All articles by lcahill
Roll Out Your Rain Barrel to Protect the Ocean!
Summertime is in full effect, which means we’ll all be flocking to the beach here in LA!
While you’re soaking up the sun, you might notice that our oceans are looking extra clear. Studies have shown that our beaches are cleaner during this time of year because of an unintended consequence of the drought– reduced stormwater runoff– keeping pollution, toxins and trash out of our waterways.
Of course, there are other ways to reduce runoff that benefit our city and help fight drought.… Read more >>
The Artifice of Artificial Turf
You may have been hearing a lot of praise for fake grass in the media lately, but I’m here to set the record straight: Fake turf does more harm than good.
I’m not sure when I started hating artificial grass. Maybe it was when my beloved grandmother planted fake flowers in her garden beds so the Easter photos would “turn out nice.” For the record, I tried to pick them, and everyone laughed at us.
But I think it has to do more with the sheer fact that fake grass, or it’s trendier name—frass—has no place in a sustainable landscape.… Read more >>
If I Had a (Sledge) Hammer
Breaking up the pavement around your home and in your community is pretty easy, but aside from having a good excuse to use a sledgehammer, why would you want to? The simple answer is that the more permeability we are able to create in our yards and urban environment, the healthier the watershed.
When water falls onto hardscape surfaces, it runs off into gutters, to storm drains, taking everything in its path directly to the ocean. The single highest source of water pollution is this urban run-off.… Read more >>
We Can Do It!
A recent story on NPR noted an environmental change for the better: the ozone layer is on the mend. Which, if you are worried about skin cancer, climate change and the like, is great news – and history in the making!
So how did this happen? First, people heard a hard truth: that chlorofluorocarbons – organic compounds once used in everything from refrigerators to fire extinguishers – were thinning out the ozone layer above Antarctica. Then, they took steps to change personal habits and shift policies.… Read more >>
Water For Us All!
“We have enough water to live on, but not enough to waste.” — Dorothy Green, founding president of Heal the Bay.
Dorothy Green wrote these words in an article that was published in the LA Times in 2008, shortly before her death. In it, she outlines an incredibly thoughtful set of recommendations that would create a sustainable water supply.
So it’s disheartening to see people acting in such a way that suggests we aren’t currently in the midst of the driest year in recorded history.… Read more >>
How to Kill Your Lawn
Now that we’re in the depths of the drought, LADWP is offering $3 per square foot for turf replacement. Since some 50% of our water goes to landscaping, ripping out your lawn is one of the best ways you can conserve water.
How do you go about killing your lawn? Well, the easiest and best way to reduce your turf is sheet mulching. With sheet mulching, your yard can go from a water-thirsty, outdated green shag carpet to a sustainable garden with about as much effort as it takes to mow the lawn.… Read more >>
Community Sustainability Workshop helps Angelenos respond to the drought
The drought is here and with a heat wave to boot, Angelenos are starting to feel the effects of climate change. To help community members learn what they can do to create a more sustainable LA and help slow climate change, TreePeople held a Community Sustainability Workshop at our headquarters on May 3rd. Roughly 100 people attended, ready to learn how to harvest rain, rip up their lawns, create native plant landscapes, and plant trees in their communities.
At the event, people were thrilled to learn that they can make an impact.… Read more >>
Hope For Sale! (And It’s Absolutely FREE)
This past Saturday we hosted another of our Community Sustainability Workshops and got a standing-room-only crowd – maybe it’s the drought? Maybe it’s just that there are a lot of cool, in-the-know people?
Or maybe it’s actually because we sell hope. (Okay, we don’t sell it. We give it away for free!)
Yes, it’s the driest winter in recorded history and that fact alone can be a little depressing, paralyzing even. But that’s just one fact among many.
Here are a few other things we also know:
- It will rain again.
Enough For Us All! (But We Have To Do Our Part)
“We have enough water to live on, but not enough to waste.” — Dorothy Green, founding president of Heal the Bay.
Dorothy Green wrote these words in an article that was published in the Los Angeles Times in 2008, shortly before her death. She went on to outline a thoughtful set of recommendations to create a sustainable water supply for Southern California.
So it is disheartening to see a Times article appear six years later that practically suggests that, despite this being the driest year in recorded history, everything’s fine.… Read more >>
Start the New Year by Chipping Your Tree
With the New Year comes lots of good intentions. Why not start with how you dispose of your holiday tree? If you’ve been thinking about trying to live a more sustainable lifestyle, you can look no further than your living room and that post-Christmas—or whatever holiday you celebrated—tree.
