HPU Today
Continuing Toward a Sustainable Future

By Chris Aguinaldo

HPU green initiatives awarded, recognized

Hawai'i Pacific University Environmental Science and Environmental Studies students helped to build a rain garden at the Hawaii Loa Campus, with community group Hui o Ko'olaupoko.

Wasted food takes a toll on our limited resources—from the water used to irrigate produce, feed fed to animals to fuel burned transporting cargo. Pledging to reduce food waste locally, Hawai‘i Pacific University joined the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s Food Recovery Challenge program in June.

Nationally, food waste is the single largest type of waste sent to landfills and incinerators, accounting for 25 percent of all materials sent to landfills and incinerators, according to the EPA.

“We look forward to working toward the development of long-term solutions for the issue of food waste in the state of Hawai‘i,” said HPU Sustainability Coordinator Josh Prigge (MAGLSD ’11).

“Food waste that ends up in landfills is a particular problem for Hawai‘i, where disposal capacity is very limited,” said Jared Blumenfeld, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest.

HPU joins more than 90 other colleges and universities nationwide in pledging to reduce wasted food. The program is part of EPA’s Sustainable Materials Management Program, looking to reduce the environmental impact of food and other widely-used items through their entire life cycle, including how they are extracted, manufactured, distributed, used, reused, recycled or composted, and disposed.

Prigge—who is also the incoming president of the board of directors for the Sustainability Association of Hawaii—said that HPU already addresses food waste. For example, on “Weigh the Waste Wednesdays” waste from the day’s meals is collected and weighed at the Hawaii Loa Campus in Kaneohe. The total from that day is then detailed on a chart prominently placed in the dining hall so students can see how much waste accumulates in just one day.

“We have seen significant reductions in food waste every Wednesday during the course of this program,” Prigge said.

HPU’s dining hall has taken other steps to reduce impacts on the environment. This includes eliminating polystyrene foam food containers from dining operations, turning lights out during lunch to reduce energy usage and using 100 percent recycled content napkins.

Beyond dining, the Hawaii Loa Campus has made strides toward energy efficiency, which helped it earn the coveted Hawaii Green Business Award. This award was presented in April by Gov. Neil Abercrombie and hosted by the Department of Business, Economic  Development and Tourism, the Department of Health and the Chamber of Commerce of Hawai‘i.

Mark Glick, energy administrator of Hawaii State Energy Office; David Turkes, sustainability assistant at HPU; Gov. Neil Abercrombie; Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health; and Josh Prigge, HPU sustainability coordinator, celebrate HPU’s Hawai‘i Green Business Award, April 26.
Mark Glick, energy administrator of Hawaii State Energy Office; David Turkes, sustainability assistant at HPU; Gov. Neil Abercrombie; Gary Gill, deputy director of the Hawai‘i State Department of Health; and Josh Prigge, HPU sustainability coordinator, celebrate HPU’s Hawai‘i Green Business Award, April 26.
Photo courtesy of Gov. Neil Abercrombie

HPU was in esteemed company, with honorees ranging from the Hyatt Regency Waikiki to the Westin Kaanapali resort to the Environmental Protection Agency-Pacific Island Office and others.

The Hawaii Loa Campus was recognized for being part of implementation of a university-wide double-sided printing policy, composting 100 percent of its green waste on-site, using a rain catchment and garden system, and offering numerous recycled-content products in the HPU bookstore.

HLC had a significant reduction in energy use over the past two years, which Prigge credits to using better technology, including a switchover to more efficient lighting and installing a new, highly-efficient chilled water cooling system. 

Before the new chiller plant, the energy use at HLC in 2011 was 2,409,896 kilowatt hours, with a cost $665,043. Using more efficient technology, those figures have dropped. Last year, use was 1,737,317 kilowatt hours, with a cost $551,478 —a reduction in total energy use by 28 percent and savings of $113,565.

With its continuing success in green practices, it was no surprise when HPU was asked to be part of a first-of-its-kind summit addressing the topic. The inaugural Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education Summit was held in April, with Prigge serving as one its organizers.

