Maui News

Kīhei Charter School hopes to become first “zero waste” public school in Hawaiʻi

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Left photo: 7th graders Sova Meyer, 13, (left) and Alexa Johnson, 12, enjoy a healthy lunch at the Kīhei Charter School cafeteria. After lunch they will put any waste into three separate composting bins to become compost for the schools zero-waste garden project. Right photo: Jayden Akau-Ponc is shown here with a planter box containing kalo, tomatoes, basil, parsley, Hawaiian chili peppers, rosemary, and green onions. Plans are to expand to more vegetables and foods as a small farm that can serve a zero-waste Kīhei Charter School cafeteria.

Students at Kīhei Charter School are hoping to become the first “zero waste” public school in the state, and in doing so, potentially become a model for other schools and the community at large.

Kīhei Charter School senior, Jayden Akau-Ponc, is leading the charge. His grandfather is a farmer and taught him the value of farming from a young age.

Now at 17, Jayden’s vision is of a school that grows all the food needed by the cafeteria to feed the Charter School students and to recycle all the waste that comes with meal preparation and disposal, including compostable spoons, forks, knives and trays.


Behind the school in a field, he has been working with West Maui Green Cycle, head by Gretchen Losano and funded in part with a grant from the “Grow Some Good” school gardening organization.

Piles of compostable waste are now under tarps, and will be used for garden soil to grow vegetables that will eventually become part of organic lunches for Kīhei Charter School students.

Currently, the garden consists of taro, tomatoes, basil, parsley, Hawaiian chili peppers, rosemary, and green onions. Plans are to expand to more vegetables and foods that are served in the cafeteria.


A key part of the project is the recycling of waste from the lunch meals and the education of Charter School students to the value of recycling their waste and becoming full partners in sustainability efforts of the school.

At the conclusion of each lunch period, classes separate their lunch remains into three areas before leaving the cafeteria.

The composting of lunch remains has reduced the number of trash bags going into the land from six bags per day to one trash bag per day.


Bigger goals, beyond campus

Jayden’s larger goal is to take the zero-waste concept to other schools, and the community at large.

“Hopefully, these ideas will be passed on to my kids and their kids and so on…and (at the school)…the younger kids, kids my age, will see this as a helpful thing and think maybe I want to try it too,” he said.

Michael Stubbs, Kīhei Charter’s head of school said the project is “one step toward reducing our carbon output.” “Although it’s a small step, it’s necessary to implement these initial measures in order to create change,” he said.

“It is building awareness among our student body and permeating into our school culture. Ultimately, it will enable us to engage our students and help them understand their impact on the world around them,” Stubbs said.


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