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Interim Chancellor’s Monthly Column: Sustainability is a top priority at UH Hilo

 UH Hilo to host Hawaiʻi Sustainability in Higher Education Summit.

By Marcia Sakai

UH Hilo seal, red lettering University of Hawaii and the state motto.University of Hawaiʻi students, faculty and staff will gather for the 6th Annual Hawaiʻi Sustainability in Higher Education Summit Feb. 8–10 on Hawaiʻi Island. This year’s theme is on the “Meeting of Wisdoms,” with focus on indigenous ways of knowing and western empirical science. Delegations from all 10 UH campuses will learn together from local practitioners, national experts on sustainability, and each other.

Understanding indigenous ways of knowing is critical to UH’s success in being a model of sustainability in our state. The university’s geographic location puts it in a unique position to serve as a leader and model in how institutions steward finite resources of for the benefit of all.

The university recognizes that an important knowledge base in sustainable island systems resides in the indigenous people of Hawai‘i and all those for whom Hawai‘i is home. We are committed to learning from local cultural practitioners and sustainability experts on best practices in sustainable resource allocation and use for the well-being of our communities and state.

Summit activities will take place in Kona on Thursday, Feb. 8, and on the UH Hilo campus on Friday, the 9th.

Part of Friday’s program includes a “Meeting of Wisdoms” panel where I will welcome Pualani Kanaka‘ole Kanahele, president of the Edith Kanaka‘ole Foundation and director of Hawaiian Traditional Knowledge Research at Hawai‘i Community College; research ecologist Christian Giardina of the USDA Forest Service; Luka Kanaka‘ole Mossman, a fishpond manager; Kealaka‘i Kanaka‘ole, a natural resource land operations manager with Kamehameha Schools; and Ulumauahi Keali‘ikanaka‘oleohaililani, lead ‘ōlapa/dancer with Hālau O Kekuhi and a UH Hilo senior majoring in geography. Moderator is John DeFries, president of Native Sun Business Group.

The Student Sustainability Summit will take place Feb. 10 in Volcano, where students will learn how to work with campus leadership on zero-waste campaigns on each campus.

For the first time, this year’s summit will include a Virtual Symposium, where sessions and activities will be livestreamed to the internet with capacity for remote interaction.

Sustainability is a top priority at UH Hilo 

UH Hilo is proud to be a leader in sustainability efforts ranging from academic courses and degrees, to energy use, food purchasing and composting. Some highlights of what’s happening on campus follow.

Academics

  • A Certificate in Sustainability is under development. So far 29 courses have been designated as focusing on sustainability in agriculture, anthropology, engineering, geography, Hawaiian studies, and business management.
  • New Data Science program is also under development to help produce a generation of big data scientists. First area of study: water resources. This program is funded through the National Science Foundation as a part of a statewide water sustainability research project.

Energy Savings

  • We are a leader in the UH System on sub-metering and baseline data recording, bi-level lighting, energy requirements in design contracts, a reinvestment account, and Hawai‘i Energy Rebates.
  • We are implementing full energy metering and monitoring of campus buildings. Currently, 100 meters record and report photovoltaic array data for all PV installations on campus. The data helps us assess and calculate savings.
  • To date, LED lighting conversion has been completed in 20 buildings, saving a calculated 217,524 kWh annually, and power savings continue to increase.

Food

  • Over 65 percent of food served in our campus dining rooms is locally produced. On the first Wednesday of every month, 100 percent of the food served in the main Campus Dining Room is locally produced food.
  • UH Hilo students have launched a food waste collection program, adding another component to building a sustainable food system on campus.
Students at the composting site on campus.
Students at the composting site on campus located behind the College of Agriculture, Forestry, and Natural Resource Management. The photo was taken on a volunteer day to build new temporary compost bins.

Solar powered recharging stations

  • We just opened a new gathering place on campus with food service and four picnic tables with solar powered stations for students to recharge electronic devices, helping to make our campus more sustainable in its energy use.

Many of these projects respond to action steps identified in the UH Strategic Directions Plan to “improve the sustainability and resource conservation of the built environment including facilities and grounds by reducing energy consumption, greenhouse gas production, water use and waste production.” Kudos to our students, faculty and staff for their hard work to implements these initiatives—well done! The UH Hilo campus can be a model for businesses across the island.

Aloha,

Marcia Sakai

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