Press "Enter" to skip to content

Chancellor’s Message: Sustainability in higher education

The classroom, campus and local community comprise an interconnected educational environment to which we all—individually and collectively—can make valuable contributions.

By Don Straney.

Group standing together.
A collaborative contingent of faculty, staff and students from UH Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College attended the 4th Annual Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education Summit held March 10-12 in Honolulu. Front row: Ted Le Jeune, Norman Arancon, Michelle Agbigay, and UH Hilo students Briki Cajandig, Adrienne Gurbindo, and Victoria Haili. Back row: UH Hilo student Zach Solarte, Ryan Perroy, Skye, Shihwu Sung, Miguel Bravo Escobar, Wes Owens, and UH Hilo student Kimo Melcher. Courtesy photo.

SummitLast month, a contingent from the University of Hawai‘i at Hilo and Hawai‘i Community College attended the 4th Annual Hawai‘i Sustainability in Higher Education Summit held in Honolulu. The annual event provides a platform for leaders in sustainability across the state to share best practices, network, and engage with the university.

Food waste and recycling, baseline accounting to measure progress, energy reduction, and ways to better engage the campus communities in sustainability efforts were discussed at the statewide summit. There were four working sessions: Campus Sustainability Planning, Curriculum Coordination, Student Leadership, and Strategic Energy Management.

A wide range of experts and students from UH Hilo and Hawai‘i CC attended the various sessions and the takeaways were invaluable to our continued progress with energy savings and sustainability measures.

Ryan Perroy, assistant professor of geography and chair of the UH Hilo Energy Savings and Sustainability Committee, attended the campus sustainability planning sessions along with UH Hilo economics and finance major Victoria Haili and Associate Professor of Horticulture Norman Arancon who specializes in sustainable agriculture. They heard reports from all the different campuses about varied approaches to hitting the sustainability targets outlined in the UH Board of Regents sustainability policy.

UH Hilo Professor of Applied Engineering Shihwu Sung attended the curriculum coordination sessions, facilities planner Ted Le Jeune and fiscal specialist Michelle Agbigay attended the strategic energy management sessions, and students Kimo Melcher (environmental science major) and Adrienne Gurbindo (environmental studies major), attended the student leadership sessions.

While a work in progress on each campus, headway on sustainability is being made. UH Hilo is leading the way in some areas, including establishing and using our Energy Reinvestment Project Account, created by Lo-Li Chih, UH Hilo director of facilities planning. The account is designed to take the financial savings from energy efficiency projects and use it to fund additional on-campus energy projects—a model other campuses are considering.

During the summit, UH Hilo electrician Kevin Hand was awarded the President’s Award for Excellence in Sustainable Facilities Management, which is a system-wide award.

The award is well deserved for all the hard and innovative work Kevin has been doing on energy-savings activities on campus, including the campus-wide LED retrofit project now under way. Existing light fixtures in classrooms, offices, and hallways throughout campus are being replaced or retrofitted with energy efficient LED lights.

In addition to the LED project, UH Hilo, with its Energy Savings and Sustainability Committee, is also continuing with several sustainability measures, for example:

  • The Local First program continues to be a big success—UH Hilo is the only UH campus that serves 65 percent locally produced food in the campus dining rooms.
  • The energy reduction program reduces plug load energy consumption, increases machine and electronic operational efficiency, and reduces peak-hour demand.
  • The electrical systems of the new Student Services Building are designed to ensure energy efficient operations and earned LEED Silver certification.

Our annual Earth Day Fair is happening April 22 in collaboration with Hawai‘i Community College (Ryan Perroy is co-chair with Claudia Wilcox-Boucher from Hawai‘i CC). The event will bring well over 1,000 local area students to campus and this year will have a number of events designed specifically for undergraduates. This includes a panel on local and sustainable food production and multiple speakers who will discuss sustainability and energy issues.

Sustainability is an island-wide goal for which all of us should do our part. The classroom, campus and local community comprise an interconnected educational environment to which we all—individually and collectively—can make valuable contributions.

For UH Hilo and Hawai‘i CC’s part, we will continue to work closely with the local community to fully understand how we can best answer community and business needs within the context of sustainability in order to help shape a better future for our island and state.

Aloha,

Don Straney