East Hawaii News

Hilo Gets Kudos Nationally For Livability and Sustainability

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Hilo’s natural attributes – and its “resilient” people – have earned the city some national recognition.

The Big Island’s county seat has made this year’s annual list of “8 Great Places You’ve (Maybe) Never Heard Of,” in the magazine Mother Earth News.

The article in its October/November edition features US communities “setting a high standard for livability, sustainability and civic pride.”

“Many towns and cities have impressive natural and cultural assets, such as access to the seashore, a great climate for gardening or abundant renewable energy resources,” writes author David Wann. “But the best places to live — or simply visit — have something more: a sense of direction.”

Wann goes on to say that such qualities as resilience, health, security and “a sense of fun” guides an area’s priorities.

Hilo, described by the magazine as a “City of Rain and Fire,” has cultural diversity and an abundance of natural resources that makes it a community with “deep green potential,” the article said.


“This rain forest community — survivor of two tsunamis in the past 60 years — may be nature-challenged, but the region’s breathtaking waterfalls, lush forests and tropical gardens make it easy to believe paradise is just around the next bend,” Wann writes.

The article mentions some of Hilo’s prominent features include the Merrie Monarch Festival, Liliuokalani Park and University of Hawaii at Hilo. It said the Hilo Farmer’s Market is a “cornucopia of exotic fruit and tropical flowers that’s open all year, ‘from dawn until it’s gone.’”

“Hilo enjoys a rich diversity of cultures and cuisines, plus a wealth of parks, waterfalls and tropical reserves,” the article said.

A green-leaning publication that touts sustainability, the magazine recognized that the Mauna Loa Macadamia Nut Corp. burns waste husks and shells to provide 60% of its power needs.

The author also notes the significant contributions to the island’s electrical grid by Puna Geothermal Venture which he said provides “about a third of the total renewable energy generated in the wind- and solar-rich state of Hawaii.”


Wann also recognizes that not everyone is enamored with PGV’s operations.

“Though residents living near the facility have raised serious concerns about environmental issues and practices associated with Puna’s production, the area’s remarkable energy potential provides convincing motivation to overcome the challenges,” Wann writes.

K.C. Compton, senior editor for the magazine, said the Great Places list serves as a fun way to recognize cities and towns that demonstrate positive civic energy, invest in the local economy and develop meaningful environmental initiatives. Nominations come from Mother Earth News readers, social media communities and staff.

“Hilo works hard to preserve its cultural and natural resources, and we recognize that it takes a committed group of citizens working together for years to accomplish that,” Compton said.

The other cities selected for this year’s list are Charleston, S.C.; Denton, Texas; Dover, N.H.; Golden, Colo.; Lawrence, Kan.; Port Townsend, Wash.; and Red Lodge, Mont.


Local tourism officials say they are glad to see Hilo’s attributes getting more attention.

George Applegate, executive director of the Big Island Visitor Bureau, said while West Hawaii’s more abundant sun and beaches usually dominate promotional efforts, the Hilo side of the island also has much to offer.

“I think people go to places like Hilo where they fit in, and feel good about the place and feel good about themselves,” he said.

The article doesn’t get everything correct, however.

It describes Hilo as located “near the base of Mauna Kea, an active volcano.”

Mauna Kea, which hasn’t erupted for about 4,500 years, is considered by scientists to be dormant.

On the other hand, Hilo is also located at the base of Mauna Loa, a decidedly active volcano which has erupted 33 times since its first well-documented eruption in 1843. Hilo is actually built on Mauna Loa flows, including one in 1881 that stopped a half-mile below Komohana Street. It last erupted in 1984, sending lava within several miles of Kaumana.

The issue goes on sale Sept. 25. Mother Earth News is a bi-monthly magazine with a paid circulation of nearly 500,000, and its website averages nearly 950,000 unique visitors and more than 4 million page views monthly.


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