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.
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 for Restorify. What if there was an online platform that connected local tree donors with available local land?
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 scientist specialising in trees.
Together we created restorify.org an online social enterprise platform that connects tree donors with available land, which we term Missions, allowing for the creation of new native forests.
Restorify works off the principle that human beings are more motivated by stories than by facts or figures and as a result our platform allows the tree planter to attach individual stories to each act of reforestation (eg. planting a single native tree). We call this "Your Tree Your Story" .
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 donor, its current height, if it is dedicated to a loved one - maybe even attach a tree selfie, the possibilities are endless.
Plans are one thing but testing them is another and after months of R&D 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.
Like our hundreds of newly planted trees last season, Restorify wants to grow.
This planting season we have three planting Missions totaling almost 1500 trees in Co.Kildare, Co.Monaghan and Co.Down. A big thank you to our tree donors Instil Software, Development Perspectives and Live Here Love Here for their support.
Our long term goal is to be the go-to digital tool for local people wanting to rewild or reforest their local communities.
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.
Over the coming years Restorifty wants to establish new native forest Mission sites right across Ireland. To achieve this we are looking for landowners with available planting sites, tree donors (companies or individuals) and planting volunteers.
Please follow us on social media to keep updated on our future Planting Missions and News.
Thank you for reading and let’s get Restorifying!
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 30 October 2020.