Ambassador & Environmentalist
Respecting Each Other & Respecting the Earth Go Hand in Hand
For Austin Kino, the concept of “Aloha” is a simple one. “It’s just the way you treat people,” says the Hawaii native, environmental philanthropist and Maui Jim ambassador. “What one person does affects other people. Aloha is that respect for one another, acknowledging that you are part of a larger community, that your actions affect others.”
Growing up in a small community on the island of O‘ahu made that clear to Austin early on — but volunteering as a crew member and apprentice navigator on the Hōkūle‘a Polynesian voyaging canoe brought it even more into focus.
A traditional double-hulled voyaging canoe, Hōkūle‘a launched in 1975 and sailed the Pacific until 2000. She then spent two years in dry dock undergoing a complete refurbishment before embarking on a three-year circumnavigation of the globe. More than 245 volunteer crew members each spent a month on board. (Austin contacted Maui Jim about sunglasses to provide protection against the strong sun at sea, and we donated a pair for every crew member.)
“The main driver of the voyage was to celebrate the theme of ‘Mālama Honua,’ which simply means to care for our earth,” Austin says. “On an island like Hawaii, people have to live in unison. Hōkūle‘a represents that so well. We were all on a canoe and using what nature gave us. As we went around the world, we consciously stopped and engaged with communities that shared our mission to create a more sustainable planet.”
Returning home after the voyage, Austin felt compelled to engage more deeply with his own community. He and a friend formed a nonprofit organization, Huli, that aims to teach younger Hawaiians about sustainability, community and sailing while encouraging passion for the ocean. Now in its fourth year, Huli’s programs for students include everything from ocean-based environmental field days to invasive plant removal in wildlife sanctuaries.
“We started small, taking what we had seen on a large level on Hōkūle‘a and making it tangible,” Austin says. “Really, the whole focus is to create opportunities for kids to get outdoors.”
Based on what he’s seen so far, Austin has faith the next generation of Hawaiians will take up the cause of environmental stewardship. He even credits social media for inspiring action.
“One of the good things about social media has been getting people to get outside,” he says. “When I see kids now, they are definitely motivated to be leading the kind of life that is active and desirable. They see what everyone else is doing and they’re like, ‘Oh, I want to try that.’ And if they enjoy something, then they will care about it.”