Through your Johnson Ohana Charitable Foundation, you and Kim have donated $25 million to charity. Why?
One of the things that makes we want to keep donating to charity is how much positive change we can make along the way in all the communities we visit.
And it’s really fun to take our kids on the road with us, and go and visit these community gardens and school gardens that we are helping to fund.
There has been a lot of times when we’ve met kids that have just graduated high school and are doing environmental business in town, because they got started, at a young age, with the programs we had in Hawaii.
So you think: You’ve planted these little seeds that have grown into beautiful things.
You established the Kokua Hawaii Foundation to encourage sustainability and renewable energy to children. Why educate little kids?
Youth is where the most change will happen.
Start with young kids—that point in your life, you’re very open-minded, and figuring out the way you want to approach the world. Empowering youth to make these changes on their own creates something that’s completely new and that our generation hasn’t even thought of.
If there’s going to be real changes, it’s going to be with young people.
What was it about 1% For The Planet that attracted your support?
The concept is what I liked. I liked that idea that there are two sides to 1% for the Planet: (1) You can donate one percent of your earnings to groups that you believe in, like what we did; and (2) around the same time we signed up, Kim and I were starting the Kokua Hawai’i Foundation, and so we received donations through 1%’s corporate network.
Someone presented us the idea, and it was a great way to be able to carry the 1% logo, and show that we are doing something for the environment.
Also, 1% for the Planet is also not very threatening; we got to meet a lot of people through the group that helped us further our endeavors.
Lastly, I liked the freedom of it. 1% allows you to make that commitment and pick groups you are going to donate to. And, if you don’t know what to do with the money, 1% will take the funds and distribute them to the groups.
It’s a great group, and we’re still involved with them.
Was your song “Gone” triggered by the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, the floating ocean of plastic bags and water bottles?
When I was real young, surfing on the eastside of the island, we would walk over that high-tide line every time, and see the single-used plastic. I saw it through my life get worse and worse.
Fortunately, I’ve had a chance to be involved on a lot of levels; just from being a kid who saw the garbage washing up on the beach, to somebody being able to work with a lot of groups dealing with the issue.
So, those kinda’ things definitely inspire my songs — they’re things you want to change, and the “what’s the positive thing you can do about it” in my songs.
Is issue placement influential?
Issue placement can be powerful, especially when it’s natural and it fits. I also incorporate world issues in music videos. It’s a way you can reach a lot of people.
I like using the spotlight I have on me to shine the light on things I think are really important.
Your World Tours are refreshingly sustainable: HOV-lane encouragement, locally grown food, composting, organic merchandise, biodiesel-driven transportation, recycling, water bottle-refill stations, revenue donated to green charities, carbon offsets for concert-goers, airplane carbon offsets for the crew. Have you thought about solar panels?
If we could do solar panels, it would be great — I think there’s an educational aspect to it.
For us, there’s already a venue that’s set up, and we use their facilities: as opposed to going to a field, and bringing all of our own equipment on the road, shipping everything around, and driving those trucks, that have all the equipment, to a playing field.
There’s definitely a balancing act that we’re always considering to make the tours as low-impact as possible.
So, solar panels are definitely an option. We just have to figure out how.
How about integrating the concept of Club Surya, a nightclub powered by pounding feet?
It sounds pretty cool.
Like your latest album To The Sea, will you record the next one with solar energy?
Yeah, our recording studio always runs on solar.
You are known for chasing waves. Why is climate change important to you? As the oceans climb over land, the waves only get more, and more epic to ride.
The climate change is going to affect us all: if it hasn’t already.
Using rail-based transit (trains/trams/subways) is the most environmentally sound form of transportation. How else can we fend off human extinction from climate change?
Focus more on local issues, and things you actually do in your hometown. Those little things all lead to make the Earth a healthier place, approaching the bigger problem.
Think globally, act locally. If people get more concerned about their area, that leads to a better place in general.
Out of curiosity, what are your thoughts on Nestlé and Coca-Cola owning most of the world’s water?
It’s scary that something like water that everybody needs these big corporations are buying it up.
Anyway, you find out that a lot of the tap water is actually cleaner than bottled water. We definitely instill in our kids to carry a water bottle when they go places—it builds up your immune system anyway.
We drink water every where we go in the world pretty much.
We love that you're doing your part — from the content of your music down to how the music is recorded.