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The Green Life: Facebook for Nature?

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July 20, 2011

Facebook for Nature?

Digital circuit board tree Admit it: you’ve got a FarmVille account. You log on to it more than you’d like anyone to know. And you felt disproportionately gleeful when your third-grade friend from camp moved in next door and started watering your corn. It was weird, but hey, someone's gotta do it!

If you feel guilty about wasting hours developing your plot of land into an unsustainable imaginary hacienda empire (note: elephant CAFO), fret not. You can stay online and still make a positive, if small, environmental difference. Other Facebook timewasters abound, some with a nature-themed twist.

Take, for example, Ecotopia. The game's goal is to turn a polluted, sludgy environment into a “green utopia” using real-world techniques. The game also rewards players for sending in photos of themselves doing conservation work. And incentivizing getting offline can be a big step!

What's more, yesterday, Conservation International, Trees for the Future, and Ecotopia's developer, Talkie, announced that they'll plant 25,000 real-life trees in Brazil because users completed a challenge to collectively plant 25,000 game trees in 25 days.

With the help of some awesome nonprofits, it looks like social media can catalyze tangible change. Next step: Planting some non-virtual trees ourselves . . .

--Mimi Dwyer

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