Planting a tree is something each and every one of us should do at some point. It is a seed for our future.

To find out more, we decide to meet Torin Dunnavant, TreePeople’s Senior Manager of Community Engagement. His ideal city of the future is a sustainable utopia that aims to heal rather than harm. A place that draws inspiration from the designs of nature. And, most importantly, it is a place that encourages people to take action to transform their own neighborhoods into positive places. Something he tries to support himself – with TreePeople.

Colfax Meadows Tree Care, December 15, 2013, Photo: Maria McGinley/ TreePeople
Colfax Meadows Tree Care, December 15, 2013, Photo: Maria McGinley/ TreePeople

“Trees play a major role in making our cities healthier places to live. They clean our air, give us oxygen, provide many psychological benefits, and – in arid cities like LA – they play an important role in harvesting rainwater.“ Right now, TreePeople is trying to involve as many people as possible in reintroducing nature to our cities. His goal is to inspire people to take action – and to support them when they are ready.

Fruit Tree Festival, 1/18/14, Photo: Maria McGinley/ TreePeople
Fruit Tree Festival, 1/18/14, Photo: Maria McGinley/ TreePeople

Starting out from humble beginnings, the organization has its roots in the 1950s when scientists reported significant numbers of dying trees in the mountain woodlands around Los Angeles – and smog from the swiftly growing city was identified as the main culprit. In 1970, then 15-year-old Andy Lipkis decided to offset some of the smog damage in the San Bernardino Mountains, soon followed by a second planting project in LA with an impressive 20,000 sugar-pine seedlings. He inspired children to donate 50 cents per tree and plant them during summer camps. Evolving from this California Conservation Project, Andy Lipkis founded TreePeople in 1973.

Mayall School Planting 2009, photo: Juan Villegas
Mayall School Planting 2009, photo: Juan Villegas

Four decades on, the project’s journey toward environmental sustainability continues with million-dollar donations from big companies, support from celebrities like Leonardo DiCaprio, and thousands of volunteers.

Coming up is a fruit tree program to feed people in need. With its impressive foresight and scope, TreePeople is far more than a pleasant Sunday afternoon hike – it offers a convincing model for modern cities eager to escape the smog and smoke.

TreePeople Eco-tour Mountain Fountain, photo: Laurie Kaufman
TreePeople Eco-tour Mountain Fountain, photo: Laurie Kaufman

Don’t forget to check out the organization’s facebook page and twitter stream.

Text: Katharina Kowalewski
Header image: Lycée International de Los Angeles, photo: Maria McGinley/ TreePeople