Help restore Chicago trees for free

Posted6/5/2021 1:00 AM

Today is World Environment Day, as designated by the UN General Assembly in 1972 to bring attention to the environmental crises we face across the globe. This year's World Environment Day launches the UN's Decade on Ecosystem Restoration -- a focus on reviving our natural environments -- and the Metropolitan Water Reclamation District is making it easier than ever for Cook County residents to do their part.

For more than a decade, a perfect storm of climate change and emerald ash borer infestations have significantly reduced our region's tree population. This loss of trees has far-reaching ramifications for our environment and our health.


We all know that trees act like the Earth's lungs by turning carbon dioxide into oxygen. But a strong tree canopy can also help reduce heat generated from climate change, making it possible for other natural flora to grow.

Perhaps most important to us at the MWRD, trees serve as powerful and effective forms of green infrastructure that help us manage increasing amounts of stormwater: one medium-sized oak tree can absorb 2,800 gallons of rainfall per year, reducing flooding and improving water quality.

But to realize all of these benefits, we have to replace the trees lost and we have to do it quickly. That's why the MWRD has launched the 2021 Restore the Canopy program, which offers free oak saplings at our water reclamation plants every Wednesday from 9 a.m. -- 12 p.m. Anybody can come by to pick up a red, pin, white or black oak sapling and learn how best to take care of the tree.

The global community has a lot of work to do not only in restoring Earth's natural habitats, but addressing the root causes of damage to our environment. Those interested in doing their part by planting a tree can find more information at

Mariyana Spyropoulos

MWRD Commissioner

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