Rather than haul it out for the garbage collector, the best thing to do with your holiday tree is to mulch it. Chipping up your tree is a great way to create healthy, organic matter that is ideal to put on top of the soil—similar to what happens to dead trees in a natural forest.… Read more >>
Saving Money & Saving Water—It Just Makes Sense!
Did you notice the recent rain we had? If you were at our rainwater harvesting workshop, not only did you get a chance to see our watershed garden in action, but you were able to take a rain barrel home for only $10!
That’s right. Thanks to a great incentive through SoCal Water Smart, most Los Angeles county residents are eligible to receive a rebate of up to $75 per barrel. So workshop participants learned how to make every drop of rain count, and then were able to go home with barrels all for less than the cost of a dinner out.… Read more >>
Why 57 Million Monarchs Matter
In case you missed it in The New York Times, “This year, for the first time in memory, the monarch butterflies didn’t come, at least not on the Day of the Dead. They began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.”
WOW!… Read more >>
Transform the Landscape of your Home and Neighborhood—Free Workshops December 7
Have you ever wondered how to move away from a thirsty planted landscape to a more climate appropriate one? How you could get more trees, greenery and shade in your neighborhood without needing a huge amount of additional water? How you could do your part to prevent water pollution and save water by collecting rain?
Well, wonder no more. TreePeople is offering its next round of FREE, quarterly Community Sustainability Workshops for people ready to take on the role of making their homes, neighborhoods and communities more sustainable.… Read more >>
California on Track for Driest Year in Recorded History
Yes, it just rained in L.A. And since this is the season of gratitude, we should all give thanks for that ½” of rainfall, because in this dry year—the driest in 164 years—we need to make every drop count.
It’s hard to remember that technically we are in a severe drought. After all, we can get lots of water simply by turning on the tap. It seems plentiful and cheap—it’s so readily available in our sinks and coming from our sprinklers, that we often don’t see how much we are wasting and really understand how much that matters.… Read more >>
Show Your Pride and Come Out for National Public Lands Day
“It is not what we have that will make us a great nation; it is the way in which we use it.”
This Saturday is the 20th Anniversary of National Public Lands Day! This is the nation’s largest, single-day volunteer effort for public lands.
So what are your Saturday plans? How about saving a park, or some little piece of wilderness? Sound too daunting? Don’t let it scare you. Just speak softly and carry a big shovel.
More than 1,900 sites have registered to celebrate public lands on September 28, one of which is with TreePeople’s very own Wildland Restoration Manager Cody Chappel.… Read more >>
Get Ready to Collect Some Rain (And Some Money!)
Whatever you’re doing on Saturday, October 5, cancel it, call-in sick, quickly clone yourself, something. Just do whatever you need to do to get to TreePeople’s FREE Community Sustainability Workshop. Why the rush? Well, believe it or not, soon it will rain in Los Angeles, and now is the time to get ready.
Native plant nurseries are gearing up for their fall sales, and fall is the best time to do a bit of landscaping here in Southern California. Too, Metropolitan Water District recently okay’d an incentive plan for rain barrels and rain gardens. … Read more >>
The Real Eco Choice for Southwest Landscapes
Is the summer heat leaving you feeling a bit parched? Perhaps your landscaping is thirsty, too? If so, you’re not alone. People all over the southwestern United States are realizing that our traditional green lawn landscapes are more difficult and expensive to keep watered in hot, dry years like this one. So much so that cities are actually paying residents to rip-up their grass and replace it with climate-appropriate plants.
No matter where you stand on the aesthetics of the issue, the fact is that losing the lawn allows cities to reduce water consumption—amazingly, by up to a third—even while the population grows.… Read more >>
Abuzz About the Power of Parkways!
Up until recently, many Angelinos didn’t even know what a parkway was. Often called a planting strip, median, nature space or tree lawn—people were confused about what to call it, much less what to do with this section of our cityscape.
Now all that’s changed. One little LA Times column by Steve Lopez, lots of work from Los Angeles City Councilmember Herb Wesson, the dedication of groups like LA Green Grounds, the Urban Ag Working Group, Farmscape, the LA Garden Council, Root Down LA, Los Angeles Community Action Network, Hunger Action Los Angeles, the Wynbrandt Farm, Community Health Councils, St.… Read more >>
The Real Truth About Fake Grass
True or false? Artificial turf or “fake grass” is a great alternative to traditional lawns for water-scarce Los Angeles.
