On The Green Road: Post-Hawaii Musings

About the author: As Jeffrey Levy of EPA’s blog team enjoyed a recent vacation, he sent along environmentally relevant thoughts and pictures.

We’ve been back home now for a few weeks. Hawaii was a pretty incredible way to spend our 15th anniversary. Aside from a sense of wonder, a couple of things struck me while I was there that have stayed with me.

First, it amazed me how little air conditioning is used in Hawaii. Between the trade winds and the magically low humidity (I mean, it’s a tropical island!), it was remarkably comfortable even in the upper 80s. And I get hot here in DC when it breaks 75. What’s funny is that when I’ve brought it up to friends who have also visited, they say they were also surprised.

The Honolulu airport was mostly open to the outside. Actually, some gates have air-conditioned spaces, but not the main terminal. I wonder how they decide where to put it? And then there’s the Kona airport, which really goes without AC:

small thatch-roofed buildings bordering an open-air courtyard


You check in under a series of open-air pavilions. Once you’re though security, there is no concourse. Instead, each gate area has its own pavilion, and you walk across an open-air courtyard to get to your gate.

My first hint that’s how it would be came when making reservations, and every place mentioned ceiling fans but not AC. In fact, the only place with AC was our Waikiki hotel. I wonder if that’s a heat-island effect, or it’s just that there’s little airflow through a high-rise hotel room. Or maybe it’s that tourists expect AC, so hotels there include it.

Hawaiians seem in tune with their environment in a way that I envy. And in this case, they save a lot of energy by relying on their special climate to keep things comfortable. If only we could import it here. When we landed in DC at 10:00 pm, it was only 73 degrees but about 20 times stickier.

coqui frogThe other thing I wanted to mention is the coqui frog. You may remember Lina Younes asking people in Hawaii not to eradicate this Puerto Rican favorite. I’ll leave the debate about whether to eradicate them in the comments on that post.

But Lina commented on my first Hawaii post asking whether I’d heard the little songsters. Did I ever! North of Hilo, we heard a single frog, and I can understand Lina’s fond memories of “co-kee, co-kee” lulling her to sleep.

But south of Hilo in the forest, they were so loud we could hear them through the car windows (yes, we were hot, so we put on the AC). So for Lina, I recorded them: Hawaiian coqui (MP3 sound file, 20 seconds, 550 KB, transcript).

Now I understand why people commented on Lina’s post that the coquis had destroyed their peaceful evenings!