Advancing a Circular Economy in Hawaiʻi

Advancing a Circular Economy in Hawaiʻi

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A UH Innovation Conference

Piʻo Summit 2023

Presented by:

The GSI Family of Companies

The pursuit of convenience today has led to rampant consumerism, throwaway culture, and monumental waste. Product design and manufacturing is focused on efficiency and low cost, with little regard for sustainability. As a result, the linear “take, make, use, waste” economy is built on continuously extracting finite resources just to create products destined for landfills.

In recent years, growing scrutiny around the linear economy has sparked a demand for urgent action on issues regarding limited natural resources, biodiversity loss, climate change, energy efficiency, mass waste, and pollution. Governments across the globe are searching for solutions that decouple economic growth from environmental degradation while ensuring long-term prosperity. One steadily advancing movement is aimed at designing a Circular Economy, where waste is minimal, materials and resources are preserved for as long as possible, and modes of production mimic nature’s regenerative processes.

In ancestral Hawaiʻi, a similar “give, take, regenerate” circular system led to the development of balanced structures of resource management. One example of this can be seen in the ahupuaʻa, a unit of land division and an efficient socio-political management structure that enhanced ecosystems health. Ahupuaʻa, in partnership with a sophisticated governance structure, ensured a successful ancestral circular economy, where resources were managed effectively to promote abundance. Combining contemporary Circular Economy solutions with ancestral knowledge creates integrated approaches to sustainability that are both environmentally regenerative and socially just.

As the state’s largest research institution, the University of Hawai‘i (UH) has an obligation to help improve the quality of life for our residents and to those around the world through innovative research and education. This year, in partnership with the Dana Naone Hall Endowed Chair we created a Piʻo Summit to highlight the need for courageous leadership and ancestral innovation to solve the complex problems of our times. Advancing a Circular Economy in Hawai‘i brings together UH and community partners to advance contemporary applications of ancestral innovation and resource management sciences to help develop sustainable and just solutions for healthy communities in Hawai‘i and around the world.
Advancing a Circular Economy in Hawai‘i is sponsored by the University of Hawaiʻi Office of the Vice President for Research and Innovation, The GSI Family of Companies, Elemental Excelerator and Kamehameha Schools in partnership with Piʻo Summit 2023 and Ulupono Initiative.

Session Topics*

  • Ancestral Circular Economy in Action
  • Contemporary Restoration of Ahupua‘a
  • Experiences, Challenges and Best Practices of Circular Economy Interventions
  • The University of Hawai‘i’s Role in Creating Opportunities for Hawai‘i’s Future


$150/per person*

*includes continental breakfast, lunch and networking reception

Keynote Speakers/Panelists*

Kate Raworth
Senior Associate
Environmental Change Institute
Oxford University

Kamanamaikalani Beamer
Center for Hawaiian Studies/William S. Richardson School of Law/Hawaiʻinuiākea School of Hawaiian Knowledge
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Sandra Köhler
Research Associate/Chair
Production & Supply Chain Management
University of Augsburg

Simron Singh
Professor & University Research Chair
School of Environment, Enterprise and Development
University of Waterloo

Hiroki Tanikawa
Professor, Environmental Studies
Nagoya University

Kawika Winter
Director, He’eia National Estuarine Research Reserve; Biocultural Ecologist
Hawai‘i  Institute of Marine Biology
University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa

Participating Panelists/Speakers *

  • Kawena Elkington, Graduate Research Assistant in the Pōʻai Ke Aloha ʻĀina Lab, UH Mānoa
  • Kamuela Enos, Director, Office of Indigenous Knowledge and Innovation, UH System
  • Neil Hannahs, Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Hookele Strategies LLC
  • Keli’i Kotubetey, Founder/Assistant Executive Director, Paepae o Heʻeia
  • Natalie Kurashima, Integrated Resources Manager, Kamehameha Schools
  • Kekai Lee, Lecturer, Hawaiian Studies, Leeward Community College; Navigator, Polynesian Voyaging Society
  • David Lassner, President, UH System
  • Brandon Ledward, Principal Strategist, Kamehameha Schools
  • Noa Lincoln, Assistant Professor, Indigenous Crops and Cropping Systems, College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources, UH Mānoa
  • Kari Noe, Graduate Research Assistant, Laboratory for Advanced Visualization and Applications, UH Mānoa
  • Pua`ala Pascua, Coordinator, Ahupua`a Accelerator Initiative, Hawai`i Conservation Alliance
  • Kaui Sana, Farm Manager, MAʻO Organic Farms
  • Kapuaʻala Sproat, Professor/Director, Ka Huli Ao Center for Excellence in Native Hawaiian Law, William S. Richardson School of Law, UH Mānoa
  • Alec Wagner, Master’s Candidate, Harvard University Graduate School of Design
  • And more…


  • Emcees: Moanikeʻala Nabarro, Spokesperson, UH Communications, Marc Arakaki, Communications Specialist, UH Communications

*Speakers, content, dates and times are subject to change