our neighborhoods with more fruits and veggies, gives our communities alternatives to the Dollar Menu meal that go well beyond our next meal.


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Hawaiian Electric Co. Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods 91 Coelho Way Honolulu, Hawaii 96817 808.595.8847 Honolulu Board of Water Supply Hui Ku Maoli Ola Hawaiian Plant Specialists 46-403 Haiku Road Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744 808.235.6165 Jamba Juice Kai Ku Hale 66-145 Kamehameha Highway Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 808.636.2244 King Windward Nissan 45-568 Kamehameha Highway Kaneohe, Hawaii 96744 1.888.385.3203 Kokua Hawaii Foundation Luibueno's Mexican & Seafood Restaurant 66-165 Kamehameha Highway Haleiwa, Hawaii 96712 808.637.7717 MiNei Hawaii 2140 Aha Niu Place Honolulu, Hawaii 96821 808.734.3499 Mokulua Woodworking, LTD. 808.263.9663 Muumuu Heaven 767 Kailua Road Kailua, Hawaii 96734 808.263.3366

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Photo: Kyle Tanaka

Waikı-kı-’s narrow beaches are constantly eroding and have been periodically artificially replenished. With just a small rise in sea level, hotels on the beach would be at risk of being waterfront, literally.

Shrinking Beaches Our hand in the disappearing sands

Coastal erosion has long been a scenario faced across Hawai‘i’s beaches, largely due to our own hand—think hotels, breakwaters and beachfront property. With climate change and the impending sea level increase, how will the islands cope to weather the storm? Also featured in the September/October issue, pa‘i ‘ai, or hand-pounded poi, is more than just a meal. It reflects undercurrents in larger social issues like culture, sustainable agriculture and politics. With the passage of the “Poi Bill” it is now up to a growing and excited group of young taro farmers to keep the tradition alive. GREEN has a conversation with Ed Brown, the director of the documentary Acceptable Levels?



And learn what’s happening at the Kalihi Valley Nature Preserve and the Mililani Solar Park. Look for the September/October issue of GREEN at local retailers starting in September 2011 at Jamba Juice locations across the state or check online at for a distributor near you. Email and request your free subscription to the eZine, the complete online version of GREEN, delivered directly to your inbox. Like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter @grnmagazine to stay up to date on all the latest green news, events and ideas.

GREEN Volume 3 Number 4  

Green: hawaii's sustainable living magazine