News, Technology

Want to fight climate change whilst browsing the web?

Anna Wall

Amie Haven, Journalist
@uxconnections

Social enterprise Ecosia present a novel solution to deforestation: a search engine that plants trees.

It’s every lazy activist’s dream: lying on the sofa and idlily surfing the web whilst enjoying the moral high ground of engaging in climate change action. For every search using your special browser, you are helping to plant a tree that will soak up that nasty CO2 and provide a habitat for wildlife. Ah, it’s good to be good.

But Ecosia is so much more than a cop-out for lazy activists. It’s a social enterprise that has found a way to do something good with our daily activities. Ecosia uses the majority of its profits from search engine ad revenue to plant trees as part of extraordinary projects around the world. Many of these projects have added benefits: social change, gender inclusion, food security, and conservation of endangered species. All you have to do is add Ecosia to your usual browser and search the web as normal. After about 45 searches, Ecosia will have earned enough money to plant a tree. Globally, that works out as a tree planted every second. 

As if that’s not enough, in 2019 Ecosia built its own solar energy plant to power its servers. According to Ecosia, they are now carbon-negative – actually removing 1 kg of CO2 from the air by planting trees and using renewable energy. And since Ecosia’s ingenious inception in 2009, they have planted over 70 million trees in countries across the world. 

Ecosia partners with incredible projects in countries with various economic, social, and environmental issues: Haiti, Peru, Indonesia, Spain, Colombia, Morocco, Madagascar, Tanzania, Brazil, Kenya, Uganda, Ethiopia, Nicaragua, Senegal, Ghana, and Burkina Faso. In Kenya, Ecosia has partnered with the Green Belt Movement to empower women. Local women play a key role in local conservation and restoring livelihoods by planting trees which aid in binding the soil, storing rainwater, and providing food and firewood. 

Whilst in Uganda, the Jane Goodall Institute is working with Ecosia to provide ‘forest corridors’ for chimpanzees. When chimps are unable to get safely from one forest to the next, this lowers their chances of finding food and mates. ‘Forest corridors’ planted along rivers help the chimps expand their habitats and increase their chances of survival.

Ecosia’s socially conscious thinking doesn’t end here; it extends to their business model, too. In a bid to be transparent, they publish monthly financial reports and tree-planting receipts. In their August 2019 financial report, Ecosia say they used 80% of their surplus revenue for tree planting. 

But, you ask, what about privacy whilst using their search engine? Well, Ecosia say that they do not sell your data to advertisers, they’ll anonymise data within a week, and don’t use third party trackers – which all sounds pretty good! Even halo good. 

Ecosia have touched on a novel solution to a tricky dilemma: how to restore the world’s forests before it’s too late? We rely on forests to sustain our fragile ecosystem and yet we have hacked away at them for agricultural purposes, mining, and development. Whilst reforestation projects aren’t going to stop climate change by themselves, projects like the Green Belt Movement and the Jane Goodall Institute reveal the environmental and social good they can do. And with support from social enterprises like Ecosia, long may they last. 

As for you and me? We can put our feet up and search the web knowing that we are doing some good in the world.

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