About Us

LEAF is a non-profit organization that teaches people about trees and gets them excited about the urban forest. We plant native species in backyards and public spaces while engaging citizens in urban forest stewardship through planting, education and training. We envision healthy, vibrant communities where everyone values and cares for the urban forest.

Our mission is to grow and sustain the urban forest by providing quality services and programs that engage communities.

Our Story

In 1995, the seed of what would later become LEAF was sowed. Janet McKay, LEAF founder and Executive Director, was inspired to help her neighbours in Toronto’s east end plant native trees. She started a small tree seedling distribution project. The seedlings were very popular, however, most did not survive or reach maturity as she had hoped.

With this lesson in tow, Janet worked to develop the Backyard Tree Planting Program (BYTP), which aimed to overcome the issue of low tree survival rates. A small and dedicated team was trained to properly site and plant trees to maximize their potential to grow to maturity. In 1996, the name LEAF – Local Enhancement and Appreciation of Forests came into being. 

As interest and demand for the program grew, LEAF expanded its work to include education and other community engagement activities, such as our long-running Tree Tenders Volunteer Training Program (offered since 2006). From educational presentations to naturalization planting activities, LEAF engages thousands of volunteers and program participants annually to help increase awareness and stewardship of the urban forest.

Over the past decade, interest in the Backyard Tree Planting Program has flourished as private property tree plantings have gained recognition for the role they play in achieving urban forest strategies. The BYTP is now offered in Toronto, York Region and several municipalities in Durham Region (map). 

The goal of enhancing livability by protecting and improving the urban forest remains the driving force at LEAF, and we continue to seek new opportunities to build resilience and improve communities, one tree at a time.


LEAF Culture

Serviceberry fruit

The LEAF team is made up of staff members, a volunteer board of directors and many other community volunteers. We are passionate about planting trees, fostering stewardship and engaging communities. Much like a forest ecosystem, we strive to build a team that is diverse, adaptive, resilient and strong. 

The following values guide our work:


  • We strive to be self-aware, acknowledge mistakes and make improvements.
  • We remember that it’s not just about the intention of our actions, but the impact they have.
  • We recognize the importance of setting clear targets and goals.

Diversity and Inclusion

  • We recognize the value and strength of a diverse team. 
  • We acknowledge the colonial systems that exist within the environmental community and strive to challenge them.
  • We acknowledge the diverse experiences, knowledge and perspectives of racialized and Indigenous communities and incorporate them into programs and policies. 


  • We are proactive and direct in maintaining open communication among team members and program participants.
  • We challenge our assumptions and shift our judgements to curiosity.


  • We recognize everyone’s individual value, regardless of their position within the LEAF community.
  • We embrace different strengths and work styles and seek ways to complement one another.
  • We encourage and embrace professional growth and autonomy.
  • We celebrate our collective and individual efforts and accomplishments.


  • We proactively prioritize mental and physical health.
  • We are honest about our limits and understanding of others limits.
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Reconciliation and Anti-Racism Committee

In 2020, LEAF staff and board members initiated the Reconciliation and Anti-racism Committee (RAAR). Guided by the Truth and Reconciliation Calls to Action, the committee advises on learning and actions for staff and board members. We are firmly committed to the long-term process of growing an organization whose programs and policies are rooted in anti-racism and informed by the diverse experiences of the communities we serve. 

Key accomplishments from the RAAR Committee include:

  • Conducting a survey with staff and board members to identify strengths and areas for improvement
  • Creating an action plan that outlines tangible, organization-wide changes for the short and long term
  • Incorporating anti-racism and reconciliation training into onboarding processes and coordinating ongoing training and resources for the LEAF team
Common ninebark

Psychological Health and Safety Committee

The Psychological Health and Safety Committee (PHSC) was established in 2018 to facilitate a strong work culture that encourages a healthy work-life balance, promotes resilience and fosters positive mental health. Every other year, the PHSC conducts a staff survey to identify areas of improvement and create an action plan with tangible, organization-wide changes to improve employee well-being and facilitate a fair and equitable workplace.

Key accomplishments from the PHSC include:

  • Developing a Psychological Health and Safety Policy 
  • Establishing the LEAF Workplace Culture values
  • Helping implement permanent employee contracts and increase paid sick days 
  • Incorporating psychological health and safety training into the onboarding processes
  • Providing staff with tools and resources for remote work, dealing with COVID-19, work-life balance and self-care

Land Acknowledgement

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As an organization focussed on land stewardship, we give gratitude to the land for all the benefits it provides to our communities. For thousands of years, this land has been and continues to be the home to many diverse First Nations, Inuit and Métis peoples. We acknowledge the Indigenous Peoples as the original stewards of this land, and our shared responsibility to care for the land for future generations. 

We acknowledge that our office in Toronto is situated on the occupied territories of many nations including:

  • Mississaugas of the Credit
  • The Anishinabek
  • The Chippewa
  • The Haudenosaunee
  • The Wendat peoples

Toronto is covered by Treaty 13 signed with the Mississaugas of the Credit, and the Williams Treaties signed with multiple Mississaugas and Chippewa bands.

To learn more about the treaties and traditional territories where you live, visit native-land.ca