Winter is coming and Tree Trust in Elora is introducing natural gas home heating offsets to help fund the preservation of mature trees across Centre Wellington.
Tree Trust is a non-profit registered charity committed to identifying and preserving mature trees in Ontario, keeping carbon in the roots, trunk, and branches.
“As people are turning their furnaces on, what better time to get the word out,” says Tree Trust program manager, Toni Ellis.
“I think people value the importance of big trees and the need to protect them. And with burning fossil fuels at home, people can still do something.”
Offsetting is easy according to Tree Trust and it says that people can visit treetrust.ca and select the Home Heating Carbon Output Estimator on the main page. At the bottom of your heating bill is a bar graph showing each month’s consumption in cubic metres.
All you have to do is input the sum of the previous 12 months to receive an estimated carbon output and suggested annual donation.
“This is great because people can see their donations at work right where they live, and they can see their big beautiful trees. Why not save more trees?” Ellis said.
The carbon calculator measures the amount of carbon in each tree. A mature tree harbours about seven tonnes of carbon and sequesters more each year.
“Maybe there’s a tree that someone wants to save, a tree that’s worth investing in,” Ellis says.
The Elora Environment Centre, founded in 1993, is the host agency for Tree Trust.
The centre works to deliver leading-edge environmental programming focused on trees, water and climate helping nurture community sustainability from the ground up.
Tree Trust, in addition to tree planting, uses donations to hire professional arborists to help preserve mature trees in communities across southern Ontario.
By extending the lives of trees, Tree Trust says it helps secure the captured carbon until younger trees are mature enough to aid in the fight against climate change.
According to the Government of Canada, Canadians are using more energy due to extreme temperatures, vast landscape and dispersed population.
In 2018, Canada emitted 20 million tons of carbon dioxide from natural gas heating alone. This is equal to CO2 emissions of about 44 million cars annually.
“As this program evolves, I think people will see the value of trees from a climate change point of view. It’s such a positive thing as there are so many benefits in helping protect our trees,” Ellis said.
Trees play an important role in the environment, and larger trees do so more effectively and efficiently. Trees take carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere, which is why the preservation of old forests is important to help mitigate climate change.
When trees are cut, unless their wood is used in long-lived products like housing or furniture, the carbon dioxide they stored returns to the atmosphere.
And the cooling quality of trees is apparent when walking through a forest on a hot summer day.
Trees take up water from the soil, and most of it is evaporated from the leaves, a natural air conditioner. Smaller trees with fewer leaves won’t have the same effect, even if they are planted at higher densities. Trees also remove pollutants from the atmosphere. The amount taken up depends on leaf area and taller trees are more effective at that.
“Lots of folks are planting trees and that’s great. But it takes about 300 saplings to do the same work as one big tree. So, there you go. That’s why it is so important to protect them,” Ellis said.
Tree Trust says that by extending the life of larger mature trees, they are securing the carbon older trees have already captured until younger trees are mature enough to grow into their role as ‘carbon capture heroes’.
Last year, the Elora Environment Centre launched Canada’s first ever carbon offset program.
Donors can use the carbon calculator at Tree Trust to also offset their air travel.
For Tree Trust, it is all about extending the life of older trees and planting strong and resilient young trees.
“We are working with four partner communities now including Centre Wellington, Stratford- Perth, Town of the Blue Mountains, and the Toronto Island Community,” Ellis says.
“And we are currently working on plans to roll out to eight more communities.”
Funds raised from the home heating offset program benefit the Elora Environment Centre, which is a registered charity. Donations are tax deductible.
“We are hopeful. We understand that we are in tough times right now, but for those who love big trees, they can help support us. With the holidays coming up, we are also offering gift cards,” Ellis said.
“Let’s not forget the big trees. An old tree, what a treasure!”
For more information about home heating offsets, visit treetrust.ca