Zero Waste Hero Feature: Making Change with Kiana

Zero Waste Hero Feature: Making Change with Kiana

Meet Kiana Otsuka, an O’ahu local, resident of Moanalua, and our Zero Waste Hero community member of the month!

Kiana works with the Hawai’i State Energy Office to reduce the energy intensity of our transportation system. She was recently confirmed to be on the City Climate Change Commission, regularly volunteers at mālama ʻāina events, and enjoys hiking, going to the beach and farmers markets, cooking and spending time with friends in her free time.

Making change with the City Climate Change Commission

In her role on the City Climate Change Commission, Kiana will be providing advice and recommendations to the Office of Climate Change, Sustainability, and Resilience Office (OCCSR), City Council, and the Mayor using the latest science and information on climate change, as they draft policy and engage in planning for future climate scenarios.  

“I'm particularly excited to contribute my knowledge on transportation planning”, Kiana says.  Although O‘ahu’s overall emissions declined by nearly 18% between 2005 and 2018, increases in transportation-related emissions caused island-wide emissions to increase between 2017 and 2018. Ground transportation alone (cars, motorcycles, off-road vehicles, trucks, buses, and other HDVs) is responsible for about one-fifth of total island-wide emissions, or approximately half of total transportation emissions. 

“I hope that through my work, I can help to provide safer, more convenient, and enjoyable transportation choices to help Hawaiʻi residents save money, time, and achieve better health outcomes, and help Hawai‘i meet its climate and clean energy goals in a resilient and equitable manner”.


Reforming our transportation system

Kiana also recently moved over to the Hawai‘i State Energy Office where her primary responsibility is to reduce the energy intensity of our transportation system, by expanding transportation choices via both land use and transportation strategies.  

She is working on a study that would recommend potential sites for mobility hubs on O‘ahu, which would provide multiple transportation options for residents and visitors; a multi-modal assessment for the island of O‘ahu that would recommend land-use and transportation projects to help improve accessibility of goods, services, and opportunities for people walking, rolling, biking, and taking transit; and a project that would help prepare to pilot a program to provide shift workers with more transportation options.  

“It's important that people have good choices for how they get around to help reduce our cost of living and transportation emissions.”

Volunteering for the ʻāina

When Kiana is not working on transportation issues, she enjoys dedicating herself to other climate change, sustainability, and resilience efforts, including her time as a volunteer with KUPU, Kaulunani Citizen Forestry Program, and Surfrider O‘ahu’s Ocean Friendly Restaurants Program.  She currently serves as a Community Huki Leader, where she helps to facilitate the removal of invasive limu at volunteer events in Maunalua Bay.  

“I do my best to volunteer at mālama ʻāina events when I can.”


What does living a sustainable lifestyle mean to you?

“Living a low-waste and sustainable lifestyle is extremely important to me.  There are a lot of environmental justice issues related to how we dispose of our waste.  If we're not shipping our waste to another country, which often are those that are resource extracted, we're either burning our waste at H-POWER or it goes to a landfill on island.  

Although burning our rubbish at H-POWER produces electricity, it also produces harmful air pollution and toxic ash residue that must be landfilled.  H-POWER and our landfills are located in low-income, rural, working class, and often predominantly kanaka ʻōiwi communities.  

This means that our waste and all of the negative burdens associated with it, including an increase in negative health effects, disproportionately burden those communities.  If we can reduce our waste, we can reduce the harmful air pollution and toxic ash that are produced and the need to build new or expand existing landfills.”

What is one of your favorite zero waste swaps and/or refillable products?

“I love the silicone baking mats and lid covers, as I use those often when I cook.  They are both an easy swap for parchment paper and plastic cling wrap, respectively.  I also recently tried the eucalyptus steam tabs, bubble bath, and hair oil, and am really enjoying those as well.”

What advice would you give to someone who wants to live a more sustainable lifestyle?

“We don't need everyone living a zero waste lifestyle to make a big impact, rather lots of people making small changes.  Stop by Protea Zero Waste to support a local company by swapping the products you normally purchase from a non-local company for the low waste, high quality ones at Protea.”

Mahalo Kiana, for sharing with us, and for your inspiring example of taking care of our island and our planet!