My  friend Sean Park told me about an innovative Korean app called Tree Planet that aims to re-balance the world from deforestation. Many apps are made to make money, but not many are made to save the earth. Tree Planet is a great example of how technology and smartphones can be used to impact the real world.

Here’s how it works: Users play a game that challenges people to grow a virtual tree. Firstly people must dig a hole in the ground, plant seeds, pat your tree to encourage it, defend it from loggers and sheep and take care of it with water and fertilizer. When the tree grows in the game, a team of people will actually plant a real life tree in the desert.  They will even send you email notifications with updates on how the trees are growing.

Simple idea, big difference! Beyond planting trees, water pumps will be delivered to African children who suffer from water shortages. Tree Planet plants trees in Mongolia, Indonesia, Africa and South Korea with plans to expand to six continents. They have already planted 300,00 trees worldwide!

In collaboration with the United Nation Convention to Combat Desertification (UNCCD) and Unicef, World Vision, Tree Planet finds corporate sponsors like Hanwha, ING to fund the tree and planting costs. Virtual items such as water and fertilizer have company logos on them which also pay for forest building initiatives. This obviously gives good corporate responsibility reputation to sponsoring companies. Members or volunteers from NGO’s will be organized to go and physically plant the trees.

Tree Planet of course has a big vision to save the planet. In an effort to curb the effects of climate change more trees need to soak up carbon dioxide and regurgitate it as oxygen. Moreover, 1.6 billion people depend on forests for their livelihood, through farming fruits, vegetables, medicines etc. I believe trees also have a calming effect on the mind. Coming from Sydney which has an abundance of trees, to Beijing which feels like concrete city, I wish there were more trees here.

Tree Planet was established in September 2010 and has gone on to receive global recognition for its innovative social enterprise efforts. In 2011 it won a Korea Mobile Award targeted at advertisers.

Tree Planet has an ambitious goal to reach 50K users by 2012 and raise 1 Billion Korean Won to help 10,000 local resident’s plan 100K trees in the Amazon and Africa. By 2020, they are targeting 100 Million users and 100 Billion Korean Won to help 1 million residents to plant 100 Million trees across six continents.

Looking at the leader board, ksu0251 is winning with having planted an amazing 282 real trees. I just started planting my tree called Koombah and so far it looks quite happy. I’m aiming to have it planted in Mongolia.

More mobile apps should be made like this. They not only keep entertain people but make them feel good about contributing to making a greener world and that feeling is worth more than any virtual currency.

You can download it here and check out their Facebook page at http://www.facebook.com/treeplanet.