So you’ve heard about the environmental impact of plastic pollution, meat consumption, and food waste, but do you know about the environmental impact of the Internet?
Alarmingly, our digital footprints aren’t as clean as we think (for most, we haven’t even thought about it). Each spam email, Netflix binge, and Instagram refresh adds up to roughly 3.7% of global greenhouse gas emissions, which is about the same as the entire airline industry. Yes— the entire airline industry!
Don’t worry, we’re not saying that you need to stop using the Internet (that would be crazy, we’re not crazy). But, we are happy to explore more environmentally-friendly ways we can all use the Internet. Naturally, one company is innovating ways to do that by installing ground-breaking technology all around the world that sucks up carbon emissions while releasing oxygen and improving everyone’s health and wellbeing. You may have heard about them: trees.
Ecosia is the world’s only search engine that uses ad revenue to plant trees—more than 118 million trees since their inception to be exact. In doing this, the company is fighting the negative ramifications of climate change us Internet-users contribute to and making a healthier, more livable planet for all.
What Is Ecosia?
Ecosia is an online search engine like Google, Yahoo, Bing, or DuckDuckGo. But here’s the twist, Ecosia uses the ad revenue from your searches to plant trees. It’s the world’s first and only sustainable search engine.
How Does Ecosia Work?
When you search for something on the Internet, you inevitably see some ads. When you click on those links, the search engine gets a kickback through pay per click advertising.
See how these results for “eco-friendly phone case” have ‘ad’ next to the URL? That’s how search engines like Google and Ecosia make money. But, Ecosia uses 80-100% of their profit from ads to plant trees.
Is Ecosia Safe and Legit?
Yes! In fact, Ecosia has many layers of privacy in place that you won’t find in other search engines. When you use the Ecosia search bar or site, your search history and data isn’t sold to advertisers. Plus, your searches are encrypted so others can’t access your searches. Let’s say this loud and clear: it’s not a scam!
If you’re still not sure, check out Ecosia’s monthly financial reports. They publish their earnings each month and delineate where the money goes. You can even see how much money went to each tree-planting program, which Ecosia representatives visit to solidify their partnership and mutual commitment to sustainability. This level of transparency is an enormous step that we’re not seeing from other big tech companies like Microsoft or Amazon.
Ecosia vs Google
Google creates a digital profile for you based on your searches, your YouTube history, your Gmail account, your Google Maps usage, and their own algorithm. They use this profile to send you ads and track things you might be interested in. While it might be cool to be reminded about a product you want to purchase, this often encourages mindless consumption, and it raises concerns about your privacy. Ecosia doesn’t have the same breadth of reach, so they don’t track as many touch points as Google does, and you actually have the power to switch off their tracking and personalization altogether.
It’s worth mentioning that Ecosia and Google have very different business models. Google (like other tech giants) avoids paying its share of corporate taxes across the globe, and while they’ve pledged to be carbon-free by 2030, their sustainability initiatives are by no means groundbreaking. Ecosia’s impact focus is the key difference between a tech company pursuing environmental initiatives as an afterthought versus a truly socially responsible company—they were founded for the purpose of making a positive impact on the planet and the people who live on it.
If you use Google Chrome, you can still install Ecosia and use it as your primary browser. Your homepage keeps track of how many searches you’ve done with Ecosia with a little tree icon. It takes roughly 45 searches to plant a new tree, so you can track your personal number of trees with some simple math.
Ecosia’s Tree-Planting Projects
We all know about the importance of trees, but it’s also important that they’re planted in an ethical and location-conscious manner that prioritizes local communities and their needs. Ecosia ensures that their tree-planting projects have maximum impact by carefully selecting nonprofit partners around the world.
From Sudan to Brazil, Burkina Faso, Indonesia, and Peru, Ecosia has worked with more than 9,000 tree planters. Not only does this employ local people, it provides educational opportunities, restores native habitats, and provides economic value. Ecosia thoughtfully chooses tree-planting initiatives that are using reforestation projects to restore deserts and former sites of violence, while creating opportunities for sustainable and regenerative agriculture.
