Kupu (Hawaii)

Empowering the next generation of environmental stewards and leaders is the key to building more sustainable and resilient global communities.





To inspire and train the next generation of environmental stewards and community leaders, who will create a resilient and more sustainable Hawaiʻi.

While there was always a known need to protect and preserve the environment, there was little awareness and interest in green jobs workforce opportunities.

Kupu has risen to meet the increasing demands of Hawaiʻi’s green economy. By providing cultural and environmental education and training programs for youth and young adults, Kupu has carved clearer and wider pathways to careers in conservation and sustainability, helping to grow and strengthen Hawaiʻi’s green jobs workforce while making a more resilient state.



The Solution

Kupu empowers youth to serve their communities through character-building, service-learning and environmental stewardship opportunities that encourage pono (integrity) with Ke Akua (God), self, and others.

Kupu affirms the Hawaiian notion of ma ka hana ka ʻike (“in working one learns”). Through this concept, Kupu has created hundreds of service-learning opportunities and internships, which blend vocational training, mentorship and leadership development in partnership with 150 conservation and sustainability sites across Hawaiʻi and the Pacific region.

As the organization’s name in Hawaiian implies, Kupu (meaning “to sprout, grow”) strives to inspire the people it serves, restore the environment, and grow a heart for service. By providing authentic and meaningful service-based program experiences, many of Kupu’s participants gain valuable knowledge and skills, and most importantly develop a stronger connection to the land, sea, and communities that they serve.

Like the Hawaiian kupukupu fern (one of the first plants to cultivate the land after a lava flow), Kupu is cultivating the landscape of Hawaiʻi’s green jobs workforce. Nurturing and strengthening the next generation of environmental stewards and community leaders is the key to building a resilient and more sustainable Hawaiʻi and global community.



The Results

Since 2007, Kupu has successfully engaged and empowered more than 3,500 youth in conservation and sustainability, and generated over $90 million in economic benefits for the state of Hawai‘i. Many of its program alumni have established academic and career pathways in the green jobs workforce. On average every year, Kupu:

  • Offers 300 conservation and sustainability program opportunities in Hawai‘i and the Pacific
  • Generates approximately $16 million in economic benefits
  • Clears 21,000 acres of invasive species
  • Restores more than 200,000 native plants to their natural habitats
  • Distributes more than $500,000 in education awards
  • Gathers thousands of volunteers for service days
  • Diverts over 10,000 lbs. of trash from landfills



Insider Tip

  • Focusing on and staying true to the mission of empowering youth
  • Using service and restoration as the vehicle to transform lives and communities
  • Understanding and integrating a sense of place into organizational culture and programs
  • Innovation and expansion of programs to serve increasing and changing demands
  • A strong, dedicated, talented, and experienced staff
  • Support from caring and committed community partners and donors
  • Diverse revenue and financial support including earned revenue opportunities that allows programs to be more self sufficient
  • Having audacious goals that are only achievable by a team working as one




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