At the time of writing, 5 million people have shared a picture of their pet on Instagram Stories with a sticker claiming that one tree will be planted for every pet picture shared.
It’s a great idea but it’s more like an old-school chain email than anything of actual substance. It’s almost guaranteed that no one is going to plant that forest right now.
If you click on the sticker, it will show you all your friends who have also used the sticker and their pet photos. That’s it. There’s no link to a campaign or an organisation affiliated with the campaign or any explanation as to who is going to plant these trees, where they’re going to be planted, or how they’re going to be paid for.
There’s also no end date on the campaign, meaning that, in theory, whoever is behind this campaign could end up having to plant several billion trees if everyone got involved.
Think about it. If someone or some group wanted to plant lots of trees, this would be their way of getting attention. The sticker campaign would include lots of information about themselves and would be a brilliant viral marketing ploy to attract attention to their services. The fact that no information is attached means it’s almost certainly fake.
Tree planting is expensive. There are companies that specialise in planting vast numbers of trees like One Tree Planted and The Nature Conservancy and they do great work trying to re-wild and restore forests but they also require money. If you really want to plant trees, donate to an organisation like theirs.
The Nature Conservancy requires between USD $1.50 and USD $3 per tree planted. One Tree Planted does the same for USD $1. If someone was really planting all these trees, they would need at least $4 million dollars to cover the current number of shared pet pics.
That’s not to say that some mysterious benefactor isn’t out there gearing up to plant millions of trees at cost, it’s just highly unlikely. Still, internet people, particularly those in the crypto space, often have money to burn and have spent millions on way stupider things.
It’s also not as hard as you might think to get a sticker on Instagram. Anyone can do it with a little bit of knowledge in a couple of hours and there’s not really that much regulation around it. As long as it’s not offensive, Instagram will likely okay it automatically.
The sticker itself is a stroke of genius as the internet loves nothing more than sharing pics of cats and dogs. Couple that with a pledge to plant trees and reduce the impact of climate change, as the climate is so front and centre right now, it was always going to take off. Presumably someone, somewhere is having a good laugh about conning everyone.
Until Instagram or the originator of the sticker comes forward and reveals the source of the campaign, or someone else steps in to fulfil that pledge, we’re probably not going to know who’s behind it.
While looking at everyone’s cute pet pics is definitely something that makes the world a little better, it’s unlikely anyone is going to follow through with that forest.
The Source Revealed
The apparent source of the sticker and the tree planting campaign has finally revealed themselves to be none other than cyclical alleged scammers, Plant A Tree Co.
The group posted an update on their Instagram claiming credit for the campaign but saying that they don’t actually have the resources to plant 5 million trees.
They claim that the new ‘Add Yours’ feature on Instagram, which was added just five days ago by the social media company featured a glitch that stopped them from being credited for the campaign.
“We posted the new “Add Yours” story as a fun tree planting campaign where we can show off our awesome pets! We immediately realised the post would grow too big and that we didn’t have the resources to plant that many trees, so we deleted it 10 minutes later,” they wrote.
“Even though we deleted it, the stories continued to spread out of our control. Our credit for the post was also removed, because of what seems like an @instagram bug”.
Now the group have started a fundraiser to help them plant “4 million” trees and encouraged others to share the post further.
However, Plant A Tree Co has a history in this area and has been accused of jumping on the bandwagon to raise money off the back of social issues and failing to deliver in the past.
During the height of the Black Lives Matter movement, the group organised a similar stunt, offering to plant a tree for every 100 shares their post got. They stated that they would plant 200,000 trees as a result, however, those trees never materialised.
Their website currently states that they’ve planted 6,500 trees, although with little proof or evidence as to where these trees have been planted. The image showing “trees” being planted on their site appear to in fact be tomato plants.
They pulled something similar during the Black Summer bushfires, offering to donate one dollar to the NSW Royal Fire Service for every 100 follow and reposts they got. NSW RFS since responded that this was a scam and that no money or support was given to them.
Instead, Plant A Tree Co encourages people to buy bracelets from their site and a vague promise of planting 1 million trees. Despite this obvious cashing-in on the good intentions of others, their Instagram page still has over a million followers. There is also a dedicated Instagram page calling out their behaviour.
How You Can Actually Plant Trees
As mentioned above, there are many organisations out there already planting trees for as little as one dollar. If you want to help plant trees, donating to them would be a great start.
If you’re in the Greater Sydney region, the NSW Department of Planning, Industry and Environment has a campaign to actually plant 1 million trees by 2022 and, so far, over 600,000 are actually in the ground, with a further 266,000 ready to be planted.
The project involves volunteers getting out and planting trees themselves. There is support and help available on their website where you can register your interest.
To get a tree, local councils often offer free native tree giveaways. You can see when and where the latest giveaways are happening here.