Reduce Reuse Recycle

June, 2007

Last January, Nicole and B.J. Kobayashi entered their lifestyle data into an online carbon calculator, which estimated the amount of carbon dioxide their family was emitting each year. The national average is 7.5 tons of carbon dioxide a year. The well-traveled Kobayashis, with a thirsty sports car and minivan in their garage, were pumping out 19 tons of the greenhouse gas.

“We were among the worst people in the country,” says Nicole.

Shortly thereafter, the couple and their two young children began a life-altering effort to reduce their gargantuan carbon footprint. Four months later, they shrunk it down to a respectable 7.8 tons. Here’s how they did it:

Nicole planted a vegetable and fruit garden, growing tomatoes, lettuce, zucchini, carrots, kabocha and papaya. When the family does eat out, they try to frequent restaurants that buy local produce. Nicole will begin vermicomposting (using worms to recycle kitchen waste) soon. “I can’t believe that I’m getting all excited about worms,” says Nicole.

B.J. traded in his Porsche 911 (14 mpg to 15 mpg) for a Toyota Prius (40 mpg to 50 mpg). “I’ve owned the car for four or five months now, and I’ve filled up the tank just three times,” says B.J.

Nicole replaced all her incandescent lightbulbs with CFLs (compact fluorescent lightbulbs), and is now using recycled paper products throughout the house. The family takes efficient “military-style” showers and baths, cutting their water usage significantly. The Kobayashis are also in the process of installing a solar water heating system and are considering a photovoltaic system.

B.J., president of the development company, the Kobayashi Group, takes about a dozen trips to the Mainland every year and nearly three times that many to the Neighbor Islands. By bundling his business trips together, B.J. has been able to more than halve his air travel, and the Kobayashis will take one less family trip this year.


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David K. Choo