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Rewilding forests can’t be done on the cheap

Planting a tree in the right place
Choosing the right partners is a massive part of what we do and who we are. The people, companies and charities we partner with are part of our heartbeat. They say as much about us, as anything we say does. And if we’re not happy with their ethics, their principles, their vision, then we can’t be partners. And we say no more often than is sensible for a company that needs to make a profit! But we are sooooooooo pleased to be a partner of Trees for Life!

Ever since McConks started investigating rewilding and tree planting back in early 2019, we’ve been concerned about the long term sustainability of some tree planting schemes.

We know from our work with organisations like the Woodland Trust that planting a seed can cost as little as £0.10, but that growing a seed into a viable sapling, planting that sapling, protecting that sapling, and replacing it if it withers costs significantly more. And yet there were many commercial tree planting and offsetting organisations that were willing to let us sell our customers a ‘you’ve planted a tree certificate’ for less than £1. And that didn’t seem right to us.

In our research we’ve come across a lot of potential tree planting scams, so we’ve taken significant steps to find a UK based rewilding charity that is fully transparent about its motives and methods. And that’s why we’ve partnered with Scottish rewilding charity @treesforlife. More about that later, but firstly, what are these scams…

Tree planting and offsetting scams

Less than $1.00 to plant a tree – money for nothing scam

At its most basic, this is simply charging $0.10 to plop a seed into a hole and kick some dirt over the top. We can all agree that this is not actually planting a tree, but planting a chance that a tree might grow. And without the right protection, nurturing, watering, and after planting care, the chance that your £0.10 tree grows is pretty close to zero. So the certificate that you get telling you what tree was planted where, how much carbon it consumes in its life, and how it will contribute to the tropical ecology, is based on a false assumption that every seed grows into a tree. In fact, the carbon embedded in energy taken to autogenerate those certificates and email them could even be greater than that one tree will ever consume! Especially if lots of people print their certificates. It costs at least £5 to grow a viable whip of an ecologically appropriate variety, plant it in the right place, protect it, replace it if it dies, and then reap the carbon and rewilding benefits claimed. So make sure you’re paying enough to actually grow a tree – not just plant a seed.

Rewilding – highlands style

Plant them, log them scam

What happens once the tree has matured? In many cases trees are deliberately planted in locations that are ‘farmed’ for logging. So the tree that you’ve paid to be planted will be cut down in 15 year’s time for timber. There is one school of thought that says that if this prevents virgin forest being cut down, it’s a good thing. However, unless this is declared up front, we think this says something about the ethics and business principles of those tree planting companies, and they’re not the sort of businesses we want to partner with!

Further research

There are many other ways that the commercial plant-a-tree and offsetting companies employ to make profit from your desire to do the right thing. One of the best exposes we’ve found is here. But if you really want to find out as much did, search for ‘plant-a-tree’ scams on google, and ask the Woodland Trust and treesforlife for their opinions. The amount of unethical practice out there is beyond disappointing!

Why treesforlife?

So after all of our research, we’ve nailed our flag to the @treesforlife post. We’ve spoken to lots of different charities, and it was a really hard choice. But ultimately, TreesForLife made it easy for us to create a McConks rewilding grove in the highlands of Scotland. We will be able to document the progress of that grove as we add more trees, and see it develop over time.

As an aside, there is very strong scientific evidence that mature trees in temperate zones do not capture as much carbon as those planted in tropical and subtropical regions. And this was a real concern of ours when choosing a Scottish location. But we satisfied ourselves, that this is offset against the fact that trees planted in our corporate grove are part of a wider rewilding project, and will never be logged, and will provide significant additional ecological benefits, all of which have a knock-on impact on that all-important sustainability and whole life carbon cost that matters so much when you really understand and care about the environment.

Doing it right – planting the right trees in the right places!

What happens next

We are going to be planting a tree in our corporate grove for every single SUP board package purchase. Each whip costs us £10 to plant and maintain. And we’re going to be adding 50% of this cost on to every SUP package purchase, so our prices will go up by £5 across the board.

But, Hey! We understand that not everyone agrees with paying £5 to plant a tree. So we will refund you the £5 charge if you email with the email subject being ‘tree refund’

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Let’s talk about sustainability and ethics in the inflatable SUP world

It’s fashionable to claim to be green and ethical.

Everyone is at it these days, with all sorts of claims. So let’s talk about what it really means to be #ethical and #sustainable. 🌍

To us it’s about a whole lot more than planting a few trees, using green energy or doing plastic litter patrols. And being ethical is about a bit more than brands stating that they give lots of money to charity.

All of these things are awesome, and important in their own right. And every company should do more.

But the whole ‘buy more shit you don’t really need’ cycle is fundamentally unsustainable and should be any ethical company’s starting point. It was our starting point anyway – which is why our products are a little more expensive than their cheaper (and less sustainable) competition.

Being sustainable means making sure that your kit lasts for years. And that costs money.

It means making sure that the raw materials are sourced as sustainably as possible. And that costs money.

Being ethical means more than stating on your website that you give to charity. It means, for example, making sure that your raw materials are made in factories where the workers are treated fairly and well, and where the health and welfare is the most important consideration. And that costs money.

And this is just the start of it. And it all costs.

