Tree by tree, shrub by shrub — how Alipay’s users are helping take back our forests
Part of the “Alipay in China” series about how this all-in-one mobile payments app, operated by Ant Financial, is transforming digital lives in China
Take a close look at the image above.
Each green dot is a saxaul tree, planted by hand in the Tengger Desert, in the arid regions of Gansu province in the northwest of China.
No real surprises so far. Except that every single one of those hardy shrub represents the efforts of an individual in China, whose low-carbon daily activities are being transformed by Alipay into virtual energy that can ultimately be exchanged for one of those trees.
Since 2016, Ant Forest, a function on the Alipay app, has encouraged over 400 million Chinese to live a greener lifestyle and promote environmental protection awareness.
Ant Forest is a green initiative that encourages users to adopt a green lifestyle by conducting low-carbon activities in their daily lives such as paying utility bills online, walking to work instead of driving, and declining disposable utensils while ordering food online.
With enough energy points, a real tree will be planted in a desert by Ant Financial and its philanthropic partners. With more points accumulated, they can plant larger trees — users can also check their tree in real-time on Ant Forest’s homepage.
By the end of 2018, over 400 million people, or 5% of the world’s total population, had joined Ant Forest’s initiative. This has resulted in over 55.5 million trees being planted in Gansu Province, Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and other desert areas in China, reducing carbon emission by over 3 million tons.
As a green initiative, Ant Forest has also received significant international attention.
Recently, Alipay was invited to make a presentation at the G20 Climate Sustainability Working Group (CSWG) meeting held in Japan, where we shared with the audience the principles behind Ant Forest — providing ordinary people with a digital tool to live greener lifestyles and protect the environment at the same time.
“We believe that many people have good intentions to protect our planet as they want to do what they can for a greener future and we believe that innovative technology can help turn these good intentions into tangible results,” said Qin Liu, Director of Ant Financial’s Social Good Department, during the event in Nagano, Japan.
Photos released by NASA this February showed that the earth has become greener than it was 20 years ago mainly due to China’s tree-planting program and intensive agriculture in both China and India.
By enabling the average person living in China to contribute to the fight against climate change, Ant Forest has created the largest private sector tree-planting initiative in China.
CSWG is one of the working groups under G20, the premier forum for global economic cooperation. Together with the Environment Sustainability Working Group (ESWG), CSWG has worked to develop the G20 Climate and Energy Action Plan for Growth to support countries in implementing their Paris Agreement Commitments, among other goals.
The second CSWG of G20 2019 is being held in Japan between 15–17 April. Ant Forest was the only project from China invited to share its practices on how we’re using digital technologies to allow individuals to join in the fight against climate change.
We look forward to sharing more of our experiences with the rest of the world. Check back often, for news about Ant Forest and our other initiatives using technology the make the world a more inclusive place.