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University of Hawaii project aims to plant 11,000 trees to offset state’s carbon emissions

  • COURTESY UNIVERSITY OF HAWAII

    A record-setting 1,000 trees were planted in two hours in October 2018.

The University of Hawaii at Manoa is upping the ante for its Carbon Neutrality Challenge — an effort to offset the state’s carbon emissions — by planting a record number of trees next month.

On Oct. 26, the group plans to plant 11,000 trees to fully offset Hawaii’s carbon emissions. This planting on a massive scale builds on the group’s accomplishment last October — planting a record-setting 1,000 trees in two hours.

“Hawaii could show the world how it is done,” said Camilo Mora, associate professor of geography, and the project’s lead investigator in a news release. “We could be the first. We have the space. We have the will. We just need the money.”

The challenge, a joint project by UH Manoa and numerous organizations, aims to prove it is possible to counteract the effects of carbon emissions by improving natural ecosystems. Planting a tree is the single best way for humanity to buy time to decarbonize our economy, according to Mora.

Volunteers may join the tree-planting event Oct. 26 by signing up at GoCarbonNeutral.org.

To increase survival rates of each sapling planted in October, the group has also launched a crowdfunding campaign, aiming to raise $55,000, to ensure each one will be outfitted with weed-control mats and a watering system.

A team led by Mora developed a low-cost, patent-pending watering system. The system captures rain water through a catchment system and stores it in a tank during the rainy season — enough to last through the dry season, reducing mortality. Water flows out of the tank into the ground at a rate of one liter a day.

Each system costs only $4 to build, and is reusable for up to 10 years, bringing the cost of irrigation to just about $0.40 per tree.

Next year, the project aims to plant up to 100,000 trees, and scale up to 1 million tree plantings annually starting in 2021.

“In a not too distant future, our children could tell their children that we fixed climate change and left a forest behind,” said Mora. “Alternatively, they could say we saw our planet being destroyed, and we did nothing or not enough. The opportunity is there now for us to decide which future we want. The time to fix climate change is now, and planting trees is a given.”

More information is available at uhfoundation.org/Trees.

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