Living the Green Life in Honolulu

Here are 16 forward-thinking Hawaii businesses ready to help you make the switch, away from fossil fuels and into a renewable future.

photo: courtesy strictly solar

Cool tradewinds. The deep blue ocean. About 300 days of sunshine a year. Hawaii’s environment is not only beautiful, it is powerful. Wind, solar, geothermal and wave energy is abundant, yet more than 80 percent of the energy we consume is imported. The same goes for our food. Most comes from across the ocean even though our archipelago – with 11 of the world’s 13 climate zones – is well-suited for a wide variety of crops.

This needs to change. It begins with individual everyday decisions.

Good Energy for Hawaii

Hawaii is more dependent on foreign oil than any other state in the nation.  However, we are quickly becoming a leader in the development of clean and sustainable energy sources. 

By using solar, wind, and biomass power generators, we are making extraordinary progress to reduce our need for imported oil.  The Gas Company is very proud to be playing a major role in making this transformation a reality.

One of the ways we are helping Hawaii to become more energy independent is by making Synthetic Natural Gas from renewable feedstock such as animal fats and plant oils. Our Renewable Natural Gas plant on Oahu is the only facility of its kind in America.  Our goal is to make 50% of our gas from renewable and sustainable sources by 2015 – only three years from now.

We are also very excited about our plans to help make Hawaii more energy self-sufficient by delivering hydrogen from our manufacturing processes. Hydrogen is a new, clean and renewable fuel source for Hawaii.  The consumption of fossil fuels will be reduced by powering cars with Hydrogen fuel cells.

This is a time of new beginnings for Hawaii and for the Gas Company. Our new name and logo will clarify our position as a beacon for Hawaii’s clean and sustainable energy future.

While helping Hawaii meet its ambitious goals for renewable energy production in the future, we are committed to providing the same high level of excellent service to our customers and to our community which has been the foundation of our business in Hawaii for more than 100 years.

We invite you to learn more about what you can do to make Hawaii more energy efficient and sustainable. This special HONOLULU Magazine Living Green section will help show you how. 

Jeffrey Kissel, President & CEO
The Gas Company of Hawaii


photo: courtesy heco

Green Up Hawaii

Getting Started

Begin in your own home, or at least, in Betty Gearen’s home.

At The Green House (, Gearen offers $20 workshops on everything from basic gardening and natural household cleaners to kid-friendly topics like cooking with a solar oven. “People used to depend on their neighbors, and that’s what’s missing today,“ she says. “If we build communities, we can become sustainable again.”
Hawaiian Electric Company (HECO) customers can receive rebates through the Hawaii Energy program ( for making changes such as using a ceiling fan instead of a conventional air conditioning system or installing CFLs instead of energy-wasting incandescent bulbs. Meaning not only will that new ENERGY STAR® refrigerator use two to three times less electricity than a 20-year-old refrigerator, but you’ll also get some money back.

If HECO has its way, soon all those appliances will be running on renewable energy from wind, waves, the sun, and even steam from Big Island volcanoes. Right now, about 12 percent of the state’s electricity needs come from renewable energy. HECO is working on more than 14 projects, ranging from wind farms on Oahu and Maui to an expansion of the geothermal plant in Puna, would more than double that.

You can find information on all these energy-saving incentives, a CFL guidebook and savings calculator, and even more tips to reducing energy use at home and work through the Hawaii Energy program (

Nearly 30,000 customers tap into another alternative – synthetic natural gas. The Gas Company ( points out SNG, made from by-products of petroleum, is cheaper, cleaner and more reliable than the fossil fuels so when the lights go out, gas stays on (not to mention that there’s a lot to say about not having to wait for that cold shower to warm up.) Everything from air conditioners to clothes dryers can be gas-powered and with every new energy-efficient gas appliance you purchase, The Gas Company offers a $100 credit.

“Our Company and employees are committed to providing Hawaii with a quality product, dependable service, and the best energy value,” says The Gas Company President and CEO Jeffrey Kissel.

If remodeling is in your near future, pick up gently-used building materials from Reuse Hawaii ( for a lot less than what a home remodeling store will charge. Search for furniture, fixtures, and almost anything else people in your community are giving away free to anyone willing to take it.

photo: courtesy revolusun

Tap into the Sun

If you want to start at the top, Hawaii and the Federal Government are ready to give you a little credit – various tax credits of up to 30 percent the price of a new solar system.

