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James Koshiba

Executive Director, Kanu Hawaii

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Photo: Olivier Koning

In 2008, James Koshiba helped launch Kanu Hawaii, a nonprofit that promotes and supports Island-style sustainability. He brings us up to date on the commitments and campaigns taken up by its 9,000 members, including one of his own pledges — downsizing from an SUV to a Prius.

Q: Bring us up to date on Kanu.

A: Kanu is officially two years old and had 5,000 members by the end of 2008, and about 9,000 by the end of 2009, spread across Hawaii, 300 Mainland communities and 12 different countries. A member is anyone who has made a commitment to live sustainably in some way and declared it publicly online. The first year was about introducing the idea of building a community of people committed to being the change. The second year was to encourage them to start using their collective power together with the idea of kuleana-based activism leadership.

Q: What does Kanu mean?

A: In the Hawaiian language it means “to plant.” It also has an underlying meaning: “Passed down by inheritance from ancestors.”

Q: How have Kanu members used their collective power?

A: We have had campaigns or group events every couple of months. The first was focused at the Legislature around energy issues. We held workshops for about 300 people about how to be effective at the Legislature and these are people who have never been involved before. We followed and testified on about 10 bills — three passed — and ended with an event we called “Service with a Statement.” It offered two free services: For every incandescent light bulb that legislators and staff members brought in, we would swap it for an energy-efficient CFL bulb. We ended up swapping about 500 bulbs. We also checked the tire pressure of every car in the parking lot — 300 cars. That’s 1,200 tires. If you’re running your car on under-inflated tires, you’re wasting about a full tank of gas every year. Our message to lawmakers: “We care about these issues and we’re committed to doing our part to address them.”

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