Brent Green, true to his name, has always been fascinated by greenery. This has led him on a mission to transform the bare, hard concrete sidewalks of Los Angeles into vibrant, shady, tree-lined streets – one young tree at a time.
Growing Up Brent Green
Brent Green grew up in Leimert Park, a South Los Angeles neighborhood considered the Los Angeles center of both historical and contemporary African-American culture.
Green says, “I was a little kid growing up in Leimert Park, with an afro… A little African-American kid liking plants, it wasn’t the most common thing. People would see me gardening, I’d go to nurseries, people were just kinda taken by the notion I was into it. Really into it.”
Whenever he received any money, Green would buy plants instead of the usual kid purchases of candy or toys. He didn’t even care when other kids teased him and called him names like “Flower Boy.”
Nowadays, Green has a new nickname: the modern day “Johnny Appleseed of L.A.” Unlike his siblings who sought law careers in the steps of their father, Green followed his heart and love of the great outdoors. He became a professional landscape designer and horticulturist. He created his own company, GreenArt Landscape Design.
A Brent Green Revolution
In 2003, Brent Green and his family moved into a little 1100 square foot Spanish house in Mid City, just north of the 10 freeway. Orange Drive was a quiet street, but most houses had bars on the windows. The few trees on his block were sick and dying. The Green’s backyard was all dirt. The most color came from graffiti.
In order to make his home more welcoming, Green decided to add curb appeal by planting some greenery. So he planted new trees on both sides of his street: sycamores, palms, etc.
Additionally, the Green’s backyard became a living space, their largest (outdoor) room. In fact, the Green family never needs to visit a supermarket to purchase fruit. With fruit trees such as dwarf grapefruit and tangerine, and a lemon in their own backyard, they are able to pick fresh fruit all year long.
Meanwhile, neighbors witnessed and appreciated Brent Green’s efforts; they spread the word. Many wanted their homes to look like his too. Any neighbors that wanted a free tree and had the room for one, got one. The “Green Revolution” began on Orange Drive.
A few years later, Green’s block became the envy of his neighborhood. There are more bushes in yards than bars on the houses’ windows. Now shaded, the street is blooming. Nevertheless, Green wanted to give back even more to the city that he loves. With his birthday in January, he therefore began to plant as many trees as his age each year. He calls them his “Birthday Trees.”
He plants these trees in between the street curb and the city public parkway. The point is to basically create a canopy for the street, by lining it with trees. Each tree costs about $20, which he pays for and plants himself. This year he’ll plant 52 trees. Green estimates that he has planted over 5000 trees in his lifetime.
The Need For Green
Unfortunately, there is not a Brent Green in every neighborhood in Los Angeles. Some streets are fully tree-lined, while others are not. A comprehensive study found trees only cover roughly 21% of Los Angeles, which is well below the national average. And these trees are not evenly distributed. Unfortunately, well-to-do communities tend to have more trees and canopy than lower-income communities.
For example, affluent Hancock Park has lush, green-filled streets with a 37% canopy cover, however nearby Koreatown has only 7%. The difference is just as dramatic when comparing South L.A. or even areas of the San Fernando Valley. Even with about 11 million trees in L.A., studies show there is room for another million. That is why it is significant that Brent Green has gotten so many trees into the ground and thriving in areas that have the fewest.
More Than Just Transforming Landscape
Brent Green sees that the benefits have exceeded his initial goal to enhance the physical beauty of his neighborhood.
His neighbors, who now know each other, have formed a block watch group. Freshly painted fire hydrants brighten the street. Newly-installed speed bumps slow down thoroughfare traffic. The neighborhood itself is a lot safer with an increase in police patrols. Overall, crime in the area has significantly decreased over 30%. People can walk up and down the streets.
There are also many health benefits. The more greenery there is, the more pollution (that can affect allergies) and carbon emissions (that can cause cancer) are filtered out from the air. Plants can lessen stress, which in turn reduce blood pressure issues. It is not uncommon that pregnant women who live in greener areas give birth to healthier babies.
A Green Future
In the end, perhaps the most important impact on the community cannot be measured: how the greening of Los Angeles affects future generations. Los Angeles can become a concrete jungle, if not for the continuous planting of new trees and plants. Brent Green hopes that his daughter Grace’s generation continues to cultivate his “Green Revolution” – so that their beloved city is blanketed with sustainable, drought-tolerant plants and trees.
- Contact Brent Green at firstname.lastname@example.org
- Practice going green in your own life.
- Spread the word; share this story on your social media and follow Brent Green @GreenArtLA and @GreenArtLandscapeDesigns on Facebook, Houzz and Twitter.
All photos courtesy of Brent Green.
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