We Finally Know Who’s Planting All Those Trees In Exchange For Pet Photos On Instagram

Turns out it wasn't exactly a scam after all.

plant 1 tree for every pet picture Instagram trend explained plant a tree co

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If you’ve been on Instagram this week, there’s no doubt that your Stories have been flooded with photos of your friend’s pets with a sticker that promises to plant trees.

And if you’re confused over who the hell is planting some four million trees in exchange for random pet photos, you’re not alone. No one can quite understand how this trend started — or really whether there’s any truth to the promises.

So let’s dissect what’s exactly going on with the “We’ll plant one tree for every pet picture” Instagram trend.

Why Is Everyone Posting Pet Photos In Exchange For A Tree?

A new Instagram feature that cropped up at the start of November was the Add Yours sticker.

Facebook explains that these stickers allow you to “start fun public story sharing with your followers and the Instagram community” by creating custom prompts in the hopes of making people express themselves and collaborate in a more casual way.

But while Facebook suggested that people “share their #OOTD [outfits of the day] or recent photos” with the feature, one Instagram page promised to plant a bunch of trees in exchange for photos of pets — a task that would be impossible for a single person to do now that there have been more than 4.2 million responses to the sticker.

Over the weekend, people sharing photos of their pets became more and more frequent. But on November 8, this number shot up into the millions as people genuinely started to believe that they were doing a good deed by uploading a photo of their dog or cat to their Instagram story.

However, as these Instagram stories grew and the number of trees needing to be planted began to shoot beyond four million, people started questioning whether the whole thing was a scam.

Realistically, a single person or organisation couldn’t possibly plant millions of trees with no funding and with no dedicated land for them. So, questioning the “We’ll plant one tree for every pet picture” trend started to become a meme as scepticism grew around the promises of new trees.

So, Who Promised To Plant These Trees?!

According to Facebook, the creator of ‘We’ll plant one tree for every pet picture’ likely deleted their original sticker or made their account private.

“Add Yours stickers will show the original author when you tap on them, except in some cases where the author deletes their original post or if their account is private,” a Facebook company spokesperson told Junkee. “We are working on improving transparency in cases like these.”

However, since the trend has gone bonkers on Instagram, Plant A Tree Co — an organisation that focuses on, well, planting trees — has actually claimed responsibility for the sticker in question.

In an Instagram post, the group admitted that they used the Add Yours feature “as a fun tree planting campaign” to get people to share their cute pets. But 10 minutes in, Plant A Tree Co quickly realised that “the post would grow too big” and that the group didn’t have the resources to plant that many trees, so the post was deleted.

Unfortunately for the organisation, the way the Add Yours stickers currently work meant that the ‘We’ll plant one tree for every pet picture’ prompt lived on and unsuspecting people continued to share their animal photos thinking they were doing a good deed.

“We immediately understood the potential this post had and believed we didn’t have the capabilities and resources to keep our end of the posts. So we deleted it,” the post read. “Even though we deleted it, the stories continued to spread out of our control.”


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Plant A Tree Co. (@plantatreeco)

In the post, Plant A Tree Co assumed that “Instagram stripped” their credit from the sticker because of an Instagram bug. But as Facebook explained to Junkee, a sticker loses this credit if the original post is deleted, which is exactly what has caused such mass confusion across social media.

But in an attempt to rectify the pet photo-for-tree planting blunder, Plant A Tree Co has organised a fundraiser to help fund planting some of the trees that were promised with the unintentionally misleading sticker.

The ‘Repost To Plant A Tree’ fundraiser is running for 29 days and has a goal of approximately $1.3 million AUD. According to One Tree Planted, the average cost to plant a single tree sapling is around 85 cents, so there’s potential for a maximum of approximately 1.5 million new trees.

Unlike other sites like GoFundMe, which states that deceiving users is against the site’s terms and conditions, Facebook doesn’t actually hold creators and brands accountable for any claims they make in these new Add Yours stickers.

At least Plant A Tree Co has come up with an alternate solution that can satisfy those that thought they were doing a good deed by sharing photos of their pets. And really if everyone who posted a photo of their pet to Instagram just donated 25 cents to the fundraiser, Plant A Tree Co would reach their goal instantly.

Michelle Rennex is a senior writer at Junkee. She tweets at @michellerennex.