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Hawai‘i is moving, in fits and starts, towards creating a greener fleet of islands.

This year has proven once again that we cannot rely on our legislators and officials to produce progressive laws and policies for our Islands. There have been discouraging attempts to turn some of our state’s very best farmland into subdivisions. There is SB755, which would overturn requirements for environmental impact statements for state agencies. This bill would eliminate all public involvement and testimony in state projects.

Despite widespread public support and testimony for many forward looking bills, our elected officials seem hellbent on continuing down the “treadmill to oblivion.” Years ago, Weekly writer Robert Rees (RIP) coined this term to describe our continual obsession with jobs and housing–a demand that will never be fulfilled as we eat away at our quality of life and our ability to sustain an ever-growing population.

This year’s legislative session began with some very progressive bills, but only a handful of them are still standing, with the chance at becoming a law. The following are still in play, if somewhat, diminished from their original form:

HB2073. This would double island food production by 2020 (from 8-9 percent to 16-18 percent) and would keep track of the quantities of various types of food produced in state.

HB2483. This is the statewide bag fee bill that would fund the watershed initiative which is so important for both conservation and water production.

SB2787. This authorizes the PUC to develop, adopt and enforce reliability standards and interconnection for electric power. This would allow a more neutral party than the utility to make decisions on things like expansion of photovoltaic (PV) production in neighborhoods.

The good news is that despite our dysfunctional politics, there are major forces that are pulling us down the road to sustainability. We can do a lot to move this state forward by putting our dollars in the right places and modifying our own behaviors.

There is increasing community interest in seeing Hawaii become a world leader in developing sustainable practices and create one of the greenest places on earth. We have some very good reasons–like the highest electric bills in the country and our isolation from the rest of the globe. Fortunately. we have key natural resources that can help make this a reality; our sunshine is constant and our growing season is long. We have access to technology and the people who know how to use it to best advantage.

Solar power is one of the brightest spots for Hawaii, and we’re seeing fields of photovoltaic panels pop up like mushrooms after a good rain. The view from the top is getting better and better as all sorts of buildings are sporting solar hats–from the Nature Conservancy’s historic site on Nuuanu to the ‘Aina Haina library to thirteen of the ABC stores in Waikiki and many, many other locations throughout Oahu.

We now have over 100 electric charging stations around Oahu–an encouraging trend for all us, but especially for those early adapters who have, as of March 2012, purchased 727 Leafs, Volts and other types of electric vehicles (EVs). These forward thinking owners now enjoy tax rebates, free electric charges and free public parking.

Programs in our colleges now offer degrees in sustainability. Many companies are creating new positions for sustainability coordinators–in organizations as diverse as Kona Brewing Company and Hawaii Pacific University. These folks have more than paid for their positions with their green efforts. KYA has put together a sustainability consulting team to augment its architectural practice. It’s no secret that money can be saved by reviewing, retrofitting, and looking at where energy can be saved, where recycling can create value. Walmart set the national stage for green practices, and now more businesses, public agencies and schools are looking at how to save kala, reduce waste, reduce carbon and create positive changes in our environment.

There’s more and more interest in island grown cuisine–and dedicated locavores are seeking out and finding local milk, local meats, local eggs, local brews. It’s encouraging to see that Zippy’s has moved to island pasture fed beef for their hamburgers. At the other end of the restaurant spectrum, the Whole Ox produces pastrami, pancetta, and terrines only from pigs and cows that were actually born and raised in Hawaii. Farmers’ markets have sprung up with amazing speed and are offering a greater variety of fresh foods than we have enjoyed in decades. We can now find poppini mushrooms, free-range eggs, Waianae cheeses, Waiahole cornmeal, heritage popcorn, tasty rums created with Hawaiian sugar cane from both Kauai and Maui, lamb from the Big Island, world-class chocolate from Waialua. We’re looking forward to more delicious local products as both entrepreneurs and chefs figure out great ways to replace mainland imports.

On the home front–whether condo or free-standing homes or roof tops–gardening is increasing in popularity throughout the islands. Seed and fruit tree sales are taking off, along with aquaponics systems with their built in fishponds. Chickens are becoming popular pets, with benefits.

Kamehameha Schools is harvesting the ulu from around their Kalama campus and serving it up in their cafeterias. HPU is considering growing fruit trees on their Windward campus. Kokua Hawaii Foundation is working in many public schools to start school yard gardens which introduce children to better, fresher food. Punahou School has launched a series of Food for Thought presentations which engage our island community in thinking about changes we can make in our own eating habits.

It is with great pleasure that we publish this, our ninth annual Sustainability issue. This year we have more support than ever from Kamehameha Schools, the Kokua Hawaii Foundation and Hawaii Pacific University Foundation. Without their help it would not have been possible to create as large and as comprehensive an issue as this. Our able staff has pulled together a wide variety of materials to educate, elucidate and enlighten. I hope you enjoy reading this issue, as well as discovering how you can expand the idea of aloha ‘aina within our Hawaii nei.

Kamehameha Schools, Hawaii Pacific University, and Kokua Hawaii Foundation sponsored Sustainable Hawaii 2012.