How Social Media Is Helping Plant 1 Million Trees In Patagonia

I hate Facebook games. I hate the invites, the premise, and the idea that somewhere out there, people are wasting hours collecting enough fake money to buy a fake sheep for their virtual farm. I know that occasional diversions are good for the soul, so if you love these games, don’t take it too hard, they’re just not for me. There’s so much we need to be doing to make the real world a better place, I don’t understand wasting time in the virtual world.

Then I discovered Reforest Patagonia. Last December, a devastating man-made fire burned over 43,000 acres in the iconic Torres del Paine National Park. Since then, the Chile-based non-profit initiative, has been working to restore the ecosystem to its former glory. Among other things, they decided to leverage love for social media games into real world action. Through this creative campaign, Reforest Patagonia recently achieved their first 100,000 tree milestone, and is well on its way to the goal of one million planted trees by 2013.

reforest-patagonia

Image via Reforest Patagonia

The campaign incorporates social media, GPS technology, and the power of crowdfunding to compel people to get involved with the reforestation effort. The first level of participation is simple: donate $4, and Reforest Patagonia will plant a native-species tree (species: lenga, ñirre, and coigüe) in your name. Donors also receive an official certificate of its authenticity with the tree’s exact GPS coordinates, allowing for the tree to be seen via Google Maps from anywhere in the world.

The second level of participation is for those who want to mobilize their online networks for a bigger impact. Groups can use the “Create Your Own Forest” gaming feature to compete for the highest tree count among organizations in similar categories. There are prizes for groups who successfully “plant” the largest forest.

The campaign has drawn considerable attention in Latin America especially due to the innovative virtual forest platform through which the trees are donated– and for which Reforest Patagonia garnered an ANDA award for Sustainable Marketing.

What do you think? Is this an online game that’s worth the time? Tell us in a comment!

Beth Buczynski is a freelancer writer and editor currently living in the Rocky Mountain West. Her articles appear on Care2, Ecosalon and Inhabitat, just to name a few. So far, Beth has lived in or near three major U.S. mountain ranges, and is passionate about protecting the important ecosystems they represent. Follow Beth on Twitter as @ecosphericblog