To celebrate National Tree Planting Day (植树节) on March 12, Ant Financial CEO Jing Xiandong said on March 11 that Ant Forest will invest RMB 500 million ($79 million) in ecological protection by the end of 2018, Chinese media TechWeb is reporting.
At present, there are more than 300 million Ant Forest users. If more than 300 million users continue their efforts for the next five years, Ant Forest says they will plant 500 million actual trees. This will be reforesting 6 million mu (90 hectares), or approximately equal to five times the land size of the New York City.
Launched in September 2017, Ant Forest is a feature in the Alipay app. Users can grow a virtual tree by doing environmentally friendly things such as walking, using public transportation, asking for electronic invoice rather than paper invoice, and recording their own carbon emissions. After the virtual tree is fully grown, Ant Financial matches the user with charity partners such as the China Green Foundation, Elion Foundation, SEE Conversation, and The Paradise International Foundation so that they can plant a real tree.
When users open Alipay app, they can click “Ant Forest” banner to access their virtual tree. At the bottom of the tree, there are a ranking of friends based on their saved carbon emission shown in kg.
By the end of 2017, Ant Forest had accumulated and maintained 13.14 million real trees and guarded 12111 mu or 181,665 hectares of protected land, which were located in Alashan, Ordos and Bayan Nur in Inner Mongolia, and Wuwei area in Gansu province.
Ant Forest users can access satellite imagery to see the changes made by the reforesting and the newly planted saplings forming a row of sloping lines.
According to the plan announced by the State Forestry Administration, China’s large-scale land-based greening efforts will strive to complete afforestation by 1.5 billion hectares in 2018. Ant Forest said that they will participate in planting 15 million hectares of forestry each year, which is equivalent to 1% of the domestic forest land.