Ambassadors of Green

Thanks to a visionary grant from Jim Kennedy ’66, HPA is assembling a campus-wide Sustainability Plan by April 2019. The ultimate goal? Create a road map for HPA to be among the greenest of schools.

Every year, an international coalition of scientists gives the earth a climate check-up. Published annually by the Bulletin of the American Meteorological Society (BAMS), the report examines everything from ocean surface temperatures to Arctic permafrost. More than 500 scientists from 65 countries contributed to the 2017 report, released just this past August.

The observations for 2017 are no surprise. Levels of greenhouse gasses were the highest ever registered. Arctic sea ice fell to a record low. It was the third year of a global coral bleaching event that has no precedent and left 95 percent of coral dead in some reef areas.

The climate challenge we face is admittedly enormous. But it begs a vital question that is fundamentally hopeful: If major shifts in human thinking have occurred in the past, how do we ignite one today?

Leadership, Hawai‘i style

In recent years, no one has played a more instrumental role in HPA’s commitment to sustainability than Jim Kennedy ’66. His support includes the Go Green initiative and the Kennedy Fund, established in 2013 to advance energy initiatives at the Academy, leading to the installation of major solar arrays across campus, among other projects. Now, through a planning grant from the J. C. Kennedy Foundation, he has made it possible for HPA to set its sights on a transformational, leadership role in place-based, sustainability education.

As chairman of Cox Enterprises, Kennedy has made the communications, media, and automotive services conglomerate a pioneer for corporate environmental stewardship. In 2007, the company launched Cox Conserves, a national sustainability program that advances Cox’s clean energy, waste, and water goals, as well as initiatives to engage suppliers, customers, and peer businesses. Since 2007, Cox Enterprises has invested more than $100 million in strengthening its sustainability and conservation efforts. Through these investments, the company has offset 82,000 tons of carbon and diverted 97,000 tons of waste from landfills, among other accomplishments. These projects are helping Cox reach its goals of sending zero waste to landfill by 2024 and becoming carbon and water neutral by 2044.

“While the world has seen drastic changes over the last decade, our commitment to sustainability has been unwavering,” says Kennedy. “In fact, it’s grown and will continue to do so. We know that efficiency is good for the environment and for the bottom line, but Cox Conserves is much more than just an operational program. It’s a part of our culture that brings positive change to the communities around us.”

Growing up in Hawai‘i set the stage for his commitment to environmental advocacy. “We were always outdoors enjoying nature, on the land and in the water. We took it all for granted,” he says. “I did notice how fast the state I loved was changing. The environment was taking a beating. I recall Joni Mitchell’s song “Big Yellow Taxi” that she wrote in Hawai‘i. Her words, ‘they paved paradise and put up a parking lot,’ were true then and are even more true today. Once I was in a position to help, I began doing all I could to make a difference through our company and philanthropy. We must save unique places and find cleaner ways to live. We can make a difference one person at a time.”

As for this most recent gift to HPA, Kennedy explains his conviction succinctly and powerfully: “HPA has an opportunity to be the most sustainable and environmentally friendly school of its type in the country. Young people will rally to this effort, and I’d like to help.”

Living aloha ʻāina

Surrounded by unparalleled ecological and cultural resources, HPA is uniquely positioned to undertake a leadership role in sustainability education. Hawai‘i serves as a microcosm for many environmental challenges, including food and water security, ocean warming, and species extinction. Hawai‘i is also a wellspring of kanaka maoli wisdom and vanguard sustainability practices. These resources, combined with HPA’s commitment to independent student research, offer possibilities that can’t be created anywhere else.

“When I think of future generations, I imagine their asking, Did you do right by us?” says Trustee Robert Budway ’76. “I think we, as Ka Makani, have a particular responsibility—our kuleana—to offer up a model for sustainability. We’ve been given so much: the ‘uhane—or spirit of Hawai‘i. If we don’t help our world look critically at its challenges—pollution, resource depletion, overpopulation, cultural tensions—we will compromise the gifts Hawai‘i has given us.”

Budway, who joined the HPA board of trustees in 2017, spent some of his early childhood on O‘ahu, migrated with his military family to Bangkok, Thailand, and eventually returned to Hawai‘i as an eighth grade boarding student at HPA. For the past 34 years he’s made

his home in Washington, D.C., working first on Capitol Hill and currently as president of the Can Manufacturers Institute (CMI), the national trade association for that industry. In addition to advocacy and marketing, he focuses on helping consumers and municipal waste facilities better understand the offset value of recycling aluminum and steel cans.

Budway serves as project chair for the sustainability planning effort, leading a core team of 18 individuals who represent faculty, students, staff, trustees, parents, and alumni. The team has prioritized six areas of focus (see sidebar-delete this? or might this refer to callout blocks or another design element?), for which they will investigate best practices, identify program goals, and establish future benchmarks. The mandate is not only to examine operational components—such as energy use—but also to move deeply into the curriculum, co-curricular programs, and daily life at HPA.

“We are charting a course for HPA to become a living laboratory, where all our systems are working together to inspire students at every turn,” explains Willie Quayle, garden coordinator, director of service learning, and one of the team managers for this large and comprehensive project, along with Renee Jenkinson ’98, director of outdoor programs. “Even though it’s a pretty big task for all of us to shoulder along with the rest of our workloads, we’re all really excited,” says Jenkinson. “Speaking personally, I’ve been in love with this place since high school, and I need to know that at the end of the day, I gave this planet, this island, this campus, and this community my all.”

‘Ukuli‘i ka pua, onaona i ka mau‘u

“Tiny is the flower, yet it scents the grasses around it,” says ‘Ōlelo Nō‘eau 2863, and one person can, in fact, produce a ripple effect on many lives. Over the next 50 years, HPA will send nearly 6,000 graduates into the world. The HPA Sustainability Plan aims to ensure that every one of them is equipped to become a sustainability influencer—no matter what profession or walk of life they choose.

Soon, one of those graduates will be Annika Berezney ’19. Berezney came to HPA as a sixth grader, and she serves as one of three student members on the sustainability planning team. “Even though I’ve lived in Waimea my entire life, HPA has played a huge role in my understanding of how important Hawai‘i is,” she says. “This land and this culture cannot be replicated, and they have so much wisdom to impart.”

Berezney’s particular interest lies in food systems as they relate to sustainability and health. Her overlapping cultural and environmental interests have been nurtured by coursework in both the Middle and Upper Schools, including Hawaiian studies with Kumu Kūwalu Anakalea, Hawaiian language with Kumu Ka‘ai Spencer, and AP environmental science with Dr. Bill Wiecking.

Berezney is especially eager to help HPA foster partnerships with the community beyond campus. “There was a time when I felt frustrated with how little I felt I could do,” she explains. “Today I’m focused on the here and now: What can I change with the people in my community?” Along with her fellow team members, Berezney believes HPA can and must play a significant role in the push toward Hawai‘i Island sustainability, along with other schools and to the benefit of all.

“We can live more cohesively with the environment,” she says. “I truly believe ideas that start here at HPA will ripple out to Waimea, to other communities on Hawai‘i Island, to outer islands, and hopefully to the far, far reaches of the globe.”

Editor’s note: This article first appeared in the fall 2018 edition of Ma Ke Kula.