Ecosia is a search engine founded by Christian Kroll, which gained popularity because of its promise to put 80% or more of its profits towards nonprofit organisations that focus on reforestation. Promising to maintain full financial transparency, it publishes monthly financial reports to build trust with its users. Each time that a user is directed to the sponsored links of advertisements shown next to the search results, Ecosia receives money and each search on Ecosia raises half a Euro cent on average according to the FAQ on Ecosia’s website. Another interesting statistic is that it takes 0.22 euro and 0.8 seconds to plant a tree! Ecosia originally used Yahoo! for their search results and ad revenue as a part of their revenue-sharing agreement. However, Ecosia has recently switched its search result provider from Yahoo! to Bing and Wikipedia to improve their algorithms which means they are no longer sharing their revenue with Yahoo! Ecosia is currently available on mobile for Android and iOS devices as well as all PCS and Macs which makes it widely accessible.
Launched on December 7th, 2009 at UN climate talks in Copenhagen, Ecosia initially supported various tree-planting programs. Until December of 2010, all profits made at Ecosia went towards WWF Germany which protected the Juruena National Park in the Amazon basin. To aid in protecting this area, employees at Ecosia created a collaboration with timber companies and local communities. By 2011, the company had raised €250,000. With these funds, Ecosia then donated to the Plant a Billion Trees program from July 2013 until September 2014. This program was managed by The Nature Conservancy which wanted to restore the Brazilian Atlantic Forest by planting a million trees by 2015. In 2015, Ecosia had also helped fund the reforestation program in Burkina Faso which was part of the Great Green Wall project supported by the African Union and the World Bank in efforts to prevent desertification.
B-Labs (which is a non-profit organisation) said that as of January 2015, “In donating 80% of its ad revenue, Ecosia has raised over 1.5 million dollars for rainforest protection since its founding in 2009.” By 2015, Ecosia had 2.5 million active users who helped plant more than 2 million trees. Currently, Ecosia donates all its profits towards Reforest Now, which is a German local NGO that not only plants to restore forests but also protect against wildfires. It was reported that the profits made in January were used to plant 26,446 trees. In 2018, Ecosia offered RWE AG, a German energy company, 1 million € to buy the Hambach Forest to save it from deforestation for lignite mining.
Ecosia has also become privacy-friendly, meaning that searches are encrypted and not sold to third-party advertisers. This means that there is no personal information from users stored and they do not use external tracking tools like Google Analytics.
In 2019, Ecosia announced that it will not get involved in “search-choice” which would appear on Android devices led by Google. This means that Google will set a default search engine in all Android phones upon first start-up which takes away the choice from the user as well as making search engines pay to be featured. This means that in 2020, European Android phones will not be able to set Ecosia as their default search engine. Kroll has expressed his disappointment stating “We’re deeply disappointed that Google has decided to exploit its dominant market position in this way. Instead of giving wide and fair access, Google have chosen to give discrimination a different form and make everyone else but themselves pay, which isn’t something we can accept”.
In October of 2018, Christian Kroll gave part of his shares to Purpose Foundation. As a result, Kroll and the co-founder Tim Schumacher have given up their right to sell Ecosia or take profits from the company. Today ecosia is involved with reforestation in 16 countries around the world: Peru, Nicaragua, Colombia, Haiti, Brazil, Morocco, Spain, Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ghana, Madagascar, Uganda, Tanzania, Ethiopia, Kenya, and Indonesia.
Critics, such as Finely Amelia Smith, believe Ecosia has further to go in its sustainability in comparison to Google. Smith says that the fact that Ecosia uses Bing as its search provider rather than Google means that resources are wasted with each search, “Microsoft still doesn’t use 100% renewable energy, they’re at 40% and lower in some places around the world. Google, however, is entirely run on renewables.”. On the other hand, Trudie Carter, the Social Media Manager at Ecosia, has argued that their search engine actually does beat Google in its strive to be more environmentally friendly as, “each search with Ecosia actually removes 1 kg of CO2 from the air, which makes Ecosia a carbon-negative search engine… on average, these trees will each remove 50 kg of CO2 during an expected 15 year lifetime.”
I have been using Ecosia for a little over six months now and while I have found that the search engine is slightly behind Google in its efficient search results, it is still a good search engine. It delivers the information I need and takes me to the sites I want to visit. Of course, it also comes guilt-free since I feel as though I am helping make a difference without leaving my house. In my opinion, I would recommend Ecosia even just to try it out as your default search engine and see whether you think it’s worth all the hype!
Photo from Piqsels
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