January 8, 2020

Ecosia: The Search Engine that Plants Trees

With today’s technology, we have limitless information at our fingertips and getting an answer to your burning questions is as simple as opening up your phone and typing in your favorite search engine. It’s so simple, we hardly even think about it. 

What is Ecosia?

Ecosia is a search engine that uses Bing’s technology, but their own algorithms. Like other search engines, Ecosia utilizes advertising to generate income. However, they are the first search engine to dedicate 80% of their profits to planting trees. What doesn’t go toward planting trees gets set aside to plan for bigger projects with higher amounts of necessary capital. 

How do Online Searches affect the environment?

While the exact output of CO2 caused by search engines isn’t known, it’s estimated to range from 10-20g per search. This relatively small number adds up quickly, especially with an average of over 40,000 searches per second on Google alone. Joana Moll created a site that calculates the emissions from Google in the amount of time you’ve had the page open. Watching how quickly the number rises is sobering, given that a quick internet search is not something we normally consider a pollutant.

Can You Trust Ecosia?

There have been several posts going around spreading the idea that Ecosia is a scam or worse; a virus. There is no evidence to support this, however, and it seems to come from a desire to generate views rather than a desire to find out the truth. While the Google Chrome extension does have permissions that are apt to make people wary, like the ability to see login information on websites, the truth is their permissions don’t differ much from those of other search engines. 

As for whether or not they’re a scam we need to delve into their credentials. Ecosia is a certified class B corporation, a business that balances profit and charitable works, their financial data is published monthly, and they work with local groups and known charities such as the Jane Goodall Institute. If they weren’t actually doing what they say, I believe they wouldn’t be as forthcoming.

Where are They Planting Trees?

Working with local groups, Ecosia helps plant trees in 15 different countries. There are 35 known biodiversity hotspots; a location with a high amount of unique species. These places face extreme threats, but they’re vital to the ecosystem due to the fact that even though they only consist of less than 3% of the Earth’s surface, they are home to over 40% of animal species not found in any other area. Despite their importance, these hotspots have declined by 70% over the years, therefore, one of Ecosia’s big missions involves restoring them to their former glory.

Should You be Using Ecosia?

Really, the answer to this question remains solely a personal choice. Ecosia has definite shortcomings, such as, search results that aren’t as rich, and unlike Google, results aren’t often displayed directly on the search page. As more people use their platform, however, they’ve been able to make improvements; one being the new shortcuts for searches. For example, if you’d like to go straight to map results, just type #m at the end of your search and you’ll be automatically be brought to Google maps. 

When compared side by side next to Google, Ecosia doubtlessly is the weaker search engine, however, they give people an opportunity for passively effecting change without even having to put much thought into it. How often do you have the chance to say that?

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