Recycle Hawaii Awarded Grant

Thanks to a grant from Keep America Beautiful (KAB) and The Coca-Cola Co., Big Island nonprofit Recycle Hawaii can now do even more to keep Hawaii beautiful.

KAB and Coca-Cola have teamed up to support recycling efforts across the country. They have awarded recycling bins to a variety of organizations – including nonprofits, community and college groups, and government organizations – in 70 towns and cities. The goal of the Recycling Bin Grant Program is to help the groups make recycling easier and more accessible in their communities. Each organization awarded with the grant will be responsible for the collection of recyclable materials.  The winners were chosen based on

Kampachi’s Controversial Fish Farm

A Big Island fish farm is calling its aquaculture water pen a success so far, but others believe the experiment is a mistake.

Kampachi Farms, run by former operators of Kona Blue Water Farms, has been growing fish in an underwater pen off the Big Island’s Kona Coast.  The pen is kept 30 feet below the surface and, rather then being anchored, it has been tied to a boat.  The boat – and the attached experimental pen – has been traveling in federal waters several miles offshore.  More space further offshore means bigger pens.  And bigger pens mean more fish.

Head of Kampachi Farms, Neil Anthony Sims, told press, “This is the world’s first beta test of an unanchored fish pen system”.  The diet for the fish includes Peruvian anchovies and a soybean protein concentrate.  Sims reported that the fish are eating and growing as hoped, with a loss of only one quarter of one percent of the 2,000 fish initially placed in the pen.

Supporters of the Kampachi Farms experiment, like Eric Schwaab of the National Marines Fisheries Service, believe that offshore pens are innovative and have the potential to help restore fisheries and satisfy consumer demands.  If successful, this experiment may become a model for offshore fish farms around the world, increasing the global fish supply as well as economic opportunities.

But aquaculture has other consequences to be considered. 

Big Island Donkeys To Be Relocated

Hawaii has recently received some much-needed assistance to remove former plantation workers now roaming the Big Island.

Donkeys were originally brought to Hawaii to help farmers in the coffee fields on the Big Island. But when these beasts of burden were no longer needed, they were let loose. Hawaii Humane Society officials believe that the donkeys were moved to the Waikoloa area in the 1970s, due to increased development in Kona. But the now wild donkeys have found their way back to civilization, in search of water and in spite of development. Their presence has caused concern for locals, as the donkeys have become more than noisy neighbors. The equines are actually a traffic hazard. And their growing population – from a dozen to an estimated 400-600 in the Waikaloa area alone – is an increased risk to motorists.

Many Big Island residents have shown the donkeys much aloha

Puna Papaya Farms Destroyed by Trespassers

While many residents are working hard to support local agriculture and a sustainable lifestyle, others are destroying the very fruits of their labor.  Just last month, three papaya farms on 10 acres of land on the Big Island were destroyed.  With the trespassers still at large, the community has come together to discuss possible motivations behind the attacks and how they can work together to prevent future destruction of valuable crops.

This isn’t the first time the Puna area has been hit by vandals.  Just last year, 8, 500 papaya trees were destroyed, resulting in thousands of dollars of damage.  The damage and loss of crops affects not only the papaya farmers but consumers as well.  Delan Perry, vice president of the Hawaii Papaya Industry Association, reports that papaya is the “Number one fruit eaten in Hawaii”, and as such, is in high demand.  When farmers are forced to start over, it can take a year for a tree to bear fruit.  That’s a long time and a lot of unnecessary loss.

So why would anyone go to the trouble of chopping down perfectly good papaya trees?

Hawaii Welcomes Two New Solar Projects

While wind and hydroelectric projects are being held up by community and conservation concerns, two new solar projects are moving forward.  One project will turn an industrial disposal site into a solar farm and the other will bring solar power to several state military sites.

On Thursday, August 18, 2011, a Hawaiian blessing was performed by senior scientist and cultural advisor for the Nature Conservancy of Hawaii, Dr. Samuel M. ‘Ohukani‘ōhi‘a Gon III, at a Kapolei location formerly used as an industrial waste dump.  The site – described as a “brownfield”  – has been chosen to be transformed into a “brightfield”.  Since 1986 when the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency ordered the site to be sealed under plastic and asphalt, it has been unusable for development.  But given Hawaii’s limited space and great need for renewable energy,

Will the Feed-In Tariff Fail?

