For Kalen Emsley and David Luba, two best friends from Regina, the idea of creating a truly eco-friendly clothing line was sparked on a backpacking trip through the island of Hawaii. They noticed many of their fellow travellers embracing socially-responsible clothing companies, and it inspired them to create a brand that helped revitalize the environment through tree planting.
Together with CEO Derrick Emsley, tentree’s story began. The organization is a tree planting company that uses environmentally progressive clothing as a vehicle to restore environments, support communities, and inspire sustainable living. For every item of clothing purchased, tentree plants 10 trees around the world.

The company has grown from a local Regina brand into a global movement. In 2012, the Emsley brothers and Luba were offered a partnership on Dragons’ Den, putting them in the spotlight and raising awareness of the brand across Canada.

Tentree is now close to reaching a major milestone of 25 million trees planted. The company plants in more than 13 countries, including Madagascar, Indonesia, Haiti, Nepal, Canada, and the US.

The benefits of planting trees are long and deep. It revitalizes dry soil, provides substantial oxygen supply to communities, fosters employment, and benefits locals living in the areas by providing wood for fuel, food, and fodder for livestock.

Beyond planting trees, the company is also focused on providing education, employment, food, and shelter to hundreds of people around the world. It recently helped fund a birthing centre in Madagascar, providing health education and tools to help pregnant women and new mothers receive access to proper care.

Mediaplanet spoke with CEO Derrick Emsley about tentree’s clothing, initiatives, and his vision for the company over the next 10 years.

Mediaplanet: Why should people shop with tentree?

Derrick Emsley: When you invest in tentree, you’re investing in a more sustainable future. It’s not just about creating great-looking products made from recycled or sustainably-sourced materials. It’s about protecting the world we play in and joining a movement that’s contributing to a healthier planet for everyone.

MP: How does the brand appeal to a younger generation?

DE: It’s built by young people, for young people. And beyond sustainability, we always consider comfort and function when designing our products and build apparel that doesn’t feel fussed or overdone. They allow our consumers to do what they do best — get outside and enjoy nature. Additionally, today’s consumer is conscious about what their products are made of, where they’re made, and who made them. We’re committed to being as transparent as possible across all three pillars.

MP: What other initiatives does tentree participate in?

DE: One of tentree’s commitments is to educate communities on how to harvest more sustainably. A recent project in Senegal involved teaching a community the Forest Garden Model — a farming system that involves planting fruit-bearing trees, medicinal flowers, and vegetables. The community had previously been planting peanuts, which depleted the soil of nutrients and didn’t provide enough income for the bare essentials. Using the Forest Garden Model, the planters learn to plant fruit trees to yield food while also making the soil more nutrient-rich, and planted Acacia trees around them to protect from animals and destruction. This initiative has changed people’s lives, as the trees provide up to five times more income for the community — people were able to afford food for their families, school supplies, and resources for the village.

MP: Where do you see tentree in 10 years time?

DE: Our goal is to create the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet and make it more accessible for everyone to connect with nature, whether by investing in bringing green spaces to cities or by building forests around the world. We’re hoping to pave the way for the textile industry by creating more sustainable product, creating end-of-life programs, and ultimately developing 100 percent biodegradable products, so our clothing can be planted in your own backyard. By 2030, we will have planted over one billion trees and have had an incredible positive impact on the planet and the lives of thousands of people.