Civil Beat photographer Kevin Fujii spent a day with volunteers as they began an effort to make Hawaii a model for planting trees.

The Carbon Neutrality Challenge aims to plant 1 million endemic trees to offset the carbon emissions Hawaii residents, businesses and government create.

The project, developed by University of Hawaii professor Camilo Mora and co-founded by his daughter, Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, moved forward Saturday with 200 koa and wiliwili saplings.

Fourteen volunteers arrived to plant these young trees in the red, muddy soil at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa.

“Not a single technology in the world can remove as much CO2 as restoring the global forests can,” says Mora Rollo. “Now we just have to make it happen and put Hawaii in the history books as the first place to become carbon neutral by planting trees.”

Co-founders of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, Dr. Camilo Mora, from left, and Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, check the depth of a pre-dug hole for a native Hawaiian sapling Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. This tree-planting event was used to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. Optimal-size holes were dug previously. But some maintenance was required after the heavy Kona low rains. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Co-founders of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, University of Hawaii professor Camilo Mora, from left, and his daughter, Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, check the depth of a pre-dug hole for a native sapling Saturday at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. This tree-planting event was used to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native trees. To make the project less daunting, Mora used an auger to dig optimal-size holes the previous Tuesday. Some maintenance was required after the week’s previous, heavy Kona low rains filled the holes with water, mud and pebbles. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Camilo Mora, Ph.D., a University of Hawaii Department of Geography and Environment professor and co-founder of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge enlists the help of students and novice tree planters Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Dr. Rollo and Carbon Neutrality Challenge co-founder Asryelle Mora Roll, used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Camilo Mora, a UH Department of Geography and Environment professor, shares the math of planting 1 million trees with the volunteers Saturday. “If everyone in Hawaii plants 10 trees, it should take less than an hour and there are your 1 million trees.” (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, co-founder of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, carries koa saplings Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Mora Rollo used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo carries koa saplings. The saplings are wrapped in a plastic sheet designed to help them thrive before being gently planted. Previous attempts to plant koa and wiliwili saplings struggled. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
A koa sapling waits for planting by Carbon Neutrality Challenge volunteers Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, co-founder of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, enlists the help of students and novice tree planters to see how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 people, it took 40 minutes to plant all 200 koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
A koa sapling waits for planting by Carbon Neutrality Challenge volunteers. Yellow flags mark the holes Camilo Mora dug before everyone arrived to speed up the planting process. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, co-founder of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, demonstrates how to plant a koa sapling to novice tree planters Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Mora Rollo used this tree-planting event to see how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. It took 40 minutes for 14 people to plant 200 koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, co-founder of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, demonstrates the care required to plant a koa sapling. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Tree-planting volunteer Jackie Dean carries koa saplilngs  Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Carbon Neutrality Challenge co-founder Asryelle Mora Rollo used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. It took 14 volunteers 40 minutes to plant the 200 koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Tree-planting volunteer Jackie Dean carries koa saplings. Volunteers laid one sapling down by each yellow flag which marked a pre-dug hole, perfectly sized for the sapling roots and soil. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo, co-founder of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, enlists the help of students and novice tree planters Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Mora Rollo used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. Co-founder Dr. Camilo Mora uses an augur to maintain the pre-dug holes after the past week’s Kona low rains. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Carbon Neutrality Challenge volunteers plant koa saplings while Camilo Mora cleans out pre-dug holes. This tree-planting event was used to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Dr. Camilo Mora points to a prepared area for tree-planting volunteer Olivia Taub Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Cabin Neutrality Challenge co-founders Dr. Mora and Punahou student Asryelle Mora Rollo used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 planters, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Camilo Mora points to a prepared area for tree-planting volunteer Olivia Taub. Taub was asked to move saplings to holes which had been cleaned out after the Kona low rains filled them with water, mud and pebbles. