You may have noticed your friends posting pictures of their dogs or cats, or even their significant others, on their Instagram stories as part of a recent campaign promising to plant trees for every picture posted.
Heck, you may have even been one of the 4 million people to post up the Add Yours sticker, stating “We’ll plant 1 tree for every pet picture.”
But who is the “we” behind the post and is anyone planting millions of trees? Let’s dive in.
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Earlier this month, Instagram debuted a new feature which was a sticker that could be used to create public threads in Instagram stories, yet another feature that allows users to share content.
Since the Add Yours sticker feature went live last Monday, an Instagram page belonging to an organisation called Plant A Tree Co. created a sticker and began using it for a campaign that promised to plant a tree for every pet photo users shared.
The campaign quickly blew up and millions of people got in on the trend by using the sticker and sharing photos of their pets.
But over the weekend, suspicion began to mount. Users wondered who was behind the campaign and if they would actually plant millions of trees.
I simply don’t believe that company will plant a tree if you post a photo of your dog.
— Travis Helwig (@travishelwig) November 9, 2021
On its website, Plantatreeco.com claims to have “planted over 6,500 trees to date” and has a stated goal of planting one million trees by the end of 2021.
On Tuesday, Plant A Tree added a post to its Instagram brand page titled “Who’s behind the anonymous tree planting post?” with an image showing that the sticker had been used more than four million times.
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However, in the post, it said it wouldn’t actually be able to follow through on its promise.
“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,” said Plant A Tree Co.
“Even though we deleted it, a week later out of nowhere the stories continued to spread out of our control, reaching millions of reposts.”
The group went on to say the credit for the sticker was removed, no longer linking them to the post. Now, it claims to want to raise funds to help plant four million trees.
But instead of planting the trees themselves, Plant A Tree said that they are raising money for Trees for the Future, a group that helps communities around the world plant trees.
However, there is no fundraiser for Trees for the Future listed on Plant A Tree’s website. Trees for the Future, which is a registered nonprofit, told CBC News they are not affiliated with the brand.
“When the fundraiser came to our attention, we immediately reached out to the group asking them to clarify the nature of the fundraiser, and we reported the post to Instagram,” said Lindsay Cobb, Trees for the Future spokesperson.
All this sounds like just another act of clicktivism. Whether or not you posted up the story, I guess the notion of the sticker and intention behind it was good (?), or maybe it was just someone phishing for clicks.
Either way, at least one good thing came out of this; everyone loves to see some furry friends on the timeline. If I had one, I’d use any excuse to showcase them too.