If you’ve looked at a single Instagram Story in the past 24 hours, you’ve likely seen it: a pet photo, along with the Add Yours thread that reads “We’ll plant one tree for every pet picture.”
Those pet photos probably aren’t planting any trees. The Instagram account Plant A Tree Co., @plantatreeco, admitted in an Instagram post that they were behind the anonymous tree planting post. They said they deleted it after 10 minutes because they “didn’t have the capabilities & resources to keep our end of the post.” But even after an original post is deleted, others can still share it. Currently, there are over 4 million shares of the Add Yours thread, but, because Plant A Tree Co. deleted their post so early, no Instagram users can click back to see who posted it originally.
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And that’s a problem — because Plant A Tree Co. might not be working entirely above board. The company sells necklaces, and each necklace sold is a tree planted, or money donated to elephants, or some other causes. According to their Instagram, the causes change pretty often. Their website doesn’t have much information about who runs the brand, or how the necklace/donation system works. And their Instagram account looks more like an algorithmic dream for anyone who likes animals than a jewelry business page. Plant A Tree Co. did not immediately respond to an interview request.
They did, though, ask Instagram to plant the trees for them. Plant A Tree Co. sent a DM to Instagram head Adam Mosseri and posted it on their story asking him if he, and all of Instagram, would “be willing to help us plant 4 million trees for all the people who shared a picture of their pets. We think it’s only fair, since Instagram let it spread after we deleted the post.” Your move, Mosseri.
This isn’t the first time Plant A Tree Co., which boasts over a million followers, has come under fire for potentially scamming users on Instagram. In January, the account said it would donate to charities and plant trees in response to the Australia bush fires if users followed them and reposted their content. But, according to HuffPost, they also “aggressively urged” people to buy merchandise on their website, and there was no proof that the proceeds actually went to charity, according to HuffPost. They also reported that Plant A Tree Co. has done this many times before, and just erased their Instagram posts and started over. But Plant A Tree Co. said at the time that they made a $3,173.30 donation to Australia’s NSW Rural Fire Service, and they also have a story highlight on their account that is supposed to provide proof of donations.
The Add Yours thread appears to no longer work on Instagram, although the platform didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment. For what it’s worth, Plant A Tree Co. is now trying to raise $1 million for @treesforthefuture, an organization that is dedicated to planting trees. However, Trees for the Future posted on their Instagram stories that they are not affiliated with Plant A Tree Co. and urged their followers to donate at their website instead of Plant A Tree Co.’s Instagram account.
The bottom line is that, no, your animal pictures probably didn’t plant any trees. But you can always donate to organizations that do plant trees, like Trees For The Future. And, please, for me personally, keep posting your pet pics.
Mashable has reached out to Instagram for comment, and we’ll update this post if we hear back.