In 2019, one Reddit post spurred a redwood-sized movement to bring back mangroves in Mozambique, protect the local water supply in Kenya, revive landscapes in British Columbia, and more. This incredible story of #TeamTrees will have you rethinking the power of the internet and prove to you that bringing people in on your goals can only make them bigger and better.
With any big lofty goal, nothing can change with just one person. In the age of the internet and social media, these big goals often pop up online—but is online activism really effective? My take… YES! And this story is the perfect example of exactly how that can happen.
Let’s be honest, there is endless debate over the capacity for good (or bad) that the internet has. Younger generations are often criticized for “retweet activism”—that is, sharing something on social media but not doing anything to spur change in real life. But in this case, a single, joking Reddit post prompted a YouTuber to start a movement that brought thousands of internet creators and hundreds of thousands of others together to plant more than—wait for it—20 million trees.
Here’s how #TeamTrees embraced the power of the internet to create real-life action across the world.
How the Internet Came Together!
When MrBeast hit 20 million subscribers on YouTube in the fall of 2019, one post on Reddit made his followers prod him to do something crazy to commemorate it: plant 20 million trees. Then, after just one tweet encouraging his viewers to get involved, the #TeamTrees movement quickly outgrew him. Soon, thousands of other content creators and hundreds of thousands of people joined the tree-planting party.
Doing challenges at this level isn’t anything new for 22-year-old Jimmy “MrBeast” Donaldson. In fact, that’s what he’s best known for. He’s tried to spend 24 hours underwater, has given $20,000 to the last person to leave a rollercoaster, and has ordered a pizza and given a tip of… the house. But then something changed, and MrBeast realized his crazy videos could actually do some crazy good.
Now, more and more, viewers see videos like giving $1,000,000 of food to food shelves and people in need, or donating $200,000 to people who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.
The more ridiculous the challenge, the more it sounds like MrBeast. But these days, his massive following and insane challenges are becoming a force for good.
With a whopping 60 million subscribers, MrBeast has a platform to be reckoned with. And when he decided to put that force towards helping the environment (back when he had “only” 20 million), an amazing movement was born that soon outgrew his already huge following and took on a life of its own.
The entire YouTube community and beyond came together to plant (and raise money to plant) 20 million trees, including huge names like It’s Okay To Be Smart, The Try Guys, AsapSCIENCE, Adam Savage, TED-Ed, and many more. Some, like Mark Rober, one of the initial partners of the movement, even got super innovative and used biomimicry drones to plant trees 1 in areas that are hard to access.
Check out the original video that started it all to see what #TeamTrees is all about.
And now? 22 million trees!
Turns out, MrBeast planted the seed for a redwood-sized movement; one that will help the world for years to come.
As of the date of this article’s publishing, #TeamTrees has raised $22,733,293. Those trees are still going in the ground every day now in 2021, and the Arbor Day Foundation hopes to have all 22.6 million trees (and however many more are donated) in the ground by December of 2022.
Here’s the one-year update video from #TeamTrees, published in early 2020, telling us how the movement took off and what’s happening now.
You can find MrBeast’s YouTube channel here, and check out the new #TeamTrees YouTube channel for all kinds of updates, including more specific videos about how the movement is helping those Mozambican mangroves, Kenyan water supplies, and Canadian landscapes that I mentioned.
Curious about the tangible impact of planting 20,000,000 trees?
Check out this great video from The Infographics Show. It describes exactly what the impact of that many trees will be. And with the Arbor Day Foundation hard at work to ensure high survivability rates, the trees will become homes, feeders, and nurseries for critters around the world! Not to mention, they’ll be filling their big roles in removing carbon from the atmosphere, bringing down energy costs, reducing sound pollution, and preventing chemical pollution.
In July of 2019, a Swiss study even found that if we plant enough trees we can stop—or at least put a serious dent in—climate change. 4
There have been some worthy questions and concerns:
Are the trees native to the places they’re planting? How are they ensuring the tree’s survival? How long will it take for the trees to actually make a difference in helping the planet?
Even though the impact won’t be felt right this moment, it will make a big difference in years to come. And the Arbor Day Foundation wants everyone to know that they’re working with the National Park Service and international park restoration centers to ensure all trees are planted in good places such as those previously devastated by forest fires and logging. You can read more about the measures they’re taking in the FAQ at teamtrees.org.
You can still join the #TeamTrees movement!
This monumental movement is still going on and actively receiving donations every day! Here are some ways you can get involved:
- Go to teamtrees.org to donate today. One dollar = one tree!
- Plant a tree on your own! Find a spot in your yard or contact your local recreation department to get something started in your hometown to benefit the local ecosystem. Of course, make sure you’re following best practices: only plant trees native to the area, and consult your local wildlife service to make sure your tree won’t be hurting the ecosystem. But once you get the “go ahead,” go for it!
- Share this article and share the movement! As the YouTubers who advocate for #TeamTrees realized, sharing something is the best way to make it bigger and better, and to make a big difference.
When we work together, we can do great things.
MrBeast admitted that he wasn’t sure the original goal would be met, but clearly the movement became bigger than him. The #TeamTrees movement is now millions of trees past their goal, and still going strong.
When everyone wants to help and tons of well-known folks get involved to use their platforms for good, the reach they have is unparalleled.
Now, people of all ages are getting involved with #TeamTrees and the Arbor Day Foundation, all thanks to the power of the internet. It’s amazing that one post on Reddit made this possible, and it’s incredible to see people using their platforms to promote and influence real, tangible change for the better.
“Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.”
For more great stories of how a single person created goodness that soon outgrew them and went out in—I’ll say it—ever widening circles, check out these articles from our library next.
The lesson? It’s not just about you!
When you create something that really makes a difference, it can grow so much larger than you. And when something like this takes on a life of its own, that’s even better. Let’s never hesitate to be a part of starting the snowball that just grows and grows, with more and more people joining in to help people and the planet for years to come. We all need each other’s help to accomplish big goals, so don’t be afraid to ask for help, and don’t be afraid to get involved.
And remember, whatever goal you may have, you don’t have to plant all 20 million trees yourself. When you bring people in and spread the word, they’re often more than willing to help, no matter how big or small your goal may be.
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- Rober, Mark. “Using Drones to Plant 20,000,000 Trees.” YouTube, 25 Oct. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=U7nJBFjKqAY. Accessed 16 Feb. 2021. ↩
- MrBeast. “Planting 20,000,000 Trees, My Biggest Project Ever!” YouTube, 25 Oct. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=HPJKxAhLw5I&feature=emb_title. Accessed 16 Feb. 2021. ↩
- TeamTrees. “#TeamTrees Planting Update | 1 Year Anniversary.” YouTube, 25 Oct. 2020, www.youtube.com/watch?v=myPgz2RRdok&feature=emb_title. Accessed 16 Feb. 2021. ↩
- The Infographics Show. “Planting 20,000,000 Trees Will Actually Have This Impact.” YouTube, 25 Oct. 2019, www.youtube.com/watch?v=-cPdImejxEQ&t=3s. Accessed 16 Feb. 2021. ↩