KCC Leads The Way On Earth Day

Nursing students Moani Jaramillo (left) and Cheye Ghissler support earth Day

KCC students organize an Earth Day celebration to educate the community

The role of colleges and universities has historically been to lead the way in innovative thinking. And so it was as Kaua’i Community College students organized an Earth Day celebration for the whole community.

“I think it’s important to have Earth Day, but it shouldn’t be just one day, it should be every day,” says Nelson Batalion, president of the Associated Students of the University of Hawaii at Kaua’i Community College. “We have to think about tomorrow and all our children and their children.”

Earth Day, which began in 1970, has been officially celebrated at KCC for the past three years, with students and faculty inviting community leaders to learn more about making the island a more sustainable place to live.

Organizations such as Zero Waste Kaua’i gather under a large tent behind KCC’s Performing Arts Center and present information about going green. This year, forums also were held with local food producers and consumers, as well as Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative’s new CEO David Bissell regarding the co-op’s 2011 Energy Strategy.

“Earth Day means progression,” says Taylor Stanton of ASUHKCC, who was instrumental in organizing the event this year. “It stands for enlightenment and reform. It means so much.”

Though it took four months to prepare, Stanton, 20, says it was the first major event he had ever organized.

“It’s been the biggest learning experience of my life as far as sustainability is concerned,” says Stanton, who is studying to be a teacher. “I grew up in the generation that saw rising gas and oil prices. So when I was asked to do this, I figured it was a great place to not only lead the effort in teaching others about sustainability, but also to learn more myself and establish connections for future reference.”

And with oil prices continuing to soar, Stanton would love to see Kaua’i residents and businesses reduce their dependence on fossil fuels.

“I would like to see Kaua’i implement new laws to promote electric vehicles on the road,” he says.

For example, an all-electric vehicle featured on Earth Day is not permitted to travel on certain stretches of road as it only reaches 35 mph.

“That’s a two-way street, because I see where the police department is going with that because traffic would get so clogged,” says Stanton.

Tyler stanton and Nelson Batalion with an electric vehicle. Coco Zickos photos

“But at the same time, if we’re really trying to push for electric vehicles, they should create new laws or verify laws that will accept them in certain areas.”

To reduce the amount of gas-guzzling vehicles on the road is simply a “no brainer,” he adds.

Plus, the island has an abundance of solar and energy capabilities that should be taken advantage of.

“We have wind power and water power. It’s just a matter of implementing it and encouraging it,” he says.

Implementing a more consistently organized recycling program would be valuable as well. That includes moving forward with something at KCC.

“We’ve been struggling with this recycling program on campus. I’d like to see an organized effort to reduce energy usage at KCC,” says Stanton, a California native. “That’s actually one of the things I’m going to be advocating next semester.”

KCC chancellor Helen Cox wants to make the campus greener, adds Batalion. And it was because of her efforts to form a KCC Sustainability Committee that the Earth Day celebration evolved.

And though the island may lag behind in some of its environmental efforts, the event at KCC is a positive step toward the earth-friendly direction.

The college and its students are helping to lead the way.