In 1981, TreePeople set a lofty goal to plant 1 million trees in Los Angeles by the start of the 1984 Olympics. This would be a towering feat for any organization, but TreePeople gathered all of its muscle to get it done.
Many trees were distributed through local schools and field trips to TreePeople’s Coldwater Canyon Park. Our staff and volunteers gave out tens of thousands of Canary Island pines at school presentations in the early 80’s. Here, students and families took a pledge to care for the tiny saplings and give them a new home in yards and gardens throughout Los Angeles.
Tiffany Paige was one of those students. In 1983, Tiffany and her Carthay Center Elementary School class went on a field trip to Coldwater Canyon Park.
“We did a tour of the park and learned about the environment. They gave us a tree in a milk carton and I brought it home. My mom was always in the garden. We’d play in the soil, play with the earthworms,” Tiffany said.
By the end of the day, Tiffany and her mother planted their tree in the backyard of their Pico-Robertson area apartment.
“We never would have thought it would have got so big!” Neenah Paige said, Tiffany’s mother.
The tree they planted 35 years ago is now the tallest thing on their street. It towers over their two-story mid-century apartment building and even dwarfs the newer four-story apartment complex at the end of the block.
“I’ve given it so much love. It’s my baby. I water it. I feed it with fertilizer. It’s been a joy to watch it grow!” Neenah said.
The lessons Tiffany learned while caring for her tree have stayed with her to this day. She now sits on the board of Community Healing Gardens, a non-profit focused on creating positive change in local neighborhoods through planting and caring for urban gardens, and also runs her own sustainably focused platform, Green With Tiffany.
“Trees, like the one I planted in my mom’s backyard, represent everything in our sustainable world. They give us life, they clean our air, they provide us shade– from their roots to their leaves they are the building block of our natural world,” said Tiffany.
Tiffany’s experience is a reminder of what we all can learn from the simple act of planting a tree. What we discover about our responsibility for the world around us takes hold in our consciousness just like roots adventuring out into the soil. Not only does that tiny sapling grow into a mighty tree, but we also grow as people with it, branches and arms outstretched together to make a better world.