HOHHOT -- Renting a bike, taking the bus, or simply walking -- these daily activities can lead trees to binge planted in deserts in China, and hundreds of millions of Chinese are doing so.
A nonprofit project by Ant Financial, See Foundation and China Green Foundation since 2016, is rewarding low-carbon acts by Alipay users with "energy" that is used to "water" virtual trees in their mobile phones.
"When a virtual tree grows up, we plant a real tree," said Xu Di, who heads "Ant Forest," a function embedded in the Alipay app.
In addition to public transportation, "energy" rewards are given for online purchases of movie and train tickets and online trade in second-hand items.
"We hope everyone will be part of environmental protection with a low-carbon lifestyle," Xu told Xinhua ahead of China's Arbor Day on March 12.
The campaign has attracted 280 million participants and brought more than 12 million Haloxylon trees in Alxa and Ordos in north China's Inner Mongolia Autonomous Region and Wuwei in Gansu Province, according to Xu.
Ouyang Xialing, a Beijing resident, has raised three virtual trees in less a year and therefore contributed three saplings to Alxa. "I would like to take my son to see the trees," she said.
Herders are also beneficiaries of the campaign. They are paid to plant the samplings in their pastures and care for them.
Nie Yusheng, one of scores of herders involved in the project, makes about 3,000 yuan (about 473 U.S. dollars) a month from his work.
"Ten years ago, my pasture was barren and my sheep lacked food. Now, it is green," Nie said.