top of page

On Earth Day and Every Day, an Effort to Make South Florida Greener

Move over, palm trees. Community Greening, an urban forestry nonprofit based in Boca Raton, is on a mission to increase Florida’s tree canopy and provide more shade trees in local cities.

Members of FAU's Women’s Volleyball volunteer at Community Greening. (Photo: Sage West)

By Sage West | MediaLab@FAU

Apr 19, 2024

At the end of a rubble path alongside Boca Raton’s Turnpike lies a small, narrow shed. Its vibrant green exterior, hidden behind rows of greenery, marks the Community Greening nursery site.

On the site, staff in green shirts can be found, almost camouflaged amidst the leaves, some digging up dirt, others with a hose in hand, spraying water across a wide field of native saplings. 

“They start as seeds, just like every one of us,” said Josh Weiner, Community Greening’s Director of Engagement and Communications, with a jovial smile as he pointed to a budding tree nearby.

According to the organization’s website, “Community Greening is an Urban Forestry nonprofit on a mission to increase South Florida’s tree canopy… that equitably strengthens our environment, economy, society, and health.” However, according to Executive Director and Cofounder Mark Cassini, the company has become so much more.

The organization, which was created in 2016, started as a means to provide more shade trees in local cities. “There needed to be an engaged group of people that were advocating for planting more trees,” said Cassini, “so we partnered with city sustainability departments, parks departments or public works to get trees out there.”

Now, stretched across a large plot of land are 17,000 native and fruit trees, all planted and tended to by Community Greening tree technicians and volunteers. Some are even edible, Weiner mentioned, pointing to the black and red mulberries hanging from a tree beside him.

Sprawled across hundreds of acres in Boca Raton, Community Greening has procured over 17,000 trees in effort to create a “vibrant tree canopy” and “greener and more sustainable neighborhoods.” (Photo by Sage West)

It was an early Tuesday morning, around 9 a.m. Around a table of tiny potted plants was a crowd of volunteers, this bunch in red shirts. The Florida Atlantic University Women’s Volleyball team had come in an effort to team build while also giving back to the community that supports them.

“It’s really good for our team, first of all. It’s really fun having this time together; we get to have fun, we can talk, and we can laugh, but also it’s giving back to the community and people that have helped our program as well,” said Madison Dyer, FAU Volleyball player, and business finance major, while de-weeding and repotting small saplings into a larger pot.

“It’s a super good way to give back to the community. We’ve done a few different things, and I would say that this one by far has been the most interactive and hands-on, and the workers here are super friendly and open to helping us if we have any questions,” said Isabelle Northam, FAU Volleyball player and exercise science major.

The organization takes a unique approach to planting, involving the community in every step.

“We’re planting with people, whether it’s with school groups, or corporations, or churches, and we’re really involving them in the process, and we’re educating people on the importance of trees,” Cassini said.

They host community events each month with the goal of bringing the community together while also making the work entertaining. 

“Climate change can be kind of depressing,” Cassini said. “We’ve always, from the beginning, made it fun, so we’ll have a DJ at events, and we have to make it family friendly where people bring their kids out and don’t hit people over the head with the doom and gloom.”

Volunteers play a significant part in the organization's success, with many volunteer-based events open to the public events held throughout the year. They also have regulars, like Hawa Singh, who is seen planting trees weekly, often with his wife beside him.

“Trees are life,” Singh said. “They help us, the community… We are just ordinary human beings, doing whatever we can to help.”

One of the organization's most popular events is its weekly tree giveaways. There, they give out over 150 trees of various species from their nursery, ranging in size. 

“It really is just trying to get the trees out into the community to increase the tree canopy,” said Cassini.

In celebration of Earth Day, on April 22, Community Greening is hosting a series of Tree giveaways in surrounding South Florida cities, including Boca Raton, Delray Beach, Boynton Beach, Sunrise, and Jupiter. Local residents can pick up a native tree or, in some cases, have a tree delivered to their home free of charge. 

However, Cassini explained that the mission goes beyond adding greenery to the city. It is also a means of solving social issues that often go ignored, such as providing shade and greenery in communities that often go unrecognized or providing clean air and fruit to urban areas and food deserts.

“There’s a lot of education that goes on about urban heat islands, or tree equity, which means trees aren't evenly distributed throughout a community. It tends to follow the lines of race and income and so there's more trees in certain areas than others,” Cassini said. “We’re really connecting trees to all of these different social problems, or things that can be improved, and getting the community involved in it to make it stronger.” 

The organization is constantly looking for more ways to reach the community and actively holds applications for volunteers on the Community Greening Website.

When pondering about goals for the organization's future, Cassini said he would like to “continue to be innovative in how to add trees into the city, whether it's planting in public parks or right of ways, or Swails or doing a drop-off program to residents, and increasing the giveaways; just continuing to plant.”

To learn more about Community Greening and their efforts to add tree canopy to South Florida, or sign up as a volunteer, visit

bottom of page