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Walking the Talk

(Honolulu Star-Advertiser)  Today is the 42nd annual celebration of Earth Day, considered by many as the birth of the modern environmental movement. We’ve all heard the spiels — reduce-reuse-recycle, conserve water, install solar, change to energy-efficient bulbs, bring your own bag, eat local, save the whales, malama the aina — and you might just be experiencing a little green fatigue right about now.

But for the many folks who have made it their mission to get out the message about preserving the planet’s precious resources, “going green” is more than a platitude or catchphrase. We surveyed 16 people who champion environmental issues to break it down into more personal terms and inspire the rest of us to begin living a little bit greener each day.

Tell us how you live green and we might print your comments in the Today section April 30. Email features@staradvertiser.com.

To reduce her carbon footprint, Suzanne Case, above, has photovoltaic arrays on top of her home.[Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Executive director,
The Nature Conservancy

“I take the issue of climate change very seriously and personally. I do everything I can to reduce my carbon footprint. My first step was to install a solar hot-water system, then photovoltaic panels to power my home, including a battery backup for when the power goes out. That way I can still have coffee and wireless Internet access! I switched my light bulbs to compact fluorescents. I buy local whenever possible. And our family cars are a hybrid and a diesel using 100 percent biodiesel. I carpool to work and take the bus home. These measures not only benefit our environment and our energy security, but over time save me significant dollars in utility bills.”

Jack Johnson [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Musician, president,
Kokua Hawaii Foundation

“When we’re on tour we try to run any of the buses or trucks that are carrying our equipment on biodiesel. That’s something Ilearned about here first because of Pacific Biodiesel in Hawaii, which is a very cool company. It makes biodiesel fuel out of vegetable oil from the restaurants. We try to implement recycling at all the venues we play at. … We try to have refillable water-bottle stations at every show, which might sound like a small thing but actually, at the end of the night when you look out at the venue, especially a festival, you see the field covered with these single-use plastic water bottles.

“Back at home I always try to tell kids two things they can do to make a really big impact, to make a difference in their life:Use reusable water bottles, for one, and bring in your own bags to the store. … I think a real important one is to shop at the farmers market as much as you can or to buy local. … It’s kind of nice anyway; the food is fresher — it’s a win-win situation.”

Mike Gabbard [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Energy and Environment Committee

“My wife, Carol, and I have an organic garden, and we compost our food waste. We’ve also been vegetarians for over 40 years. Last year we bought an all-electric Nissan Leaf to get around town. We also shop at farmers markets each week and buy local as much as possible.”


Heidi Bornhorst grows plants for food and beauty in her Palolo garden. [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]HEIDI BORNHORST
Sustainable landscape consultant,
Star-Advertiser columnist

“The less lawn the better here in Hawaii. I grow an intense garden. Every layer is filled with useful, edible, beautiful plants. I have stone paths edged with ferns rather than a lawn, which is expensive to mow, fertilize and uses lots of water. I grow food plants such as ulu (breadfruit), uala (sweet potato) and mulberries (for fruit and tea) and share with my neighbors. I have a mini aquaponics system because I have a small yard. I grow fish in one tub and plants in another, recirculating the fish kukae water to fertilize the plants. Even a minisystem gives you lots of vegetables and herbs for cooking.”

Chief of interpretation,
Hawaii Volcanoes National Park

“I’ve been riding my bike to work every day the 12 years I’ve worked here. Being able to bike to work is a must for me; I bought my house in Volcano specifically so I could bike to work easily. I try to have no electricity on when I’m not at home or in my office, and turn off all the energy-sucking vampires like power strips, printers and other devices.

“I also hang my clothes outside to dry in the sun and the wind. My neighbors might be less than thrilled, because if I can’t ride home before the rain hits, they hang another day. I’m also really proud and grateful of the Volcano community’s farmers market. It lets me be a locavore! I buy fresh fruit, vegetables, hormone- and antibiotic-free local beef, and more. It also helps supports local farmers and reduces the frequency of driving into Hilo for groceries.”

Henk Rogers, left, and Annie Koh [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]






Entrepreneur, founder,
Blue Planet Foundation

“I drive an electric vehicle. Four of my immediate family drive (Toyota) Priuses. I’m taking my (North Kona) ranch off the grid (solar with peak-flow battery backup and hydrogen generation for eventual hydrogen vehicles). We are in the development stage of doing aquaponics at the ranch so we don’t have to import any food from the mainland. I do not drink imported water (tap water at restaurants, well water on the ranch). I fly commercial; I choose not to have my own plane due to the carbon footprint. I walk when my car is being charged.”

Kanu Hawaii

“I think, especially in urban Honolulu, the most obvious way we malama aina is by shopping better: buying recycled toilet paper or not buying things like bottled water, and eating at restaurants that source their ingredients locally. But as much as I love walking over to the farmers market Saturday mornings, I try to live green not only as a consumer, but as a citizen. If I can research the Sunday circulars to figure out whether Times or Foodland has the best sales that week, I can also spend 30 minutes that afternoon writing my legislator about a bill to increase local food production.

