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The Gap Year Blog

Ecosia: The Search Engine Saving the World

1 Jul 2019 17:25 PM

Photo Credit: Flickr | trendingtopics

Edited with permission by Frontier

Scrolling aimlessly through your feed late at night, compulsively opening up fresh tabs as the evening dwindles away- the search for social justice seems miles away. And yet, in a generation notoriously characterised by millennial burnout, the million-dollar question becomes how we can implement positive change without further exacerbating those skyrocketing levels of cortisol- increasing personal sustainability whilst expending zero emotional energy.

You’ve switched out your toothbrush for a biodegradable bamboo alternative, carry your re-usable coffee cup with pride and pale at the sight of plastic straws. What more could you possibly do?

The Digital Predicament

Recent studies have suggested that the average person in the UK spends an entire day of every week online and whilst we often conceive of the internet as an immaterial ‘cloud’ it actually relies on millions of physical servers in data centres around the world, all requiring a lot of energy to run. Whilst some among us might cherish pipe dreams of abandoning the rat race and going off grid, for most of us, daily internet use is our bread and butter, despite the fact that a single Google search has been estimated by some at generating 7g of C02, roughly half the energy of boiling a kettle.

An Arboreal Solution?

Enter Ecosia, the carbon-negative tree planting search engine, a Deus ex Machina for any critically engaged Generation Z-er looking to minimise their digital footprint. Launched by Christian Kroll in 2009 after an Eat, Pray Love style worldwide inspo-odyssey, Kroll was galvanized to create a business model with a positive social impact, channelling money from ad revenue into social enterprises.

After travelling in South America and Nepal and witnessing the devastating deforestation at work, Kroll fixed upon a very simple solution: trees. Their website boldly proclaims that ‘Trees are the superheroes of the earth’. Apart from being ‘the most effective CO2 absorbers we have, trees help mitigate climate change, restart water cycles, stop deserts from spreading and turn barren grounds back into fertile woods and farmland. Sounds pretty comprehensive to us. As it stands, Ecosia has 7 million active users generating 0.5 cents per search, but why join these swelling crowds? Here’s our digest on 5 reasons why you should make the move

1. The trees! Ecosia funnels 80% of its profits into tree planting initiatives, with 58 million trees already planted in 17 different countries. A tree is planted roughly every 40 searches, meaning you yourself could commence planting in one guilty foray into the internet hole. Currently, one tree is planted every second across 20 reforestation projects, meaning that over 2.5 million tonnes of C02 have been removed from the atmosphere since the company’s inception.

2. Renewable energy: Ecosia recently built their own solar plant so they can run their servers on clean power. This not only keeps their own environmental record immaculate but means that they actually contribute net positive renewable energy to the grid.

3. They’re Eco-Allies: Ecosia professes to be dedicated to supporting fellow eco-entrepreneurs, partnering in 2019 with the environmentally sustainable Parisian We Love Green festival, which is run on 100% renewable energy. Ecosia has pledged to plant 80,000 trees with the Jane Goodall Institute in Uganda, one tree for every attendee, making it one of the most sustainable festivals going. Additionally, the search results actually show more eco-friendly options to the casual browser, allowing you to make greener choices without even devoting brain-space to the swap.

4. Privacy: Worried that your devices are storing all your embarrassing searches for nefarious purposes? Virtually all searches on Ecosia are encrypted and, more importantly, it doesn’t sell its data to third party advertisers, leaving you free to browse compromising pictures of Timothée Chalamet in relative peace.

5. Ditch Google! If Ecosia were as big as Google it could offset 15% of all global C02 emissions and so the impetus is on to vote with our digital footprint and change market share. Ecosia further underlined its status as the antithesis of the big, bad corporations when in 2018 Christian Kroll officially handed over stewardship to the Purpose Foundation- the company can’t be sold, nor can any profits be taken out of the company, cementing its reputation as for purpose, not just for profit.

Do you like trees? Do you enjoy living on a planet that will continue to be widely habitable? If the answer to either of the above questions is yes, Ecosia seems like a no-brainer.

By Laura Smith - Online Journalism Intern

Frontier runs terrestrial & marine conservationcommunityteaching and adventure projects in over 50 countries - join us and explore the world!