We all want to do our part to preserve and protect nature. Whether it’s using less plastic, eating organic food or even the simple act of replacing the lights in our homes with energy saving ones, we all try to contribute to this cause. But what if each time you googled something, someone planted a tree? Well, that’s what Ecosia is all about.
What is Ecosia?
Quite simply, Ecosia is a search engine based in Germany. What makes them unique is that they donate 80% or more of their surplus income to non-profit organizations. These organizations are focused on reforestation and conservationism. As such, they use the resources from Ecosia to plant trees.
While initial search results were provided by Yahoo, Bing and Wikipedia, they are now provided by Microsoft Bing. Ecosia is also available as a mobile app for Android or iOS. It is also available as an extension for Google Chrome.
Searching the web and planting a tree at the same time
Ecosia performs as any other search engine would. I added the extension to Google Chrome and decided to test it out. The first thing I noticed was that search results are fast. You can search the web, images, news, video and maps, just like you would do with a regular search engine. You can also filter searches to show results within a certain timeframe (within the last 24 hours, for example). You can also set your search region as well.
A counter on the right side of the browser window shows how many searches I’ve done with Ecosia. On average, 45 searches are needed to plant a single tree. This essentially means that Ecosia must get revenue from 45 searches in order to make it feasible to plant one tree. I was satisfied with the web extension so I decided to go ahead and install the Android app.
Turning over a new leaf?
The first thing I noticed was that the Ecosia app looks a lot like Google Chrome for Android. That’s because the app is built on Chromium which is Google’s open-source web browser project. This, in turn, means I get all the features of Google Chrome and also contribute to Ecosia.
The interface of Ecosia is almost identical to that of Google Chrome for Android. It even has a section for recommended stories like Google Chrome. The only difference here is that Ecosia uses this section to share news about their projects and what they’re doing with the revenue that they gain.
Because it’s built using Chromium, you also get the standard features such as Tabs, History, and Bookmarks. You also get an Incognito mode as well. What I really like about the mobile app of Ecosia is that it has built-in ad blocking. This is courtesy of AdBlock Plus. So rather than being bombarded with irrelevant ads on webpages, I was able to go to websites ad-free.
In keeping with privacy, Ecosia also states that they won’t save a user’s search history. They also state that they won’t track websites visited nor see a user’s data to advertisers. Having used the app for a few days, it’s appears that their statements are indeed true.
How exactly does Ecosia earn revenue?
Much like any other search engine such as Google, Yahoo or Bing, Ecosia earns revenue from ads that appear above and alongside the search results. The ads on Ecosia are clearly labelled as such. The ads themselves are text links to websites that pay for each click by a user. As I said earlier, the search engine is powered by Bing. As such, Bing plays a share of the revenue generated by these ads.
Ecosia also has an online store that sells t-shirts. Each time a T-shirt is purchased, a commission is received for the sale. The profits of all this goes towards the projects by Ecosia. According to the Ecosia website, they can plant 20 trees with the sale of one t-shirt.
The amount generated per click on an advertisement varies. Certain search terms often come with better ads than some terms. So clicking on one of these higher rated words would generate a considerably more revenue. This in turn means more trees to be planted.
One thing that I found impressive about Ecosia is that they are transparent about what they do with their finances. A quick look at their website directed me to a link that has all their financial reports and receipts for trees planted. February 2019, for example, shows details such as their Reserves, Operational Costs, and how much funding they gave to reforestation projects around the world.
Ecosia is adamant to build a greener world for everyone. For this reason, they vehemently state that they will take any profits out of the company. They also have a vision to plant one billion new trees by 2020. In addition, Ecosia owns and operates its own solar plants as well.
Sri Lanka too has its own tree planting projects
Back in 2017, we saw a gamified platform for planting trees called Thuru. Here, a user would plant a tree, and then upload images of the tree. From there, the user would gain points on how well their tree was growing and compete with their friends. They also partnered up with another Sri Lankan startup called Nurone Labs to disperse one million seeds by the end of 2017.
Overall, the work behind Ecosia and from a local angle Thuru all go to show that there are people in the world who are dedicated to saving our forests and preserving them. If you too would like to be a part of this initiative, you can download the Ecosia app for Android and iOS.
How many trees have you planted by using Ecosia? We would love to hear from you.