Held at the University of Hawai‘i-West Oahu, the conference brought together UH systems schools, Brigham Young University-Hawai‘i, local stakeholders and several HPU participants to discuss sustainability.

“This type of statewide gathering is important for us because we face specific sustainability issues living in an island community,” Prigge said.

“HPU had a strong presence, including presentations from HPU MA in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development student Adrienne D. Kleid, Master of Marine Science student Rachel Knapstein and HPU faculty members Dr. Stephen Allen and Dr. Regina Ostergaard-Klem,” Prigge said.

Prigge also organized a conference session on the Sustainability Tracking, Assessment, and Rating System (STARS) from the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education (AASHE). HPU recently achieved a STARS Bronze Rating in recognition of its sustainability initiatives.

While Prigge acknowledged the significance of HPU’s recent accolades and awards, he also remained focused on the bigger picture — the future of the islands, planet and the world.

“It’s not debatable anymore. Continued carbon emissions will increase temperature on the planet, which is going to cause unlivable climate conditions in the future, if we continue the way we’re going since the industrial revolution,” he said.

Which is why it is critical to reach out to tomorrow’s leaders, the students, today. For example, HPU held its inaugural HPU Kukui Cup challenge last fall. The energy and sustainability competition was developed in collaboration with the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa. The challenge rewarded students with prizes for learning about energy and sustainability-related issues, attending sustainability workshops and events and reducing energy use in residence halls.

Students from Environmental Science and Environmental Studies programs helped to build a rain garden, with community group Hui o Ko’olaupoko, at the Hawaii Loa Campus.
Students from Environmental Science and Environmental Studies programs helped to build a rain garden, with community group Hui o Ko’olaupoko, at the Hawaii Loa Campus.

Other students take their classroom learning and apply it to real-world conservation challenges. Matthew Brittain, an environmental science major, helped build a new rain garden at the Hawaii Loa Campus with classmates in the spring. Students from Environmental Science and Environmental Studies programs built the garden with community group Hui o Ko‘olaupoko.

“We’re trying to conserve the natural resource of water because we all need fresh water to live,” Brittain said. “We’re going to take the water that is caught on this roof here and goes into the rain gutter … it’s going to run down the pipe and it’s going into the pipe that we laid.”

The pipe leads from an annex building to the garden, where plants will catch pollutants before they head into the drains and the water system, he explained. The garden uses low-maintenance native plants to avoid straining natural resources.

The garden is “an active demonstration of urban ecosystems,” said Ostergaard-Klem, Ph.D., associate professor of Environmental Studies and Global Leadership and Sustainable Development. “Even small, low-impact development can help us create opportunities to reach more sustainable ways of living.”

Another example of students contributing to HPU’s mission of sustainability was when more than 50 volunteers took part in an intense permaculture project at the Hawaii Loa Campus last year. Permaculture is an ecological design practice for sustainability. Volunteers worked on beautifying and improving a taro patch, student garden and banana patch, with the hope to eventually grow more food that can be consumed at the Hawaii Loa Campus.

In the spring semester, volunteers from the Sustainable Agriculture Club also worked in the garden areas to prepare the soil for planting before the fall semester. Increasing locally sourced food means reducing dependence on imported supplies and the fuel required for those shipments, said Professor of Management Arthur Whatley, Ph.D., program chair of the Master of Arts in Global Leadership and Sustainable Development.

“The more food we can produce here, the smaller the carbon footprint on the state and the campus itself. And along the way is this wonderful reconnection, an educative portion while students are reconnecting to the earth,” Whatley said.

“It’s the most gratifying experience to see students engaged in this kind of project where they can get their hands in the dirt,” Whatley added.

For Prigge, the dirt, sweat and hard work at HPU will pay off because, ultimately, the future depends on changing attitudes and behavior on sustainability.

“Business as usual—continuing to pollute carbon and greenhouse gas emissions into the atmosphere—is really not an option,” Prigge said.

To learn more about sustainability at HPU, visit www.hpu.edu/sustainability.