Browse Ecosia’s tree-planting portfolio and learn how each partner is securing a more stable future for the community it serves.
Ecosia.org: Building a Better Internet
Christian Kroll founded Ecosia in 2009 after traveling the world and witnessing the destruction of deforestation. As an environmentally friendly company, Ecosia values sustainability through and through. They’re beyond climate-neutral and call themselves ‘200% renewable’. In other words, they actually generate 2x the renewable energy they need on their own solar plant and sell it back to the grid to replace fossil fuel-based energy.
In 2014, Ecosia became the first Certified B Corporation in Germany. Their tree-planting work has made an enormous impact on the overall health of our planet and their goal to hit 1 billion trees is within sight as long as active users continue to search!
Ruby Au, Head of Ecosia North America
Avid world traveler and social entrepreneur, Ruby has an exceptional background in environmental science and business, which led her to this role at Ecosia.
Originally from Los Angeles, Ruby lived in Nairobi, Kenya after studying at the University of Southern California. She founded an education technology startup in Nairobi, which fueled her passion for doing good through business.
Ruby has been on the Ecosia team at their HQ in Berlin since early 2020. Her goal is to grow Ecosia’s North American branches. The company has seen tremendous success in countries like Germany and France, but they’re only just starting to expand into the U.S. market.
“It’s not about becoming another Google, it’s about becoming a search engine that plants trees and is the best tree planter in the world.”
The Skinny on Trees
Use this cheat sheet to brush up on your knowledge of the benefits of trees.
- Carbon Capture: In one year, a mature tree can absorb more than 48 pounds of carbon. Collectively, all the trees on the planet prevent tonnes of this greenhouse gas from entering the atmosphere, which causes global warming.
- Increase Soil Quality: Trees reduce soil erosion and increase fertility and water retention, which makes land easier to farm and keep healthy. Our friends at Tablas Creek Vineyards use agroforestry techniques like tree-planting to farm the best possible grapes for wine.
- Provide Stable Ecosystems: Trees provide ample space for all types of animals and birds, which is important for biodiversity. Ecosia’s work in Uganda has provided shelter for the remaining 5,000 chimpanzees in the country.
- Temperature Regulation: By shading the ground, trees provide temperature regulation that protects plants and animals. This shade is important for growing fair trade coffee plants and leaves them less susceptible to pests, which is crucial for the continuation of coffee globalization.
- Economic & Social Value: Tree-planting and maintenance creates jobs in itself, but their impact on the economy reaches much farther than that. Tree-planting initiatives offer equitable employment to women and often facilitate educational programs for children.
- Health & Wellbeing: Spending time in nature improves physical and mental health. Even having a view of nature from your work station or hospital bed can make an impact on your job satisfaction and healing.
Closing: One Tree at a Time
Planting trees is one of the simplest ways to combat climate change while elevating economic and social equality. If you make Ecosia your default search engine today and use it for work or general browsing, you can instantly start planting trees and be well on your way to making your internet use carbon neutral!
So next time you open a Google search, check out Ecosia instead. On your iPhone, you can even use their mobile app for searches on the go. We promise, it’s way less shady than other search engines (except for the trees of course!)
Additional Resources & Links Mentioned from the Episode:
- Ecosia Search Engine
- The Age of Surveillance Capitalism by Shoshana Zuboff
- This Changes Everything: Capitalism vs The Climate by Naomi Klein
- Five Calls App
Sustainable Workplaces Manager & Writer
Jackie is the Sustainable Workplaces Manager at Urban Green Lab, a sustainability education nonprofit in Nashville, Tennessee. She’s passionate about connecting people with actionable ways to make a positive impact on the environment. She graduated from Dickinson College with a degree in Environmental Studies and a certificate in Social Innovation & Entrepreneurship. Jackie worked in the nonprofit world in Washington D.C. for Ashoka and the National Building Museum.
Jackie enjoys hiking with her rescue dog, finding craft breweries, and traveling the globe in search of plant-based eats.