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News Releases from Region 09

U.S. EPA Honors Kailua’s Windward Zero Waste School Hui for Leading Food Recovery Efforts Nationwide

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Alejandro Diaz (

HONOLULU – Today, Windward Zero Waste School Hui in Kailua was recognized by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for its outstanding efforts in combatting food waste. The school received the national Food Recovery Challenge Innovation award for reducing food waste and, in the process, conserving natural resources. 

“Food Recovery Challenge participants are leaders in showing how preventing food waste and diverting excess wholesome food to people is an environmental win and a cost-saving business decision,” said EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler. “Their accomplishments serve as excellent examples to other companies, governments, organizations and communities.”

“The Windward Zero Waste School Hui has developed innovative school composting programs involving students and the community,” said John Busterud, EPA’s Regional Administrator for the Pacific Southwest. “This effort helps reduce waste while either expanding or growing local food production and protecting the environment.”

“Our campus has become a life-giving resource where food waste is converted into rich organic soil and vermicompost,” said Dr. Noh, Ka’ohao, Windward Zero Waste School Director. “The school garden literally has become a living laboratory where students apply theoretical knowledge to real-world problems, and more importantly, solutions... Becoming a Zero Waste school has changed the conscious landscape of our students’ mindset and has empowered them to think creatively as our future leaders.”

The Windward Zero Waste School Hui continues to support zero waste and food waste composting at its five core schools. Over 2,300 students are engaged and educated with five staff members. From 2017 to 2018, their food waste diversion increased from 31.1 tons to 42.5 tons, and they were able to add two new schools to the program. These schools saw 100 percent food waste recovery on day one of the program, thanks to their scalable, efficient, and innovative protocol.

The program has become the model for Hawaii schools interested in rescuing valuable resources from landfills and incinerators and is serving as the standard for the Hawaii Department of Education. The school believes their system can be adopted complex-wide and eventually state-wide, with every Hawaii school achieving a 90 percent campus waste reduction, saving millions of dollars. They are proud of their role in supporting Hawaii schools and modeling innovative zero waste systems.

Food is a valuable resource. Efforts to reduce food waste and ensure excess food doesn’t go to waste are needed now more than ever. The innovation organizations like Windward Zero Waste School Hui are showcasing can serve as examples as the nation works together to address the COVID-19 public health emergency. Over 1,000 businesses, governments and organizations participated in EPA’s Food Recovery Challenge in 2019. Participants prevented or diverted over 815,000 tons of food from entering landfills or incinerators, saving participants up to $42.3 million in avoided landfill tipping fees.

For more information on the Food Recovery Challenge, please visit:

Learn more about EPA’s Pacific Southwest Region, which implements and enforces federal environmental laws in Arizona, California, Hawaii, Nevada, the Pacific Islands, and 148 tribal nations.

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