It needs no water, requires basically no maintenance, and is often billed as an eco-friendly choice because it is made from things like recycled tires. Seems like a no-brainer, but fake grass is not a good choice if your goal is a sustainable landscape. Here’s why.
Like many fake things, its beauty is only skin deep. The goal of an eco-friendly choice is a thriving eco-system.… Read more >>
Trade One Kind of Green for Another: Even More Cash for Your (Landscape) Grass
Want to get away? Think that Hawaiian vacay is out of your price range? Well, if you still have a lush green lawn on your property, maybe not. The price for grass has doubled! Quick, cash in now and make up to $4,000 (depending on the size of your lawn).
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power’s turf removal rebate, or “cash for grass” program is back and better than ever. The price per square foot has increased from $1 to $2.… Read more >>
Not Your Momma’s Fire Season
Fire season is a part of LA, right? Like earthquakes and off-the-rails movie stars, if we’ve survived them once we can do it again, right? Wrong.
The problem is that with the climate changing, things are getting more intense. This is not your momma’s fire season.
Southern California is in its seventh driest year on record. This year’s January-through-March time period was the driest for LA, EVER. Those three months of rain are crucial for us. With almost no rainfall at the beginning of the year, the moisture content of plants in our local hills and mountains is already very low. … Read more >>
Let It Snow, Let It Snow, Let It Snow!
After the President’s speech on climate change this morning, and looking ahead to a hot weekend, we find our thoughts turning to snow. Specifically, Los Angeles’s precious local mountain snowpack. Why is this snowpack important (outside of skiing considerations), you might ask? In a lot of ways, it is a measure of the impact of climate change on our region.
Snowfall is one of the ways LA gets its water. Less snowfall equals less local water. Consequently, more energy has to be used to import water from neighboring regions and other states (where ecosystems are also predicted to become much drier).… Read more >>
It’s Raining! It’s Pouring!
On average, Los Angeles gets only a quarter of an inch of rainfall in May. And yet… This year—a very dry one at that—we got a full inch of rain with the last storm. That bit of rainfall not only helped squelch the wildfires (which had an earlier than usual start this year), but it took this season from being the 4th driest to the 7th driest winter on record.
And while that may still seem pretty dire, here’s some hope: That rain was harvested at TreePeople’s headquarters, and is now stored in our cistern to use as supplemental landscape irrigation this summer.… Read more >>
No, Sticky Monkeyflower Is Not a Trendy Tropical Drink
As much as you might want to order a Sticky Monkeyflower from your favorite mixologist, you won’t have luck. To get something with this fun of a name, you’ll have to head to your favorite California native plant nursery (try Theodore Payne Foundation or Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden’s Grow Native Nursery).
Monkeys may not be native to California, but Sticky Monkeyflower, or Bush Monkeyflower (Mimulus aurantiacus and cultivars), is. This evergreen shrub grows to be 2–3’ tall and 2–3’ wide.… Read more >>
Downtown L.A. Goes from Gray to Green
What’s better than a tree planting to beautify downtown L.A.? Many tree plantings to beautify downtown L.A.!
TreePeople Citizen Forester Gabrielle Newmark rallied her downtown Los Angeles Arts District community to plant 27 trees—including well-adapted Australian willows and pink trumpet trees—on April 27. Enthusiastic volunteers named each tree so that now Hector, Blossom, Roscoe, Ilean, Bob Barker, and the rest are happily installed and on their way to shading the city streets.
Gabrielle knew she was following the lead of some pioneering greening efforts that had begun making a difference in this gray and gritty part of town.… Read more >>
Free Workshops on Landscape Transformation, this Saturday, May 4
Got plans for Saturday morning? If not, then come up to TreePeople and attend one of our free quarterly workshops on how to transform your home and neighborhood landscapes. You’ll learn everything you ever wanted to know about rain water harvesting, replacing a lawn with native plants, or planting trees—but were afraid to ask. Learn how you can make big sustainable changes at your home, and in our city, with simple DIY projects.
Citizen Forestry: Why Trees Don’t Make Sustainable Communities, People Do
On April 27, several bleak and over-paved blocks of downtown L.A.’s Arts District will be transformed by a community planting of 27 trees. Birds will sing, leaves will flutter, and hearts will lift: all because one person had a dream and got enough people excited about that dream to make it a reality.
That’s how Citizen Forestry works.
