Urban Releaf founder Kemba Shakur (left) listens to Oakland mayoral candidate Don Perata (right). “If you are out there in the open hills looking down at the flatland of Oakland, it is easy to assume that this is a tree-laden city,” Perata said. “But it’s not.”

Xiao’s current research involves the designing of a new model of tree wells—the area right around the tree root—that are integrated into the city’s drain system. This will allow the tree roots to become the cheapest water purifier. “The new well will save at least 20 percent of water in terms of irrigation as well,” Xiao said.

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