Tree Talk| 6 min read

The Story Of tentree

Wanna know how tentree got started, and what we've been up to along the way? We've got you covered.
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WRITTEN BY Tayllor Henczel

With over 50 million trees planted, it’s become pretty well known that tentree plants ten trees for each item purchased. We’ve come a long way since our first ten trees planted, so let’s take a look back at the story of tentree – where we’ve been and where we’re going.


How Did tentree Get Started?


In 2011, Kalen Emsley — who was working as a tree planter — reached out to an old friend of his, David Luba, who was living in Hawaii. Kalen wound up catching a flight out, and while there, they were inspired to start a clothing brand that gave back back to the earth they fell in love with on that Hawaii trip. And that’s where the idea of tentree was born.

The next step was roping Derrick Emsley, Kalen’s brother, into the company — Derrick gladly came on as our CEO. The initial support from the Emsley’s hometown of Regina, Saskatchewan was overwhelming and offered us an amazing launching pad to get tentree off the ground. The community was excited about the idea of trees being planted for each item purchased.


Our First “Office”

Talk about humble beginnings. Initially, we operated out of Kalen’s basement in Regina, Saskatchewan. The business was small and just starting to build momentum. We ran the whole company out of that basement until our growth was too much for the space to handle. Some allege we got kicked out of the basement, but the world will never know.

Up until our move from the basement, we’d been doing all of our printing on American Apparel products. We wanted to increase our impact beyond tree planting by focusing on sustainable fabrics. Our goal? To provide the best, most environmentally progressive clothing possible and act as a challenge to the clothing industry to do better by the planet.


Dragon’s Den Appearance


In March of 2013, David, Kalen, and Derrick appeared on an episode of Dragon’s Den — a TV show where entrepreneurs pitch their business ideas to high-profile venture capitalists to secure funding. We wound up being nominated as one of the top 10 “Game Changing” pitches from the first 8 seasons of the show, and yes, we did secure the funding we needed to grow tentree to the next level.

Haven’t seen the episode? Watch the full clip of our pitch here.


1 Million Trees Planted


On March 27, 2014, we announced to the world that, in partnership with international non-profit organizations, we had reached 1 million trees planted. Not only had 1 million trees been planted, but we created 160,000 hours of employment for locals in developing countries.

“A million trees was a major achievement for us, but by no means are we finished there,” Derrick Emsley said at the time. “We’ll be planting anywhere from two and a half to three million more trees in 2014, and expect that number to continue to double year after year as we expand into new markets and people respond to the message that we’re sharing.”

2014 was the same year that we introduced our tree registry program, which allows our customers to track where their trees are being planted and what kind of impact they’re having. At the time, our products were sold in more than 330 retail stores.


Becoming a B Corp


In May of 2016, we became a certified B Corporation, or B Corp for short. A B Corp is a business that meets the highest standards of verified social and environmental support, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose. In order to become a B Corp, your brand must have a score of at least 80 points on their scale. We scored in at over 124.


15 Million Trees Planted


On August 29, 2017, we announced another major tree planting milestone: 15 million trees planted!

“15 million trees is a major milestone for tentree, but ultimately, it is just the beginning,” said Derrick in a press release. “As tentree grows, so does the impact. Our goal is to become the most environmentally progressive brand on the planet and we are targeting over 1 billion trees by 2030. These trees are going to change lives.”

“It has always been our goal to bring the customer closer to their impact,” added Derrick. “Their purchase is what allows us to plant trees, provide jobs, and help an incredible number of people. We want every customer to feel emotionally connected to their impact. The tree registry program allows us to do this by highlighting where the trees will be planted, the type of tree, and then allows us to provide updates on the progress.”


Moving To Vancouver


August of 2016 marked a big move for us — we decided to uproot and relocate our home base to Vancouver, British Columbia. We were inspired by a city that mirrored our values — Vancouver aims to be world’s greenest city by 2020. And it’s not a bad bonus that Vancouver is also home to some of the most beautiful outdoor spaces in Canada, and by virtue attracts the exact type of people that want to work for an earth-first apparel brand. Vancouver allowed us a chance to get back to our roots, closer to nature, to find talented and passionate employees to grow our team, and plant more trees!

Our first office was small (not basement small, though), around 800 square feet, allowing room for only about 11 people at most. We quickly outgrew the space.


Most Sustainable Post


On Earth Day 2019, we wanted to try something different. So we took to Instagram and created the world’s most sustainable post. We partnered up with Eden Reforestation Projects to plant a tree for every 10 likes our post on Instagram received. We quickly reached the goal of 500,000 trees planted and kept it going! It’s ranked as one of Instagrams top 10 most liked posts of all time, and is still on that list years later.


Launching Climate+


In 2020, we launched our Climate+ program, a growing collection of brands and change-makers dedicated to doing good for our planet. Climate+ is the action of going beyond net zero. It means doing more than just offsetting carbon emissions – we’re creating an environmental benefit by removing additional carbon dioxide from the atmosphere.

We also created Climate+ packages you can purchase that plant trees to offset your daily pleasures like extra-steamy showers, avocado toast, and weekend getaways. Beyond offsetting carbon emissions, Climate+ rehabilitates ecosystems and provides jobs across the globe. With the help of our partners and our community, we planted 185,050 trees through Climate+ for Earth Day in 2020. That’s ~57,086 tonnes of CO2 absorbed from the atmosphere. Want to know more about Climate+? Read more about it here.


50 Million Trees Planted


On November 19, 2020, we hit our biggest milestone yet: 50 million trees planted! And by “we”, we mean “you.” Without your support, there’s no way we could have made such a huge impact. But what’s the impact of 50 million trees? We’re glad you asked.



The Future: Plant 1 Billion Trees By 2030

We know it’s a big, audacious goal, but we’re committed to doing better by our planet, one tree at a time. After all, big change starts small. We’d love for you to plant with us! Take a look at our Climate+ packages, explore our planting sites, or browse our earth-first apparel.

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