Want a tree planted for you? Start walking!
Updated 17:51, 10-Mar-2019
Hu Chao, Fang Yuquan, Liuyu
03:39

27-year-old Geng Geng looks nothing special walking along the street, but he did something extraordinary. While he works in Beijing, he has 10 real trees planted in the desert in the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region, all by walking every day. 

Geng has been using the Alipay's Ant Forest Program for more than two years. In order to collect more virtual green energy, he has become obsessed with green travel, especially walking. He also likes to"steal" virtual green energy from his friends regularly every day. Now he has turned 10 virtual trees into real ones.

But Geng still had some doubts about his real trees until he went to Erdos in Inner Mongolia to have a real look of his trees "planted" last year. 

Geng Geng checks his real trees planted in the desert in Erdos, 2018. /CGTN Photo

Geng Geng checks his real trees planted in the desert in Erdos, 2018. /CGTN Photo

"There I saw lines of saxaul trees planted on sand dunes. I realized the green energy I collected every day in Beijing could help improve the environment in the remote desert. I felt a deep sense of achievement," Geng recalled excitedly.

The Ant Forest Program translates the users' low-carbon activity into what's called virtual green energy. For example, a walk of 10,000 steps will give you nearly 200 grams of virtual green energy. And a real tree takes at least 18,000 grams. 

An accumulation of enough energy is qualified for a real tree. Some green public welfare organizations have joined the program, hiring local herdsmen to plant trees in deserts.

Geng checks his trees from a satellite picture provided by the Ant Forest Program. /CGTN Photo

Geng checks his trees from a satellite picture provided by the Ant Forest Program. /CGTN Photo

In fact, Geng is one of the 400 million users of the Ant Forest Program across China, which was launched on Alipay by Ant Financial Services Group in August of 2016. Their officials say more than 50 million real trees have been planted.

So how did the program achieve such success? Xu Di, the program's founder, attributes its stunning progress to two aspects, its convenience and the fact that it's something that people are genuinely concerned about.

"The success is not because it's entertaining and interactive, but because it's part of the public interest. We believe human nature is good. We lowered the threshold and cost to allow people to do good things. Users like to do small things every day to help protect the environment," Xu told CGTN.

The headquarters of theAnt Forest Program in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. /CGTN Photo

The headquarters of theAnt Forest Program in Hangzhou, Zhejiang Province. /CGTN Photo

Xu said the program's 400 million users have helped to reduce carbon emission by more than 3 million tons. And their parent company donates tens of millions of yuan to help run the program annually, whilst it's also providing much-needed jobs in under-developed areas.

The Alxa Left Banner of the Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region is where the Ant Forest program began. CGTN reporter saw lines of Saxaul trees growing in the desert. A wooden board was standing there advertising that it's the No.1 land of the Ant Forest Program with 129,500 real trees.

CGTN reporter also met one of the planters, 54-year-old Nie Yusheng, whose family used to earn a paltry annual income from livestock-grazing. But the program has allowed them to live much more comfortably now.

Nie Yusheng explains how he takes care of the trees in winter. /CGTN Photo

Nie Yusheng explains how he takes care of the trees in winter. /CGTN Photo

"My life has improved a lot. We make much more money now. We bought a car and various home appliances that we need,” Nie said.

The Ant Forest Program is just one example of how China is going greener. In fact, a new study based on NASA satellite data has revealed that China and India, the world's most populous nations, are the leaders in this area. And many say those who are contributing to this green drive should be proud of their efforts.

(Cover image: Checking virtual tree and collecting virtual green energy on their phones have become a routine for many young people in China. /CGTN Photo)