At Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, visitors lend a hand in removing invasive plants such as Himalayan ginger from trails. // © 2014 NPS/J. Ferracane
Hundreds of years ago, a green lifestyle was crucial for residents of remote Hawaii Island. Today, the island’s fragile environment continues to need care. Clients can do their part to protect it during their vacation, whether by picking a non-polluting tour, volunteering for a conservation activity or booking an eco-friendly accommodation.
“We know that visitors to Hawaii Island inquire about eco-friendly options when making travel choices,” said Ross Birch, executive director of the Big Island Visitors Bureau. “Travel agents can help travelers reduce their carbon footprint and simultaneously give back to our island through a range of opportunities.”
With all but two of the world’s main climate zones, Hawaii Island features a unique landscape with endangered and indigenous plants and animals, some of which are found nowhere else in the world, added Birch.
“Domestic and international travelers come to experience our inspiring culture, history and lifestyle year after year, during which we work to educate them about the importance of maintaining and preserving our abundant ecosystems,” said Birch.
Visitors can book such eco-friendly excursions as a tour with Atlantis Submarines, a company that strives to keep Kailua Bay’s ocean environment as pristine as possible. Atlantis’ battery-powered submarine emits no pollutants and carefully explores the sea floor — without any impact on coral reefs and marine life.
During tours of Hawaii Ocean Science and Technology Park (HOST Park), clients learn how natural, sustainable energy is generated from deep-sea water pumped through pipes from 3,000 feet below the surface. While at HOST Park, they can find out about aquaculture farming (the farming of aquatic organisms such as fish and crustaceans) and visit an ocean thermal energy conversion tower.
If clients don’t mind getting their hands dirty, they can take part in the Stewardship at the Summit program at Hawaii Volcanoes National Park. On designated dates throughout the year, the park invites volunteers to remove invasive Himalayan ginger from forests and trails.
In addition, Hawaii’s Department of Land and Natural Resources offers regular opportunities for volunteers to give back to the land, such as assisting with reforestation efforts on the dormant Mauna Kea volcano.
Guests of Kalani, a non-profit educational village and retreat center in Pahoa, can lend a hand by helping to landscape more than 120 acres, propagating plants for garden projects and growing produce used in Kalani’s own kitchen.
An Eco-Conscious Stay
Clients keen on staying at an eco-friendly resort have many options to choose from on Hawaii Island. On the rugged Kohala Coast, for example, the energy and carbon management program at Fairmont Orchid Hawaii has helped that property achieve significant carbon dioxide reductions.
Mauna Lani Bay Hotel & Bungalows’ solar-generated electricity supplies the majority of the resort’s daytime water pumping power requirements. Officials estimate that over the 25-year lifetime of the photovoltaic system (a power system designed to supply solar power), it will lower emissions of carbon dioxide by almost 12,000 tons.
The two accommodations at Mauna Kea Resort — Mauna Kea Beach Hotel and Hapuna Beach Prince Hotel — recently installed new LED lighting, which will conserve approximately 1.6 million kilowatt hours each year. The Institute for Healthy Destination Accreditation, a nonprofit devoted to improving guest experiences in terms of health and wellness, has recognized the resort as an Approved Healthy Destination based on its green practices.
Hilton Waikoloa Village has established its own series of programs and partnerships to preserve the island’s natural resources. Guests can rest easy knowing that their chosen accommodation recycles cardboard, glass, plastic, aluminum and cooking oil, and it diverts more than 30 tons of food waste each month. Hilton’s water and energy conservation efforts are as vast as the property itself, and its Dolphin Quest facility has achieved a silver level of LEED certification.
In North Kohala, the peaceful Hawaii Island Retreat bills itself as a harmonious model of sustainability. With its eco-sensitive building construction, wind energy and on-property garden design, the 50-acre retreat models ways to live in both luxury and balance with the earth.
Hawaii Island retailers are getting into the eco-act as well. In July 2014, The Shops at Mauna Lani installed the island’s first electric vehicle charger, allowing drivers to charge their electric vehicles up to 80 percent battery capacity in 30 minutes.
“Our visitor industry continues to be committed to perpetuating sustainable traditions by helping to protect, enhance and conserve our island’s natural resources and rich history for future generations of visitors to enjoy,” said Birch. “Having our guests travel green is a win-win situation for all.”