Play Games and do Good
By : Andy Tebay
The rise in startups following the introduction of mobile phones has also seen an increase in the number of social ventures and companies with a goal to make a difference in society. Korea's Tree Planet is one such company and it has a system that allows mobile users to help save the environment simply by playing its mobile app game.

Founded in September 2010 by Hyung-soo Kim, Mincheol Jeong and Jaehyun kim, Tree Planet's goal is to become the company which plants the highest number of trees around the world. Having planted over 250,000 trees so far, it has well surpassed its original goal of 100,000 by 2012. For its efforts, the company finished in third place at the 2011 international Global Social Venture Competition, held at UC Berkeley in the United States.

The app lets users themselves plant real trees through the company's game. It is free to download and you can choose which part of world you would like your tree to be planted in; Mongolia, South Korea or the Republic of Sudan.

The game is very simple and it involves giving water, fertilizer and potions to your tree. The tree grows as your level increases and there are also missions to complete, such as protecting your precious tree from pesky sheep trying to damage it. Once the tree reaches level seven, you can send it off to get planted in real life at your selected location.

8060068307.w500h375 Play games and do good. This app lets you plant trees (and it's free)

My virtual tree really gets planted?

While it may be hard for some to believe that a free app can actually allow users to plant a real tree, CEO Kim and his staff have worked hard to make it happen. Tree Planet has partnerships with major companies such as Hanhwa, and organizations including the UN and World Vision. Tree Planet receives money for the advertising in the app and this is given to organizations to pay for the planting of new trees.

Kim explains more:

The costs for planting trees are very expensive, but through users we are able to help provide funds to improve the earth's environment. When users play the game they can get a sense that they are not just wasting time on their device but they are actually doing something worthwhile.

The trees not only help the environment but also provide shelter and fruit to eat or sell. The water pumps which appear in the game are also donated to developing countries to help improve living conditions.

So far 300,000 people have downloaded the app and users who send their trees to get planted receive detailed information about their tree, that includes its including name (yes, they are named!), sex (that too!), location, when and where it was planted and even a photo.

In a similar style to sponsored child programs, users receive updates about their trees every few months via email, and Tree Planet sends out teams to take photos of users' trees on a regular basis.
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