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Hawaii Business' SmallBiz 2013 Editor's Choice Awards

Hawaii small businesses are honored in five categories: New, Green, Woman-Owned, Innovation and Long-term Success

(page 2 of 5)

Jeffrey Dunster and Darrell Fox under a flourishing koa tree.

Photo: Courtesy Legacy Hardwoods

Innovation

Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods

Jeffrey Dunster & Darrell Fox

Nominator: Irvin Wong, First Hawaiian Bank

Since its founding in 2005, Hawaiian Legacy Hardwoods has steadily reforested cattle pastureland with koa and other trees. Now, the company says, more than 150,000 koa trees line a 1,000-acre sloping parcel on the Hamakua Coast of Hawaii Island, re-creating what the area was like about a century ago.

“We are creating a whole ecosystem,” says CEO Jeffrey Dunster. Besides koa, which Dunster calls the pioneer species, the company is planting about 10 other types of trees, including ohia and sandalwood.

HLH has both for-profit and nonprofit sides. The for-profit side plants trees for harvest, while the nonprofit side plants trees for permanent reforestation.
Irvin Wong, VP and branch manager of First Hawaiian Bank’s Liliha branch, says that, in 2008, Dunster and Fox shared with him their vision for saving and restoring tropical hardwood forests. “I was intrigued by the concept,” says Wong.

“Other benefits include protecting wildlife and replenishing the watershed. It is not just planting and restoring the ecosystem, but also deploying a different type of forestry model,” he explains.

Many people purchase a legacy tree in memory of a loved one, Dunster says. That costs $60, $20 of which goes to a charity of the customer’s choice and $1 to The Nature Conservancy.

Among the company’s partners in reforestation are The Nature Conservancy, Four Seasons Resort Hualalai, American Lung Association, MOA of Hawaii and the American Cancer Society. Overall, the company’s reforestation initiative currently supports more than 100 charities and organizations worldwide.

On the for-profit side, investment trees are sold in lots of 100. The one-time cost is $8,841 for the 2013-14 planting season. The minimum order allows for pruning and thinning so only the best trees grow to maturity.

All trees have radio-frequency identification tags that track ownership, growth and other information. Owners can locate their individual trees on a GPS map or, eventually, by satellite imagery.

A large carbon market is operating in Europe and the state of California created a carbon market this year, though it is unclear how or if such “cap and trade” laws will be created elsewhere in the United States. “(B)ut there is little doubt that carbon markets are coming,” the company’s website says.

On this point, Wong says, HLH is “actually creating a new carbon-credit market here in Hawaii, which is an exciting development for the future.”

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