At DRS we are proud members of 1% for the Planet, a movement of more than 1000 companies that donate 1% of their sales to environmental organizations worldwide. Giving back beyond the monetary aspect, we also work to improve our environment on a very local level. In our most recent contribution efforts we donated our time to the TreePeople, a nonprofit group that works toward creating a sustainable future for Los Angeles. We previously volunteered  at their Coldwater Canyon Park location, but this time we made our journey to Calabasas to help restore and preserve the Santa Monica Mountains.

Upon arrival, we met with TreePeople’s Cody Chappel and Jo Kitz, Associate Director of the Mountains Restoration Trust, who has been with the organization since 1989. Jo told us about the history of the area and the ecological impact the TreePeople and MRT have had through habitat repair work. She is so passionate and committed to her work that you just want to jump in and help. Their mission is to expand native habitat along Cienega sin Nombre (No Name Creek) and in the San Fernando Valley to preserve and protect the local flora and fauna. Cody explained the work we would be performing that day, including removing non-native and invasive vegetation from the top slope of the valley and around the newly-planted native plants. Cody is a fun and energetic group leader who not only educated us on the wildlife terrain but made it interesting and exciting. He shared the importance of what needs to be done to preserve our surroundings. By the way, did you know that Los Angeles is a Mediterranean climate? Think about that for
a moment.

For the task at hand, we were looking for non-native plants, specifically mustard, tumbleweed and foxtail grasses, which are detrimental to the native plants and can make it difficult for animals to drink from the nearby water source. Non-native plants comprise over 25% of the Santa Monica Mountains’ flora, a figure higher than the overall average of California. The problem is exacerbated by urbanization and the increasing recreational use of the mountains, which contributes to disturbances such as fires, which facilitate the introduction and spread of non-native plants. These “alien” plants present a profound threat to the integrity of native communities and can displace native species, degrade wildlife habitat and alter ecosystem functioning.

After removing non-native vegetation, we moved on to mulching the newly-planted native plants. Mulching helps prevent weed growth, conserve moisture in the soil, and cool and stabilize the soil surface. We spread the mulch around each plant in a three feet diameter to help protect its newly-planted roots. While our work with the TreePeople and MRT was nearing an end, we reflected on the positive contribution and proactive steps we took to help conserve our environment. Although the work is never truly done, we feel like we made a difference in protecting and preserving our own backyard.

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