I have always loved trees and known the importance of their presence. Like me, you probably know that trees are great producers of oxygen, make wonderful climbing gyms, often have delicious fruit ripe for the picking, and beautify our cities and roadways. Thanks to TreePeople, I have learned even more. Did you know that planting trees around the city can actually reduce the temperature by 10 degrees? That makes a big difference when temperatures are soaring over 90 degrees! How about that trees increase property value and give business areas a better image?
Trees are more than just practical and pretty, they are an important part of our ecosystem. They provide us with food, shade, water collection, a home to wildlife, and comfort. Planting a tree is one simple act that everyone can do to create a healthier world. Lisa Cahill is the Director of Sustainable Solutions at TreePeople and has shared her path to creating a greener Los Angeles.
What inspired you to educate others? While I’ve always enjoyed sharing my experiences and stories with anyone who’ll listen, I never thought of myself as someone who can truly educate others until my current job. TreePeople’s Senior Director of Programming, Christyne Imhoff, who really helped me understand not only how to craft an educational product to be most effective, but probably more importantly, encouraged me to embrace my abilities to share, teach and lead others.
What steps did you take to start this particular journey? I began with TreePeople as a volunteer Citizen Forester. I first planted about 3 dozen trees, and then a few years later, another 80. After the second project, I was offered the job of Citizen Forestry Manager, and was later promoted to Director of Sustainable Solutions. Now I spend the bulk of my day motivating others and helping them understand the importance of bringing a variety of sustainable landscape choices to their homes and communities. It is incredibly rewarding.
What was or are the hardest obstacle(s) to overcome in getting your message to the masses? As a relatively small non-profit, we simply do not have the budget to get our message out to the masses in the traditional sense. However, thanks to our founder and president, Andy Lipkis’ dedication to speaking engagements and meeting with partners and other officials, we have been able to maintain a an incredible amount of name recognition over our 40 year history. Additionally, because we are such a well-known and beloved local non-profit, a good deal of our message is just through word of mouth and through our work in communities throughout the Los Angeles area.
What is your proudest accomplishment so far in relation to your work? I am most proud of the work our team did on creating a strategic vision for TreePeople. We were awarded the Non-Profit Citizenship Award by the LA Business Journal and while the process was extremely intense, it was also amazing and such an honor to be recognized in this way. This vision is now the foundation for our work to mobilize Angelinos over the next 10 years for TreePeople’s 50th anniversary. There’s a tremendous amount of work to be done in to shift LA from outdated, gray infrastructure, to a more sustainable and truly green city. I am very excited about all there is to come in this next decade.
How can people get involved either through your work or in their own communities? TreePeople’s work is all about communities. From our work with community leaders, our Citizen Foresters in schools and neighborhoods, to the focus in our regional areas of South Los Angeles and the Northeast San Fernando Valley which have disproportionately low tree canopy —TreePeople is about greening LA through the power of community building. There are so many ways to become involved with TreePeople.
The best way to get involved is whatever route is most appealing. Some people really enjoy participating in, or even heading up, a tree planting or care event. Others love working in our offices or our nursery at our headquarters. Some people like to get their hands dirty at a park work day, while others are dedicated donors. We tend to think of TreePeople as a family and as such we have a place for everyone to fit in and do what makes them happiest.
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This interview is from a book that includes 15 other amazing people who are creating positive change. You can read the full book and buy a copy for your school at Bookemon.com. Buy the e-book for 99 Cents on Amazon.com.