Gabrielle Newmark, an Arts District resident, was the winner of last year’s TreePeople-GOOD Maker Green City Challenge. She happens to be one of the 1,146 Citizen Foresters TreePeople has trained over the past 30 years, as is her mother, Sheila Newmark, who transformed a nearly treeless elementary school playground in her day.… Read more >>
Take an Earth Day Walk in the Park
At TreePeople we like to think of every day as Earth Day. But that doesn’t mean we don’t love to celebrate April 22 as a great time to do something wonderful for the earth.
Still, maybe planting 100 trees or installing a rain garden at your local school is more than you can work into your schedule by this Monday. If that’s the case, we have the perfect solution—simply go outside!
Increasingly, studies show that although we are more disconnected from nature—to the point where it can be considered a disorder—even if we just take a short stroll in the park, the effects are amazing .… Read more >>
Three Big Days, One Simple Act
While April 22 is just around the corner and Earth Day is a wonderful time to reflect and celebrate this incredible planet, this month there are two other days that highlight hugely important environmental issues. March 21 is International Day of Forests and March 22 is World Water Day.
How to celebrate? After all, these days commemorate such enormous global issues. If I had to choose one action, it would be this: plant a tree.
With the simple act of planting a tree, each of us can help maintain the urban forest and shift the water crisis, all with one easy but profound step.… Read more >>
What Kind of Tree Is That?
Ever notice the trees in your neighborhood?
Maybe they are spectacular specimens with giant canopies that shade the streets and make you want to be a kid again and climb to the top. Or maybe they are small, under-cared for, half-dying trees, and it’s not even clear what kind they are.
More than likely, it is a mix. And that’s where two of TreePeople’s programs can really help out. Our tree care program is extensive. At TreePeople, when we plant a tree, we stay with it for a full 5 years to care for and maintain it until it is established.… Read more >>
Western Redbud: “A tree with year-round interest!”
Why is the Western redbud (Cercis occidentalis) the best tree ever? Maybe it’s because at this time of year, redbuds are the focal point of any garden lucky enough to have them. This native Californian is a small tree (15–20’ x 15–20’) and does well in most any kind of soil, as long as it is well-drained.
In the late winter and early spring, when most everything else is still dormant and waiting to bud, the red bud has spectacular magenta flowers that are delicate and yet very resilient to cold, wet days.… Read more >>
A Valentines Day tour of your local sewage treatment plant?
Seeking inspiration on how to spend Valentine’s Day? Check out this idea: Brooklyn Sewage Treatment Plant to Hold Valentines Day Tours Again.
What makes this such a sell-out event on the other coast? NPR reported that perhaps it is the pheromones that makes this unusual tour part of the hipsters’ bucket list, but maybe it’s more.
Maybe people are really wanting to connect with each other about things that matter…like the quality of our water. Maybe Super Storm Sandy is making folks want to get a bit more eco-literate and brush up on the water cycle info they got back in 6th grade science class. … Read more >>
When Trees Thrive, People Thrive
We at TreePeople certainly believe that what we are doing is a matter of life and death. But sometimes we’re confronted with more sobering proof than we expected. That’s what happened when I read this article by Lindsay Abrams that recently appeared in The Atlantic, “When Trees Die, People Die.”
I expected that this article would be just another “trees-make-us-feel-better” story. “Aren’t they pretty? Let’s go plant some.” I wasn’t prepared for this (italics mine):
When the U.S. Forest Service looked at mortality rates in counties affected by the emerald ash borer, they found increased mortality rates.… Read more >>
Sheet Mulching 101 (part 2 of 2)
Want to see how an average home in Los Angeles can save almost 100,000 gallons of water per year? Here is TreePeople member and volunteer Valerie Fontaine, converting her yard to a sustainable site. With a simple DIY project, Valerie transformed her garden in a weekend.
Following Part 1 of our tutorial, here are your sheet-mulching FAQs:
Is it really as simple as it sounds? Just put down cardboard or newspaper, dump mulch, keep moist, and wait? Is that it?
Yes.… Read more >>
Sheet Mulching 101 (part 1 of 2)
What is sheet mulching? Just the quickest, easiest way to go from a thirsty, outdated green shag carpet of a landscape to a sustainable garden in about the time it takes to mow the lawn.
Follow these easy steps and you can do what fabulous TreePeople member and volunteer Valerie Fontaine recently did at her house. Once you go green, you’ll never go back.
- Cover the lawn with 1 layer of cardboard or 6 layers of newspaper. Be sure to overlap by at least 6 inches to prevent the grass from growing through.
