Musk donates 1 million trees to global reforestation campaign

Melissa Cheok

Tesla Inc. Chief Executive Officer Elon Musk isn’t just rolling out electric cars, he’s planting trees too.

Musk – who temporarily changed his Twitter name to “Treelon” – tweeted that he’d donate money to plant one million trees after some of his followers encouraged him to join an environmental conservation initiative named Team Trees on Tuesday.

The Team Trees campaign, which aims to plant 20 million trees by 2022, was created by U.S. YouTube content creator Jimmy Donaldson to mark a personal milestone of garnering 20 million subscribers on his channel. Donaldson, known as MrBeast’ on the Alphabet Inc.-owned video sharing platform, says one tree will be planted for every dollar donated.

Elon Musk talks to the media at SpaceX headquarters, in Hawthorne, Calif., Thursday, Oct. 10, 2019. Musk said he shifted resources from the solar company he bought three years ago, SolarCity, to save his electric-car company, Tesla, from bankruptcy during a lawsuit filed by Tesla investors over the company’s 2016 buyout of SolarCity.

Led by Donaldson and backed by other YouTube celebrities you may not know but your kids adore, Team Trees is the latest in a growing trend of young adults taking environmental matters into their own hands. They’ve got ready-made allies in tech billionaires like Musk, 48, and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey, 42, who also made their names and fortunes disrupting the status quo.

“People just keep making fun of our generation for retweet activism and not actually doing something, which is why we created,” Donaldson said in a YouTube video unveiling the effort.

Donaldson partnered with non-profit organization Arbor Day Foundation on the reforestation project. The pledged trees will be planted throughout the year starting in January 2020 and will be completed no later than December 2022, according to the campaign website.

Their collective goal is to plant trees in forests in need on every continent except Antarctica. Planted at least 8 feet apart, they would cover a combined area more than twice the size of Manhattan. Since launching on October 25, the social media campaign has received donations to plant almost 8 million trees. Donaldson’s original YouTube video has acquired almost 27 million views.

As the threat of climate change looms large for the global economy and future generations, a slew of activists around the world are fighting for change. They want governments and corporations to be more aggressive in curbing greenhouse-gas emissions and stopping the world from warming to catastrophic temperatures.

Some of the most prominent advocacy efforts in recent months have come from the likes of Swedish teen environmental activist Greta Thunberg who addressed world leaders at the United Nations on the issue and the adult-dominated climate protest movement Extinction Rebellion. Both share the overall goal of getting institutions to treat climate change as an emergency and combat the problem before damage is irreversible.

Among other prominent YouTube content creators who have joined the Team Trees movement and rallied their followers to do the same are make-up artist Jeffree Star, Safiya Nygaard and The Try Guys. YouTube Inc also joined in the chorus following Musk’s donation and said it would match the next million trees donated.