Ecosia: The Web Search Engine that Plants Trees

Alex Rosado

What if I told you that online research could help save ecological habitats and ecosystems? Founded in 2009 in Germany, Ecosia has become a great alternative to traditional search engines.

What is special with Ecosia? It is a search engine “that plants trees.” A foreign idea to be sure, but it is quite simple: perform 50 searches on the engine, and gain the necessary funding to plant a tree. The search engine generates revenue thanks to companies sponsoring links to appear at the top of the list of answers.

Furthermore, every search generates about 0.005€: a tree costs about 0.25€, so it takes more or less 50 searches to have generated enough money for a tree. You don’t even need to click on the sponsored links, just using Ecosia gives the company power and credibility.

At first, Ecosia’s goal was to fight the ongoing deforestation of the Amazonian Forest. However, as the company grew, its goals multiplied. Deforestation is a global issue that needs to be addressed worldwide: Ecosia’s goals expanded. It has since created tree nurseries in more than 15 countries, with the aim to plant local flora that will not damage the ecosystem in place. Ecosia plants trees where there used to be trees: they recreate what existed before, with endemic species. The company finds hotspots, “areas which hold particularly high numbers of unique species”, that have been diminished by at least 70%.

Yet Ecosia’s movement is about more than planting trees; they also sponsor programs to educate locals on the management of natural areas and work on the empowerment of women by employing them in the nurseries. One great example is the work they are doing in Tanzania: side by side with the Wildlife Conservation Society and the LEAD foundation, many women are working in the nurseries and being trained to care for the trees, manage the wood areas and generate revenue to give back to the community.

More than 50 million trees have been planted thanks to online searches. The company even received a B Corp Certification: a label for social and environmental performances.

More than 2 billion people are connected around the world. Every email, storage and search impact the environment, because of the electricity needed to store it. The internet's annual carbon footprint is estimated to be higher than air travel. To try and compensate, Ecosia uses solar panels to balance its carbon footprint. Not a perfect solution, but a welcome step nevertheless.

In a world where some still do not acknowledge climate change, it is important to highlight the efforts of the few trying to make things better. One can only wonder how different the world could be if companies with more resources had the same environmental ethics.

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