Two Native Plants for Your Southern California Garden
Now is a perfect time to grow your garden green. While other parts of the world are snow-covered and frigid, Southern California’s mild, wet winters make this season ideal for planting climate-friendly natives that provide habitat for our native fauna. Here are two beautiful California evergreen shrubs to check out and add to your weekend plans.
Twin Peaks 2 Coyote Brush (Baccharis pilularis; native evergreen shrub; 3’ tall by 8’ wide; full sun)
This shrub makes a great undulating groundcover.… Read more >>
Building resilient communities one tree–and many neighbors–at a time
Want to know how to survive the next natural disaster? Think community and good neighbors, not concrete barricades and security guards, as Eric Klinenberg recently recommended. Klinenberg says in an NPR interview, “In light of the risk we face with climate change, I sincerely hope that we invest in the social infrastructure. Because when a real disaster strikes, it’s the social stuff that might make the difference between life and death.” At TreePeople we’ve been building resilient communities one tree at a time for more than 40 years through programs designed specifically to connect people with each other through environmental stewardship.… Read more >>
How Did Hollywood Get Its Name?
Legend has it that early residents of SoCal were so inspired by a lovely holly-like bush that they were inspired to call their new digs Hollywood. The shrub that captured their imagination was the toyon, which is amazing to see this time of year.
In fact, the name Hollywood was coined by H. J. Whitley, the “Father of Hollywood.” Whitely bought 500 acres from E. C. Hurd; Hurd’s wife’s friend (stay with me here), Daeida Wilcox, co-opted the name “Hollywood” from her neighbor, Ivar Weid, who lived in what was then called Holly Canyon.… Read more >>
After Christmas, What to Do with Your Tree?
Did you opt for a real Christmas tree this year? A lot of us grapple with the choice between real and fake, weighing the proverbial environmental impact of one vs. the other. One dilemma people face with a real tree is, what do I do with it after the holidays?
Mulch it! While your tree was alive, it benefited the planet, and it can continue to contribute to a healthy ecosystem. Chipping up your tree is a great way to create vital organic matter that is ideal to put on top of the soil–similar to a natural forest.… Read more >>
Vote for a documentary to make you fall in love with nature
Our founder Andy Lipkis is an expert in the extraordinary film Love Thy Nature and we’d like you to join TreePeople in helping the Director Sylvie Rokab take it to completion. She launched a Kickstarter campaign (to raise finishing funds) where you’ll see a short video and info about the film. Watch trailer here Not only would you be making a difference, but also you would receive great rewards from DVDs to VIP seating at the film premiere, to outreach programs for at-risk youth in your community of choice.… Read more >>
Would you eat your landscape?
As we near the Thanksgiving holidays, maybe you’re thinking about fall harvests. But if the land around your house is covered in lawn, consider this: traditional turf uses the same amount of water as vegetable gardens. If you’re going to grow something that uses that much water, maybe you should be able to recoup some of that investment in a practical way, by eating it.
Since no one wants to sit down to plate of Bermuda and St. Augustine, how about putting in some plants that yield some fruit and vegetables? … Read more >>
LEARN HOW TO MAKE EVERY DROP COUNT
Did you know unfiltered storm water runoff is the number one pollutant in our coastal waters? And in one inch of rainfall, that parched Los Angeles throws away 7.6 BILLION gallons of water into the storm drains? On Saturday, November 17 at 4 PM join me at the DIY stage at the Green Festival where I’ll be teaching how to harvest that precious rainwater with simple at-home projects, like installing a rain barrel, that will make your landscape more sustainable.… Read more >>
Take A Water Quality Quiz
October 18th was the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act. Did you miss it? Not me, I was celebrating with a couple of salt water taffies and my little kiddos.
Since our family lives near the ocean, I am thankful every time we go to the beach and don’t come back with some really horrible infection or a vomit –inducing illness. ICK! So thank you Clean Water Act. But lest we take it for granted, how about a little water quality quiz?… Read more >>
“Cash for Grass” is back in L.A. – Rip up your grass and get some green
In L.A., over half of our drinking water goes to water our lawns. Shifting to more climate appropriate plants can save up to 85% of outdoor water use. Now the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) Residential Turf Removal program will pay you $1.50 for every square foot of turf you remove. Plan your landscape transformation carefully, and the rebate could completely off-set your costs to replant with California-friendly flowers, grasses, shrubs and trees!… Read more >>