“Also, if anyone wants to start composting, I encourage you. This all-black-thumbs killer of spider plants has successfully kept a worm bin for 10 months. Each time I dump in some banana and papaya peels, I’m just amazed that what I used to think of as waste can become earth.”


“As an artist who works with recycled materials, I try to do some small things in order to minimize our footprint. One of the things we stopped doing was buying bottled water. My wife and I now use stainless-steel water bottles wherever we go. And we both downsized to fuel-efficient cars. She drives a Honda Fit and I drive a Toyota Yaris.”

Co-chairman, Oahu Chapter,
Surfrider Foundation

“Oftentimes when I am surfing I see rubbish floating in the water, especially at surf spots around town. I always make sure to paddle over to wherever the rubbish is and grab it. If it’s small enough, I stuff it in my pocket. If it is something too big to fit in my pocket like a plastic bag, I will tie it to my waist or arm so I can hold on to it until I paddle in. I like doing this because then I have an excuse for not surfing very well. I just claim the rubbish I am holding on to is throwing off my balance. The only person I am fooling is myself, though.

“I also bring reusable bags to the grocery store, use reusable water bottles instead of single-use bottles, ride TheBus or bike to work, and we have only one car for our family, and it uses biodiesel.”

Hawaiian Islands Humpback Whale National Marine Sanctuary

“At work I am protecting humpback whales and other marine resources that rely on clean oceans to live, and at home I am conserving fresh water by using a rain barrel catchment system to feed my organic vegetable garden. I have also expanded my efforts to conserve by utilizing a compost pile and worm farm to help reduce waste. Energy conservation is also something I take seriously, and to reduce my carbon footprint I have installed solar panels on my home and I get around the island in a hybrid vehicle. Small steps taken by many can make a difference for us all.”

Executive director,
Hui o Ko‘olaupoko

“To make Earth Day every day, my son and I bike to school every day the weather permits. Often this is five days per week, and it allows us to get exercise, use less gas and stay out of morning gridlock in and out of the school. We have biked to school for the past three years and calculated that we have biked approximately 480 miles over this period. Once he is finished with elementary school, this will equal over 1,100 miles each of us has biked for our morning commute.”

Bob Loy [Honolulu Star-Advertiser]
Director of environmental programs,
The Outdoor Circle

“One of the most significant things we’re doing to live a greener lifestyle at our house in Waimanalo is reducing our use of electricity and our dependence on Hawaiian Electric Co. to provide it. The most important investment in achieving that goal was the installation of a solar water-heating system both in our home and also in our nearby rental property. In addition, we renovated our home in such a way that except during vog episodes, it is 100 percent tradewind cooled with big windows and vented skylights. We also grow and eat food from our own gardens. And, of course, we recycle as much as possible.”

Science writer,
Communications consultant,
Island Strategy
Board member,
Kaua‘i Island Utility Cooperative

“We have a fairly large garden, with both taro and sweet potato as well as beans, peas, cucumbers and a range of leafy vegetables. Also several varieties of fruit trees. This shocks people, but we do not own a clothes dryer. Laundry all goes on the lines strung between macadamia nut trees. Solar hot water as well as solar photovoltaic panels grace our roof. We use fans and have no air conditioners. Our cars are older and not as energy-friendly as we'd like, but we minimize driving and we have and use bicycles.

“What’s next? We hope to trade in one of the vehicles for an electric car when the right model and the money to pay for it come along. And an expansion of the photovoltaic array is in the offing.”

Director, Hawaii Chapter,
Sierra Club

“I hope I’ve purchased my last gallon of gas. I recently bought an electric vehicle. I already catch the bus and ride my bike as often as possible. … We need to wean off of our dirty addiction. Purchasing an electric vehicle was a ‘put my checkbook where my mouth is’ kind of moment and an opportunity to stop funding our dirty oil industry.”

Professor and associate dean of academic affairs,
University of Hawaii William S. Richardson School of Law

"One way I live green is by living blue. For the past seven years, in addition to my wonderful job at the UH Law School teaching ‘green’ environmental law, I have worked on an exciting ‘blue-roots’ effort with other residents of the North Shore to create a new community-based marine conservation nonprofit called Malama Pupukea-Waimea. With a growing network of volunteers, we provide weekly outreach and education — for keiki, visitors and local residents — to protect and steward the Pupukea Marine Life Conservation District, which includes Sharks Cove, Three Tables and Wai-mea Bay. Contributing to protecting your own ‘front yard’ with like-minded community friends is a great way to live green and blue."

Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources

“My kupuna taught me that if you take care of the aina, the aina will take care of you. For me, this also means keeping nearshore marine areas and fish populations healthy, not overharvesting, removing marine debris and abandoned nets and fishing hooks. I use compost to nourish the soil and plant crops to feed my family and share with ohana. I believe that living in balance with nature also means respecting the culture and spirit of Hawaii, so I am involved in cultural practices and sharing traditions that opio can perpetuate. And, caring for the aina means ‘aloha kekahi i kekahi’ — to love one another.”


Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative