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SmallBiz Editor's Choice Awards 2014

Each year, Hawaii Business honors outstanding small businesses in five categories. Here are 2014’s winners.

(page 1 of 5)

 

Best Green Business

Pacific Biodiesel

Owners: Robert and Kelly King
Nominator: Blue Planet Foundation

Big Island Biodiesel staff work in the control room at the facility near Keaau.

Photo: Courtesy of Pacific Biodiesel

In the mid-1990s, Robert and Kelly King saw a problem: Massive amounts of used cooking oil were being dumped into the Central Maui Landfill, creating serious environmental and health concerns. Robert, who owned King Diesel at the time, proposed converting the cooking oil into biodiesel to fuel diesel engines.  

Kelly and Robert King speak at Big Island Biodiesel’s opening in July 2012.

Photo: Courtesy of Pacific Biodiesel

“The vision started with us asking, ‘How are we going to keep this gunky oil out of the landfill, and what can we do with it to make it into something useful?’ ” Kelly King says.

When the Kings began Pacific Biodiesel in 1996, the startup operated at the landfill and had just one employee. Today, the company has developed 12 facilities across the mainland and Japan. Its latest venture, Big Island Biodiesel, launched in 2012.  

In the early days, few people understood biodiesel.

“Ten years ago, I’d be in a room and ask if anyone knew what biodiesel was, and maybe one person out of 10 would raise their hand,” Kelly King explains. “Today, probably eight out of 10 would raise their hands.”

Pacific Biodiesel’s commitment to sustainability goes beyond producing a green product. The company promotes a community-based model that reduces the demand for fossil fuels, has created hundreds of local jobs and paved the way toward energy security.

“Everything we do is modeled to stay local,” says Kelly King. “The folks who come to the biodiesel pump feel so good about supporting a local product that’s also good for the environment.”

Extended Horizons, a Maui scuba dive company, has woven sustainable practices into its operations, including converting its office to use solar energy, recycling company-wide and installing moorings to protect coral. In 2006, it converted its dive boat to run completely on biodiesel.

“From an environmental point of view, it just makes sense,” says Extended Horizons CEO Erik Stein. “People think it’s not cost effective, but the price is on par with conventional fuel, and it brings customers in our door. So it makes sense from a business standpoint as well.”

Kelly King adds, “There are at least half-a-dozen motives for people and companies who use biodiesel – environmental, economical, supporting local. … We want to be a catalyst for people to do the right thing.”

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