Learning To Be Green Professionals

Graduates of Roots of Kauai Class are ready to get to work promoting sustainability and local products

The recent Roots of Kauai Class graduates of Malama Kauai’s Green Careers Certificate program are thinking globally and acting locally.

With the aid of curriculum, they are preparing to launch their own businesses designed to promote sustainability and enhance the creation of locally made products. The inaugural program was developed to give students the foundation needed to expand upon their interests in order to build a flourishing, green business.

“You can take your passion and learn how to incorporate sustainable qualities to it,” says Nicolle Jones, one of the program’s students.

The 10-week course included 60 classroom hours with subjects ranging from how to conserve energy to using efficient building materials.

“Everything I touch now seems to have a different perspective brought to it, where I’m more conscious because I know the numbers and the global impact on people around the world,” says Jones. “This program changed my life.”

As part of the course, students also completed a 100-hour internship at an established local green business of their choice. Their final project was to create a business plan oriented toward creating a more self-sustaining environment and community.

Before enrolling in the program, Jones had no idea what kind of business she intended to develop. It didn’t take long, however, for her to decide to focus on soil regeneration. She discovered how challenging managing waste is on an island with finite resources. So, with a landfill already bursting at the seams, the more that’s diverted, the better, especially compostable waste like food. An internship at Eddie Jo Organics helped Jones learn how to manage and run a business, and it gave her a place to start her first vermaculture site. She successfully set up bins containing worms that can turn organic waste materials into a nutrient-rich soil.

Her long-term business plan is to develop a larger-scale co-op compostable site on the North Shore where community members may contribute their food waste and take home the final product of fertilizer and soil.

“That way people feel like they’re a part of a product they helped create and resource locally,” says Jones.

So not only is waste redirected from the landfill, it’s used to create something that doesn’t have to be imported.

“One thing I really enjoy about enriching the soil quality is it also enriches everything else,” says Jones, a New Hampshire native. “It’s the baseline:

If you have healthy soil, you have healthy plants, food and bodies.”

Kalea Sotelo, a 2008 Kapaa High School grad, also wants to develop a product that can contribute to maintaining health. Her internship with Kauai Juice Co. taught her how to create such products, as well as how to market and organize a business. She’s even studying alternative healing to further her knowledge about healthy, commercial products that can be offered to customers seeking to improve their well-being.

“I’m trying to keep an open mind to develop something well-rounded in all those areas,” she says.

Shelby Wilson, another student in the program, is interested in making sweet treats with ingredients that are grown almost entirely on the island, including flour, sweetener and fruit. Wilson, who is from Michigan and moved to Kauai in 2009, spent her time interning for Nani Moon Mead to learn the business side of manufacturing edible products locally. Prior to entering the program, the busy mother of three was struggling to find a career path, but her Green Career Certificate has helped her focus on her goals and turn them into something more concrete.

“And even uncover aspirations I didn’t realize that I had,” she adds.

Wilson has especially appreciated the support and connections “we’ve been so graciously offered. Everyone’s been so open to sharing their knowledge, wisdom and experience with us,” she says.

Jones agrees that the networking opportunities were abundant and gave her the incentive she needed to pursue her dreams.

“This has given me a way to create in the world and change my life, and change the world in a way that’s really good for myself, the community and the planet,” says Jones.

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