Data waste or online pollution is one of the least talked about aspects of waste in our world. We use the web everyday for almost everything we need but do we consider where and how our digital footprint is processed?
Want to be sustainable even when you use the web? Switch to Ecosia, the search engine which uses your searches to plant trees worldwide.
What is Ecosia?
Ecosia is a search engine based in Berlin, Germany. It donates 80% or more of its profits to non-profit organizations that are focusing on reforestation and tree planting in places that don’t have many trees. It runs as a social enterprise, working on a carbon-negative system.
Ecosia is also a B Corporation, the first of its kind in Germany.
Origins of Ecosia
Ecosia was founded by Christian Kroll, in December 2009. Christian studied business administration in Nuremberg. He traveled the world for businesses with a positive impact. While in Nepal, he started “Xabbel”, a local search engine that was supposed to help generate funds for local NGO projects.
Christian abandoned “Xabbel” due to resource constraints. But he still wanted to make a search engine with a positive impact. While travelling through Argentina and Brazil, Christian learned a lot about reforestation projects in the Atlantic Rainforest in Argentina and Brazil and also read Thomas L. Friedman’s book “Hot, Flat and Crowded”.
He realized the connection between globalization and climate change and how planting new trees could fight back against rising carbon emissions on a big scale. This led to Ecosia, the search engine that helped finance planting and restoration projects starting in December 2019.
How Does Ecosia Work?
The same with other search engines, Ecosia earns its profit when someone clicks on ads that appear on the search results. The ads are clear as text links to websites that pay for each click by users. It partners with Bing for the ads, and gets paid a share of the revenue generated via these ads.
Ecosia gives the profits from the ad revenues to planting trees. They also operate an online store but don’t keep any profits. Rather, they give it directly to their tree-planting projects. For example, they can plant 20 trees when someone bought a t-shirt from their store.
What remains of their sales income goes to an emergency backup whenever there are unforeseen circumstances, but, if that backup money will not be used, those will be returned to the company’s tree-planting fund. The company posts its financial reports on its website.
Ecosia, Search Engine
Ecosia runs in partnership with Bing. You can also use Ecosia as a web browser, a browser extension, and a mobile app (both Android and iOS).
How Much Do They Earn on One Click?
How much they earn per ad click depends on the keyword competition and the advertised product’s value. Depending on the keyword, ad clicks can help finance entire tree-planting projects or a fraction of these projects. Ecosia reckons that on average, they earn about 0.5 cents (Euro) per search.
Does Ecosia Really Plant Trees?
They work with people who plant trees as possible as they can to avoid unwanted overhead and for them to work and communicate with lines short and sweet. Ecosia also works with their local partners so that they will have some knowledge about the region where they planted trees. Also, they listen to the advice of the village chiefs in Burkina Faso, or the advice from a small farmers’ collective in Spain.
In fact, in 2020, they achieved a milestone of planting 100 million trees globally. These includes the replanting projects in Brazil (after the Amazon forest fires), Australia (after the bushfires), and urban tree-planting in NHS-affiliated hospitals (during COVID).
Does One Search Finance One New Tree?
No, the average estimate is 45 searches for one tree. Depending on the keyword and ad revenue the searches generate, it may take fewer searches. Still, it is a cool idea to think that every search for information you do contributes to a tree-planting project.
Why Does Ecosia Plant Trees?
For the planet
Trees are the superheroes of the planet, Ecosia says. Apart from being the most effective carbon absorbers, trees help mitigate climate change, restart water cycles, stop deserts from spreading and turn barren grounds back into fertile woods and farmland.
Trees help to empower women and lift people out of poverty. Ecosia runs projects that help revitalize communities. Growing fresh produce in agroforestry systems provides food and income for those who need it most. Trees help to regenerate depleted soils, and allow people to thrive off their land rather than having to migrate in search of better living conditions.
Local men and women can find stable employment and earn an income of their own, which can help to stabilize political and economic situations in developing countries. Thanks to this income, parents can afford to send their children to school, buy medicine, and build houses.