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Kira Webster carries koa saplings for planting Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Carbon Neutrality Challenge co-founder Asryelle Mora Rollo used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Kira Webster carries koa saplings for planting Saturday at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones. The Carbon Neutrality Challenge aims to plant one million endemic trees to offset Hawaii’s carbon footprint. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Punahou student Ryan Endow volunteers to plant a koa sapling with classmate Asryelle Mora Rollo, co-founder of the Carbon Neutrality Challenge, Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Mora Rollo used this tree planting to see how long it would take 14 volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. It took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Punahou student Ryan Endow plants a koa sapling with schoolmate Asryelle Mora Rollo. Their goal is to plant 1 million native Hawaiian trees to offset the state’s carbon footprint. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
A koa sapling is gently planted Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Carbon Neutrality Challenge co-founders Asryelle Mora Rollo and Dr. Camilo Mora used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
A koa sapling is gently planted at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones. The Carbon Neutrality Challenge is trying a different way to plant these koa and wiliwili saplings to give them a higher success rate of survival. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
A koa sapling is gently planted Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Carbon Neutrality Challenge co-founders Asryelle Mora Rollo and Dr. Camilo Mora used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Tree-planting volunteer Jackie Dean plants a koa sapling Saturday at the Oahu site. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
The leaves of a wiliwili sapling are photographed Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. This is one of 200 native Hawaiian trees the Carbon Neutrality Challenge planted. The group’s co-founders learned it takes 40 minutes for 14 volunteers to plant all 200 koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
The leaves of a wiliwili sapling are seen after planting. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Civic Club of Wahiawa’s Tom Lenchanko, kneeling near center frame, talks story to tree-planing volunteers Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Carbon Neutrality Challenge volunteers used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. It took 14 volunteers 40 minutes to plant the 200 koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
The Hawaiian Civic Club of Wahiawa’s Tom Lenchanko, kneeling near center, talks story with tree-planting volunteers Saturday at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones. Volunteers were treated to an up-close and personal tour of the sacred site after planting 200 koa and wiliwili saplings for a Carbon Neutrality Challenge. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Carbon Neutrality Challenge tree-planting volunteer Jackie Dean listens intently to Civic Club of Wahiawa’s Tom Lenchanko talk story about the birthstones Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Civic Club of Wahiawa’s Tom Lenchenko shows tree-planting volunteers how this stone’s petroglyph was used for navigation Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Volunteers were treated to the history and symbolism of the sacred site after planting 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Carbon Neutrality Challenge tree-planting volunteer Jackie Dean listens intently to Civic Club of Wahiawa’s Tom Lenchanko talk story about the birthstones and navigation markers at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Civic Club of Wahiawa’s Tom Lenchanko shows tree-planting volunteers how this stone’s petroglyph was used for navigation Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Carbon Neutrality Challenge volunteers were treated to the history and symbolism of the sacred site after planting 200 native Hawaiian trees. With 14 volunteers, it took 40 minutes to plant all the koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Civic Club of Wahiawa’s Tom Lenchanko shows tree-planting volunteers how this stone’s petroglyph was used for navigation. Carbon Neutrality Challenge volunteers were treated to the history and symbolism of the sacred site. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Tom Lenchanko, right, with the Civic Club of Wahiawa shares the history of the Kukaniloko Birthstones to tree-planting volunteers Saturday, Dec. 2, 2023, at the State Monument Kukaniloko Birthstones in Wahiawa. Carbon Neutrality Challenge co-founder Asryelle Mora Rollo used this tree-planting event to time how long it would take for volunteers to plant 200 native Hawaiian trees. It took 14 volunteers 40 minutes to plant the 200 koa and wiliwili saplings. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)
Tom Lenchanko, right, with the Civic Club of Wahiawa, shares the history of the Kukaniloko Birthstones to tree-planting volunteers Saturday. Lenchanko said that alii born there and those in attendance would glow. (Kevin Fujii/Civil Beat/2023)

Civil Beat’s coverage of climate change is supported by The Healy Foundation, the Environmental Funders Group of the Hawaii Community Foundation, Marisla Fund of the Hawaii Community Foundation and the Frost Family Foundation. 

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