Car Sharing and Green Building Catching On

By Keith Kamisugi

I’m writing this column from Hawai’i, having worked all weekend helping the Barack Obama campaign before the Feb. 19 primary caucuses here. Sen. Obama was born, raised and graduated from high school in Honolulu, so it’s important that I did something to help him win the Aloha State.

Politics aside, this column will touch on “green building” in Hawai’i and also my experience with car sharing, following the “green” theme of this issue of the Nichi Bei Times.

I had dinner last night with Kyle Chock, executive director of the Pacific Resource Partnership, a joint program of the Hawaii Carpenters Union and some 200 unionized contractors across the state. Kyle has been a good friend of mine for almost 10 years, having first met during his campaign for the state House of Representatives. He is also a member of the state Land Use Commission.

Kyle and I discussed efforts by various people and groups here to create a sustainable Hawai’i – one where the educational, economic, health and environmental needs of the people are met in a way that balances consumption and resources. Part of such planning must include environmentally conscious development, said Kyle.

“Green building is becoming more of a standard practice throughout the residential construction process in Hawai’i, as builders embrace energy-saving and sustainable methods such as recycling materials and using solar power for hot water,” reported the Pacific Business News last year. ‘Everyone seems to be taking their individual responsibility a lot more seriously now,’ Chock said. ‘It’s no longer the future; it’s something that’s here now.’ “

Last month, the State of Hawai’i entered into a partnership with the U.S. Department of Energy called the Hawai’i Clean Energy Initiative, which seeks to transform the local lifestyle by harnessing the islands’ renewable resources.

Car Sharing in the Bay Area

One service in the Bay Area that has transformed the lives of hundreds (including my own) is car sharing.

Car sharing is a service that provides cars parked in dozens of lots throughout San Francisco, Oakland and other Bay Area locations that can be reserved online and driven by the hour or the day. It’s a short-term and improved version of the rental car model. Drivers, who must be members of the car sharing service, do not have to pay extra for gas and insurance. Those costs are included in the vehicle reservation rates, which begin at $6 per hour.

I’ve been a member of the Zipcar ( car sharing service for more than a year. (The other local car sharing service is City Car Share.) Since I work and live in the city, I sold my car almost four years ago and using Zipcar has filled in the transportation gaps when the bus, a taxi or rail is either too inconvenient or too costly.

There are Zipcars less than two blocks from both my home and office. The cars come in all shapes and sizes, ranging from the utilitarian Honda Civic to the fun and airy MINI Cooper. Not surprisingly, the more fun the car, the more expensive the rates, but those rates are also in line with the value of the vehicle.

Once you become a member, you can reserve any vehicle through the Web or by the automated phone system. After reserving the vehicle for a specific time period, you go to the reserved vehicle and swipe a special card over the reader on the windshield. The vehicle unlocks and you drive it away. After you’re done, you return the car to the exact same location, swipe the card again to lock the vehicle and then walk away.

Zipcar members can also access vehicles in a dozen other cities including Chicago, London, New York, Seattle and Vancouver.

Using Zipcars instead of owning and using your own personal vehicle has significant environmental benefits.

First, Zipcar has found that more than 40 percent of its members get rid of their own personal vehicles or decide not to buy a car, which takes cars off the road and parking lots or spaces – a big plus in a congested city like San Francisco.

The company also discovered that its members drive less, as much as half the time they used to drive. Members use other modes of transportation such as walking, biking, public transportation or taxis.

Zipcar estimates that every Zipcar vehicle takes the place of more than 15 privately-owned vehicles, creating less pollution, requiring fewer parking spaces, creating less strain on roads and lowering fuel consumption.

Zipcar also employs diverse and talented people. The local general manager is Genevieve Jopanda, a community-minded Filipina American who was formerly the general manager of Flexcar in the Bay Area. She joined Zipcar after the company acquired Flexcar late last year.
You can spot San Francisco school board member Jane Kim riding in a bright yellow Ford Mustang convertible provided by Zipcar in the Chinese New Year’s Parade this Saturday, Feb. 23.

EDITOR’S NOTE: Starting from this issue, Two Japanee Bruddahs columns will have only Keith’s or Kyle’s byline, depending on which of the Bruddahs pens the piece. Keith Kamisugi and Kyle Tatsumoto are the Two Japanee Bruddahs. Read their past columns online at

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