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The Search Engine That Plants Trees When You Browse

the search engine that plants trees

Deforestation: The Stark Reality

Up to 15 billion trees are cut down globally every year and deforestation now accounts for 8% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions.  Between 2001 and 2015, over 300 million hectares (nearly the size of India) of tree cover was lost.

Apart from being the most effective CO2 absorbers we have, trees help mitigate climate change, restart water cycles, stop deserts from spreading and turn barren grounds back into fertile farmland.

Deforestation is a major crisis for the whole planet: without action to end it, we have little or no chance of meeting global warming targets, resulting in catastrophic consequences.

Berlin-based Ecosia Takes Action

Ecosia is an online search engine that was launched in Germany in 2009. They make money in the same way as Google, through search engine advertising. However, the difference is that they donate around 80% of their profits to tree planting projects in 15 different countries, which focus on reforestation, namely: Peru, Brazil, Madagascar, Nicaragua, Haiti, Colombia, Spain, Morocco, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Ethiopia, Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania and Indonesia.

The remaining 20% of the company’s profits are kept in reserve but are used to fund reforestation if they are not needed. They not only help to plant trees, but also provide vital income to the local workers. Ecosia’s projects are helping to revitalise communities, allowing local people to thrive off their land rather than having to migrate in search of better living conditions.

The types of trees that Ecosia plant vary from place to place. They will normally try to plant sapling species that are native to the areas of deforestation, giving them the best chance of success in that area.

The Search Experience

Ecosia’s search engine is powered by Bing, along with Ecosia’s own search algorithms. The user experience is similar to Google, with its largely blank homepage which loads quickly and auto suggestions in the search box as you type.

The search results provide up-to-the-minute results which include images, videos and news items relevant to your search query, all of which have thumbnails that are loaded in a carousel, similar to Google and Bing. It doesn’t offer the knowledge-panel features like Google, such as information and thumbnails for books, films or albums, but Ecosia does at least provide rich content within its main search results.

One particular feature is the use of shortcuts, or search tags, to give you quick access to external search functions such as images, maps and social media platforms. For  example, if you include #g after your search it goes straight to Google, #fb goes directly to Facebook and #yt goes to YouTube.

Ecosia displays a search counter at the top right of each page, which gives you a running tally of the number of searches you’ve made, so it’s a nice way of keeping track of your contribution to the planet’s reforestation.

It is currently available via Google Chrome’s web store or you can make it your default search engine. It is also available as a mobile app on Android and iOS devices, as well as on PCs and Macs.

Ethical Considerations

In 2018, Ecosia committed to becoming a privacy-friendly search engine. The searches are encrypted and are not stored permanently, nor is data sold to third-party advertisers.

Ecosia earns approximately 0.5 cents (EUR) per search. It costs its tree-planting partners about 0.22 EUR to plant a tree. Those 22 cents divided by 0.5 cents means one new tree can be planted around every 45 searches.

The company works with multiple organisations, such as the Eden Reforestation Projects, Hommes et Terre, and various local partners on the ground to help them plant trees, providing a vital income source to many indigenous people.

Positive Results

Back in 2014, one tree was being planted per minute. Today, Ecosia is planting a new tree every second across 21 reforestation projects worldwide.

Thanks to the eight million active users embracing this ethical search engine, Ecosia hopes to have helped plant between 110 and 120 million trees by the end of 2020. When 100 million trees have been planted, 5 million tonnes of CO2 are removed from the atmosphere and 120,000 hectares of land is restored.

Ecosia’s mission is to plant 1 billion trees worldwide: this is a truly admirable goal. So, if you feel passionate about planting trees to help save the planet, give Ecosia a go.

Pru Gayton
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