Strictly Solar Hawaii ( has one mission – reduce the cost of installations by keeping the price of its award-winning photovoltaic systems affordable.  Although the company is less than a year old, its staff of experts has more than 10 years of experience in the field installing solar water heaters and photovoltaic systems. So they know what they’re doing with top-rated products such as SolarWorld panels. 

With up to 12 percent more yield than other brands, SolarWorld modules were ranked number one in two consecutive tests carried out by Photon Trade magazine. Not only are the panels more efficient, they’re built to stick around. SolarWorld guarantees its products’ performance will not decrease by more than 0.7 percent per year. 

By keeping costs down, Strictly Solar Hawaii is committed to getting the state to its goal of 70 percent green by 2030.

Award-winning RevoluSun ( takes every project personally. Armed with its proprietary design and pricing software RISE®, Revolusun experts specialize in creating photovoltaic and solar systems customized for each homeowner’s specific needs.


photo: courtesy sunetric

“By asking customers whether they plan to expand their household, whether by having kids or having in-laws move in with them, we can design a system with the imprint of the homeowner,” says Eric Carlson of RevoluSun, “They can choose for themselves the number of panels and where they want to place them, as well as the style.” 

Throughout the entire process, experts show customers exactly how their new system works and all the costs involved. And you don’t need a huge property to help make a dent on your own, and the state’s, energy costs.

“We’re all fathers born and raised in Hawaii, so we’re in the business of solar, so we can leave a beautiful Hawaii for our kids,” Carlson explains of the RevoluSun team.

Sunetric ( has done its part by installing several of the largest photovoltaic systems in Hawaii, including Kona Commons on the Big Island, Wilcox Memorial Hospital on Kauai, and Y. Hata on Oahu. In its eight years of operation, Sunetric’s management team has done its part by handling the installation of more than 40 megawatts of photovoltaic power generation. That’s enough to power more than 32,000 homes!

Sunetric continues to work to power as much of Hawaii’s electricity needs as possible. “We have made it our mission to do just that by creating a more sustainable, energy-independent future one photovoltaic installation at a time,” says Laura Poirier of Sunetric.

Sunetric manages every stage of the design, development and installation of PV systems, from financing and tax incentive consultation to utility integration, monitoring and maintenance. Hawaii’s largest locally owned and operated solar company also hosts regular Solar Open Houses, which provide an opportunity for every homeowner to meet and discuss solar options with its experts.

photo: courtesy mercedes-benz of honolulu

Redefine your commute

Does the price of a weekly fill-up make you cringe?  Thankfully, driving more efficiently no longer means you’ll have to compromise on a luxurious ride.

Mercedes-Benz of Honolulu ( turned to its think tanks to create the new line of BlueTEC clean diesel vehicles, the world’s cleanest diesel cars.

Hawaii can now take a hint from Europe and Asia, where drivers turn to diesel for its performance-enhancing effects and its higher fuel efficiency. Mercedes-Benz’s BlueTEC technology takes the benefits one step further by offering cleaner emissions. 

The innovation lies in AdBlue. When the liquid solution is injected into the exhaust, AdBlue converts harmful nitrogen oxide fuel emissions into benign nitrogen and oxygen. And BlueTEC vehicles can use both ultralow-sulfur fuels (now the standard nationwide) or even B5 Biodiesel. Providing both greater fuel economy and higher torque than conventional diesel vehicles, the BlueTEC line includes models like the S350 BlueTEC 4matic sedan.  Complete with 240 horsepower, an estimated 21/31 MPG (city/hwy), and a 3.0L turbodiesel V-6 Engine, the S350 leaves little room for second-guessing the decision to drive it.


photo: courtesy toyota hawaii

If you’re looking for a hybrid, the new E400 sedan offers the same luxurious feel you expect from Mercedes-Benz with the company’s groundbreaking lithium ion batteries, automatic engine stop-start system, and all-electric driving mode.

Servco Lexus ( has great options for the environmentally conscious driver. Slip into the sporty Lexus RX 450h or get behind the wheel of the Lexus CT 200h.  The highest EPA-estimated combined rating luxury vehicle at 42 mpg, simply put, the Lexus CT eats asphalt while sipping fuel. More than 90 percent of the vehicle can ultimately be recycled. So its design won’t just influence the vehicles of the future, it will also help build them.

