Leading Philippine mobile wallet GCash is taking a leaf from Chinese tech behemoth Alipay’s successful ‘Ant Forest’ program in tapping its users to participate in reforestation projects.
Shaping consumer behavior
The idea is simple: By opting for low carbon activities in daily life, including paying bills online instead of offline, going to work by foot or bus instead of by car, refusing to use one-off plastic bags at partner merchants, or opting out of disposable cutlery when ordering food online, users will be able to gain ‘green energy’ points on their mobile wallet.
Using these points, users will be able to plant virtual trees in an in-app feature that eventually get converted into real trees by the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and The Biodiversity Finance Initiative (BIOFIN).
Users will be able to select which species of trees they want to plant in a selected area.
And once a tree is physically planted, they’ll get a certificate of ownership with a serial number and gain access to fun facts and updates on the growth of their tree.
Real world impact
In China, the ‘Ant Forest’ program has already succeeded in getting 500 million people to plant 100 million trees in 933 square kilometres of arid land since it was launched in 2016.
Ambitious tree-planting programs like this have literally made the world a greener place.
According to a recent report by NASA, global green leaf area has increased by 5 percent since the early 2000s and China has contributed to at least a quarter of that growth.
Assuming Alipay users stay active in the project, ‘Ant Forest’ will plant another 500 million trees over the next five years, covering an area the size of five New York Cities.
Equally ambitious in the Philippines
The ‘GCash Forest’ program aims to plant 365 thousand trees in 365 days with the help of its users.
The trees will be planted at the Ipo Watershed, located within the Angat Watershed Forest Reserve in Norzagaray, Bulacan, an area which has seen forest cover dramatically halved in recent years, threatening the wildlife, biodiversity, and communities residing there.
In the Philippines, 52,000 trees are lost everyday, and the program seeks to do its part in efforts to reverse the trend.
“GCash Forest is about making it easier, more convenient, and even rewarding for everyone to take care of our environment for the benefit of future generations,” said Anthony Thomas, CEO of fintech startup Mynt which owns GCash.
“[It’s] no longer just providing an excellent platform for accessible financial products and services but also enabling Filipinos to be more active in responding to real-life issues, such as climate change mitigation through reforestation,” he added.
For Johanna Pia Esquivias, a Filipina post-graduate student based in China, actively collecting points on ‘Ant Forest’ to plant trees has shaped the way she lives her life.
“I walked more and took the bus, subway and biked more often,” she said. “In retrospect, I just lived a healthier life that was in effect great for the environment.”
“I believe, in this mobile era, digital technologies have great potential to enable ordinary people like me to better contribute to environmental protection, especially the fight against deforestation and climate change,” she added.