Virtual Play Plants Real Trees

Photo: Courtesy of Ian Muttoo
Kids now have the opportunity to lead us to success in rejuvenating Planet Earth.

A new virtual world for kids launched this month, that not only entertains with fun games and activities, it also delivers a real world benefit in the form of more trees for Planet Earth.

As kids play on, tree-plantings are funded in 21 countries. And in recognition of the recent earthquake in Haiti, users can go on a special virtual world “quest” that, when successfully completed, will result in trees being planted in that devastated country.

Arbopals has teamed up with Trees For The Future (TFTF) in this special initiative. “We are thrilled to partner with Arbopals on the Haiti Tree Quest because it will engage young people everywhere in helping to address a very critical situation,” says Leandro Monteiro of TFTF. “The country is in desperate need of forest and fruit trees to support its people.”

The brainchild of Peter O’Brien, Arbopals has its roots in his experience in the re-forestation movement and in his daughter’s passion for online games. “We believe there is a strong desire – among kids, parents and teachers internationally – to connect online games and social networking with real world activities that help the environment. We want to make tree-planting as easy as child’s play,” O’Brien explains.

Arbopals is hoping to plant millions of trees in dozens of countries as the site becomes a favourite destination for an increasing number of children throughout the world.

In this online playground, children create avatars that safely interact with one another, enjoy games, participate in creative activities, and learn about the trees and forests of the world. The site is designed for kids 5 to10 years of age, although users of all ages are encouraged to visit the site. Trees get planted when specific adventures and games are played, when users subscribe, and when merchandise is purchased through the site.

Arbopals is at the forefront of a new generation of international for-profit “social ventures” that provide goods in the market for the purpose of creating both a social and financial return. Recognizing that many virtual worlds and websites for kids focus on consumerism and, as users get older, on violence, Arbopals presents a welcome alternative.

“The site is a great way to encourage young people around the world to get involved with important environmental issues,” notes Tim Flannery, author of The Weather Makers and one of the world's leading environmentalists.

According to the United Nations, 14 billion trees need to be planted every year for 10 consecutive years to compensate for the damage that modern societies have done to the environment. Kids now have the opportunity to lead us to success in rejuvenating Planet Earth.