Green Is­land

An old des­ti­na­tion is made new again as Hawaii moves to­wards a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

Virgin Australia Voyeur - - DECEMBER - Words SHANEY HUD­SON

Ever pop­u­lar with tourists, Hawaii is tak­ing steps to move to­wards a sus­tain­able fu­ture.

HAWAII WAS AR­GUABLY the orig­i­nal hol­i­day par­adise: bathed in sun­shine, sur­rounded by co­ral wa­ters, lush with forests, rich with cul­ture, alive with the fa­bled “Aloha Spirit” — and made all the more mes­meris­ing by foun­tains of molten lava bub­bling from the ground. Fu­elled by the in­crease in air travel in the 1960s and the pop­u­lar­ity of surf cul­ture, the off­shore state — the most re­cent re­gion to gain Amer­i­can state­hood, just af­ter Alaska in 1959 — quickly emerged as one of the world’s most sought-af­ter tourist des­ti­na­tions.

Decades later, vis­i­tor num­bers con­tinue to rise. More than nine mil­lion peo­ple vis­ited Hawaii in 2017, pumping USD$16.8 bil­lion ($23.6 bil­lion) into the econ­omy, and tourism now ac­counts for about 17 per cent of the state’s GDP. How­ever, the sheer vol­ume of vis­i­tors has had a largely detri­men­tal ef­fect on the en­vi­ron­ment. “Our nat­u­ral re­sources are truly beau­ti­ful and that’s why peo­ple come here,” says Tim Lara, owner of the Mauibased Hawai­ian Paddle Sports. “But you can over-love them. If these places re­ceive too many vis­i­tors, it is very pos­si­ble you might end up killing the goose that laid the golden egg.”

Every­one loves Hawaii — but can it be saved from its own pop­u­lar­ity? A new wave of in­no­va­tors, small-busi­ness own­ers and ho­tel in­dus­try lead­ers think so. What be­gan as a prop­er­tyby-prop­erty, busi­ness-by-busi­ness ap­proach to sus­tain­abil­ity has snow­balled into a new sus­tain­able-tourism trend, in which an old des­ti­na­tion favourite has shed its skin, su­perbly rein­vent­ing it­self. En­tre­pre­neur and in­no­va­tor Gra­ham Hill, founder of TreeHug­ger and best known for his LifeEdited min­i­mal­ist-liv­ing apart­ments in New York City, se­lected Hawaii to build his 93-square-me­tre, off-grid, lux­ury fourbed­room de­sign home on a par­cel of land on Maui.

About 70 per cent of global car­bon emis­sions are tied to con­struc­tion, build­ing op­er­a­tions and fur­nish­ings, so Hill’s goal was to make the house as low-im­pact and hy­per-ef­fi­cient as pos­si­ble. Along with us­ing so­lar pan­els and Blue Ion bat­tery stor­age, the home has com­post­ing toi­lets and a water catch­ment sys­tem, and har­vests more water and en­ergy than it con­sumes.

“Hawaii has sev­eral en­vi­ron­men­tal chal­lenges, in­clud­ing such a heavy de­pen­dence on fos­sil fu­els for en­ergy gen­er­a­tion,” Hill says. “It also has, by far, the high­est elec­tric­ity prices in the en­tire United States of Amer­ica. Thus Hawaii is a nat­u­ral place to go off-grid, and to do that in the most as­pi­ra­tional of ways.”

The highly pub­li­cised project is prov­ing to be ex­cel­lent press for state leg­is­la­tors, who have set goals to make Hawaii 100 per cent re­new­able en­ergy and car­bon neu­tral by 2045. In ad­di­tion, there have been a num­ber of new laws driven by grass­roots cam­paigns, in­clud­ing the move to ban sun­screens with the chem­i­cals oxy­ben­zone and octi­nox­ate by 2020. The chem­i­cals are known to be harm­ful to the co­ral ecosys­tem, and many ho­tels got be­hind the reef-friendly ini­tia­tive be­fore it was leg­is­lated by of­fer­ing a free sun­screen ex­change for guests.

