The Sustainability Networking Guru

Brian Alston

By targeting the needs of different businesses and organizations, The Green Hawaii Conference makes it easier to go green

Brian Alston is a networking guru of all things sustainable. The Green Hawaii Conference planner has been connecting like-minded people from across the island since he started his organization in 2009. From lawyers and accountants to students and health industry officials, Alston is linking people in the community together in hope of formulating a greener Kaua’i.

In June, Alston held the Green Hawaii Youth Conference, where students of all ages had the chance to learn what other youths on the island are doing in terms of sustainability.

“We have to harness the energy and tech-savvy of the youths,” he says.

Since the conference, partnerships have already been made and some six to eight projects are under way, including an aquaponics venture started by Justin Carvalho, a teacher at Chiefess Kamakahelei Middle School.

“His dream is for this thing to get duplicated,” Alston explains.

Another project presented at the conference is Kapa’a Elementary School’s recycling program, which Alston hopes will be replicated at other schools. The keiki have already raised more than $7,000 through the campaign, which began in 2009. Not only has the project taught students the importance of recycling, it has generated money for many of their school’s PTSA initiatives.

“The young kids have really gotten into it,” says Alston.

Once projects like these begin taking off, teams are formed and individuals have the opportunity to connect online through a website Alston created, www.greenyouthconference.com, in order to share updates and information with others around the world.

“The thought is to create these paradigms,” says Alston. “When these really start coasting and the youths realize there are organizations doing the same thing and young people begin to communicate like that, that in itself will begin a mushrooming experience.”

Kaua’i has the potential to be an example for other places, like Haiti, for instance, to which Alston has a personal connection. In fact, the inspiration for Green Hawaii Conferences was born after Alston visited the impoverished country in November 2008. On a humanitarian mission, he helped bring medicine and medical supplies to the country.

“While in Haiti we visited mountainous regions and the countryside, villages along the coast and traveled through slums in the cities. I saw extended bellies ballooned from worms, large heads and little bodies distorted from hunger and malnutrition,” he says. “Some men, women and children reached for us with hands clasped pleading for money to buy food.”

The experience motivated Alston to continue helping others.

“You could see what you were doing and giving, and how it was directly going to the people,” he says. “It was my being there and then returning back to Kaua’i … I (saw) a connection to how Hawaii in some ways could model for Haiti.”

By bringing people together to encourage collaboration and dialogue about sustainable projects and ideas, the word can potentially spread far, especially with the help of the Internet.

Last June, the first conference Alston held was for educators, titled “Greening American Education.” The second conference consisted of the faith community, “Greening American Worship,” and in April “Greening American Arts, Education and Entertainment” was held.

Each gathering was tailored to the specific industries represented and experts shared their thoughts on topics such as renewable resources, food security, agriculture and reducing consumption.

This fall, a conference for lawyers and accountants is planned that will focus on businesses working within the area of sustainability.

“Lawyers and accountants need to know about these start-ups and businesses to understand the industries that they’re involved in,” says Alston, who hails originally from Boston and lived on Oahu two years prior to moving to Kaua’i in 2009.

In addition, a gathering for leaders in the health industry is in the works for December.

The goal is to host annual conferences on sustainability practices for people in these industries while, at the same time, continuing to build a network of youths “to become the hands and feet to sustain these efforts,” says Alston, who enjoys hiking and reading when he’s not busy working on helping others develop new ideas.

“We want Kaua’i to be a model for other places,” he says. “Not just paradise as a destination, but paradise with purpose.”

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