Environmental Justice

We believe in equitable access to trees, fresh air, clean water, safe open spaces, shaded streets, healthy food, and green jobs.

We understand that these efforts must be supported by cross-sector and multidisciplinary partnerships aimed at addressing the economic, environmental and health issues these communities face, so we work on-the-ground with local social justice groups to be true change makers.

To ensure we are meeting the needs of communities across Southern California and being a true supportive partner in the communities, we understand the historical impacts that have led to the need for environmental justice initiatives. As we work alongside communities facing ongoing economic and environmental stresses, we thoughtfully engage in understanding their unique needs and working alongside them to achieve the shared goals of creating safer, healthier, more fun, sustainable and resilient communities across Los Angeles County and the world.

TreePeople’s Bright Spot Communities are the areas across Southern California that are the most affected by extreme heat, pollution, seasonal flooding, and low tree canopy cover; they are also known as environmental justice communities.

Our research shows that extreme heat causes more deaths in the United States than all other weather-related causes combined each year. In Los Angeles, low-income communities and communities of color are more likely to live in neighborhoods with older buildings, low tree cover, more heat-retaining surfaces, and limited access to coping strategies such as air conditioning. As extreme heat increases, the three groups expected to see the largest increase in mortality are older adults, Black Americans, and Latinx.

TreePeople actively engages communities most impacted by extreme heat in planting thousands of trees each year and advocating for solutions that are the most cost effective and proven to save lives by combating extreme heat and pollution, advocating for equitable water and green infrastructure investment, promoting access to local natural spaces and providing environmental education to our youth.

In TreePeople’s Bright Spots, we work alongside the communities, empowering them to create a more resilient, safe, thriving environment for themselves, their families and their communities.

The areas TreePeople defines as Bright Spots include:

  • South Los Angeles
    • Watts
    • Baldwin Hills
  • Southeast Los Angeles
    • Huntington Park
    • Cudahy
    • Lynwood
  • Gateway Cities
    • Commerce
    • Downey
    • Norwalk
    • Santa Fe Springs
    • La Mirada
  • Northeast San Fernando Valley
    • City of San Fernando
    • Pacoima
  • Riverside
  • Upper Santa Clara River

Trees need people and people need trees; without community, those trees will not survive.

Our work focuses on partnering and supporting communities to engage as many people as possible around issues of the environment including water, trees, soil, and waste reduction. We implement robust strategies centered in direct community organizing that involves multiple outreach strategies. Our organizers are from and of the communities they organize in and we pair on the ground community organizing with sophisticated digital organizing strategies.

Our community organizing strategy is rooted in listening first to community members, building trust, and responding to their needs by providing knowledge and skills so that they can navigate different networks, define problems through their lenses, and acquire the appropriate place-based solutions to make their communities more climate resilient and water secure -- empowering them with the confidence and training to organize others and serve as environmental stewards of their community. TreePeople is successful because it puts people at the center of the solution. Because of this, we have always had a unique ability to take complex topics and systems that relate to the environment and distill them into outreach materials, strategies and programming that is relatable, easy to understand, engaging, and fun.

Through our unique public outreach model, we thoughtfully engage in understanding the unique needs of the communities we partner with, and work alongside them to achieve shared goals.

Access to green spaces, trees, and nature has direct impacts on the health of the community. Exposure to poor air quality and extreme heat does more than just pollute the environment and choke our natural lands — it directly affects the people that live there, making them much more susceptible to asthma, cardiovascular disease, and other life-threatening illnesses.

Economically and environmentally stressed areas (predominantly lower-income communities of color) often have higher rates of physical and mental health issues and an increased likelihood of exposure to trauma. These issues are exacerbated by the lower amount of trees and green spaces, which increases anxiety, depression, and other mental health conditions.

Having trees in urban areas has been found to improve overall health, with trees boosting immune system functioning, improving cardiovascular health, reducing blood pressure, and improving inflammation. On mental health, trees have the ability to improve mood, decrease rates of anxiety, depression and stress; and improve overall attention capacity.

TreePeople is doing the research, creating the partnerships, and implementing the programming to integrate nature and the outdoors more intentionally into health systems with the purpose to create equitable access to the outdoors, nature, and greenspaces to benefit low-income environmentally stressed communities’ overall mental and physical health and wellbeing.

For more information on our Health Initiatives, please contact Carissa Donahoo at cdonahoo@treepeople.org