[Sponsored article] The world’s forests are disappearing at a staggering rate. Between 1990 and 2016, 1.3 million square km (502,000 square miles) of forest – an area larger than South Africa – have been lost, the World Bank has reported. Roughly 46 per cent of the planet’s trees have been felled since man started cutting them down, a 2015 study in the journal Nature revealed. However, technology can help restore the planet’s disappearing woodlands. Alipay Ant Forest is a green initiative launched by the Chinese technology company, Ant Group, which aims to do just that. Ant, which is an affiliate of Alibaba Group Holding, the Chinese e-commerce giant that owns the South China Morning Post , is also on a mission to make the travel industry more accessible to everyone – regardless of their abilities and backgrounds. Here’s how. Herdsman to ‘tree planter’ At the peak of his time working as a herdsman, Nie Yusheng took care of up to 800 sheep in his hometown of Alxa League in China’s Inner Mongolia autonomous region. He said his family was one of 30 households raising sheep – the area’s main source of income. Yet Nie, 58, realised there was a growing problem of overgrazing, which was threatening the residents’ “once verdant hometown”. So in 2016, when Alipay Ant Forest was launched in his neighbourhood, Nie quickly came on board. Today the herdsman-turned-ranger plants trees while protecting more than 2,000 hectares (4,950 acres) of forest as part of his job with the initiative, which has received a “Champions of the Earth” award, the UN’s highest environmental honour. “I am really happy to see that the land I live on is becoming greener in the short span of three years, partly because of my tree-planting work,” Nie said. Weight loss helps Earth gain Everyone on a fitness or weight-loss journey needs motivation to stay on track. For the mainland China-based engineer Shen Junliang, it’s new trees being planted. Shen was inspired to start running every day over the past three years by collecting “green energy points” as part of the Alipay Ant Forest initiative, which is committed to planting trees whenever users of Alipay, its mobile digital payment platform, adopt zero- or low-carbon activities, such as paying utility bills online or buying sustainable products. “I felt it was meaningful and it gives me a sense of achievement,” said Shen, who has lost 35kg (77lbs) since he started running, resulting in 14 new trees planted in “China’s arid north”. Shen said he is still 12kg away from his ideal weight of 70kg. Other activities that can earn users green energy points include taking public transport instead of driving and forgoing disposable cutlery in their food delivery orders. Sightless – and solo – in Seoul Shanghainese blogger Chen Siying, who has been visually impaired since she was 16, has always dreamed of travelling the world independently. Now 32, she refuses to let her blindness – the result of glaucoma – stop her achieving her goal. During China’s National Day Golden Week holiday last October, Chen – armed with her smartphone – managed to navigate the streets of Seoul in South Korea by herself. While she was there she shopped, enjoyed local delicacies including ganjang-gejang (raw crab marinated in soy sauce), learned to make kimchi with pickled vegetables and even attended a live music gig at Gocheok Sky Dome, the nation’s largest-capacity stadium. Chen said she also made sure she popped into a convenience store – a quintessential experience, especially for Chinese tourists – where she bought herself some banana milk using Alipay. Paying for things with her mobile wallet is part of her way of life in Shanghai – fast, convenient and safe – and helped her to feel more at ease in the unfamiliar city, Chen said. Recipe for pharmacy’s success Luis Toledano, who is the owner of Farmacia Botica San Miguel, a pharmacy in the Spanish capital, Madrid, knew his business needed to stand out from the stiff competition to ensure its success. So, he did his homework. Toledano, 38, carried out research and found that tourists from China come to the city in droves: last year they overtook those from Japan as Spain’s largest source of Asian tourists. He also learned that Chinese tourists tend to be attracted to skincare products with sun-protection properties that contain no preservatives known as parabens. Three out of four of the travellers would also ask him to make their payments using Alipay, Toledano said. With this in mind, he set out to develop his own locally made skincare range to cater to their needs and, of course, began to offer Alipay payments. “In my journey to own my pharmacy there have been no short cuts, just one recipe: start working hard when you’re young, add passion and dedication, never surrender to problems, and mix everything with positive thoughts,” Toledano said. ‘Second home’ for Bali tourists Hong Kong couple Henry and Kat Tang had such a great time during their holiday to the Indonesian island of Bali 15 years ago that they decided to stay. The Tangs used their savings to buy a hotel property in the Kuta district, which is home to the popular tourist destination of Kuta Beach. With no experience in running a hotel, the couple said they turned to YouTube for guidance. Now, their hotel, Seahouse Bali Indah Beach Inn, is typically frequented by Chinese tourists looking to relax after a busy day of sightseeing. To provide both comfort and convenience for their Chinese customers, the Tangs decided to offer payments using Alipay. “We want to provide the most up-to-date payment method,” they said. “It is possible to make a holiday destination a second home for tourists from China.” The couple also run five other businesses in Bali, including spas, cafes and the Dragon Dynasty Restaurant & Bar, in Denpasar, the island’s capital, which serves Chinese food. All sources and information in this article have been provided by Ant Group and do not necessarily reflect the research work, official policy or position of the South China Morning Post. Any content provided by our sponsors is of their opinion and is not intended to malign any religion, ethnic group, club, organisation, company, individual or anyone or anything.