May 15, 2015 | Source:

Group 70’s Jeff Overton Talks Sustainability in PBN’s Panel

The panel of experts at PBN’s sustainability seminar in Downtown Honolulu on Friday focused on the attitudes people have toward sustainability, and a common theme was that while Hawaii has come a long way, we can do better.

Panelists at the event included Murray Clay, managing partner at Ulupono Initiative; Jeffrey Mikulina, CEO of Blue Planet Foundation; Jeff Overton, principal planner at Group 70 International Inc.; Quinn Vittum, co-founder and executive director, Re-use Hawaii; and Colin Yost, COO of RevoluSun.

PBN editor Kam Napier said it was Bike to Work Day and asked the audience: Who biked to work today? Mikulina was the only person to raise his hand.

“That question of who biked to work is telling,” Mikulina said. Blue Planet Foundation’s goal is to end the use of fossil fuels and he felt the pressure to do so today because of the organization’s culture.

It all comes to mindset, and some attitudes and perceptions may be changing. Blue Planet Foundation contracted Market Trends Pacific for a survey on residents and their attitudes towards energy usage. It found that residents didn’t think price was the most important factor, and protecting the environment ranked higher on the list.

Vittum of Re-use Hawaii said the big question is: What are the factors that influence people in the community to do the right thing? He recently got a call from someone working on a commercial renovation project and they had 40 doors to donate to Re-use. However, the contractor wanted to cut them in half so they would fit in the elevator. The owner ultimately took that route and the doors ended up in the landfill.

Yost said RevoluSun used material from Re-use Hawaii for its new office on Ward Ave. and saved money in the process. On the topic of sustainability, he said Oahu has been organized in the wrong way, from transportation to energy systems. He said the Native Hawaiians had sustainable systems, but as other settlers came Hawaii lost its connection to the land. He said it’s up to everyone now to make the change going forward.

Overton said he’s been working in the industry for 40 years, and he’s starting to see everything come together — more bikable lanes, major renewable energy projects.

“There’s a big push to make this come online,” Overton said.

From a design aspect, he said the bar is set higher and you can’t build a bad project.

“As a firm, we say we try to do projects that are good for Hawaii, so we say not to a lot of projects,” he said.

Clay said for many issues, like liquified natural gas and the NextEra Energy acquisition of Hawaiian Electric Co. are not completely for or against for him. For many people and businesses, it’s about the incentives.

“People will do whatever their incentive is,” he said. The NextEra Energy deal can work if the goal of reaching of 100 percent renewable energy usage matched with the utility’s financial incentives.


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