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Ant Forest initiative contributes to desert greening

(People's Daily Online)    09:09, June 30, 2020

For many people, using Alipay, the virtual payment platform of Alibaba, to check how much they’ve contributed to cutting carbon emissions through green habits such as using public transportation or bicycles instead of personal cars or cabs and limiting the use of paper and plastic, has become a normal part of their daily lives.

Photo shows an Ant Forest protected area in Alashan Left Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region. (People’s Daily/Wang Junling)

Ant Forest, an Alipay app, allocates green energy points to users, which they can then use to plant a virtual tree in the app. Once the virtual tree grows to a certain level, the company and its philanthropic partners plant a real tree in the country's most arid regions.

By the end of May 2020, Ant Forest had gained about 550 million users, with about 200 million trees planted on 182,700 hectares of land. Through the initiative, a total of 12 million tons of carbon emission have been reduced.

Virtual growth

“I walked more than 20,000 steps every day in May,” said Shen Junliang, a man in his 20s.

Shen fell in love with Ant Forest after its launch in August 2016, as it motivates him to keep fit through walking a lot.

“I’m contributing to environmental protection while walking, and I’m watering the trees while sweating. This is so cool!” While the virtual trees grew, Shen also lost weight.

But for him, living a green and healthy life is more than about losing weight. Shen revealed that after seeing his trees in Alashan League, north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, as a representative of Ant Forest users, he became determined to make greater contributions to the green cause.

A life of planting

Wang Ping is responsible for planting trees on 258 hectares of desert in Alashan Left Banner. His job is to dig holes 30 centimeters wide and 60 centimeters deep, put trees into them, and keep them watered.

Photo shows an area where rose willow saplings have been planted in Alashan Left Banner in north China’s Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region.(People’s Daily/Wang Junling)

A few days ago, he was concerned when he saw that some of the saplings had been damaged by insect pests.

“The saplings are about to be inspected in July. If they don’t meet the standard, I will feel embarrassed and probably won’t get an allowance,” Wang said.

After turning to a forestry expert for help, Wang decided to spray pesticides on the saplings. Ant Forest allocates 200 yuan to cultivate and protect each mu, or667 square meters, of forest, which gives Wang a feeling of being supported.

The Ant Forest initiative has resulted in remarkable achievements being made in a number of provinces in China. It was the winner of the 2019 Champions of the Earth Award in the United Nations.

“Ant Forest shows how technology can transform our world by harnessing the positive energy and innovation of global users,” said Inger Andersen, Executive Director of the United Nations Environment Programme.

(For the latest China news, Please follow People's Daily on Twitter and Facebook)(Web editor: Hongyu, Bianji)

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