Live Earth Day, every day
April 18, 2017
We have a local saying that goes, “Lucky you live Hawaii.” It’s a reference to the wonderful mix of people who contribute to our rich culture, as well as to our beautiful aina, or land.
As employees of the Hawaiian Electric Companies, we live, work and play across our islands of Oahu, Hawaii, Maui, Molokai and Lanai. They’re our homes, and we’re grateful to call them so.
Each Hawaiian island has its unique features that distinguish it from the others. Of the major islands that we serve, Hawaii Island or the “Big Island” is known for its active volcanoes, notably Kilauea, which has continually produced lava flows since its last major eruption in 1983; Maui is the “Valley Isle,” with its green valleys, blue waters, wide plains, and snow-capped Haleakala, whose summit boasts some of the most spectacular sunrises in the state; and “The Gathering Place” Oahu is home to our capital city of Honolulu, some of the most famous beaches in the world, and the hiking trails that overlook them.
We have a deep sense of connection with, and responsibility to, our island homes; protecting our aina — and supporting all who share it — is an important priority for us.
It’s a message we want to convey through our actions: to live Earth Day, every day.
In 2016, employees from our three companies volunteered more than 16,300 hours of community service, with several projects aimed at caring for our environment. In recent years, a number of key initiatives have provided us the opportunity to get especially “hands-on” with the land.
Reviving the Waikalua Loko Ia Fishpond
With a corporate grant and participation from Hawaiian Electric employees on Oahu, volunteers helped revive Waikalua Loko Ia, an ancient Hawaiian fishpond in Windward Oahu. More than 160 employees, family members and friends uprooted invasive mangroves and California grass from the pond, along with more than 28,000 pounds of invasive limu (seaweed); cleaned the shoreline and laystones for the fishpond wall; and transported truckloads of green waste for mulch. Today, the Waikalua Loko Ia serves as a living lesson in traditional and modern fishpond practices for more than 5,000 students and groups that visit the site every year.
Restoring the Heeia Wetlands
About 100 volunteers from Hawaiian Electric and other organizations partnered with Kakoo Oiwi on a community workday to restore the Heeia wetlands, a known habitat for native Hawaiian species. Volunteers were knee-deep, sometimes even torso-deep in mud helping to clear invasive vegetation and prepare trenches for new kalo to be planted — the plant that produces taro, the root vegetable from which poi is made.
Our Hawaiian Electric Industries (HEI) Charitable Foundation also awarded a $25,000 grant to support the long-term restoration of agricultural and ecological productivity within the Heeia wetlands, and create economic opportunities for the Windward Oahu community.
Revitalizing a “Living Monument of Sustainability”
Hawaiian Electric employees joined more than 2,000 fellow volunteers to help restore another ancient Hawaiian fishpond, considered a historic treasure where aquaculture once flourished. Workers closed the gap in an 80-foot portion of one of its walls, which was destroyed by a flood more than half a century ago. A $15,000 grant from the HEI Charitable Foundation purchased supplies and materials including pohaku (rock) and koa (coral) necessary to rebuild, stabilize and fill in the gap. Each piece was meticulously hand set without cement or mortar, using the same technique employed by Hawaiian ancestors centuries ago.
Helping Native Hawaiian Plants and Endemic Species Thrive
Partnering with the Trust for Public Land, Hawaiian Electric volunteers received a rare opportunity to hike into a private section of the Honouliuli Forest Reserve and help remove invasive plant species that threaten the native habitat. The section, on the slope of the Waianae mountain range called Kaluaa, is managed by the Oahu Army Natural Resources Program and is home to 35 threatened and endangered species, including the elepaio forest bird and kahuli tree snail.
Caring for Our Neighborhoods
Not all of our efforts to be good stewards of the environment involve the sheer amount of manpower and coordination needed for the large projects above. Sometimes, a few able hands, gloves and trash bags can make a big difference.
In 2016, Hawaiian Electric employees picked up 20 bags of trash and painted over graffiti along a bike path behind our Waiau Power Plant, as part of the 10th annual Pearl Harbor Bike Path cleanup — a project we’ve been involved with since 2006. Hawaii Electric Light employees collected 21 bags of trash along Kanoelehua Highway in Hilo, a roadway they’ve voluntarily cared for since 2009. And Maui Electric employees picked up close to 100 bags of trash along Puunene Avenue; they’ve been caring for this stretch of highway for more than 20 years.
Helping Others Plant a Tree or Shrub
Arbor Day began as an effort to protect our national forests. Since 1993, Hawaiian Electric has supported conservation and sustainability in the islands by offering free young plants to Hawaii residents, totaling over 50,000 plants representing 50 species. In 2016, the Hawaiian Electric Companies once again partnered with other environmentally conscious organizations to hold plant giveaways on Oahu, Maui and Hawaii Island.
Whether it’s with an organized team of volunteers ready to tackle a challenge, or a small group of coworkers wanting to make a difference, anyone can do their part — big or small — to protect, help sustain, and strengthen the environment we live in. Even just one person living Earth Day, every day can ultimately affect the lives of many.