Change Agent

Peter Diep is working to make the world a greener place … one tree at a time.

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  • Written by
    David Konow |

When Sherman Oaks resident Peter Diep moved to this side of the hill, he was surprised he had to travel out of his way to see trees. “In some areas of the Valley it’s pretty barren as far as trees are concerned,” he says. “The fact that I have to drive to experience trees—that’s not so wonderful.” 

So back in 2011, the 34-year-old decided to do something about it. He became a volunteer for TreePeople, a nonprofit organization aimed at planting trees. 

“It was a Saturday morning, it was about noon, and I was still in my pajamas. I just realized I could be doing so much more and helping so much more. I was sort of an environmentalist already, and I was finally doing what I’d been saying.”

Now three years and countless tree plantings later, Peter was selected out of 10,000 volunteers as TreePeople’s 2014 volunteer of the year. As part of his award, Peter, who works as a researcher for a medical company, was also flown to Washington D.C., to be part of the Alliance for Community Trees Policy Summit, where he spoke about the importance of trees to the environment. 

“In a lot of ways, Tree People represents hope for me,” Peter shares. “It represents people in action doing what they believe in. It’s the realization of certain ideas that people have been thinking and saying and doing, and it’s actually having an impact.”

Peter spends nearly every weekend planting trees and helping reforestation in the Santa Monica Mountains, the Angeles National Forest, as well as the San Fernando Valley. 

“I used to go hiking quite a bit, and whenever I was among trees was when I was the most at peace,” Peter says. “To be able to bring that to urban neighborhoods was a spectacular idea because we have such a disconnection from nature. I thought this was a good way to bring it back to communities.”

He is particularly drawn to the environmental impact—the fact that trees help improve air quality and offer shade, which slows down water evaporation from thirsty lawns.  

“It’s these little steps that we take. I think that’s what TreePeople can do for the Valley, and for all of LA. The overall effect is it makes people mindful of trees and the environment. It brings communities together and shows that little things we do here can have a huge effect.”