Going green doesn’t just mean you’ve met all the requirements on the Department of Business, Economic Development and Tourism (DBEDT) State Energy Office’s checklist. In reality, it means these businesses have made a commitment to Hawaii, and to themselves, to make a difference–to stop polluting our ‘aina and over-exhausting our resources.
Now in its 10th year of recognizing businesses for their sustainability efforts, the state Energy Office insists that the Hawaii Green Business Award program not only “helps applicants become greener, but also fits within [DBEDT]’s own energy efficiency goals,” according to DBEDT State Energy Office Spokesman Rick Daysog. The program provides an avenue through which the state of Hawaii and businesses can come together with a more environmentally responsible future in mind.
In order to win the Hawaii Green Business Award from DBEDT, companies must undergo a three-step process. They fill out an application, a checklist, and then undergo an intensive site visit, during which a surveyor checks water fixture flow rates, cleaning-related practices and energy use, among other particulars. Once these three steps are complete, DBEDT alerts the hopeful organization of its decision.
Evaluations are made on an annual basis–previous awardees can reapply from year to year–and applicants must be able to demonstrate energy and water conservation, waste reduction and community involvement, among other requirements.
Executive Director Janis Reischmann of 2012 awardee Hauoli Mau Loa Foundation contests the term “award,” calling the interactions with DBEDT “an application process to be certified as a green business.” She adds enthusiastically, “It’s a good way to do an internal check to make sure we were doing the most we can to be environmentally responsible stewards.”
And a check it is. DBEDT surveyors did not just robotically mark items off on a list during Hau’oli Mau Loa’s site visit: They thoroughly evaluated each item, while offering more ideas as to how the already-certified-LEED-platinum business could become more sustainable and environmentally responsible, says Reischmann.
Bottom line, it’s not about the bottom-line
Hauoli Mau Loa Foundation and Il Gelato Hawaii, another 2012 awardee, agree unequivocally on one thing, at least: Operating a sustainable business is simply the right thing to do.
Hailing from Germany, Il Gelato Hawaii owner Dirk Koeppenkastrop opened his Oahu gelateria nearly two years ago. For him, greening his business wasn’t necessarily a choice, it’s just innate: “The green philosophy is 20 years old in Germany. It’s part of our upbringing,” says Koeppenkastrop. “Environmentally friendly practices were clear from the get-go.”
Reischmann agrees, stating, “Those practices predate the decision for renovation.” Reischmann is referring to a full-scale renovation of the foundation’s Bishop Street office, to which she adds, “Was based on more than the bottom-line: It was just the right thing to do.”
Il Gelato Hawaii acquired Mondo Gelato’s assets when it went under. Koeppenkastrop quickly put his business philosophy to work: Make the best gelato while leaving the least impact. So far, it’s paid off.
Using the now-defunct Mondo facilities, Koeppenkastrop is “doing five times the activity and volume but still producing the same energy bill.” He’s done this by focusing on minimizing the company’s energy consumption, bringing in a freezer house, for example, which is more energy efficient than individual freezers.
The gelato itself is packaged in recyclable containers. By collecting a deposit fee, Koeppenkastrop is able to take the container back for a refund. All in all, Il Gelato saves between 12,000 and 13,000 containers per year from Hawaii landfills.
But does Koeppenkastrop meet his own high standard to deliver the best gelato in Hawaii? Look at his customers: Il Gelato Hawaii caters to local high-end restaurants like Alan Wong’s and Roy’s. It’s also being scooped regularly at Whole Foods. He reaches out further on the sustainability scope by sourcing most of his ingredients locally: macadamia nuts and guava from the Big Island, for example.
Ever the entrepreneur, Koeppenkastrop is not satisfied with all he’s done so far in terms of reducing Il Gelato’s carbon footprint: He’s in the process of soliciting offers for a photovoltaic system and replacing all lighting in his Iwilei Business Center location. “I want the company to be completely self-sufficient,” Koeppenkastrop says ambitiously.
Hauoli Mau Loa completely renovated its Downtown office to LEED platinum standards not to receive recognition, but rather because it simply resonated with the foundation’s mission to “enhance stewardship, preservation and protection of the environment,” according to Reischmann.
Reischmann says, “The foundation payed special attention to water flow, choosing low-flow faucets and low-flush toilets.” Hauoli Mau Loa was also careful to select recycled wood materials for construction. In order to reduce reliance on generated light, Hauoli Mau Loa constructed the office such a way as to take advantage of natural light as much as possible, using translucent materials that allow sunlight to pass through.
Greening the foundation doesn’t stop with its physical construction, though. Practices around the office are undoubtedly carbon footprint-reducing as well. “We have multiple outlets for recycling, use earth-friendly cleaning products and recycle things like toner and batteries,” says Reischmann, adding that the staff supports and takes full advantage of these opportunities.
Spread the award
Just because Il Gelato Hawaii and Hauoli Mau Loa have received awards and recognition by the Hawaii Energy Office doesn’t mean either entity’s content. “Businesses are then encouraged to display the Hawaii Green Business Program logo, to promote networking opportunities, public relations and, most importantly, to increase public awareness,” says Daysog.
Il Gelato seems to be doing just that: Since becoming a recipient, the company’s complex has instituted a cardboard recycling program. “Before, everything would just get thrown together in the trash pile,” says Koeppenkastrop.
“Environmental conservation is common sense,” Koeppenkastrop says when asked about his award, adding, “Most of the time, a little extra work pays off.”