SUS­TAIN­ABLE STAYS

Ho­tels have been launch­ing their own en­vi­ron­men­tal ini­tia­tives. The 112-room Sur­f­jack Ho­tel & Swim Club in Honolulu trans­formed its pent­house floor into a tem­po­rary art in­stal­la­tion made from thou­sands of dis­carded plas­tic bot­tles to launch its re­us­able water bot­tle pro­gram. In Jan­uary, Hil­ton Waikoloa Vil­lage banned plas­tic drink­ing straws across its re­sort on “the Big Is­land”, re­plac­ing them with com­postable pa­per al­ter­na­tives.

There’s ev­i­dence to demon­strate that trav­ellers re­spond pos­i­tively to these ef­forts by hote­liers. A sur­vey of 72,000 vis­i­tors in May by Hil­ton ho­tels showed that 33 per cent of guests re­search the en­vi­ron­men­tal and so­cial ef­forts made by a ho­tel. That num­ber in­creases to 44 per cent of all trav­ellers un­der 25, in­di­cat­ing that sus­tain­abil­ity is a fo­cus of the next gen­er­a­tion of guests.

At the high end of the mar­ket, The Ritz-Carl­ton, Ka­palua leads the pack. This five-star Maui prop­erty is lo­cated in one of Hawaii’s largest na­ture re­serves with prox­im­ity to two ma­rine sanc­tu­ar­ies. Lo­cated ad­ja­cent to the re­sort is a wahi pana, or sa­cred site, called the Honokahua Preser­va­tion Site.

“Amid the new wave of eco­tourism, we are as­pir­ing to pro­vide guests with a con­tem­po­rary and a lux­u­ri­ous travel ex­pe­ri­ence that still al­lows con­nec­tion with the beauty, cul­ture and his­tory of Hawaii,” Deanna Miller, com­mu­ni­ca­tions di­rec­tor of The Ritz-Carl­ton, Ka­palua, says. “Since open­ing more than 25 years ago, we have al­ways been ded­i­cated to main­tain­ing the nat­u­ral en­vi­ron­ment in which the site re­sides. To this day, that site re­mains undis­turbed by the re­sort.

“We want guests to un­der­stand the historical sig­nif­i­cance here and main­tain the healthy re­la­tion­ship with the lo­cal com­mu­nity, so we brought on Clif­ford Nae‘ole, cul­tural ad­viser of the Hawai­ian Is­lands for The Ritz-Carl­ton brand, to com­mu­ni­cate and to cel­e­brate our deep historical and cul­tural roots with guests.”

It’s just one of the many sus­tain­able ini­tia­tives the 463-room prop­erty is work­ing on. The ho­tel is one of three

Ritz-Carl­ton prop­er­ties across the world to join Jean-Michel Cousteau’s Ocean Fu­tures So­ci­ety in pro­vid­ing a ded­i­cated “Am­bas­sadors of the En­vi­ron­ment” pro­gram for guests, in­clud­ing nat­u­ral­is­tled trips. The ho­tel has also part­nered with the Surfrider Foun­da­tion, with its beach­front Burger Shack op­er­at­ing as an “Ocean Friendly Cer­ti­fied Restau­rant”, and it has a ded­i­cated on-site Ritz-Carl­ton En­vi­ron­men­tal Ac­tion Con­ser­va­tion Team. It’s a del­i­cate bal­ance — the ho­tel meets Hawaii Green Busi­ness Pro­gram cer­ti­fi­ca­tions, yet re­tains in­ter­na­tion­ally renowned, lux­ury-level stan­dards.

The ho­tel has a farm-to-ta­ble din­ing ini­tia­tive, with pro­duce sourced from an or­ganic gar­den with 70 herbs, 100 types of veg­eta­bles and 35 fruit trees, which helps the re­sort save about USD$30,000 ($42,200) in food costs an­nu­ally.

