Why I Co-Founded Restorify?

James McConville

15-Jan-2020

Why I Co-Founded Restorify?

Restorify grew out of the fact that until I was 29, I never knew the story of my ancestors, the Forest People.

 

The Forest People without a Forest

 

Once upon a time, Ireland was the most forested country in Europe with 80% tree coverage. Legend has it the Red Squirrel could traverse through our island’s tree canopy from north to south without ever touching the forest floor. Within this arboreal environment lived my ancestors, the Gaels, whose name translates as the Forest People.

However as a result of deforestation for fuel, materials and agriculture Ireland’s once mighty Oak forests were reduced from 80% to less than 1% by the end of the 19th century (1).
Ireland went from being the most forested country to the most deforested country in Europe and the Irish became the Forest People without a forest.

Learning the story of the Forest People left me both shocked and confused, previously I had always seen Ireland as the Emerald Isle and didn’t realise that in fact I was cherishing a denuded and deforested landscape. 

 

Reforestation Today

 

I began searching for a way to reforest my local area but quickly discovered that reforestation is complicated.

First you need to find suitable land, then you have to find the right trees, then you need to plant them correctly and then appropriately maintain them. Not to mention finance it all.

Online there were a handful of reforestation projects across Ireland however there wasn’t a reforestation project local to me, like on the disused piece of public land in my town, or around my local school or even on the barren uplands beside my home…

This was the lightbulb moment, what if there was an online platform that empowered local people to reforest their own communities?

A good idea is one thing however execution is everything and I was lucky to have met Jonny McCullagh, an experienced software developer/forest enthusiast, Nikita Coulter an experienced environmental educator and Michael Deen an environmental science student specialising in trees. Together over 2019 we developed an answer to the question of an online platform that empowered local people to reforest their own communities.

The result was Restorify.
 

Connecting Landowners with Tree Donors = Restorify

 

Restorify attaches individual stories to each act of reforestation (ie. planting a tree). We call this 'YOUR TREE YOUR STORY' and works off the principle that human beings are more motivated by stories than by facts or figures.

Thinking globally by acting locally Your Tree Your Story allows the Restorify planter to tag their planted tree's location on the network’s map and then begin to tell the story of their newly planted tree; its nickname, its species, its current height, if it is dedicated to a loved one - maybe even attach a tree selfie, the possibilities are endless. 
 
Furthermore, Restorify’s digital nature allows for local crowdfunding of forests and its long term vision means that as the trees grow, so do their stories, creating forests of stories from the local communities who planted them.

 

Piloting Restorify

 

Plans are one thing but testing them is another and after months of research and development we were ready to pilot Restorify with hundreds of trees at 6 schools (both primary and secondary) in my local area of Newry & Mourne. All participating schools allowed the trees to be planted within their school grounds.

Restorify was also very grateful to have received funding from Live Here, Love Here and tree saplings from The Woodland Trust for the pilot. Furthermore we were assisted by a group of amazing Restorify volunteers over the planting days.

The results were fantastic. The power of tree planting combined with story telling really resonated with both the students and teachers alike.

Restorify’s Your Tree Your Story allowed the school children to emotionally connect with the act of planting their tree and for the teachers it created the opportunity for deeper learning, with the newly planted tree acting as a flexible teaching device. Plus on top of that each school received a newly planted native Irish forest.

 

Our 2020 Vision

 

Like the hundreds of newly planted trees, Restorify wants to grow. The Global Climate Emergency isn’t a future scenario but is now a lived reality. We needed to start reforesting our landscapes decades ago so there is no time to lose.

Ireland is covered cumulatively with thousands of hectares of available planting sites, whether it is on unused land owned by schools, local authorities, sports clubs, private citizens or companies.

Ireland’s next tree planting season is between late November 2020 and March 2021 and it is our aim to establish new forest planting sites (what we term as Missions) across the island.
To achieve this we are looking for available planting sites, volunteers, environmental groups and tree donors (individuals or companies).

If you are interested please contact us and follow us on social media to keep updated on our future Planting Missions and News.

Thank you for reading and let’s get Restorifying our local areas!

 

References

Ireland’s Tree Coverage from 80% to 1%.1

1. Teagasc Agriculture and Food Development Authority, ‘History of Forestry in Ireland’, Teagac [website], 2017,
, accessed 10 January 2020.

Restorify is a web platform that connects landowners with tree donors creating new native forests.

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