Latest Event Updates

MythBuster Monday! Trees for Small Spaces

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MYTH: Trees are huge! There is no space in my tiny yard for a tree.



Trees don’t have to be huge!

While for many people, the word “tree” calls to mind a soaring, 100ft specimen with branches wider than your torso, the truth is that trees come in all shapes and sizes. This means that there’s a tree for pretty much any space.

Serviceberry trees are perfect for small spaces – notice how even at mature height it doesn’t interfere with the wires above. Photo by Brenna Anstett, LEAF

We understand that your backyard may be on the small side, or maybe you’d like to keep some nice open space so your kids and dogs can run around and tire themselves out. That’s why our Backyard Tree Planting Program offers a wide variety of native species, from small serviceberries and dogwoods (~15ft at maturity) to towering elms that reach 50ft, and everything in between!

Trees don’t have to be big to be beautiful – check out the fall colour of the Pagoda Dogwood! Photo by Brenna Anstett, LEAF

At your yard consultation (included in the price of your tree), a LEAF arborist will listen to your goals and visions for your space, and help you choose a species that meets your needs and is appropriate for your yard conditions.

If you’re not quite ready to commit to a tree, then we have a shrub for you! Our program offers beautiful native shrubs that are perfect for small spaces. Plant them to add some colour to your yard, regain some privacy or shade your air conditioner to reduce your cooling costs in the summer.

Even small trees and shrubs can reap big benefits! Trees of all sizes can filter out air pollution, provide a nice patch of shade, store carbon, support native pollinators and birds, mitigate stormwater, and so much more (check out LEAF’s Tree Benefits Estimator)! Plus, they add so much character to a small space. So what are you waiting for? We know you won’t regret adding a little more green to your yard.

See the amazing diversity you can choose from and sign up for the Backyard Tree Planting Program at Questions? Email

“Pass (on) the Salt?: Salt Management in Oakville

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~Peter Burjorjee for Oakvillegreen

It’s winter in Oakville and you’ve probably encountered the flashing blue lights of a salt truck or spread some salt on the shady parts of the steps or sidewalk yourself.  No doubt, ice is not nice, but have you ever stopped to consider the true cost of all that salt?

Depending on the severity of the season, it is estimated that Canada uses between 4 and 8 million tonnes of road salt. The 5 year average use (and again it varies widely) for Oakville is approximately 18,000 metric tonnes which, to put in perspective, would be nearly 100 kg for each and every resident per year (that’s without accounting for salt use on MTO highways or on industrial or commercial properties!).

Whether it’s caught by soils and wetlands or heads straight for the storm sewer, ultimately all that NaCl and MgCl2 (the green stuff) is heading for local creeks, rivers and the lake. High salinity levels can be lethal to a variety of vertebrates and invertebrates such as fish, amphibians and mussels and importantly their eggs and larvae are particularly vulnerable. Aquatic plants may be at risk and increasing salt levels may also allow invasive species to thrive.

Oakville, as part of a wider Halton effort, has a Salt Management Plan which is being expanded to cover municipal property beyond roads, and will be updated this spring. The SMP (salt management plan) “strives to minimize the amount of salt entering the environment by including best salt management practices, and using new technologies to ensure its most effective use over the road system”. Oakville also has the ability to use a Direct Liquid Application (DLA system) whereby brine can be sprayed on the road before any snow has fallen preventing ice formation and reducing salt use in some situations. There are potentially safer alternatives under development or in use, including beet juice, various brines and calcium chloride. At $67/tonne common road salt is still the cheapest and most widely used amounting to a cost of $1.2 M or MORE THAN 20% of the Town’s winter budget for roads and sidewalks. The true cost with damages to cars, infrastructure such as bridges and the environment is clearly much, much higher.

In Waterloo region, Smart About Salt Council (SASC), a non-profit advocacy group is taking action to protect area watersheds by educating people working in the snow and ice control business to reduce and better manage the use of salt.  They offer both education and certification for contractors and sites that can show that they comply with the Smart About Salt Council standards. 

The STEP Water (Sustainable Technology Evaluation Program) is a joint effort of Credit Valley Conservation, Lake Simcoe Region Conservation, and Toronto and Region Conservation Authority that aims to advocate for better care of the environment through innovative research and testing of new methods and technologies. As part of their efforts to protect watersheds and surrounding land they have developed techniques for better use and mitigation of salt through their SAVE (Salt Application Verified Equipment) and SICLOPS (Snow and Ice Control for Parking Lots and Sidewalks) programs in particular.

Testing shows a baseline increase in chloride levels in Toronto area streams as well as short term peak levels after snowfall, melt and flushing events that are already harmful to our fragile ecosystems. Chloride levels in various Halton creeks and rivers are shown in Figure 1 and are nearly all above the guideline of 125 mg/L. (Source: CH Long Term Water Monitoring 2016)

Figure 1: Chloride levels from Conservation Halton watershed sites Ecology factsheet from 2016 are predominantly above the water quality objective of 125 mg/L (green line).

Figure 2 shows the chloride levels over a week February 2018 in Sheridan Creek reaching 18000 mg/L after a flushing event – almost as saline as typical seawater! (Source: CVC Real-time Monitoring)

Figure 2: Plot of Chloride levels after a salt flushing event in Sheridan Creek in Mississauga near Rattray Marsh – 20,000 mg/L is typical of sea water.
Endangered Redside Dace (Clinostomus elongatus) was found in Fourteen Mile Creek in 2014.

If we want our creeks and rivers to continue to support wildlife, such as the endangered redside dace (Clinostomus elongatus), we would do well to start passing on the salt. Initial steps could require the adoption of an SMP and certification to a standard such as SASC for all facilities and contractors. As citizens we can make sure our elected officials are aware of the issues, work towards the use of less toxic alternatives and think carefully about salting our steps, driveways and walkways!

Stay tuned for opportunities to have your say on salt use in the Town of Oakville as part of the update to the Salt Management Plan.

Read more here:

National Post – How Canada’s Addiction to Salt is Ruining Everything

Toronto Star – How Road Salt is Contaminating Canada’s Lakes

WWF Canada Blog – Wildlife is dying due to road salt, and it must stop

Environment and Climate Change Canada: Code of Practice for the Environmental Management of Road Salts

Joint STEP Program – link to SAVE and SICLOPS

Excessive salt use at Oakville Town Hall, February 14, 2018.
Excessive salt use at Oakville Town Hall, February 14, 2018.
Excessive salt use at Oakville Town Hall, February 14, 2018.

2018 AGM and Film Night!

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Join us on April 19th at 7pm for this two-in-one event: our Annual General Meeting followed by a free screening of  Intelligent Trees – The Documentary!

Attend our AGM to find out what we’ve been up to and where we’re headed! This is a great opportunity to learn, ask questions and give us your feedback.

To thank everyone for attending our AGM we will be holding a free screening of Intelligent Trees – The Documentary directly after the meeting, in partnership with Halton Green Screens. This film features forester and best-selling author of “The Hidden Life of Trees,” Peter Wohlleben, and forest ecologist and renowned speaker, Suzanne Simard (her TED Talk “How trees talk to each other” has over 2.6 million views). Learn how trees communicate, care for their young, and form amazing underground networks that act as the ‘brains of the forest!’

Please RSVP to

Schedule for the evening: 7pm AGM, 8pm Film