GREEN FIRMS

Be­com­ing cer­ti­fied in­de­pen­dently across a num­ber of sus­tain­abil­ity stan­dards such as en­vi­ron­men­tal man­age­ment or even com­mu­nity en­gage­ment via the Hawaii Eco­tourism As­so­ci­a­tion, for ex­am­ple, earns a “green cer­ti­fi­ca­tion” on the tourist board web­site, GoHawaii.com. “Busi­nesses need taglines, and a ‘green cer­ti­fi­ca­tion’ helps cre­ate an­other talk­ing point,” says Daniel Logten­berg, of the Eco­tourism As­so­ci­a­tion.

For board mem­ber Tim Lara, how­ever, sus­tain­abil­ity is at the very core of his personal and busi­ness val­ues. “I started Hawai­ian Paddle Sports in 2010 be­cause I wanted an al­ter­na­tive to what I’d been do­ing for other peo­ple, which was this cat­tle-call ap­proach to ocean ac­tiv­i­ties, where there was no real em­pha­sis on ed­u­ca­tion or cul­ture or eco­tourism,” he says. Hawaii Paddle Sports’ mis­sion is to pro­vide sus­tain­able eco­tours, em­pow­er­ing guests to dis­cover a deeper ap­pre­ci­a­tion of and con­nec­tion to Hawaii’s ma­rine en­vi­ron­ment. It was the first busi­ness on Maui to be­come a Cer­ti­fied B Cor­po­ra­tion, and is highly rated on Tri­pAd­vi­sor. For Lara, kuleana (which roughly trans­lates as ‘re­spon­si­bil­ity’) is im­por­tant.

“Kuleana is this dou­ble-edged sword — it’s a mix be­tween rights and re­spon­si­bil­i­ties. For ev­ery right or priv­i­lege we have in our life, we have a re­spon­si­bil­ity in cor­re­la­tion with it,” says Lara. “So if we have the right to ac­cess the ocean, to play in the ocean, and in our case make a liv­ing from the ocean, then we must also carry the re­spon­si­bil­ity of tak­ing care of the ocean.”

As well as surf­ing, ca­noe­ing, kayak­ing and stand-up pad­dle­board tours, Hawai­ian Paddle Sports also runs monthly Malama Maui com­mu­nity out­reach projects, and each year pub­lishes an an­nual re­port on com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties. It also does prac­ti­cal things such as hav­ing guides take time be­fore each les­son to do a beach clean-up, en­sur­ing there is cul­tural aware­ness dur­ing lessons, lim­it­ing group num­bers and us­ing stain­less steel water bot­tles. How­ever, the com­pany’s tar­get mar­ket isn’t ac­tu­ally clients who are green-aware.

“I re­ally en­joy it when we get your nor­mal, run-of-the-mill peo­ple, be­cause now we’re ac­tu­ally cre­at­ing change,” Lara says. “If they’ve never even con­sid­ered us­ing a stain­less steel water bot­tle rather than a plas­tic one, and they’ve never con­sid­ered us­ing reef-safe sun­screen, then we’re mak­ing pos­i­tive change.”

As Hawaii be­comes an even greater leader in sus­tain­able tourism, therein lies the great op­por­tu­nity: to teach guests that the en­vi­ron­ment is worth pre­serv­ing. And what bet­ter place to demon­strate and foster that than par­adise?

GET­TING THERE VIR­GIN AUS­TRALIA OF­FERS FLIGHTS TO HAWAII WITH ITS CODESHARE PART­NER HAWAI­IAN AIR­LINES. TO BOOK, VISIT WWW.VIRGINAUSTRALIA.COM OR CALL 13 67 89 (IN AUS­TRALIA).

CLOCK­WISE FROM THIS IM­AGE Standup pad­dle­board­ing off West Maui; Hawai­ian Green Sea Tur­tle; Earth Day at Sur­f­jack Ho­tel & Swim Club; a diver in Kealakekua Bay; LifeEdited founder Gra­ham Hill out­side his Maui home; the min­i­mal­ist in­te­rior. OPENER, FROM LEFT Na­pali Coast State Park; Waikiki Beach.

FROM THIS IM­AGE View of The RitzCarl­ton, Ka­palua from Honolua Bay; Sur­f­jack Ho­tel & Swim Club.

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