For many years, North and Northwest China have seen significant pressures from desertification, one of China’s most pressing environmental problems. This presents a massive problem for local communities that face the prospect of eradication. There are other consequences as well. Beijing's famous sandstorms are the tail end of this destructive environmental process.

Chinese officials and the State Forestry Administration have encouraged tree planting for many years to help mitigate the problem. If properly planted and maintained, trees can break winds that sweep soil skyward, anchor soil into place, help retain soil moisture content, contribute to biodiversity and serve a carbon sequestration role that can help in the fight against global warming.

Terminals Take Action

This year, Go Green partners Shanghai Mingdong Container Terminals (SMCT), Shanghai International Port Group and APM Terminals Shanghai joined hands to call attention to this issue. On 8 September, around 100 people representing the partners took part in a three-kilometre race along the Huangpu River.

This was no ordinary race, but a green race made possible thanks to the China-located activities of Roots & Shoots, a conservation charity established in 1991 by Dr. Jane Goodall.

The race concept was simple. For each participant, the Go Green organizers would sponsor the planting of five trees in the Baijitan Reserve in, Lingwu, Ningxia. The site is at the southwest margin of the Maowusu Desert. There, Roots & Shoots is planting calligonum, caragona and hedysarum scroparium species due to those plants' local adaptability.

Each of the trees can offset 1.3 to 1.9 kilogrammes of carbon dioxide annually. This means that, through just a little bit of Friday exercise and a small financial contribution, the Go Green participants yielded an annual offset potential of 650 to 950 tonnes of CO2 while making a small but worthy impact on desertification.

Ms. Zheng, an SMCT employee, found the activity very meaningful: "We can feel our companies have a strong intention to mitigate GHG emissions. Second, it was a good experience to see the three companies participate in the event. The education and tree planting should be a long term project. I hope we can see similar events next year."

And Roots & Shoots was grateful for the support of the team members: "As an environmental charity, we are always thrilled to see corporations taking responsibility to save the planet," said Qiao Tianli, Million Tree Project Director at Roots and Shoots. "The Go Green initiative is a great opportunity not only to raise awareness but also to build a bridge to actually solving environmental problems. It's a great honour to be selected as the partner."

Other Activities

Runners were also encouraged to use clean transportation in their daily lives through Go Green promotional materials. This means that the positive impact may be even greater in the long run. Additionally, employees were given the chance to participate in other Go Green activities, such as an SMCT clean-up activity intended to raise awareness of waste reduction, organized four days later.

Go Green is an employee engagement campaign that represents only one plank of the green efforts of SMCT and Shanghai's other terminals. Recent infrastructure and equipment upgrades have had a much greater positive impact on the environment by limiting port energy consumption and CO2 emissions. Over the past year, SMCT's electric rubber-tyred gantry crane utilisation rate has risen from 90 to 94 percent, and a great amount of energy saving yard and indoor lighting has been installed.

At SMCT alone, energy consumption per TEU between January and June 2017 was 5 percent lower than it was in the same period last year, and CO2 emissions per TEU have fallen as well. Whether in terms of employee action or terminal improvements, the Shanghai operations of the three port groups are truly facing environmental challenges head-on.