Educating for a sustainable future is embedded in the Aims of a Punahou Education. Since the 2005 Sustainability Summit, which urged for greener practices at both the institutional and personal level, the School has furthered this goal in a variety of ways. In addition to fostering a campus culture that holds sustainability as a core value inside and outside the classroom, Punahou has invested significantly in efforts to reduce its carbon footprint and to act as a model for other schools in sustainable facilities design, programs and teaching philosophies.

As President Jim Scott notes, “Ultimately, we know that Punahou’s commitment to a healthier planet is expressed most powerfully in the lives of our students and alumni. Their creativity, imagination and leadership inspire our optimism in building a sustainable future.”

In 2007, the "2016 Challenges" focused on five areas of action. “Beyond 2016” was formulated in 2011 to underscore the importance of curricular innovation and behavioral change in addition to institutional action. These challenges established sustainability as a critical component of a Punahou education:


2016 Challenge Beyond 2016
Reduce energy use by 50% Increase alternatives, decrease consumption

Measuring Against the Goal

Since 2007, energy use has declined by 4% in spite of increased campus use and increased square footage of facilities. This measure is based on electricity usage only. During the same period, Punahou has increased use of natural gas as an energy source by 17%.

Curricular Examples

Student Global Leadership Institute

Energy was chosen as the theme for the Student Global Leadership Institute in 2011, encouraging students to identify a community-based energy issue and implement a solution. More

K – 1 Building Dashboard

Metering and monitoring energy use and sustainable systems in the Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood via a real-time, child-friendly web page allows for observation and discussion in the classroom. Go to Dashboard

See institutional efforts in energy


2016 Challenge Beyond 2016
Make healthy food choices Grow your own, eat healthy foods

Curricular Examples

Campus Gardens

Over 20 gardens have been started and incorporated into curricular programs, including hydroponic and aquaponic projects. Students manage garden produce from seed to harvest, explore the sustainable economics of locally-grown food and prepare cooked dishes, in a variety of classroom and mixed-grade activities.

AP Environmental Science

Touching on many scientific disciplines, this Academy course includes topics in sustainable practices in agriculture and local food, through hands-on activities.

Food for Thought Film Series

The Food for Thought film series, created in 2008, has included three films relating to food and living green. The program has included panel discussions and food tastings.

2010 Service Learning Teacher Institute: Out-of-the-Box Nutrition

Part of an annual workshop where public and private school teachers collaborate and share curriculum ideas, the 2010 Service Learning Teacher Institute focused on bringing locally grown food into the classroom.

Wodehouse Grants

Over 21 Teaching Wodehouse grants have been awarded related to Food, reaching students K – 12.

See institutional efforts in food


2016 Challenge Beyond 2016
Reduce cars on campus by 25% Reduce traffic, lower carbon emissions

See institutional efforts in transportation


2016 Challenge Beyond 2016
Reduce solid waste by 50% Use less, waste less

Measuring the Goal

Measurement categories for waste were defined as green waste, construction waste and solid waste (everything else.) Punahou reuses 100% of green waste, as well as some metal and construction waste. All paper used by the school is 100% recycled, and paper purchasing has decreased by 17% since 2007.

Curricular Examples

Worm Bins

Students learn to reuse food waste through vermicasting, at several bins across campus. The compost produced is then used in Punahou's many garden projects.

Oil Recycling

Glassblowing students convert used cooking oil from Carnival's malasada production into fuel for their kilns.

Fall 2011 Service Learning Teacher Institute: Can You Be Plastic Free?

Part of an annual workshop where public and private school teachers collaborate and share curriculum ideas, the Fall 2011Service Learning Teacher Institutefocused on schools reducing single use plastics.

See institutional efforts in waste


2016 Challenge Beyond 2016
Reduce water use by 50% Reduce, recapture, reuse

Measuring the Goal

From 2007 to 2011, Punahou reduced water consumption by 5%, despite the increase in square footage of facilities, number of gardens and periods of drought.

Curricular Examples

Student Global Leadership Institute

Water was chosen as the theme for the inaugural Student Global Leadership Institute in 2010. More

Fourth Grade Water Unit

In the fourth grade curriculum, Punahou students explore issues of sustainability in water, and discuss ideas and solutions to those challenges.

K – 1 Bioswale

The Omidyar K – 1 Neighborhood was built with a bioswale and a rain catchment system of gutters and cisterns to provide watering for gardens and landscaping. These features are used as hands-on teaching tools about water reuse.

See institutional efforts in water

Schoolwide Programs

Sustainability Fair

From 2007 - 2013, the annual Sustainability Fair was an opportunity for students, teachers and the community to share and learn about sustainability-related projects.

In 2017, the Sustainability Fair will be revitalized as a student-run event on May 19.


The goal of the Sustainability Fair is to increase awareness about living sustainably and to celebrate curricular projects generated around this theme through information booths, food tastings, live music, educational activities and more.

Wodehouse Sustainability Grant Program

To encourage faculty to incorporate sustainability in their classrooms, Punahou instituted the Wodehouse Sustainability Grant Program. The program provides resources to faculty based on their proposals for classroom-based projects. Proposals have ranged from a single teacher implementing a project in a single classroom, to grade-level faculty planning for a shared project, to cross-grade collaborations.

Food for Thought Series

The Food for Thought movie and speaker series invites students, faculty and the community to consider a variety of sustainability-related issues. Each event features a movie with accompanying discussion and, where relevant, a participation opportunity such as food tastings or theme-related displays. Panels of community experts have shared their perspective on each movie’s theme and facilitated discussions following the movie. More

Grade-Level Project Examples

  • Kindergarten rainwater reclamation project
  • First grade “Garden to Market” program
  • Second grade worm bin project
  • Third grade water cycle and hydroponic units
  • Sixth grade food preparation and botany units
  • Seventh grade Project Green and aquaponics projects
  • Junior School recycled art projects
  • Ninth-grade Biology worm bins
  • American Literature – Nature: An Academy English course analyzing texts for themes of Americans relationship with nature

See additional examples by Areas of Focus above.


  • Tools for Creating Positive Change in the Community

    Posted November 30, 2017

    Luke Center invited Aaron Eden to spend one week as “change maker” in residence. In Cooke Learning Commons in Cooke Library, Eden guided students through a systems change framework during an Accelerator week, which provides time and support for students to explore what they are interested in. He introduced the concept of systems thinking, which is a way to address a challenge from a holistic perspective by understanding interconnectedness within a larger system.

Resources and Support

Luke Center for Public Service commits much of its resources to managing and coordinating Punahou's curricular and community sustainability activities, including the annual Sustainability Fair, Food for Thought Series, and several community forums each year.