By planting trees with Ecosia, you can help to create and maintain a habitat for endangered animal species around the world to support biodiversity. Trees can also help shape and restore landscapes. With their strong roots, they can stabilize shorelines and mountainsides.
Simply by planting a tree, you can fight climate change, restore landscapes, protect wildlife, and provide nutrition, employment, education, medical assistance, and economic stability.
Is Ecosia Safe to Use?
In fact, Ecosia has partnered with Brave, a privacy browser that is unique in the browser field. It blocks trackers and intrusive ads automatically. Doing this can benefit your searching experience in the long run: it extends battery life, using 35% less battery power than a browser like Chrome, and gives you 300% more browsing speed.
Advantages of Using Ecosia
- Shows you relevant ads in the search results, which they earn money from.
- Uses most of its surplus revenue (around 47% of their total profits) to fund tree-planting operations around the world.
- Their tree-planting operations help communities worldwide.
- User-friendly interface, with a similar design to other search engines.
- It’s very easy to integrate into your daily life.
- They are very transparent about their finances. They publish monthly financial reports that anyone can easily access.
- Cares about data privacy. They don’t sell your data to advertisers and they allow you to turn off all tracking.
Disadvantages of Using Ecosia
- Sometimes, the search results aren’t very relevant to the search query.
- Image search results are limited
Ecosia vs. Google
Despite Google’s management team owning a fleet of jets, the company has used carbon neutral servers since 2017. Ecosia also runs on 100% renewable energy and is building new solar plants as its user base grows.
Since Ecosia uses its profits to plant trees, however, every search with it actually removes about 1 kg of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere. This means that, if Ecosia were as big as Google, it could absorb 15% of all global CO2 emissions.
The trees Ecosia is planting also have many other environmental benefits. They prevent erosion, create microclimates that protect crops, restore depleted soil and create habitats for endangered animals.
The ingenuity of Google’s products pales in comparison to their legal acrobatics. By routing their multi-billion profits through a series of low-tax states, Google has consistently avoided paying their fair share of taxes. Other tech giants such as Amazon and Facebook also use their offshore scaffoldings to pay but a fraction of what other businesses contribute.
Ecosia, meanwhile, pays its taxes, and always will. These taxes fund schools, nature conservation and foreign aid, as well as much of the infrastructure businesses like Google rely on.
Google keeps track of your click-behavior, search history and location in order to guess which search results you’d like to see. This personalisation can result in a “filter bubble”: a state of intellectual isolation caused by being deprived of information that challenges your current opinions.
With Ecosia, you can choose whether to personalise your search results or not. Switching personalisation off is easy: just head to your settings.
Google shares data across many different services, including embedded services in millions of third-party websites.
Ecosia, in contrast, is one of the most privacy-friendly alternative search engines. Concretely, this means that Ecosia doesn’t create personal profiles of you based on your search history, but actually anonymizes all searches within a spam protection period of 4 days. Moreover, Ecosia encrypts all searches to protect them from eavesdroppers, doesn’t use any external tracking tools, and doesn’t sell your data to advertisers.
Most companies are here to make as much money as possible for their founders and shareholders. Ecosia, in contrast, is a purpose-driven, financially transparent company, here to regenerate our planet by planting trees where they are most needed, without compromising on its ethical standards.
Ecosia’s CEO, Christian Kroll, even made a legally binding commitment to ensure Ecosia’s profits stay within the company and will eventually either be invested or used for tree planting. He even took a step further – he gave up ownership of the company he himself founded over to the Purpose Foundation.
Ecosia’s Other Projects
Ecosia is currently supporting reforestation and regenerative projects in the following countries around the world:
- Burkina Faso
Google is so entrenched in modern life that when people want to know something, it is already instinct to “Google it”. But Google has many issues in terms of data privacy, competitiveness and environmental impact. So how about we switch to a more eco-friendly and more private search engine?
Ecosia is a solid contender to Google. It works well as a search engine, relies only on search ads and merchandise sales. And it doesn’t sell your browsing data to others. What’s more amazing is that every time you search, you help contribute to their reforestation projects.
If you want to go zero waste, you should definitely consider using Ecosia rather than Google.