Kalaka Nui!

I learned the word for “big truck” from my 3 year old granddaughter a very long time ago. As I write this, I’m dropping her off at college in New York! Back then, she was a student at `Aha Pu-nana Leo `O Hilo. She often taught “Grandy” the finer points of the Hawaiian language. Because her dad often drives a “Kalaka Nui,” it’s a word she insisted I know.

Big Island, Big Trucks

Long time Big Island residents recall when Kalaka Nui frequented our roads releasing sugar cane spears from their beds. It wasn’t easy to pass those big, slow-moving trucks. Still today we find ourselves following a different type of big truck along our beautiful highways. These, however, don’t enhance our revenue stream but instead haul rubbish to the other side of the island.

`Ōpala (Trash)

I don’t pretend to have the solution, but for a long time, I was at least less a part of the problem. Every time I am forced to place paper, a catalog or any of the things I used to recycle in the trash, I cringe.

Back when Faith Makanalani was teaching me about Kalaka Nui, we were mostly worried about closure of the Hilo Landfill multiplying the number of trucks going west. Today, the lack of a place to deposit many of our recyclables has made it much worse. We’ve learned to pay the bottle deposit and shop with our own bags, but we all need to focus on the bigger issue of how solid waste disposal can have a direct impact on our incomparable quality of life.

When quality of life is diminished, property values can be affected. This certainly elevates the problem towards more than a potential traffic inconvenience. I’d love to see any update about a new conventional landfill which, when Faith was 3, would have required a liner in Hilo that would have created a soggy rubbish pond. I’m not sure we have made much progress since then.

Ho`opō`aiapuni (Make it right)

For now, we need to all help in reducing what enters our solid waste stream. We need to find a way back to maximizing use of our sort stations. That alone helped with the hauling issue. But just when we were getting better at recycling, the source for accepting our “product” vanished. I’m encouraged that our reuse centers are flourishing. I’m also surprised how many residents don’t know they exist. Check them out, they offer a great place to drop off and trade items of value. It’s easy to become complacent.

Look how quickly we adjusted to no recycling. Check this out: look how much difference one person can make? This past December, I decided to weigh just the magazines and catalogs I received. The scales tipped at over 50 lbs! Imagine every mailbox received half that much and the scope of the problem becomes crystal clear! Anyone at the landfill on Dec 27th certainly witnessed how overwhelming the volume can be.

Kuleana (Responsibility)

We live in an extremely fragile ecosystem. We don’t recover from abuse very easily. It’s important to do all we can to reduce, reuse and recycle. Let’s start by extending the life of finding an alternative to the Hilo landfill…and if I’m not up-to-date, I invite Environmental Management to give us all an update on what we all can do to make life on Hawai`i Island a better place to live, work and play.

Because remember, a good Kalaka Nui is a terrible thing to “waste”!

About the Author

Denise Nakanishi

Denise Nakanishi is a REALTOR Broker with Hawai'i Life. Denise Nakanishi is one of Hilo's most acclaimed real estate agents. She reached the rank of Major in the US Army and is now known by many as "Major Mom." The nickname fits–not only does Denise bring the discipline and mission-oriented attitude you'd expect, she's also caring and compassionate, always looking out for her clients like they're her own family. Having made the Big Island her home since 1987, Denise combines her extensive knowledge of the area with a sharp focus on customer service and the results speak for themselves. She's the recent recipient of the Best East Hawai`i, Best of Zillow, Chairman's Circle Award, President's Circle, Top Producing Agent since 2001, and Realtor of the Year awards. Denise stays ahead of the curve because she's passionate about education–she served as Education Chair for Hawaii Island REALTORS® for many years. She's one of Big Island's best real estate resources, known for her weekly article in the Hawaii Tribune Herald. Denise leads Team Nakanishi for Hawai`i Life, who is committed to their family, work, and community. In her little time away from work, Denise is a committed runner and Grandy. She also devotes many hours to various Veterans' Organizations, the East Hawaii Cultural Center, and the Hawaii Island REALTORS®. You can email me at or via phone at (808) 936-5100.

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