students planting trees
Windward CC students work with Steve Mechler, Outdoor Circle, to plant two new banyans.

Despite efforts to save majestic banyans invaded by “vampire bugs” (that suck the life out of Chinese banyans) and stem gall wasps on Windward Community College’s great lawn, 12 of the more than 30 banyans needed to be removed over the past several years, changing the campus landscape. Thanks to a grant from The Arbor Day Foundation, new trees are taking their place.

The Outdoor Circle and Windward CC worked together to secure a $30,000 grant from Enterprise Rent-A-Car through the Arbor Day Foundation to plant 31 new trees: two different species of banyans, and a variety of native and Polynesian trees including koaiʻe, ʻōhiʻa, lonomea, lama, alaheʻe, sandalwood, wiliwili, loulu, kamani, kukui and manele.

students planting trees
Three new ʻōhiʻa trees (1 yellow, 2 red) were planted at Hale Kuhina building.
volunteers planting trees
Myles Ritchie, Outdoor Circle and Kelli Brandvold, interim vice chancellor setting the new ʻōhiʻa.

More than 80 volunteers from the University of Hawaiʻi, Enterprise Rent-a-Car, Windward CC and the Outdoor Circle spent a misty Saturday morning in December planting the new trees.

“These native plants have ecological benefits, like providing food and habitat for other native species. The trees use carbon dioxide to grow, making them the best solution to fighting global warming,” said Christian Palmer, sustainability committee chair and assistant professor of anthropology, adding, “Many native trees are rare or endangered and planting them can teach the community to recognize and learn about native forest ecosystems, as well as traditional Hawaiian ethnobotanical uses for these plants such as food, medicinal, dyes, cordage, carving and construction.”

Hawaiian cultural and religious practices were also closely connected to the natural environment. Botany Professor Teena Michaels teaches that “each tree could be seen as being a kinolau, which is the embodiment of a Hawaiian god or goddess.” Ecological knowledge of Hawaiian plants and places is deeply connected to traditional cultural and spiritual knowledge.

In addition, trees provide shade which can lower the cost of cooling buildings and offset the heat effect caused by urbanization. Trees also provide outdoor spaces for students to study, paint or hang out. They are an essential component of creating a healthy, positive and vibrant sense of place on campus.

One student said, “This is the most beautiful campus on Oʻahu, and the peace and calm it brings is priceless.”

New sustainability certificate

In addition to new trees, Windward CC is offering a new academic certificate in sustainability that provides students with an interdisciplinary introduction to core concepts of sustainability.

This certificate also prepares students for other UH degree programs such as the UH West Oʻahu bachelor of applied science (BAS) in sustainable community food systems, UH Maui College BAS in sustainability science management, UH Mānoa Interdisciplinary Studies BA in sustainability or Hawaiian studies BA—Mālama ʻĀina track.

More importantly, it will help students understand the interdisciplinary nature and relevance of sustainability in whatever major and career they choose.

—By Bonnie Beatson

volunteers planting native trees
Volunteers plant 31 native trees and two banyans.