Trust in Trees

About Toni Ellis

At the beginning of her career, Toni was part of the team who developed the Blue Box Program in Toronto.  From this experience, she learned the value and power of a grassroots approach to effect change. Since then, she has helped rescue a historic school house (which now houses Elora Centre for the Arts) –and established a local urban forest volunteer organization, Neighbourwoods on the Grand.


In 2019, she spearheaded Tree Trust, a program aimed to protect and maintain some of the valuable mature trees in her community.

Mature trees are evocative; people around the world have a visceral reaction to big trees. And while we love trees for their shade, their importance to wildlife habitat and their role in storm water management, we are now beginning to value the role they play in helping mitigate climate change. Each legacy tree sequesters approximately 11 tonnes of carbon.

Mature trees in urban environments face many challenges – soil compaction, pollution, road salt and neglect, to name a few. To help preserve some of the majestic trees in her community, Toni started Tree Trust with the goal to fund highly skilled conservation arboricultural care. For each tree in the program, two saplings are planted nearby to eventually to take over from the mature tree. Tree Trust is currently funded by donations. Donors can donate any amount they wish or, alternatively, use tools provided by the Tree Trust website to match their donation to help offset the carbon produced from their for driving, home heating and air travel. 

Aboreal Tree Care

As a program of the Elora Environment Centre, Tree Trust can issue charitable receipts for your donation funding mature tree care.

In addition, the program has attracted others who care about big trees. Using the franchise model, there are now 5 communities which have adopted the program.

Taking care of mature trees offers a transformational opportunity for residents to connect with mature trees. 

Each tree we care for serves as a highly visual, symbolic, and inspiring way to become engaged with climate solutions. We have learned that the Tree Trust program can be a catalyst for on-going citizen engagement in nature-based climate solutions.

200 yr old sugar maple

The program invites citizens to help save a few emblematic, legacy trees, but it then becomes an on-ramp that engages people in related activites. 

As an example, the Tree Trust program in the Town of The Blue Mountains (TBM) began with the conservation care of two trees in their first year (approximately 200 year old Sugar Maples) but then very quickly diversified into securing municipal funding for a local native tree seedling nursery. Plans for 2021 will see Tree Trust TBM continue to leverage their considerable resident support and continue working with the municipality to develop of a tree planning program and potential arboretum.  Like small seedlings, our Tree Trust program continues to grow.


Loreena McKennitt
Volunteers plant saplings

To find out more, check out or emailing Toni at You can follow them @treetrusttrees on Facebook, Instagram, or Twitter.

 Click HERE to download the interview with Toni




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