TreePeople in 2014: Drought Action, Integrated Agency Collaborations and Expanding our Reach to Angelenos

TreePeople’s 40-year legacy of using nature to heal our cities reached a pinnacle this year. In response to the historic drought, we grew our work in LA’s neighborhoods, schools and homes, made headway in our mountain restoration projects, and expanded our policy work to share solutions with agencies for a more drought-secure, climate-resilient LA.

We reached new heights despite climate challenges and limited resources. All this said, we wouldn’t be able to accomplish our goals without the devoted support of our volunteers, partners, educators and donors.

Here’s a snapshot of our key work in 2014:

We protected drought-stricken trees in our cities and local forests. Despite severe conditions from the third year of drought, we still cared for over 7,500 trees with the help of over 4,700 dedicated volunteers and hard-working staff.

We educated almost 10,000 elementary, middle and high school youth at our park in our Eco-tours program to deepen their understanding and appreciation for our local ecosystems. Many of the youth who participated are from low-income backgrounds and may never have had experienced nature prior to visiting our park. We issued scholarships for 2,000 of these students to learn about the environment and give them perspective from the densely populated, low-canopy neighborhoods they live in.

We launched TreeMapLA to measure LA’s canopy coverage. The app is designed to measure the eco-benefits of the trees mapped around the city and has already had the support of Culver City and Silverlake Neighborhood Councils that have lead independent mapping events. In all, there are already over 20,000 trees mapped touting a total of $654,537 annual benefits!

Silverlake Neighborhood Council tree mapping
Silverlake Neighborhood Council tree mapping event.

We expanded our emergency drought response strategy with the help of Betty White. Betty graciously matched every penny from our generous donors to bring the drought response fundraising campaign’s total to $203,573—surpassing our goal!

With her help, we were able to implement tools like the irricades; road barricades filled with water that we installed along our park trails to help neighboring, stressed trees to give them relief from the dry conditions in the face of the drought. We also partnered with the Los Angeles Department of Recreation and Parks to install irricades in nearby Griffith Park.

We had over 700 volunteers help us maintain our park to combat the drought. Though we sadly lost some older trees to the extreme conditions, we were still able hold nearly 50 different Park Work Days to care for the park as well as we could. Volunteers used 40 tons of mulch for our trails, watered trees, weeded, raked leaves, swept stairways and much, much more to keep our park beautiful.

We wouldn’t be able to operate without the help of our amazing volunteers, as we receive no public funding.

We collected over 120,000 gallons of water in our cistern. Over the course of the year and with the help of recent storms, we were able to collect enough water to give 8,000 trees a nice 15-gallon drink! Though this is great news for our park’s trees, keep in mind that we’re not out of the woods. California still needs about 11 trillion gallons of water, or 1.5 times the maximum volume of the largest U.S. reservoir to recover from the drought, according to a new analysis of NASA satellite data.

We supported Mayor Eric Garcetti’s Emergency Drought Executive Directive. Our policy team worked hard to support decisions in the Mayor’s office to decrease potable water usage by 20% come 2017. It’s our integrated, agency-wide collaborative approach with the leadership of people like the Mayor that’s helped move the needle to decrease LA’s reliance on imported water.

We led an expert delegation of top agency representatives to Australia to learn about effective, proven green infrastructure and technologies to capture rainwater, save trees and create green space. As a result of Australia’s response to their 12-year drought, residents decreased their water consumption to 33 gallons a day in most of the country—an example we’re taking all the way to the top at the policy level to help change the water game for LA.

TreePeople's Director of Policy, LA Councilmember Felipe Fuentes and TreePeople CEO, Andy Vought at a presentation on the delegation's findings from Australia
TreePeople’s Director of Policy, Deborah Weinstein Bloome, LA Councilmember Felipe Fuentes and TreePeople CEO Andy Vought at a presentation on the delegation’s findings from Australia

We brought back the Generation Earth program with the support of the County of Los Angeles Dept. of Public Works to provide hands-on recycling, stormwater and school greening education for middle and high school educators and students.

We made headlines with The Wall Street Journal, KPCC, New York Times, CBS2 News, KCRW, The Los Angeles Times and more. Our efforts gained national press attention for our work supporting LA’s urban forests and drought solutions. LA is changing the public paradigm on how we respond to drought, and we’re proud to be at the forefront of this important dialogue to inspire and guide our city to a more water-secure future.

We worked with 50 different schools to complete environmental service learning and greening projects to support environmentally-focused education and sustainability projects. We also worked closely with dozens of student-led Eco Clubs despite our limited staff.

We created a new Environmental Education department with a holistic focus to deepen our ecological and educational impacts on school campuses. The department also formed strategic partnerships with Roots & Shoots, Heal the Bay and Alliance for Climate Education in a collaboration to expand our audiences to dramatically increase the number of teachers participating in our programs.

 We increased CREEC, LA’s network by 20% and were invited to participate as thought leaders at the State level. In partnership with CREEC-LA, we were recognized by the California Department of Education and were appointed to the State’s Environmental Literary Task Force. The Department of Education also worked closely with our own Director of Education, Candice Russell to create guidelines for them to collaborate with organizations like TreePeople.

We educated over 400 people on home sustainability and distributed over 600 rain barrels. Our Sustainable Solutions Department provided free turf reduction, native plant and rainwater harvesting classes to the public to help green the city and empower people with the tools they need to get drought smart and live sustainably.

And there’s more to come in 2015! With the support of outgoing LA County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky, we’re offering more free workshops to green our city.

TreePeople Director of Sustainable Solutions, Lisa Cahill leading a rainwater harvesting class at LA Councilman Felipe Fuentes' off ice Pacoima
Director of Sustainable Solutions, Lisa Cahill leading a rainwater harvesting class at LA Councilmember Felipe Fuentes’ office

We send immense gratitude to anyone who volunteered in the mountains and city, attended a workshop, shared our content online, donated or visited our park that we hold so dearly.

Please consider making a year-end gift to help us continue our essential work in 2015.



By Jessica Jewell

Jessica is TreePeople’s Director of Marketing and Communications. A native Southern Californian, you can find her wandering local trails, hanging out with her sidekick, Penny the Rescue Puppy, on her yoga mat, reading some Phillip K. Dick, or in her kitchen cooking up vegan confections.

Jessica's professional background goes back to her time working at PETA where she worked on celebrity campaigns, and a stint in the entertainment industry, where she worked at Technicolor on their Global Marketing Team.