MAKING A DIFFERENCE
Turn Searches into Trees
Ecosia’s search engine is growing, in more ways than one.
In the fall of 2019, the fires that ravaged the Amazon rain forest brought a new awareness to the dangers of deforestation and climate change. In late 2019 and early 2020, massive bushfires in Australia did the same. But there are ways you can help—and one of them is with your browser.
Ecosia is a search engine with a purpose: It directs 80 percent of the revenue it generates from display ads and affiliate links to tree-planting projects all over the globe. Founded in 2009, the nonprofit has partnered with other organizations to plant more than 65 million trees in Brazil, Ghana, Madagascar, Morocco, Peru, Senegal, Tanzania, and other countries.
Powered by Microsoft’s Bing, Ecosia earns ad revenue every time you search. For every 45 or so queries, Ecosia gets enough money to fund the planting of a tree.
“One person switching search engines is a drop in the ocean,” says Ecosia founder Christian Kroll. “But when you have a lot of people acting as a community, big changes can happen.”
To actually get those trees in the ground, Ecosia partners with roughly two dozen conservation groups, including World Vision International and the Jane Goodall Institute. Pieter van Midwoud, one of Ecosia’s two tree-planting officers, is charged with organizing the projects.
“We don’t want to put trees in the ground, turn our backs, and then disappear,” he says. “We’re really thinking about the best way to bring forests back, how they can be durable and sustainable.”
Ecosia says it was on track to fund the planting of 100 million trees by the end of 2019. That was partly due to the Amazon fires: On a single day in August, Ecosia reported a 1,150 percent increase in daily downloads. The ultimate goal: to plant 1 trillion. “The problem is so huge that even 1 billion trees isn’t enough,” says Kroll. “A trillion is the number we have to think about in the long term.”
To use Ecosia, simply use the app to search the web. A counter displays the number of trees Ecosia has planted to date, and you can keep up with the company’s activities in the Projects and News tabs. For a tally of how many trees you’ve helped plant, tap Settings.
Van Midwoud, who has spent his career in conservation and ecology, says the impact Ecosia’s users are making continues to impress even him. “You’ll be driving through a landscape that looks like a desert, and all of a sudden you come upon an area where people are restoring 250 hectares by hand with axes,” he says. “These kinds of projects—that’s what I live for.”