How a Hawaii Electric Co-op Uses Mandates to Support Storytelling

The #UtilityPioneers at Kaua’i Island Utility Cooperative (KIUC), Hawaii, used mask mandates as an opportunity to support local businesses and creatively share their story.

By the end of July, more than 30 states require masks to support community health as the nation copes with COVID-19 (Download free COVID-19 communication tools). Everyone in Hawaii is required to wear a face covering when they leave their homes. To meet the need, KIUC partnered with a local crafting business, Mailelani’s, to buy fabric from the mainland and pre-cut two types of masks.

KIUC Communications Manager Beth Tokioka

“We had our graphic artist make a mask print for us based on the design we used for the cover of our last annual report,” says Beth Tokioka, KIUC communications manager.

The mask design highlights the co-op’s position as a renewable energy leader, mixing icons for solar, hydro, and LED bulbs with KIUC’s logo. Renewable resources generated more than half of the utility’s energy last year.

The fabric is taken to a local printer, where the custom pattern is applied. Then the fabric goes back to Mailelani’s for sewing and finish.

The initial process took three weeks due to shipping time from the mainland. Now new orders turn around in about a week at a cost of roughly $11 per mask (includes fabric, custom screen-printing, and sewing).

“One of the nice things about this project was using local vendors and supporting the local economy,” says Beth. “If a cooperative can find a local company that does this kind of work, they may have their own pattern to use.”

Offer Options

As masks became a must-wear item on the island, people developed preferences for face coverings styles. KIUC created two types of masks: non-pleated reversible and pleated.

The non-pleated reversible mask comes in two color combinations: pink/purple and green/grey. The one-sided pleated mask is available in camo, purple and green.

“Some of our employees prefer the pleated kind because they have a sleeve that allows you to use a filter,” says Beth. “I’m told a paper towel inserted into the sleeve helps give extra protection. It really depends on the person as to which style they prefer.”

Delivering Masks

Hawaiian State Senator Ronald Kouchi wore his KIUC mask in May

KIUC’s office remains closed to members, but Beth and her team hand out masks to co-op staff and external stakeholders (government officials, first responders, etc.).

“I always carry a supply with me and give them out to people that I see who either ask about mine or have been supportive of the COVID response or KIUC,” says Beth.

KIUC plans to use the masks as the co-op’s main logo giveaway item for the time being.

“We gave masks to some of our local elected officials and they wear them with pride,” says Beth. “The Hawaii State Senate President, Ronald D. Kouchi, is from Kauai and is a former KIUC Board member. He wore his mask when he was filing his papers to run for re-election and put some photos up on Facebook. I was so thrilled to see that!”

Creative Storytelling

KIUC Board Members used renewable energy Zoom backgrounds in July.

Custom masks are one of many ways KIUC pivoted pandemic conditions into ways for the co-op to share their story. For example, in July the co-op used Zoom for their annual meeting. Every board member’s Zoom background was customized to show a different renewable energy resource on the island. Read more about KIUC’s pandemic response on page 8 of Currents magazine.

We love to watch our members share their story in innovative ways.

Have you found a creative way to connect with consumers in 2020? Comment on this post with your ideas so we can grow together!