On the Green Road: Hawaiian Sense and Sustainability

About the author: While Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoys vacation, he’s sending along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

Everywhere we go in Hawaii, we hear about taking care of aina (“eye-nuh”), the land. As an environmentalist, it’s really nice to find so much dedication to protecting the natural world.

That spirit is evident in Len and Jane Sutton, our innkeepers in Hilo. I was originally intrigued by the guidebook’s mention of a private waterfall on the property. There are other waterfalls to swim in, but I’m guessing they’re crowded. Whereas yesterday morning, my wife and I had the whole thing to ourselves for an hour. For an anniversary trip, that’s hard to beat!

shed-covered power plant and small waterfall in a lush tropical backgroundBut this place isn’t special just because of the waterfall. The natural beauty is matched by how the Suttons manage the place. Len built his own small hydroelectric plant that supplies all of their electricity, working extensively with state biologists and the Hawaii Dept. of Land and Natural Resources. Their roof catches rain and sends it to a treatment system. And soon, they’ll be composting and growing some of their own food. Basically, their goal is to have a negative carbon footprint.

Protecting the environment really does take all of us: regulatory agencies like EPA and individuals making good decisions. But it seems to me the best situation is when our lives intersect with the environment, because internal motivation will always be more powerful than external requirements.

Here in Hilo, the Suttons have found the perfect match of a magic location and a sustainable way to enjoy it.