Based in Los Angeles, Tree People is an environmental non-profit working to green up our urban landscapes. In addition to planting trees throughout L.A. they also run educational programs for school kids to foster better eco-understanding, offer sustainable solutions for urban ecosystem problems, work with government agencies on critical water issues, and run a beautiful park in the hills. Tree People has coined a phrase I’m fond of: Functional Community Forest, intending that every neighborhood in the city create an environment and green spaces that function like a healthy forest, using local residents and businesspeople to spearhead the transformation. Citizen foresters will revitalize areas with plantings, mulch, water catchments, gardens and green trenches, permeable paving so oh-so-rare rainwater can soak in instead of coursing over streets and walkways, and drought-tolerant planting. It’s a pretty lofty ideal, and I’m completely buying in on the concept!

Tree People runs with the help of legions of volunteers: dive in and get your hands pleasantly grubby as you help plant trees, care for existing plantings, help in the headquarters, inspire the community and schools, photograph and document projects, or distribute fruit trees around town. When developers first started pumping water into this California desert to make a city, they may not have imagined it could ever grow beyond an arid state…but it certainly has (notice this city's iconic  purple Jacaranda blossoms–one of my very favorite LA details), and greening it up more and more only makes it better…and more hospitable.

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About The Author

Andrew Mersmann's picture

Andrew is the author of Frommer's global guide to volunteer vacations, "500 Places Where You Can Make a Difference" (Gold Medal Winner from Society of American Travel Writers: Best Guide Book 2010). He spent more than a decade on the editorial team of PASSPORT Magazine. He has volunteered and led teams on service projects around the world, and is honored to be on the boards of directors for the Alisa Ann Ruch Burn Foundation ( and Mentor Artists Playwrights Project ( Mersmann has been a featured speaker, interview guest, or moderator on several travel talks, from the New York Times Travel Show, Smithsonian Associates, and the 92nd Street Y-TriBeCa to Oprah and Friends, Animal House, and The Focus Group on satellite radio as well as on NY1 television. Past participant at the Clinton Global Initiative and judge for Condé Nast World Changers Conference, he blogs about volunteering and service travel at As part of the evox television team, he is dedicated to audience engagement, so if you're not engaged, he needs to be thumped on the head (gently)...or at least told (nicely). Twitter: /ChangeByDoing

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