The search engine that plants trees
It has been many years since there was any debate as to the king of search engines. Google has quickly become a necessity in the everyday life of the western world. It has even adopted its own verb; The ability to Google something has ended our reliance on dictionaries, encyclopedias and reference books. Many people prefer to type their symptoms into ‘Doctor Google’ than schedule an appointment with their GP (I’ve managed to diagnose myself with both insomnia and narcolepsy in the same week using this method, so maybe stick to the GP). We seem to think of Google with fond reliance, a faithful tool for accessing the entire earth’s information in the palm of your hand. But what if there are other great options out there? And what if some of those options might just be a little bit better for the world?
Ecosia is a search engine based in Berlin, Germany and has been around since 2009. They are a CO2-neutral company who donate a whopping 80% of their profits to environmental organisations focussed on tree planting. As of February this year, Ecosia have funded the planting of 6.4 million trees through their program, and have been nominated for the Best European Startup Aimed At Improving Society. Ecosia have stated that they aim to plant 1 billion trees by 2020. One of my favourite features of the website is the little counter up the top right corner of the screen, that keeps track of how many trees you have contributed to planting.
Another benefit of Ecosia is not only their environmental sustainability, but also their economic responsibility. Google, like many tech giants, is notorious for tax dodging and shipping its profits into offshore tax havens, costing taxpayers in Australia and around the world billions of dollars. Ecosia are well-known for their financial transparency and claim to pay ‘their fair share of tax’ unlike Google in Australia. Ecosia’s easy-to-read financial reports can be found on their website.
Now for my gripe with Ecosia. Google’s motto is ‘don’t be evil’ (seriously), and to be honest, Google generally lives up to this. Like Ecosia, they are CO2 neutral, have invested hundreds of millions in renewable energy and are widely regarded as one of the best employers in the world. By contrast, Ecosia’s search results are partially powered by Bing (gross), which is owned by Microsoft. This means that at least part of the ad revenue from your clicks are going into the coffers at Microsoft, which isn’t awful, but can’t quite live up to Google’s environmental record. Additionally, I found that especially when searching for more abstract things (which I tend to do as a classical musician), Google simply produces better results, and I confess that I did switch to Google while researching parts of this article. That being said, Ecosia does do very well for most searches, and the more Ecosia is used as a search engine, the better its results will become.
With sustainability and reforestation in mind, Ecosia is currently my default search engine. Even though I may switch to Google for the occasional specialised search, it really is a great initiative and an extremely easy way you can make a contribution to the planet that we all share. If you’re still sceptical, go and try it out for a couple of weeks! Or check out their ‘project page’ linked below. It may just inspire you to make a difference. Information about Ecosia’s sustainability project can be found here.
Click here and give Ecosia a go!