One of our state’s best options for clean, renewable energy is solar.  Solar farms are being built and solar panels are increasingly installed on homes and businesses throughout the islands.  Even shopping centers and military bases are getting on board, helping Hawaii move closer to our 2030 clean energy goals.  The state has encouraged residents to consider solar by offering rebates, tax credits and incentives.  One of those incentives – the feed-in tariff – has great potential, but is being held up by a lack of assurance from Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO).

A feed-in tariff, also referred to as “renewable energy payments” or “advanced renewable tariff”, is put in place to set standard rates at which residents and businesses can sell the renewable energy they produce and feed into the grid.  The tariff is meant to encourage residents and businesses to consider renewable energy options, such as solar panels, that can decrease our dependence on fossil fuels while contributing power to the grid.

While the feed-in tariff is good in theory, it relies on collaborative efforts of the resident or business and the power utility.  And HECO’s participation is not without hesitation.

Some Monk Seals Face Euthanization

Hawaii’s monk seals often make the news due to their endangered species status and the consequent need to protect them and preserve their environment.  “Euthanization” is not a word we typically associate with these endemic creatures, but it recently made local headlines in two separate cases.  While the conversation is certainly controversial, in both cases officials insist euthanization was the best option.

Last week National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) announced their plans to euthanize at least one and possibly two male monk seals in Kure Atoll.  NOAA reports that these two seals have repeatedly attacked and even killed

Safeway Selling Unlabeled “Kona” Coffee

Coffee – the fourth most valuable crop in Hawaii – is a significant piece of our agricultural pie.  And as Hawaii is the only state in the country that produces coffee, the world-famous beans are quite unique.  More specifically, coffee from Kona is known for distinct, delicate flavor.  Even Mark Twain expressed his love of Kona coffee, writing in his Letters from Hawaii, “I think Kona coffee has a richer flavor than any other be it grown where it may”.

So it was a bit shocking for a local farmer to find Safeway selling its own “Kona” coffee blend on the mainland.  Paul Uster, owner of Mokulele Farms, was on a vacation in California when he discovered the Safeway blend selling for $8.99 per pound.  Pure Kona coffee can command $25 for just 8 ounces.

It wasn’t the idea of the blend that surprised Uster, as blends are not uncommon.  It was

HECO and Big Wind Forced to Consider Energy Alternatives

A recent Public Utilities Commission (PUC) ruling threw a big wrench in Hawaiian Electric Company’s (HECO) Big Wind plans, forcing HECO to consider alternative energy proposals.  According to the ruling, proposals must be for 200 megawatts of renewable energy, but need not be focused on wind.

So while HECO has been forced to pause and consider alternatives before moving ahead, perhaps we should all consider our energy consumption, alternative energy sources, and the implications and potential pressures created by the state’s Clean Energy Initiative.


We’ve got more than big wind…

We’ve also got plenty of sunshine.  But we are currently relying heavily on fossil fuels.  The fact that we depend on imported petroleum for about 90% of our primary energy is quite shameful when we consider that we have the most diverse and abundant alternative energy options in the country.

Many homes and businesses in Hawaii have already been putting the sun’s energy to use.  Pearlridge Center on Oahu is considering solar parking canopies, Kauai has the largest solar farm in the state and is building an even bigger one, and Hickam Air Force base will soon become the second largest solar community in the country.  These are just a few of the many examples of solar power being put to use here in the Aloha State.

There is a strong argument to be made for solar, and in a state with so much sunshine it seems only logical to make the most out of this natural, renewable resource.  In an interview with The Hawaii Independent, Molokai resident and energy industry veteran with a background in environmental planning, Mike Bond, states that

Hawaii Conservation Week

In an ideal world, everyone would celebrate and participate in some type of conservation effort or activity every day, whether it’s water conservation, energy conservation, environmental conservation or even cultural conservation. This week, the Hawaii Conservation Alliance is helping to make that possible by supporting and hosting daily Conservation Week events.

Conservation Week kicked off yesterday with a family fishing event at the Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden in Kaneohe. The Garden shared their “catch ‘n’ release” program with the public from 10 am – 2 pm and provided fishing poles for participants. Hoomaluhia Botanical Garden celebrates the relationship between humans and our natural environment through their environmental activities, nature trails, crafts and camping programs.

Today, with the help of Kalihi-based non-profit KAUPA, community members began