December 16, 2021

By Amanda Scurlock

Sports Writer


The NFL and the Los Angeles Super Bowl Committee continue to improve the environment by teaming up with TreePeople and Verizon to plant over 25 trees in Watts. Dozens of volunteers planted Lemon Bottlebrush trees along Hickory Street between east 105th and 107 streets.

Trees are needed in urban areas to absorb pollutants, provide shade, and cool the area. Adding trees also can improve the mental well-being of the residents. TreePeople is an organization that makes neighborhoods greener.

“TreePeople has been around for over 40 years and we have dedicated those years to expanding the urban canopy,” said TreePeople associate manager LizBeth Gonzalez. “There’s areas in the city of Los Angeles that lack urban canopy, so our goal is to fill every empty parkway.”

Verizon’s partnership with the NFL and TreePeople shed light on the environmental goals the cell phone company has.

“By 2030, we will plant a total of 20 million trees across the country,” said Verizon consumer sales director Ana Aguilar. “Since we’ve been partners with the NFL, we’ve planted 7.8 million across the country.”

Verizon will also plant 5,600 trees in Southern California to celebrate 56 years of the Super Bowl. Aguilar, who grew up five miles away from Watts, was excited to serve in her own community. NFL Green Director Jack Groh helped plant a tree.

When a group of TreePeople volunteers are done planting a tree, they hold hands around the tree and give it a name.

NFL Green associate director Susan Groh noted how the league wants to leave a “lasting green legacy.

The tree Jack helped plant was named Lucy.

“Being in the community makes all the difference,” she said. “We know our event will be here and then gone but we want to make sure when we come back 10 years from now, there’s still a tangible benefit from this.”

While the trees will provide shade and other health benefits to the residents in the area, it also provided benefits to the volunteers. UCLA graduate student Aliyah Lee found planting trees as an impactful break from her studies.

“I just wanted to give back,” Lee said. “I come from this neighborhood, and I’ve always complained about how there’s not enough greenery around here and I figured I should probably start doing something instead of complaining all the time.”

This greening project is less about beautification and more about improving the well being of the Watts residents.

“We only have a five percent shade canopy here in Watts. Beverly Hills has a 25 percent shade canopy,” said TreePeople community organizer for Watts Deborah Stephens-Browder. “The pollution that has been set by the industries around us, it is hardening the soil, it is polluting the soil.”

NFL Green will continue to host projects up until the Super Bowl on February 13. This includes a “Green Week” that will consist of at least four events happening two weeks before the Super Bowl.

Category: Sports