IMPACT

Kanu Hawaii, Grassroots Community Group, Fosters Commitments To Keep Hawaii Special

09/04/2013 12:53 pm ET | Updated Sep 05, 2013
Flickr:Kanu Hawaii

In 2008, a group of 40 people living in Hawaii and worried about their state's future decided to take matters into their own hands.

"We were troubled by the degradation of natural resources, our growing economic insecurity, and the fading of tolerance and aloha -- a loss of the very things that make life in Hawaii special," reads the website for grassroots community group Kanu Hawaii.

The organization has since expanded from 40 to over 15,000 members who commit to small changes that can better not just Hawaii but, they hope, the country as a whole.

The word "kanu" literally means to bury or to dig, Kanu Hawaii Executive Director Olin Lagon told ThinkTechHawaii earlier this year. Figuratively, it means to pass on from generation to generation. That was a key concept to the group when it first started, he said, to "do work today for generations and generations to come."

That work would first focus on food, energy, waste and civic engagement, he said -- but without blame. Instead of pointing fingers at corporations doing it wrong, he said, Kanu members would teach by example, operating under the unofficial motto of the group, "I will."

Becoming part of a like-minded online group is one thing, but showing up offline to actually enact change can be a whole different ballgame. That hasn't exactly been the case for Kanu. The grassroots message has spread without an advertising budget, Lagon told ThinkTechHawaii. At a July event, some 20,000 people made "I Will" commitments, according to the Kanu Hawaii website.

And while their goals are big, each commitment can be as small or as personal as members desire. Commitments from the July event include everything from "I will buy more local produce" and "I will help the school garden project in my own town" to "I will bike commute" and "I will walk the beach once a week to pick up ocean waste."

For his part, Lagon says he lives as sustainably as he can. "We live in a zero-energy home, drive an electric car, reuse things, shop at thrift stores," he wrote in an email to HuffPost. "Living sustainably is a joyful and fulfilling way to live. I'm inspired by children, and hope that in some way a little bit of my work helps pass down to them the wonders of nature that were passed on to me."

Flickr photo by Kanu Hawaii

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