Each year, about 15 billion trees are chopped down, burned or degraded for a variety of purposes. Only 30 percent of the world’s landmass is still covered in forests, losing 46 percent of trees since humans first began cutting them down. Deforestation is at an all-time high and for several reasons, one of which is environmental sustainability, it is imperative that the world is reforested. Now, what if you could contribute to a greener world with an eco search engine?
What is Ecosia?
Developed by Christian Kroll, Ecosia is a German-based online search engine headquartered in the capital of the country, Berlin. It is an eco search engine that allocates about 80 percent of its income to non-profit organizations that plant trees for conservationism and reforestation.
Although Ecosia is not as widely popular as its counterparts in the search engine industry such as the likes of Google, it is still relatively popular in its own right. Ecosia is ultimately very efficient as a search engine as it returns results that are relevant to the search query and valuable to the user. It can even be used in other languages, such as Chinese.
Since it was launched in December 2009, the eco search engine has amassed over 7 million users and processes an average of 56 queries per second. While these numbers pale in comparison to Google’s over 2 billion active users and 63,000 queries per second, Ecosia has so far invested over €9.1 million in reforestation.
For the environmentally-conscious internet user, Ecosia is the eco search engine of choice. The info page of the website keeps a running record of the number of trees planted by Ecosia users and as of March 12, 2019, Ecosia had been responsible for the planting of over 52 million trees.
How does the eco search engine work?
Like Google, Ecosia is a search engine, but that is where the similarities end. When the eco search engine was first launched, its search results were sourced from Bing, Wikipedia, and Yahoo! Today, however, its search results are provided only by Bing and improve the company’s unique algorithms.
As its business model, when a user makes a search query on Ecosia, the eco search engine returns with search results as well as advertisements on the search engine results page. If the user clicks on these ads, they are redirected to a third-party advertiser through a sponsored link. Each search on Ecosia raises about €0.005 and with a single tree worth €0.2, the search engine needs at least 40 searches to generate enough revenue to plant one tree.
The Ecosia eco search engine is available in 27 languages including English, Chinese, and German. It is available as a web browser and can be downloaded and installed as a mobile app on iOS and Android devices.
The search engine can be accessed by internet users all over the world including users in China where the internet is highly censored thanks to the Great Firewall. As the eco search engine uses Bing results and advertisements as its results, this presents a unique platform for Chinese users to search results, come in contact with new brands, and aid environmental efforts.
How transparent is the business model of Ecosia?
To maintain financial transparency in business, the Ecosia community publishes financial reports and tree-planting receipts on its website every month. The radical transparency of the community hopes to build trust amongst users and encourage more people to contribute towards the global reforestation cause as they can see the results of the community’s searches monthly.
The unused 20 percent of the advertising revenue, as 80 percent is donated towards the reforestation project, is put into a reserve fund for unplanned future events. In a situation where the reserves are not used, the funds are channeled back into the project’s reforestation fund.
Additionally, in October 2018, the founder and developer of the eco search engine Christian Kroll gave part of his shares of the company to the Purpose Foundation. By so doing, Kroll and consequently, the co-owner of Ecosia Tim Schumacher gave up their rights to take out profits from Ecosia or to sell the company.
Is Ecosia privacy focused?
Ecosia considers itself a privacy-friendly eco search engine, stating that they are “interested in trees, not your data.” Every search carried out on the search engine is SSL encrypted and not saved. Unlike Google, which uses Google Analytics to track user behaviors, Ecosia does not use tracking tools nor does it create personal profiles based on user behavior. Thus, users do not have to worry about the company selling their data to companies for their adverts.
What are the benefits of Ecosia to the world?
Ecosia has collaborated with several non-profit organizations including WeForest and the Eden Reforestation Project to plant trees in several countries across the world. So far, the Ecosia community has successfully planted millions of trees with one or more projects in countries such as Brazil, Burkina Faso, Colombia, Ethiopia, Ghana, Indonesia, Kenya, Madagascar, Morocco, Peru, Senegal, Spain, Tanzania, and Uganda.
Ecosia’s reforestation project is focused on “biodiversity hotspots” – which includes regions of the world with a variety of unique species and/or impoverished communities that may be unable to handle large scale tree-planting on their own. There are several benefits of reforestation and while the immediate environment stands to gain a lot more than the rest of the world, the planting of trees is a globally beneficial project. Reforestation can help to:
- Curb desertification to help keep the soil productive
- Absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and thus help control global warming
- Provide a safe and natural habitat for wildlife
- Provide a steady stream of income for people in the biodiversity hotspots who take on the job of planting and grooming the trees
- Provide food security through tree planting initiatives
Overall, in addition to the benefits of reforestation to the environment, it can also help to improve the economic status of locals in these communities.
While the over 52 million trees planted in several countries across the world by Ecosia has done little to offset the about 15 billion trees cut down every year, the contribution of Ecosia to reforestation is one that must not be taken for granted. The goal of the Ecosia community is to plant at least 1 billion trees by 2020 and whether this goal is actualized or not, Ecosia is reforesting degraded landscapes and creating a greener world for all of us.
For internet users in regions with limited internet access, such as in China, Ecosia’s eco search engine also offers new areas of online exploration and protection from the gathering and selling of users’ personal data.
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