DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
University of Hawaii students rummage through a Dumpster in search of discarded recyclable items. Counterclockwise from center are Juanita Mathews, Joy Hearten-Johnson, Mary Bailey, Norman Wang, Tamara Armstrong, Daniel Amato and Sean Connelly. At top, carting a recycling bin are Vance Arakaki, left, and Isao Harrison Kaji.
At the HUB of a global vision
A celebration of sustainability is billed as a "no-drone zone"
A small group of UH-Manoa students are throwing an Earth Day party to talk about sustainability -- and their ambitious pilot project, Sustainable Saunders.
Interactive Launch Party: 3 to 7 p.m. next Friday
Place: Saunders Hall, University of Hawaii-Manoa, 2424 Maile Way
Featuring: 15 "theme rooms" on sustainability, deejay music, food samples for first 500 visitors (vegetarian, GMO-free, at least 50 percent organic)
"This is the most open, jump-on-board team you ever met," said project coordinator Shanah Trevenna, a graduate student at UH's Center for Futures Studies. "We believe that sustainability is for everyone."
At the center of Sustainable Saunders is the eight-member HUB (for "Help Us Bridge"), a multidisciplinary group of mostly undergraduates. HUB members have spent the past four months testing energy-saving technologies and behavior modification at Saunders Hall, one of the biggest energy users among classroom buildings on campus.
Sustainable Saunders aims to transform the building into a model of sustainability for UH and beyond, explained HUB member Tamara Armstrong, an environmental studies major. "The vision that we have is that the University of Hawaii will sort of become the epicenter of sustainability for the world."
Next Friday, Saunders Hall will become an interactive forum for innovative ideas about sustainability. A range of topics such as wind energy, biofuels and recycling -- as well as traditional knowledge, social justice and green products -- will be assigned to various rooms for discussion.
Visitors can spend the afternoon on their subject of choice or wander from room to room. Experts from the community will be on hand to share information and answer questions. Suggestions will be posted on paper, graffiti style, so new arrivals can see and build upon others' ideas.
At the end of the day, the HUB will compile the suggestions for action or turn them over to the Hawaii 2050 Sustainability Task Force.
Trevenna promises the Earth Day event will be a "no-drone zone -- no ceremonies, no presentations, just talking story." Plus deejay music and GMO-free vegetarian food samples served on biodegradable dishware. And, like any good party, plenty of opportunities to network with like-minded people
DENNIS ODA / DODA@STARBULLETIN.COM
HUB group members from left: Norman Wang, Juanita Mathews, Shanah Trevenna, Isao Harrison Kaji, Sean Connelly, Joy Hearten-Johnson, Vance Arakiki, Mary Bailey, Daniel Amato and Tamara Armstrong.
Energy hog becomes guinea pig for sustainability
When the University of Hawaii at Manoa's annual electric bill surpassed $15 million last year, Interim Chancellor Denise Konan selected a single building -- Saunders Hall -- on which to test energy-saving solutions.
Saunders seems a fitting choice for the pilot project. At $760,000 annually, its energy cost is on the high side for a nonlaboratory building. The College of Social Sciences is located there. And the building's occupants asked to participate, says Susan Chandler, interim director of the Public Policy Center.
"We sort of stepped up to the plate and said we want to do this," said Chandler. "Because we have a dean (Richard Dubanoski) who's really enthusiastic, we have student groups, and then, you know, we're social sciences. So we wanted to say, it's not just the hard-science folks, the natural-science folks -- people can make a big difference, too."
Shanah Trevenna, a Ph.D. candidate at the Center for Futures Studies, was hired as student coordinator for the project Sustainable Saunders. A St. Thomas, Ontario, native with charisma and energy -- and a background in mechanical engineering -- Trevenna started organizing student forums on sustainability.
The same students kept showing up, said Mary Bailey, a travel industry management major who is coordinating the project's launch party. They banded together to form a steering committee, which they call the HUB. By January, Sustainable Saunders was rolling.
The first phase, being completed this semester, is to encourage behavior changes and measure the effects: small habits that add up, such as turning off computers at night, or changing to more efficient light bulbs.
"We're trying to collect data on every single aspect of these changes that we're making," said Bailey. "That way, when other entities want to possibly look to us, we can give them the exact data, and we can know exactly how much money it cost and how much money did we save from making these changes."
Data is collected by newly installed energy meters as well as old-fashioned observation and note-taking. The HUB's faculty advisor, David Nixon, enlisted the help of students in his sustainability class. "I have one student who is simply standing in front of the elevators," said Nixon. "She's a sociology major, and she wants to understand why people take the elevator one floor."
The next phase calls for more technology and more upfront investment by UH. Pending financing (the HUB is also applying for grants and seeking local sponsorships), plans include an interactive green touch-screen kiosk to track water and electricity use in real time; a "green roof" that uses plants to cool air in and around the building (six native plant species are being tested); and passive solar lighting using fiber optics.
Each HUB member serves on at least one of the group's working teams, including recycling, energy, green roof, worm bin and communication. The energy team, led by Trevenna, has been conducting weekly public workshops this semester to explore alternative technologies.
Tamara Armstrong, aided by members of her economics class, has been leading weekly "Dumpster dives" to analyze Saunders' trash output. She also manages a dedicated recycling program on each of the building's seven floors. When her team looks at trash output, Armstrong says, "We can see the large chunks are Styrofoam, paper cups, tissue paper, and all of those things can be diverted through behavior changes that we could work with the university and the different vendors."
Joy Hearten, an environmental studies major, is experimenting with vermiculture -- processing and composting waste with worms that feed on food scraps and paper waste.
Trevenna says Sustainable Saunders will take at least two years to complete. But the HUB, which has drafted a business plan, has longer-range goals. "In the long run we'd like to offer ourselves as kind of like a brand," said Juanita Mathews. "So if you have a sustainable business, you can put our logo on your product or on your window. So if people walk by, they know this business adheres to this set of practices."
"We want to make sure that people understand that this is doable," said Bailey. "You just need some energetic, passionate people on your side and it will happen."