Inspiring Resident Engagement: Identifying Street Tree Stewardship Participation Strategies in Environmental Justice Communities Using a Community-Based Social Marketing Approach

Edith de Guzman, Rachel Malarich, Lori Large, and Sharon Danoff-Burg

Tree-planting municipalities and organizations face multiple challenges to achieving thriving urban forests, among which is providing establishment-period care to young trees. In arid and semi-arid regions in particular, delivering water to trees is a resource- and time-intensive activity often not covered by funding specified for tree planting. This study sought to address the need for establishment-period care by producing a replicable approach to engaging residents in environmental justice communities to actively care for young street trees planted in front of their homes. Using community-based social marketing in the community of Huntington Park (Los Angeles County, California, U.S.), researchers investigated socioeconomic and cultural characteristics to barriers and motivators regarding tree stewardship (i.e., watering, mulching, and weeding) and developed an outreach program strategy accordingly. The program was pilot-tested and evaluated for effectiveness in changing behaviors. Active, in-person outreach (door-to-door engagement with residents using program materials and demonstrating tree care actions) was tested against passive outreach (program materials were left at the doorstep); both were compared to baseline conditions. Evaluation of soil moisture, tree health, and presence of mulch was conducted over a six-week period after program outreach. Trees at homes in the active outreach group had significantly higher soil moisture, more mulch, and better observed health than trees at homes in the passive outreach group. Both groups had better outcomes as compared to pre-outreach baseline conditions. Results indicate that tree planting programs with limited resources for maintenance may find success in fostering tree stewardship among residents through active engagement.

Published Work | 2018

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