Activism by app: grow a tree with your mobile

tree planet2Play a game on your mobile and help save the environment! That’s how the promoters of Tree Planet advertise this mobile phone application which enables users to play a game raising a virtual tree and then have a real tree planted in Indonesia, Mongolia, South Korea or Sudan.

Here’s how it works. The application is downloaded for free through Facebook or smart phone. Users dig a hole in the ground, plant a seed, pat their tree to encourage it, take care of it with water and fertilizer then defend the tree from grazing sheep and little men with chainsaws. Once the virtual tree reaches a certain level, the user can send it off to get planted in real life.

In a similar manner to child sponsorship programs, users who send their trees to get planted receive detailed information about the name of their tree, its sex, when and where it was planted, a photo and updates every few months about how their tree is doing. The water pumps which appear in the game are also donated to developing countries.

The cute graphics and animation underpin a serious ambition among Korean creators, Hyung-soo Kim, Mincheol Jeong and Jaehyun kim. Their aim is for Tree Planet to become the company which plants the highest number of trees around the world. Already the game has more than 300,000 users and 250,000 trees have been planted. Tree Planet is being supported by the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD), United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and World Vision.

Tree Planet counts Hanwa and ING among its corporate sponsors who fund tree and planting costs. Revenue is also generated through advertising, with sponsors displaying their logos on water and fertilizer. The funds raised are given to NGOs who organize the tree planting.

While Tree Planet is unlikely to save the environment, it is proving an effective way of generating awareness among young people, making use of an easy and enjoyable format.

The boom in mobile phone applications is seeing an increase in this type of social venture that aims to make a difference in society. Tree Planet received third place at the international Global Social Venture Competition in 2011.

Founded in 2010, Tree Planet is currently available in English and Korean with a Thai version expected soon. In Thailand, Tree Planet is partnering with paper company, Double A to support a sustainable agroforestry project. Double A has spent close to US $2 million in inviting people to play the game and in preparing more than 10 million paper tree seedlings to be planted in Thailand.

More information is available on the Tree Planet website:'

Kate Langford

Kate Langford is a consultant writer with close to 20 years’ experience in communicating natural resource, environmental and land management issues for various government and non-government organizations. She previously worked as Communications Specialist for the World Agroforestry Centre in Kenya and has worked in Indonesia, Laos, Vietnam and Australia. She holds a Bachelor of Science and a Graduate Diploma in Scientific Communication.

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