The coolest thing I saw this week: rTrees

January 2020

The future of donations?

I talk a lot about the potential for blockchain to, in VC parlance, "disrupt" major industries including anything you can think of from logistics to gaming.

Many of these applications are years away, if they will ever be fully realized. That being said, the composability of decentralized finance protocols built on Ethereum today, aka "money legos", has led to a Cambrian explosion of new applications springing up seemingly every week.

This week let's talk about rTrees and the future of decentralized giving.

rTrees Home Screen

Above: The rTrees app home. Beautfiul UI and Design.

What is rTrees? (Part 1)

How it works in one sentence:

rTrees uses rDAI to allow anyone to easily donate DAI to Trees for the Future.

That might sound a bit strange at the moment, so let me break it down for you into chunks. Here are the key concepts you need to know at a high level. I'll get into details below and I promise it will all come together in the end:

  • DAI: a USD-pegged stablecoin backed by ETH on the Maker protocol

  • Compound: a liquidity pool that generates interest for DAI lenders

  • rDAI: a smart contract for sending the earned interest anywhere (anyone)

  • Trees for the Future: an international NGO dedicated to reforestation

  • rTrees: a slick UI for donating DAI via rDAI to Trees for the Future

With me so far?

What is DAI?

DAI Logo

DAI is a decentralized, permissionless, stablecoin pegged to the value of the United States Dollar (USD). What makes DAI so cool, is that the total supply of DAI is completely managed by a smart contract built on Ethereum. It is open-sourced, meaning any developer can build a new application on top of the DAI (aka MakerDAO) smart contracts and push it to the Ethereum mainnet. For more information on DAI and MakerDAO, I highly encourage you to check out their awesome.makerdao portal.

What is Compound(.finance)?

Compound.Finance Logo

Compound.Finance allows anyone to loan their digtial assets (like ETH and DAI) into the Compound protocol and earn fees for providing liquidity to borrowers.


*Above: Borrowing and Lending rates at Compound.Finance on Jan 16, 2020

I've personally used this a lot and can attest to its ease of use. One of the main differences from traditional lending (aside from much higher returns) is that returns are paid out block-by-block and you can deposit/retrieve your funds at any time.

This concept of always having full control of your funds is called "non-custodial" meaning you do not reliquish custody (control) of your assets at any time. You can always go and get them from the liquidity pool.

To me, this is already a HUGE user experience improvement over traditional banks and one of the reasons I am so bullish on the decentralized finance (DeFi) space in general.

What is rDAI?

rDAI Logo

rDAI is a smart contract (on Ethereum) that allows you to send your earnings from interest generated by lending on Compound to anyone that you want instead of having them go directly back into your own wallet.

In other words, you can automatically send your interest to a specific person, company or charity - while maintaining complete control of your principle investment (aka not spending money).

rDAI App Home Screen

Above: The rDAI app Home. Interest earned on compound can be forwarded to any of these projects.

Honestly, this was one of my favorite projects to release in 2019. I believe it started off as a hackathon winner, and then it received grants from MetaCartelDAO and GitCoin. It's a really exciting idea of which I believe we are just scratching the surface. Check out this rDAI explorer to get a live look at rDAI in action.

What is Trees for the Future?

Trees for the Future is a 30-year-old international non-profit organization dedicated to creating an environmentally-friendly and sustainable global food system by planting trees in Forest Gardens.

This is an 18-minute video that gets into the details of the Forest Garden approach to agroforestry. If you end up donating to TFTF, I definitely recommend watching this. Aside from the amazing cinematography, it's cool to learn the details about how they manage the program.

To keep it short, the Forest Gardens are plots of land managed on a four-year farming program that prevents monocropping and permanently revitalizes degraded soil.

According to their 2019 Impact Report, this method has proven to increase household income for farmers in the program an average of 400%.

What is rTrees? (Part 2)

DAI Logo

Ok now that we've covered DAI, Compound, rDAI, and Trees for the Future, let's talk about rTrees again.

rTrees uses the rDAI smart contract to send the earnings from DAI loaned to the Compound protocol to the Trees for the Future non-profit organization.

What separates rTrees from similar projects I've seen so far in crypto is an awesome UI/UX. Going right to the rTrees homepage, it's clear right away what the project is, and within a couple of clicks, we can put a few digital assets to work towards deforestation and fighting global hunger.

rDAI App Home Screen

I can't say enough about the UI. For cypto, it's mind-blowing.

Once you decide to plant your first trees, you can head over to the Your Grove section and see the trees you've planted. I can activate upgrade for water, fertilizer and private sunshine. This is the most gamified donation experience I've ever had. Really cool.

rDAI Logo

They even have a VR mode for visualizing all the trees you've planted!

This is easily the most gamified donation experience I've ever had. Really cool. I wonder what other projects like this will pop up in the future?

How can you get involved?

It's actually pretty simple. You need to get some DAI and a lil' bit of ETH (for gas). I recommend using a decentralized exchange like Uniswap if you already have some ETH, otherwise, you can use Coinbase or another fiat-to-crypto on-ramp to buy them both. The minimum donation is 18 DAI.

You'll also need a MetaMask wallet in order to connect with rTrees. This is what I used, not sure if they have support for hardware wallets yet.

Sidenote: I use both hardware wallets and Metamask for different reasons. Hardware wallets (like Ledger) are still the best option for security, but I use Metamask for my public accounts (including andysimon.eth) and browsing/testing out the web 3.0.

If you've purchased DAI and ETH from Coinbase or another exchange, you'll need to move those assets over to your new MetaMask wallet. Click on the MetaMask extention in Chrome/Brave and then click your address to copy it to the clipboard.

rDAI Logo

From inside Coinbase, head to your Wallet section, find the Send button and drop in your MetaMask address. Note that you can send any ERC-20 token to your MetaMask address, so it will be the same address when you go to send your DAI.

rDAI Logo

Once you've got your MetaMask wallet loaded up, just head over to the rTrees website, connect your wallet and then activate your DAI. You should be good to go!

One last way you can get involved, if you really like this project. Head over to Gitcoin Grants before January 21, 2020 and donate DAI directly to the development team.

Let me know what you think about this project? Is this the future of giving? Hit me up on Twitter, @andysimon_co.


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