How a YouTube campaign could end up planting millions of trees around the world

Seedlings for reforestation for a good environment.
ByTebany Yune
Originally Published: 

What is the best way to celebrate a 20 million subscriber milestone when you're a Youtuber already known for attention-grabbing stunts? By running a charity drive to plant 20 million trees, of course. That's what Jimmy Donaldson — AKA 'MrBeast' — has decided to do with his latest campaign. He's succeeding, thanks to his high visibility and enthusiastic fans, and his efforts so far have attracted attention from famous individuals like Tesla CEO Elon Musk and YouTube CEO Susan Wojcicki.

As with many things involving YouTube, it all started with a meme. It was an image of Lisa, from The Simpsons, with a sign that called for Donaldson to "plant 20 million trees for 20 million subscribers" and "single handedly [sic] save earth." That image, other posts on Reddit, and persistent comments on his videos caught his attention. He decided to go for it.

According to Business Insider, Donaldson then connected with YouTuber and former NASA engineer, Mark Rober, to concoct a plan. With the help of the Arbor Day Foundation, they created #TeamTrees — a donation drive where one dollar can plant one tree. The campaign's website states that each tree will be planted in a "variety of forests on public and private lands in areas of great need." The Arbor Day Foundation will try to use their network of international contacts to get trees planted in locations all around the globe.

Some big tech names have donated to the cause, including Elon Musk. Changing his Twitter name to 'Treelon,' Musk donated $1 million on Tuesday after catching wind of the charity drive on Twitter. (Although it comes at a bit of an awkward time, as he had just testified to lawyers that he had no cash on hand.) Unwilling to be outdone — and likely sensing a good publicity moment for reaching a one million customer milestone — Shopify CEO Tobi Lütke donated $1,000,001 to steal the top spot from Musk. On Twitter, he playfully changed his username to 'Tobi Lorax.'

Other CEOs have made donations, including YouTube's Susan Wojcicki. Twitter CEO's Jack Dorsey's name also appears on the donor list, but reporters from The Verge were unable to confirm it was really him with Dorsey's representatives. Other big YouTube names and streamers, like PewDiePie and Ninja, have announced their contributions as well.

The campaign, as The Verge has noted, not only serves as a good cause, but also as a good viewership boost. Other YouTubers who have made videos related to #TeamTrees have found their viewing numbers abnormally high, sometimes reaching a million or more views. This topic has been outperforming the usual videos made by some channels, which makes this an opportune time to gain new subscribers and sources of revenue in return.

But funding reforestation efforts isn't just something to do for show. The #TeamTrees website refers to a study by the National Academy of Sciences that suggests reforestation has a great potential to reduce the effects of climate change (in comparison to other natural methods such as improved plantations and coastal restoration). Organizations such as the Arbor Day Foundation and the National Forests Foundation (NFF) have pushed to encourage planting more trees to improve the air quality, fight against climate change, house natural wildlife, and reduce the risk of flooding.

Reforestation also helps deforested areas to heal from previous damage, stated the National Forests Foundation. "Areas that were deforested for mining, agriculture, lumber, etc., can be returned to their original forested state." Planting trees can also help areas that are struggling to recover from constant wildfires.

Donaldson's charity drive has already reached its halfway milestone with almost 11 million trees funded in less than a week. It's an astounding number and a big feat that shows off the far reach of a big name YouTuber. The quick results are uplifting to the fans, too. People on Twitter and Reddit have expressed curiosity and inspiration — wondering just how much more they could do if they came together for another cause like this one.