Maui Business

Hulihia Initiative Aims for Complete Change Toward Clean Energy, Green Economy

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Hulihia Launch welcome – from left to right: Makayla Richmond (Sustainability Consultant), Meagan Jones (Whale Trust), Ellen Peterson UHMC Head Librarian), Nicolette van der Lee (UHMC SLIM), Tim Botkin (UHMC SSM program coordinator, Hōkūlani Holt, UHMC Chancellor Lui Hokoana. PC: Courtesy UH Maui College

Thirty community leaders gathered at UH Maui College on Thursday, May 20 for the soft launch of Hulihia.

The two-year pilot project – which in Hawaiian means “complete change” – aims for Maui County to have clean energy and transportation, food security, clean and sufficient water for the future, protected ecosystems, waste reduction, sustainable tourism, green employment and a green economy.

The initiative is a partnership between the college and the Kamehameha Schools’ Maui, Moloka’i, and Lāna’i Community Strategies Team.


UH Maui College Chancellor Lui Hokoana greeted the participants with a chant and a charge: “We must take the challenges and the lessons of the last year and turn them into collective action. The way to begin is to engage with everyone across Maui Nui. Because every one of us has a stake in the future of this ‘āina.”

Logo designed by Sierra Ondo (intern) with Marc Antosch (UHMC Graphic Design) – The logo represents a flow – our input into Hulihia represents a change to produce a greater output/impact. Photo: UH Maui College.

The half-day long conference was lively, thought-provoking and universally saluted as a successful first step… with a long way to go.

“The launch of Hulihia was an exciting and inspiring day with so many community partners joining us to begin to develop a shared vision of sustainability for Maui,” said Nicolette van der Lee, Program Manager for the Sustainable Living Institute of Maui at UH Maui College. “By starting the day under the clear skies at Kauluwehi, our campus ethnobotanical garden, I think we were energized by a collective sense of responsibility for the health and vibrancy of our Islands. I feel honored to be a part of this collaborative effort and look forward to engaging in this critical work for transformational change.”

Hulihia program launch. PC: Courtesy UH Maui College

Attendees represented organizations that run the gamut of the community – with diverse and distinctive points of view and visions for possible solutions. Almost all acknowledged that this past year has offered unprecedented opportunities along with the challenges it brought.

Laura H.E. Kaakau, President and Chief Executive Officer of Hawaiʻi Land Trust said, “As we come out of this pandemic, we are all asking ourselves, what changes have we as a community actually made to better Maui and Hawaiʻi? Hulihia offers a process by which community issues can be mapped at the system level, and everyone from the average Kimo to the Mayor can see what would happen if one thing were switched in the equation. Hulihia can take on an issue, such as how do we reduce imported food from 85 percent to 25 percent, and map all the factors to get there, as well as all the consequences, good and bad. Weʻll be participating as Hulihia’s process really does require input from every sector of the community. It is time for Hulihia, and I mahalo UH Maui College and Kamehameha Schools for taking this leap.” 

Hulihia program launch. PC: Courtesy UH Maui College

Nicholas Winfrey, President and Chief Professional Officer of Maui United Way, echoed the opinion, from a slightly different angle saying, “With so much effort these past 15-plus months to ensure our community has a hand up, I think we’re all pretty exhausted. Being part of the Hulihia kickoff has reinvigorated my energy for what’s on the horizon as UH Maui College and the entire community looks to become more sustainable, equitable, and resilient for generations to come. There’s a long road ahead but with the collaboration shown within this group I’m confident that we can be a leader in this space and set an achievable example for the rest of the world to follow.”


Facilitator Jonathan Stenger, a Kamehameha Schools Analyst, worked with colleagues and with the UH Maui College Chancellor, faculty, and staff for many months to bring the launch to fruition. He said, “The response was so positive and the issues and ideas discussed so wide-ranging, we feel strongly we need to do this again. It was exciting and very hopeful. People said, ‘Yes, this is what we want to do.’” And so, now is the time for everyone to add his/her/their voice. “Often in dealing with big issues we’re asked to do very difficult things. Our ask is very simple. Share your thoughts. Tell us what is important to you,” said Stenger.

Interested participants are invited to visit and register to participate at .

Hulihia program launch. PC: Courtesy UH Maui College

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