Kanu Hawaiʻi started in June 2006 as a movement of kānaka, working to protect and promote the things that make Hawaiʻi special..
a connection to the ‘āina, the Native Hawaiian culture, aloha, and local self reliance. The founders created this organization to strive toward change rooted in kuleana (responsibility) and a commitment to be the change. Kanu’s core of forty people, who collectively worried about Hawaiʻi’s future and deeply believed in its potential, transformed this worry into action with campaigns centered on environmentally sustainable, compassionate, and economically resilient communities, with a focus on Native Hawaiians.
Key Moments in Our History
“I Will…” (2006)
The “I Will…” Commitments motivated individuals to take action. This campaign resulted in over 15,000 commitments made to reduce waste, support local food and goods, transition to cleaner and more efficient energy, and become more engaged in local communities.
Food Sustainability (2007)
Food Sustainability was tackled through campaigns including the Eat Local Challenge, Grow Local in Small Spaces, Ono Pono Seafood, and EBT at Farmers Markets. The “Eat Local Challenge” engaged thousands in building a more sustainable local food system by changing consumer choices. The Challenge educated people about the importance of building a more sustainable, healthy, and secure local food system in an island economy that imports more than 80% of our food.
Civic Engagement (2010)
Our “Your Vision Your Vote” Campaign boosted civic engagement. In a year when the election system was threatened by deep budget cuts, a volunteer shortage, and the chronic problem of low turnout, we inspired people to take civic responsibility. We organized 350 volunteers to work at polling places across Oahu in the 2010 Primary and General Elections. More than 80% of participants were high school students from public and private schools. Moreover, we also registered almost 500 new voters focusing on those underrepresented in our democratic process: young people, the homeless, and those living in affordable housing communities.
Energy Independence (2011)
Kanu Hawaii engaged local businesses and over 500 individuals to learn about energy efficiency and to take part in the Energy Challenge, distributed over 1,800 energy-saving devices to homes across the islands, and installed over 70 grid-interactive water heaters to homes and small businesses on Oahu. We created resources for the Energy Challenge with Hawaii Energy to inform and transform energy use through a free online energy efficiency course.
Kanu Fellows (2013)
In 2013, the Kanu Fellows program was created to offer members co-learning and hands-on experiences to increase community participation and engagement with courage, humility, and minimal dependence on money. They led workshops and workdays throughout the state around topics including public narrative, community building, strategy, structure, and action. Each Fellow applied this learning on personal projects which included urban forestry, legislative options for family leave, GMO messaging, food organizing, social enterprise development, charter school development, youth substance abuse interventions, and Kids Voting Hawaii.
Waste Stream Reduction (2015)
Our “Simplify the Holidays Campaign” engaged 3,500 people in cutting waste during the waste-heavy holiday season. Participants committed to a slate of waste-cutting actions, from wrapping with recycled materials to crafting homemade gifts – steps that would reduce paper, plastic, and food waste during the holidays. Together, participants kept more than 10 tons of waste out of Hawaii’s overflowing landfills, prevented 5 tons of greenhouse gas emissions, wrapped more than 7,000 gifts with recycled materials, kept 5,000 plastic bags from being wasted, and gave 900 hours of service and more than $20,000 to local charities. We also created the “Borrow ‘TIl Tomorrow Bin” where we set up and supplied a bin at Kokua Market in Honolulu for people leave and take reusable shopping bags. Our “T-Shirts into Shopping Bags” Campaign taught dozens of shoppers and students to transform t-shirts into shopping bags.
Civic Engagement (2016)
In 2016, we recruited over 60 volunteers to register over 5,000 new voters statewide, increased voter education by creating Candidates Game to inform voters about their candidates, and encouraged policy discussions (polite kine) by engaging people to talk about contentious issues civilly and disagree with aloha.
Volunteer Week Hawaiʻi (2017)
Volunteer Week Hawaii launched in late-2017 as our local take on National Volunteer Week (celebrated annually since 1974). This statewide, cross-sector campaign brings together residents, visitors, nonprofits, businesses, schools, and government agencies in a concerted effort to take grassroots action that serves our communities.
Kanu Hawaii’s community resilience work was catalyzed by the natural disasters that impacted the state in 2018: extreme rainfall on Kauai, flooding on Oahu, Hurricane Lane, Tropical Storm Olivia, and the volcanic eruption on Hawaii Island. A key takeaway from all of these events was the importance of strong community relationships and cohesion in response and recovery. Since 2018, Kanu Hawaii has become part of several initiatives focused on growing the resilience of our communities.
Pledge To Our Keiki (2021)
Kanu takes on the Pledge To Our Keiki Initiative with the first goal of developing a partnership with the Hawaii Department of Education. This new partnership provides access to all K-12 public and charter school students across all the islands.
Volunteer Month Hawaiʻi (2023)
People have asked, “How can we make Earth Day everyday”. Our answer is to start with the day, expand it to a week, then to a month. So beginning in April of 2023 we’re moving that idea forward. In 2022, the legislature passed a bill and Governor Ige signed that into law recognition of April, beginning in 2023, as Volunteer Month in Hawaii (SB2202_HD1_CD1, Act 81).