Instagram trend sought pet pictures in exchange for planting trees. Is it real? – The Washington Post

The promise was straightforward: “We’ll plant 1 tree for every pet picture.”
Within minutes, that prompt this week from an account called Plant A Tree Co. took off on Instagram. It became a global trend, with millions of people rushing to upload photos of cats and dogs — with many probably thinking they were helping the environment in the process.
As of Tuesday morning, there were more than 4.1 million posts from people sharing photos of their pets, using Instagram’s “Add Yours” interactive sticker feature, which was introduced globally last week.
When users add a sticker — or a label — to their Instagram stories, anyone who sees the posts and taps the prompt can contribute to the public content chain, allowing their followers to see the posts and do the same.
In this case, the trend swiftly became animal lovers’ dream — a thread showcasing dogs on pool floats, dogs in Halloween costumes, dogs hiding under blankets and snoozing in their favorite spots. There were images of a whippet wearing a raincoat, rescue puppies on sandy beaches. Fluffy kittens, hamsters. Even a donkey.
But will 4 million trees be planted? Almost certainly not. Will any trees be planted? Unclear.
The account behind the idea said it quickly realized it had made a huge mistake.
“We actually posted it…But only for ten minutes…,” read a follow-up Instagram post from Plant A Tree Co., which has more than 1 million followers.
“We immediately understood the potential this post had and believed we didn’t have the capabilities and resources to keep our end of the post,” the organization explained, adding that it had deleted the post.
A post shared by Plant A Tree Co. (@plantatreeco)
Plant A Tree Co., which did not immediately reply to requests for comments, does not list information on its website about where it is based or who is behind its stated goal of making the planet greener. It claims to have planted more than 6,500 trees to date, but it does not specify how, where or when.
It says it moved quickly to remove the original post, but the sticker continued to spread online. Since the original prompt was deleted, the post’s credit seemingly disappeared. That meant it was unclear to users still coming across the post who exactly was behind the trend, leading many to pose variations of the same question: “Ok but WHO is going to plant all these trees for pet pictures?”
Meta, formerly Facebook, which owns Instagram, told The Washington Post in a statement, “The ‘we’ll plant one tree for every pet picture’ trend shows the power of the Instagram community to raise awareness on important topics.”
Meta said that the trend, “Like all other ‘Add Yours’ sticker threads,” was launched “by an independent Instagram account — not Instagram.”
Now, Plant A Tree Co., is not just asking for pictures — it’s asking for money. The account is seeking donations on Instagram.
“Though we don’t have the ability to plant 4 million trees we can use this awareness to make a lasting impact,” the account said as it announced a fundraising campaign. “Please tag all your friends, celebrities, and @instagram so they can see this and so we can ACTUALLY plant 4 million trees,” the account wrote.
On social media Tuesday, many skeptics continued to dissect Plant A Tree Co.’s intentions.
“What? Posting pet pictures on Instagram *didn’t* make an organisation you’ve never heard of suddenly plant 4 million trees? Shocked,” read one tweet.
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