Plant a Tree Co.: The Root of 4.1 Million Pet Pictures


Shira Oelsner, Staff Writer

Picture this. You wake up from the Sunday scaries with the typical Monday blues. But this time they’re different. You open Instagram to discover a sudden flood of pet pictures that cure the mundane nature of your day. Story after story. Another dog brightening up your day. The root of this surge of pet pictures? Plant a Tree Co., a company that aims to plant millions of trees across the globe.

On November 2, Plant a Tree Co. posted an Instagram story promising to “plant 1 tree for every pet picture,” in pursuit of its goal to plant 1 billion trees by 2030. The post rapidly went viral on the social media platform, as many users assumed that posting their pets was simultaneously bettering the environment. A week later, a wave of 4.1 million pet pictures, posted through Instagram’s new “Add Yours” sticker feature, dominated the app. 

This “Add Yours” sticker feature, which the app launched globally a week prior, allows users to embed a public sticker onto their stories, which can then be reposted by any of one of the users’ followers to spark a content chain. Any user can tap a sticker and contribute to the thread, which elicits a chain reaction and causes these stickers to instantly go viral, as did Plant a Tree Co.’s.  

Unknowing of the scope it would reach, Plant a Tree Co. deleted the story within 10 minutes of posting the thread, after reconsidering the magnitude of its audience. With 1.1 million followers, the possibility of planting millions of trees grew unfeasible. “We immediately understood the potential this post had and believed we didn’t have the capabilities or resources to keep our end of the post,” the company wrote in a separate statement. After doing so, Instagram stripped Plant a Tree Co. of its credit for the post and removed the originator from the sticker itself. However, the post still remained online for the public to share, and, thus, the pet pictures appeared out of thin air—a week later—at an uncontrollable rate. 

In a matter of days, animal-lovers’ dreams came true: scrolling through social media to find one pet picture after another. What more could they ask for? But after a while, many skeptics stopped to wonder where, when, and how 4.1 million trees are being planted, as well as who will be planting them. Not to mention, whether or not any of the 4.1 million trees will be planted. The answer to this question remains unclear, as the company stated it is incapable of abiding by its promise. 

However, this isn’t the first time Plant a Tree Co. sparked commotion on the app. According to The Washington Post, the company caused chaos when it promised to plant 100 trees every time a user shared one of its Instagram posts. After the post hit 1 million shares, the company deleted it, and once again, did not keep its promise, claiming that this act among others was an “unintentional mistake.” Not only is the company notorious for making promises it doesn’t fulfill, Plant a Tree Co. also allegedly planted 6,500 trees to date, but excludes the necessary details regarding where, when, how, and by whom these trees were planted. More discrepancies are evident between its website and Instagram account, in which the website claims the company has raised $600,000 in funds, whereas its Instagram account claims it has raised $500,000 in funds.

In attempts to redeem its now questionable reputation, Plant a Tree Co. is initiating a fundraiser to raise money towards Trees for the Future, a far more reputable non-profit organization that aids communities around the world in planting trees. “Though we don’t have the ability to plant 4 million trees, we can use this awareness to make a lasting impact,” the company wrote. Plant a Tree Co. is in no way affiliated with the organization, but hopes to raise money towards the organization’s cause, so it “can actually plant 4 million trees.”  

While tree-huggers may frown upon the thought that Plant a Tree Co. won’t actually plan 4 million trees, this scheme sheds light on the power of social media to raise awareness on substantial world issues. This global trend may influence more legitimate organizations to use this platform as a gateway to spread awareness and promote their causes. Abigail Kushman (’23), Tenafly High School’s Green Team secretary, deems it significant for social media users to pay close attention to the accounts that intend to better the environment. “Social media is a great way to spread awareness and reduce humanity’s carbon footprint, but I think it’s definitely hard to 100 percent validate whether or not an organization will actually follow through with its promises,” Kushman said. “If social media users are interested in bettering the environment, they can be more hands-on within their community.” She noted that although the account had good intentions in creating this post, she’s disappointed that all the trees won’t ultimately be planted.

So, will a tree be planted for every one of the 4.1 million pet pictures shared online? No. But did your feed overflow with pet pictures? Yes. Perhaps more importantly, Generation Z exemplified its ability to promote global issues at such a fast pace, which can help progress the environmental cause.