Sugar cultivation on Hawaii, once a booming industry, wound down after the turn of the century. The last sugar mill in the Aloha State, Maui's Hawaiian Commercial & Sugar Co., closed at the end of 2016.
The end of sugar cultivation in Hawaii left a lot of land open for new uses, and many former plantations have been repurposed to grow other products and as tourist attractions offering farm tours, ziplines, petting zoos and restaurants focused on locally sourced ingredients.
One company, Pacific Biodiesel, is planting sunflowers in its former sugar fields. The swaths of land dotted with canary-colored flowers add pop to the scenery when in bloom, but the seeds are also a sustainable source for cooking oil, beauty products and biodiesel. Pacific Biodiesel is currently operating one of the largest liquid biofuel projects in the state.
"Pacific Biodiesel wanted to do something with the old sugar land so it wasn't sitting vacant and so it was producing something for the community and provide a greener future for the island," said Jackie Yulo director of the 'Awili Spa and Salon at Andaz Maui at Wailea Resort, which has partnered with the company.
Andaz first adopted the sunflower cosmetic oil at its spa and started integrating the local product into its services in October.
"As a brand, at Andaz and overall with Hyatt, we are very focused on supporting the local community and giving back," Yulo said. "We also look for ways to involve guests, develop learning experiences and provide ways for them to immerse themselves in the culture where the resort is."
Previously the spa used grapeseed oils and other products that were usually shipped in from the U.S. mainland.
"Now we use the sunflower oil for our massage and body treatments. It's grown here, produced here, packaged and brought from a couple of miles away," Yulo said. "Some of the massage oils we used before would come from the mainland, so we are cutting down on shipping and emissions, which are costly and not so great for the environment."
The sunflower oil is a natural moisturizer and skin emollient and is rich in vitamin E and antioxidants, according to Yulo.
Andaz took the partnership with Pacific Biodiesel to the next step in March.
The resort's signature restaurant, Kaana Kitchen, is starting to develop dishes that incorporate sunflower oil. Each month, they offer a special dish featuring the ingredient, such as Kona Kampachi marinated in sunflower oil, and there are plans for the resort's other dining establishments to incorporate sunflower oil into dishes.
The cycle doesn't stop there. Used cooking oil from the kitchen and leftover massage oil from the spa is all captured, and Andaz Maui sends hundreds of gallons of oil back to Pacific Biodiesel weekly, which repurposes the used product into biodiesel fuel.
Andaz has other sustainability projects forthcoming, including installing 806 solar panels across the property that they estimate will save $130,000 per year and $4.4 million over 20 years in energy costs. The project is expected to be completed by the end of 2018 and includes panels attached to cabanas and umbrellas around the pool to help power the deck area after sunset.
The resort was recently rewarded for its efforts with Maui Magazine's Aipono Award for Excellence in Sustainability.
"Our guests are loving the sunflower oil partnership," Yulo said. "It's created some buzz. And, when the sunflowers are in bloom, we even do excursions with those who are interested in seeing the fields."