We can honestly say, hand on heart, that if any other brand claims to be truly ethical, or sustainable, but is selling a similar product at a lower cost than us, then corners have been cut somewhere. Whether that is quality, ethics, sustainability or somewhere else, we can’t tell. But rest assured, those costs are cut somewhere.

And if ethics and sustainability really matters to you, and you want it to be a differentiator, it can be hard. Because most companies these days engage in the art of greenwash. Using pretty words and a few green initiatives to claim to be green. But just look at the whole range of products a company sells. That normally gives them away. If they’re happy to sell cheap merchandise, the chances are that ethics and sustainability are words they use, rather the principles they live and die by!

Our apparel might be most expensive than most of our competitors. But we make very little profit on our apparel (to put this into context, we make less than one pound gross profit per tee shirt). The money goes on the quality of the product, ensuring the workers are paid well, using sustainable, water based inks, only printing on demand rather than dumping waste product, using carbon neutral couriers, using green energy to make and print them. And we could go on, but we’re fairly sure noone is still reading!

If you are still reading and want to know more, check out our GoInspire, GoBeyond and rewilding initiatives.

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What is SUP? This is SUP!

What is SUP? This is SUP!

When you look at most paddleboarding content on webpages and social media, you might be forgiven for thinking that SUP is just for young, slim, pretty people, who also happen to be cool and hip.

But paddleboarding is about so much more than that.

SUP is, for many people about about community and fun. For others its a way of escaping from people. But it is absolutely for people of all ages, and all fitness levels. It’s for the young and the old, for the fit and unfit. In fact, it’s a really good way to start to get yourself fit again.

If your balance is awful? Don’t worry – there’s a board out there that makes it easy for you to balance – just get a bigger board until your balance has improved.

And what about if you are less abled? We’ve seen some amazing, inspirational challenges carried out by blind paddlers, and paddlers with significant physical challenges. And it’s also great for mental health.

So to bring this message home, we’ve put together this little video made up of footage provided by our customers, partners and friends. Not from professional video makers, or sales and marketing people.

But real people.

Because that is what paddleboarding is all about.

Thanks to the following for their support and/or contributing!

The Princes Trust

Hurley Foundation

The National Trust

The Scout Association – scout adventures


Beyond Boundaries East Lothian


Mere Mountains

Standup Paddle Mag UK

Anyone Can

Water, Rock, Dirt

Cotswold Water Park Hire

Scotland SUP Co

Ramblings of a Broken Hiker

Ben Arthur Photography

Gonzo SUP

Yellowbelly SUP

SUP experience

Rapid Skills



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3 reasons why you should consider paddleboarding for the first time!

Group SUP on giant SUP boards

3 reasons why paddleboarding is easier than you think it might be

One of our customers customers (that’s not a typo!) has recently written a blog on why paddleboarding is so accessible and easy for everyone!

You can read the full article by clicking the button at the bottom… but what did Claire from Weekend Candy conclude:

  1. It’s a great way to explore your local rivers, lakes and canals
  2. It’s easy and affordable
  3. You don’t need to be superfit – as Claire says, ” Best of all, for someone like me whose fitness took a nosedive when I hit 40, you don’t need to be super athletic to give stand-up paddleboarding (SUP) a try. Amen. “

Thanks to Claire for writing such a great write up of her day with one of our partner companies, Inspire2Adventure, on the River Wye.

You can read the full article by clicking the button below

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Pros and cons of a Compact lightweight paddleboard

Why don’t you…? Compact inflatable paddleboards SUP

The idea of a compact SUP is very alluring. Something light and that fits in cabin baggage seems like a game changer. And in many ways it is exactly what most inflatable paddleboard paddlers want. And we know this because lots of people contact us to ask if we’re making a compact inflatable SUP board!

We, at McConks, have been investigating and testing compact boards for a number of years. But we’re not yet fans of the technology in the compact boards for a few reasons:

  • Although the lighter, more flexible dropstitch that makes up the core of a compact board has been around for several years (1), making a compact inflatable SUP board is not as straightforward as making a standard fusion board. The seams are not as reliable because of the flexibility of the outer shell, meaning that twists and seam failures lead to an unacceptably high failure rate at the factory. Although our factory QA is very high, so we’re confident we could pick up QA failures before they left the factory, there is a significant amount of wasted resources. And we don’t agree with that from a sustainability and environmental point of view.
  • Regular folding along of compact boards has already been shown to cause failures at the crease lines in the short time they’ve been around. There are ways to reduce the risk of PVC breakdown at this stress point, but it will always remain at increased risk of deterioration and failure. We haven’t fully tested the failure mechanism yet, but it appears to be used related failure more than age related failure. So the more you fold at the crease, the greater the risk of failure.
  • Paddles – Four or five piece paddles just don’t work in our opinion. A lightweight four or five piece paddle just doesn’t give us the performance or reliability that we think our customers want. Too much performance is sacrificed for portability.

So as much as we like the idea and principle of a compact board, we’re not quite ready to produce one yet. We’ll keep an eye on the technology, and we’ll keep testing new technology, but we’ll definitely not be selling a compact board in 2020 sorry!

Click the button below for an article on SUPhubUK for the pros and cons of different compact SUP Products

(1) This dropstitch has been around for a number of years and well before the brand that claims to hold the patent for the technology brought out their compact range.

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