The Natural Step in Hawaii: opening minds in a closed system

Surrounded by the Pacific Ocean, and far from other land masses, the island of Hawaii is by design, a perfect living laboratory in which to practice the science of sustainability.  This system is disturbed by their heavy reliance on the importation of fuel and food, posing a unique sustainability challenge for the island community: what if the boat stops coming? Historically, the Island was self-sustaining, even with a population size exceeding that of present day. Many Hawaiians, including those working with the Kohola Centre and the Hawai’i Department of Research Development, see great opportunity for the Island to once again restore this state of wellness through the building of interest and motivation to take sustainably driven action. In June of 2009, advisors from The Natural Step visited the Island of Hawai’i to provide a series of public workshops and a two and a half day session with leaders from various Island businesses and organizations.

The public workshops included audiences from the business community, municipal government representatives, as well as high school students attending the “Student Congress on Sustainability”. These workshops focused on providing education and awareness building of the sustainability challenge, provided an overview of The Natural Step, the business case for sustainability, and how the TNS Framework can be applied at both the individual and corporate level.

“The TNS workshop provided me with the insight necessary to align my own lifestyle with principles of sustainability, and to meet an incredible array of people who are doing the same in their own lives and workplaces”- Guy Kaulukukui the Food Systems Project Director from the Kohala Center.

The 2.5 day leadership session brought together 32 potential change leaders to focus on putting theory into practice through the completion of both baseline and visioning exercises specific to the Island of Hawai’i. During the conference, those that identified as champions spent time exploring the responsibilities of being a champion, the opportunities that exist for Hawai’i, and the TNS resources that could be shared to help the champions lead this sustainability journey.  Overall, the workshops and sessions held were hugely successful. There is strong interest in continuing to build the strategic competence of Islanders to integrate the framework into everyday practice. 

"We are applying the TNS framework to create a process of informed dialogue and intelligent decision-making, so we can make our County of Hawai‘i government operations more transparent, efficient, effective, and sustainable.” - Alex Frost, County of Hawai‘i Research and Development