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The economic & environmental value of “Ant Forest” public benefit project
During the last summer vacation, I went to the west place of China, Xinjiang, a place which is quite windy and dusty. Thus, I participated in a local public welfare activity of environmental protection by helping hoe grasses and plant trees. During the process, I really came into contact with the concept of "carbon emission reduction". This was my first time to experience the way to implement concept, and learnt what our daily behaviors mean for carbon reduction.
I turned into very interested in the research on relationship between public welfare projects and low-carbon behavior contributed to ecological environmental protection and green economic development. Stimulated by this, I found out an “Ant Forest” App project in the Alipay and began to research its popularity on public, and how it motivates people’s low-carbon behaviors.
What is “Ant Forest”
“Ant Forest” is a public welfare project aimed at driving the public to reduce carbon emissions. Everyone's low-carbon behaviors like green travel, recycling, E-office, paperless etc., are counted as "green energy" accumulated to E-energy credits. These E-energy credits grow into a virtual electronic tree on the user’s Alipay App, which represents a real tree can be planted in areas with urgent ecological restoration, or a conservation area can be protected, by cooperating with local public welfare Non-Government Organizations (NGOs).
How does “Ant Forest” motivate people’s low-carbon behaviors?
The concept behind “Ant Forest”, Carbon exchange and Carbon account, is quite complex and difficult to understand, so in order to promote this concept, the governments have to issue many top-down environment protection actions to help people implement, thus, which can be beneficial for solving the difficulty encountered by the NGOs so that the entire society can be engaged.
Nevertheless, relying on Alipay, one of the world’s most popular online payment Apps and used by more than a billion people, “Ant Forest” spreads among tremendous amounts of people very quickly.
To investigate how “Ant Forest” impacts people’s behaviors and motivate them to actively contribute to environment protection activities, I searched many materials, made a survey, and got 180 more feedback. Analysis of the feedback are demonstrated as follows:
Note: Full score is 4, the least score is 0.
1. Green Travel (Walking, Subway, Bus, etc): Average Score is 3.13(Good)
2. Travel Reduction (Online payment, e-Government, etc): Average Score is 3.03(Good)
3. Recycling (clothes, books, etc.): Average Score is 3.07(Good)
4. Paperless and plastic-less (e-invoice, e-reading, etc.): Average Score is 3.25(Good)
5. Energy saving (ETC payment, buy green appliances, etc.): Average Score is 3.18(Good)
6. Real tree planting via “Ant Forest”: Average Score is 2.99(Average)
The survey clearly shows that “Ant Forest” generates positive influence to foster massive individual efforts to engage in low-carbon activities.
How does “Ant Forest” Quantify Low-Carbon Behavior?
In “Ant Forest”, different kinds of carbon emission reduction behaviors will be converted to different green energy credits, based on the emission reduction formula:
Emission Reduction = Σ (Baseline Emission – Low-Carbon Emission) 
Take green travel as an example. According to the official statistics provided by Beijing Municipal Ecology and Environment Bureau , the average baseline emission of vehicle-driving is 245 grams/kilometer/person, while the average low-carbon emission of bus-taking is 57 grams/kilometer/person. Hence, 188 grams of CO2 emission can be reduced if one person takes bus over one kilometer.
Based on statistics, by combining the data above, the variance of distances and the number of the people taking bus, “Ant Forest” converts a one-time bus-taking behavior to 80 green energy credits.
According to the analysis, the “Ant Forest” indeed can cultivate and motivate users' low-carbon behaviors, and the reality shows carbon emissions are reduced a lot.
Economic Benefits brought by “Ant Forest”
Besides from contributing to Carbon Neutral, “Ant Forest” can also boost the green economy. Due to that users can plant a real tree through “Ant Forest”, which is good for tourism. With the increased trees being planted, areas in urgent need of environmental protection can be transformed into wetland parks, which not only protect the environment but also attract many tourists. As a result, the revenue of tourism could boost local economic benefits.
Moreover, Users of the “Ant Forest” will contribute their points to plant a real tree or select a conservation area, and then the “Ant Forest” will provide job opportunities for people to plant trees or take care of the conservation area. Thus, “Ant Forest” would create job openings.
In addition, some plant species like sea-buckthorn can further be used to generate beverages, which can generate large amounts of incomes for farmers. Some plants like Ginkgo fruit can be used to produce the Chinese medicine which can help the medicine industry.
At last, the government can save a lot of money on the environment protection through other ways. And also, for example, green travel can help individual person to save cost on the gas etc.
“Ant Forest” provides a bottom-up approach to engage millions of people directly in low-carbon behavior change and green economy.
Through this research and investigation, I developed a new understanding of carbon neutrality and a clear awareness of the importance of environmental protection. “Ant Forest” is a meaningful app project, which can not only protect the environment but also improve economic benefits. I also gradually learnt many mathematical formulas and economic principles behind “Ant Forest”, which made me gradually grow interest in green economy, and the sense of analyzing between the environment and economics scenarios.
 Greenhouse Gas Abatement Analysis of the Energy Saving Retrofit in Pulverized Coal Power Plants, ieeexplore.ieee.org/abstract/document/5448559
 Carbon Reduction of Low-Carbon Travel in Beijing, issued by Beijing Municipal Ecology and Environment Bureau, sthjj.beijing.gov.cn/bjhrb/index/xxgk69/zfxxgk43/fdzdgknr2/ywdt28/gsl/325810074/2022042617505281735.pdf