Toyota Hawaii ( has a wide range of hybrids from the all-new Toyota Camry Hybrid to the hybrid Toyota Highlander, one of their top-selling SUVs. Additionally, the most popular hybrid vehicle in Hawaii now comes in four versions: the third-generation of the original Prius Liftback, the larger Prius v, the smaller Prius c and the Prius Plug-in Hybrid.

It’s not just their vehicles that are helping conserve our Island’s natural beauty. From recycling packing materials for automotive parts and installing solar photovoltaic panels on building roofs to energy-efficient lighting in dealerships and car washing machines that recycle water, Toyota Hawaii operations and dealerships are doing their part. 

Soon, petroleum may not be needed at all to keep engines going. The Hawaii Hydrogen Initiative hopes to replace traditional vehicles with ones that run completely on renewable hydrogen. Founding members, The Gas Company and General Motors, just opened the first service station for such fuel cell cars. With The Gas Company’s ability to produce enough hydrogen to keep 10,000 vehicles running every year, the future is definitely looking up.

photo: courtesy hawaiian legacy hardwoods

Set down roots

Director, actor, and author Woody Allen once said, “Only God can make a tree—probably because it’s so hard to figure out how to get the bark on.” Over a 50-year span, one tree will generate 13,000 pounds of oxygen, absorb 8,200 pounds of carbon dioxide and recycle 200,000 gallons of water.

In Hawaii, sugarcane, pineapple, other agriculture and development have led to the loss of more than 90 percent of our islands’ forests.

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods ( is dedicated to bringing them back. Right now, in addition to the trees grown for harvesting, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods is restoring 1,000 acres of a historic koa forest along the Hamakua Coast that was once the property of King Kamehameha I. The initiative comes with a unique opportunity for people to become part of this new legacy by sponsoring a koa tree. For just sixty dollars, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods will plant a Legacy Tree in honor of an individual, to commemorate an event or in memory of past loved ones.  Each koa is grown from the seeds of old growth trees and is a living, growing monument you can visit or track its unique RFID tag using applications like Google Earth. 

Twenty dollars of the fee will go to a non-profit of your choice, giving someone else a chance to give back.


photo: courtesy tiki's grill and bar

Eat your greens

Forget the days you had to go hungry for a cause. Now you can clean your plate with a clear conscience.

photo: courtesy cactus bistro

At Cactus Bistro (, Chef John Memering uses local produce for signature dishes such as Cactus’ Caesar and Kiawe Smoked Hamakua Mushrooms. Pork comes from Shinsato Farms in Kahaluu, beef, veal and wild boar come from Big Island, and all fish is sustainably caught or farmed in the Islands. Even used cooking oil is recycled and then used to create biodiesel. 

“Only 10 percent of food consumed here is grown here,” Chef Memering says. “We are an island. What if something happens to the sources from which we import our food?”

At Tiki’s Grill & Bar (, award-winning Chef Ronnie Nasuti, the former executive chef of Roy’s Restaurant, brings in Island-fresh produce and bread, as well as 175 pounds of local grass-fed beef and 450 pounds of locally caught or raised fish every week for dishes such as the Island Ono “Poisson Cru” and prime rib poke. 

“All things are recyclable, or recoverable, with just a little extra effort,” emphasizes Chef Ronnie. Tiki’s is largely lit by LED bulbs, burners remain off until 20 minutes prior to food preparation, and faucet leaks are repaired promptly. The restaurant is working on recycling all wet waste to be used as compost and feed at local pig farms.

Even small steps are part of a bigger picture.  Living green doesn’t have to be a monumental, expensive or even difficult task. The good news is as more and more businesses commit to going eco-friendly, the easier it is for all of us to do the same.

Resources for Living the Green Life

Cactus Bistro
767 Kailua Rd.
Kailua, HI 96734

1600 Kapiolani Blvd., Suite 1700
Honolulu, HI 96814

The Gas Company

Hawaiian Electric Company

Servco Lexus Honolulu
650 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96813

Tiki’s Grill & Bar
3570 Kalakaua Ave.
Honolulu, HI 96815

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods

Strictly Solar

Toyota Hawaii
2850 Pukoloa St. Ste. 107
Honolulu, HI 96819

Mercedes-Benz of Honolulu
818 Kapiolani Blvd.
Honolulu, HI 96813

805 Kalanianaole Hwy. #21
Kailua, HI 96734