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Our Roots Chicago is planting thousands of trees in city's communities to fight climate change

Group pushes to plant new trees in Chicago neighborhoods that lack them
Group pushes to plant new trees in Chicago neighborhoods that lack them 03:12

CHICAGO (CBS) -- This first day of summer amid a week of extreme heat, a local group is planting trees in communities across the city in an effort to fight climate change.

Citywide, Our Roots Chicago will plant thousands.

"People that are excited to have a free tree planted in front of their parkway," said program ambassador Caroline Williams.

Neighborhoods without green space are more greatly impacted by climate change, and that is exactly what leaders of Our Roots Chicago are working to address. The group planted new trees in the Englewood neighborhood just this week—as part of a bigger plan to make a difference.

Williams and her crew also canvassed the Calumet Heights neighborhood recently—talking to residents, and figuring out where new trees could make a welcome difference.

Williams is on the board of the Chicago Muslims Green Team—one of the community groups partnered with Our Roots Chicago.

"In Chicago, we have a problem with tree equity," she said.

Calumet Heights and Englewood among the 22 community areas on which the Our Roots Chicago program focuses—many of them on the South and West sides.

"We looked at the historic redlining, we looked at climate change and historic disinvestment—and thought maybe we can help," said Raed Mansour, director of environmental innovation at the Chicago Department of Public Health.

The group's mission is to grow the city's tree canopy and increase green space in areas without it.

"There's no better time to plant a tree than now," said the Department of Public Health's Mansour.

While one may not associate a public health department with trees, Mansour explained why the connection is so important.

He said trees do make a difference—improving air quality, providing shade, and reducing pollution. Trees also absorb carbon and help to lessen the impact of climate change—and on hot days like Chicago has seen this week, they help lower air and surface temperature and thus reduce urban heat islands.

But a look across the whole city makes it clear that some areas are greener than others.

"These are areas that are hard to reach," Mansour said. "They're the ones that are most impacted by climate change, so they're going to receive the most benefits if we can get trees here."

Group pushes to plant more trees in disinvested Chicago neighborhoods 02:46

Our Roots Chicago takes health, social, economic, and environmental factors into the equation when they dispatch people into a neighborhood. Mansour said calls are coming in from other large cities—where departments want to model programs after Our Roots Chicago.

Some may claim planting a tree doesn't really make a difference. But Mansour said it does.

"If you just go to an area that has a lot of trees and an area that doesn't, you'll feel the difference," he said.

With a goal to plant 75,000 new trees across Chicago, Our Roots Chicago has planted more than 47,000 so far—and more than 6,000 this year.

"Tree is solution to many urban problems," Williams said.

The next neighborhood on the list this weekend is Austin, on the West Side. Our Roots Chicago representatives will canvass there Saturday, and figure out where more green space could make a difference.

The group is set to plant thousands more trees across the city before this season ends.

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