University of Hawaii Kauai Community College

While considered by many of being the most isolated civilization on earth, Hawaii is also far from self-sustainable. As a living example, the Hawaiian island of Kauai imports approximately 90% of its food, produces 91% of its energy with off-island fossil fuel of which 85% is imported from foreign countries.

To address this, Chancellor Helen Cox of the University of Hawaii’s Kauai Community College (KCC) launched Ho’ouluwehi – The Sustainable Living Institute of Kauai, hiring in August of 2011 it’s Executive Director Eric Knutzen.  The vision of the institute is to serve not simply the college, but the entire island community of Kauai. Here’s how:

Student Preparedness

Three areas of focus embedded in the Ho’ouluwehi Insitute’s mission statement include-

  • Embedding sustainability principles in curriculum within all the respective programs
  • Advancing partnerships both internally within the University, as well as with private business, non-profits and individuals, and in
  • Implementing research and projects to model and foster a more vibrant future for Kaua’i, and fueling related employment vitality

Lofty goals, yet the uniqueness of the Insitute on Kauai is the methods being used to realize these goals – Now!

Cross pollinating the use of the General Electric process mapping method from private industry into mapping out curriculum today vs tomorrow, and creating an action plan to reach greater penetration of sustainable living concepts was the first step. One hour meetings with division chairs from Nursing to Culinary Arts focus on documenting where curriculum stands today, and how to practically realize the sustainability related dreams each of the division chair’s has tomorrow.

2) Climate Innovation, Creating Opportunity

Most interesting is actually how Kauai Community College, through the Ho’ouluwehi Insitute, has created in February of 2012 a partnership project with the County of Kauai and the State of Hawaii’s Department of Hawaiian Homelands.

Co-project leads Eric Knutzen from Ho’ouluwehi, and Imai Aiu of the County of Kauai’s Housing Agency, have created a sustainable living concept called the Ho’ouluwehi Center at Ka’apuni:

  • Allocated by the Mayor a 17 acre state parcel earmarked for affordable / sustainable living housing for twenty tenants
  • College students from literally all the college’s respective departments of study are given the opportunity to build the sustainable living center themselves – in the field
  • Includes both awareness of the local and global challenges environmentally, economically and culturally the future brings us, yet
  • Involves practical solutions all embedded in the concept for twenty qualifying tenants to live with the
  • Use of aquaponics, an on-site apiary (with varroa mite free bees), raised bed ag production, vertical wind turbines, recycled 40′ high top containers converted to homes, integrated photovoltaic roofing systems for nearly carbon neutral living, along with gray water and catchment water systems’

A prototype container based affordable / sustainable living home is being built by Kauai Community students on campus right now and funding for the center is being finalized concurrently with the help of the State’s Department of Hawaiian Homelands and their partner organization – the Office of Hawaiian Affairs!