Surf, Sand and Sustainability – Exploring sustainable practices in Hawaii



I haven’t written in a while as I’ve been exploring the Polynesian and American delight that is Hawaii! My lovely new wife and I (that’s right, I got married) left for the islands for our honeymoon.

It was breathtaking.

Among the beautiful beaches, glorious sights and extraordinary culture we did a few excursions. We were able to visit the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation’s factory in Hilo, a city on the Big Island and the Greenwell Kona Coffee Farms among others. This post takes a closer look at some of the sustainable agribusiness practices being used by these companies.

The Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corporation is a global leader in the macadamia nut market. In fact, it is the world’s largest processor! The brand was established over 60 years ago, and exports macadamia nuts around the world. The factory sells fresh produce on its farms (particularly to tourists) and older produce is sold wholesale to supermarket chains throughout the islands. After having the pleasure of tasting both varieties, I can actually taste a variance in the quality of produce! This explains why they sell fresh, new produce at the factory-  they engage tourists, sell the produce and build brand loyalty. Aside from this simple and effective model they have an ingenious way of utilising waste to make the factory energy efficient.

Macadamia nuts grow in husks and there is very little use for this and is waste. Mauna Loa burns the husks of the macadamia nuts to generate steam, which produces electricity to power the factory. In fact our guide explained that burning the husks produces around 5 megawatts of power, which is really interesting given that the factory only needs 1 megawatt to operate. We were unable to find out about what the excess 4 megawatts was used for but just the mere fact that they are able to do this was exciting enough. The whole movement aims to support the organization’s cause of becoming carbon neutral by eliminating reliance on traditional sources of electricity. This is good PR and a great example of sustainable business. If this wasn’t interesting enough they do a delicious macadamia nut chocolate ice cream. As you can probably tell by the look on my face below!

We also visited the Greenwell Kona Farms. Kona coffee is world famous, Greenwell allows tourists to visit the farms and sample different varieties of their coffee. I’m not much of a coffee connoisseur but I have to say, theirJeni K flavour is fantastic. They have an international coffee club where samplers can make a cup of chocolate mac-nut coffee at home! Our tour guide took us around the grounds set on around 40 acres, most of the land is for coffee but they also produce papayas, oranges and other fruits. He explained how the climate in Kona is perfect for growing coffee beans; the sun, mountain rainfall and volcanic soil are ideal conditions.

The staff who pick the beans select only those that are red in colour “cherries.”

The casings (which is the fruit) for the red beans are rich in nutrients. Greenwell grinds them into a powder and sell it to a company calledKonaRed that produces an antioxidant juice, which is sold throughout the United States. Much like Mauna Loa, at Greenwell a “waste product” is used to create an additional value chain.

Fellow tourists from the Philippines, and Caribbean commented on how their home countries were unable to adopt similar sustainable practices. Implying that waste produced in the supply chain remains just that, waste. They felt a lost opportunity for their respective countries and their businesses to utilise sustainable practices. They were impressed. Me, not being able to uphold the generalisations of two fellow tourists, delved a little deeper and did some research finding examples of similar practices and new technology being used in those parts of the world.

For instance the company Café Solar situated in Costa Rica uses solar power to roast in an effort to save energy and to address the fact that “roughly 3 sq. cm of rainforest is destroyed for each cup of coffee we consume” (Café Solar, 2014) a company with social intentions from the outset. Mauna Loa and Greenwell are profit-focused establishments their sustainable practices save and produce income respectively. They don’t share Café Solar’s mission and have applied private sector ideology that happens to produce social and sustainable benefits. In the Philippines there are innovative organizations that are seeking to use green technology to address social issues. A Liter of Light is an organization in the Philippines seeking to bring “eco-friendly bottle light to communities living without electricity.” They have illuminated the lives of thousands in the Metro Manila area.


I was amazed that there was little advertising of how Greenwell and Mauna Loa use their waste, most of it relies on word-of-mouth. Although it would be ridiculous for them to shift focus and work towards a social mission, there are opportunities for both to work with start-up social enterprises and non-profits. Particularly within the sphere of sharing techniques on waste-management and scaling up process. Collaborations between the private and third sector, when executed properly, are an excellent way to demonstrate corporate responsibility and working towards a particular cause.


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