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Kauaʻi Community College is home to Hoʻouluwehi, the Sustainable Living Institute of Kauaʻi. Started in February 2011 by the college, the institute’s main objective is to prepare students and the community for a sustainable life. It started with embedding sustainability principles in the curriculum.

“That’s everything from English to nursing,” said Hoʻouluwehi Director Eric Knutzen. “Culinary for example is working on recycling cooking oil. When the students graduate, they can go off to restaurants, it would be natural for them, and they will actually lead their work groups. We can do this or that to be more sustainable here.”

Kauaʻi Community College is also working towards creating a formal certificate in sustainability. Student Marcus Yamaguchi is participating in the program and is building a hydroponics greenhouse to grow strawberries.

“One of the values of being a part of a program like this is that it puts me in a position to really talk about some of those bigger ideas that are facing our generation now,” said Kauaʻi Community College student Marcus Yamaguchi.

“Our students know they are growing up in a limited resource environment and they want to make a difference,” said Kauaʻi Community College Chancellor Helen Cox. “They’re optimistic, they’re energetic, they’re idealistic.”

They also want to be employable when they leave college.

Yamaguchi’s work in hydroponics could lead to a career.

Carpentry students at the college are beginning work on remodeling storage containers into affordable housing that will cost 34 percent less than a standard home that size. The work will not only expose students to sustainability concepts it will also give them real work experience.

“That’s our goal. To be able to bring that skill set to our students so they’re prepared to really take on those jobs,” said Knutzen.

“To be able to match their interest and their skills with something that’s going to give them a job and help them make a difference in their community is exactly what I want to be doing and I think what the college needs to be doing,” said Cox.

The affordable container housing project is part of a 20 unit, sustainable living center that will include a community aquaponics garden and beehive, even solar energy. It’s about making sure sustainability works economically, environmentally and culturally, and making sure Kauaʻi Community College students understand that synergy.

“We are trying to prepare for the future,” said Yamashita. “We are trying to foresee a time where we have to rely upon our own innovation in order to continue to grow and prosper.”

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