Andy Lipkis

Ashoka Fellow
Venice, United States
Fellow Since 2008
My work: retrofitting cities for sustainability by promoting trees and tree-mimicking technologies.


This profile was prepared when Andy Lipkis was elected to the Ashoka Fellowship in 2008.
The New Idea
Andy’s idea is to apply integrated resource management to urban ecosystems, and ultimately train citizens to sustain their urban habitats. He is applying a collaborative approach to planning and managing natural resources that conserves human and financial costs, and achieves long-term solutions. At age fifteen, Andy organized a band of teenagers in Los Angeles who were committed to restoring southern California’s pollution-damaged terrain. This grew into an organization that became known as TreePeople after the doubters who originally scoffed at “those tree people” but eventually came around to believe, as Andy does, that cities are really “urban forests.” Just as trees are the “life support system” that inspired Andy’s early work, he now sees forests as synonymous with watershed management, and ecosystem-based water infrastructure as the gateway to changing whole urban ecosystems.

While Andy’s work remains rooted in TreePeople, he is launching Functioning Community Forests with a broader mission: to retrofit cities for sustainability. This initiative inspires and equips urban dwellers to help nature heal their cities. Andy is working to enable cities to establish green, life-enhancing infrastructure based on trees and tree-mimicking technologies that solve multiple problems at once, including conserving, cleaning and storing water, mitigating water and air pollution, and mitigating and adapting to climate change. To do this, he galvanizes citizens, policymakers, public agencies, and community organizations in united efforts to transform cities into generators of health, resiliency and abundance. Andy is working to help people see that the way they use and dispose of natural resources affects the economy, crime, social development and quality of life. Functioning Community Forests also demonstrates that citizens can make their cities livable and sustainable by managing them as ecosystems.

Andy sees that in the course of retrofitting urban ecosystems, people can and will create the livable communities and green collar jobs they seek. He is on the forefront of a new civil rights movement, solving environmental challenges in ways that create sustainable “green collar” jobs for the unemployed and underemployed.
The Problem
The Strategy
The Person

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