Ecosia: plant trees as you search the internet

There are many things that we do automatically every day and we never stop to consider their environmental impact. Take internet searching. Whatever the question, we first turn towards search engines to serve us multiple answers in milliseconds. Little do we know that searching does not go unnoticed in our environment.

Have you ever wondered how much power and resources are required to serve the massive data centres of Google, Yahoo, Bing or other tech companies? For example, Google, the main ‘culprit’, which only last year hosted over 92% or world searches, entered ‘water wars’ last month when its thirst for 1.5 million gallons of water needed to cool down the servers was reported in a newspaper. Realistically we can’t unplug and start visiting libraries when in doubt, but does it mean that there is no green alternative to technology, which revolutionised our lives and made them (let’s say it out loud) tremendously more convenient? Luckily there is Ecosia.

How Ecosia works

Ecosia is an internet search company based in Berlin, which donates at least 80% of its surplus search ad profit (income after costs) to support tree planting initiatives around the world. It started in December 2009 and received a B Corporation status five years later, making it one of the 1600 companies around the world to meet the rigorous standards of sustainability, accountability and transparency by non-profit B Lab.

Holding true to their words, in December 2016 Ecosia donated €137,000 which was 49% of its total income. €12,000 went to The Masarang Foundation in Indonesia, €15,000 went to The Eden Projects in Madagascar, and €110,000 went to Ecosia’s Tree Planting Fund, which is money that the company’s tree-planting partners do not currently need. The funds are reserved solely for tree planting initiatives and will be released when there is enough planting capacity. Due to Ecosia’s commitment to transparency, all this information is openly available on their website. You can read their monthly financial reports and tree planting receipts and follow their goal to finance the planting of 1 billion trees by 2020.


Much needed alternative

As one reads online about Ecosia, voices of scepticism appear here and there, challenging the view that bringing yet another search engine can be counterproductive to our goals of saving the environment. Yet, the prevailing opinion is that having a green alternative to internet search, a tool which we will definitely not give up easily, is a confident step towards igniting a sense of personal responsibility in socially conscious internet users. Despite Ecosia being way too far from offsetting the effect of 15 billion trees cut down each year, there is no debating that before Ecosia, there wasn’t any other alternative to Google that would be so dedicated to environmental causes.

What can you do?

If you want to contribute, it’s really simple. Switch completely or partially to searching on Ecosia. When you click on an ad or purchase something online, the company earns revenue. To use Ecosia on your phone, you can install the Ecosia App on your iPhone or Android. You can also add the Ecosia extension in your Chrome or Firefox browser. If this sounds like something you want to support, start searching and help plant trees!

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Baldwin Tong A writer who wears many hats, mostly metaphorical ones.

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