Plant a tree when you search the internet

How many times did you google something today? Hard to tell, right? For most of us, it is as natural as blinking, so we don’t think twice about it. But imagine if that almost unconscious web search could make a bigger difference? An innovative tech start-up in Berlin has done that. With their search engine, ECOSIA, a tree is planted every time you search the internet.

BY MARIA LENTZ-NIELSEN 

“Google that!”.

Google is now a verb. That’s how natural the IT giant has become in our lives. But if you knew the alternative, you would say, “Ecosia that!”. Ecosia is an alternative search engine that plants a tree for every web search made. An easy way to make a big difference.

You search, “best vegan restaurants in Budapest”, and a former coca farmer in Peru plants another tree. Voilà! Simple as that. At least as a user. We let the team behind Ecosia worry about the logistics. As of now, this simple search-turns-into-a-tree has happened 12 mio times. The trees are paid for with the income from advertisements on the page and the goal is to reach one billion trees before 2020. If you, like me, have an ad block on your internet browser, you will need to “white list” aka exempt ECOSIA from your ad block.

The tree planting vision started in 2009 after founder and CEO Christian Kroll had traveled the world for a year, “and learned about the importance of trees for survival of our planet”, as it says on the ECOSIA infopage. When he was in business school he was “disappointed to see that most people saw profit making as the only valid objective for business”. Now he has a team of 18 people and over 5,5 mio. users.

One side note, though. After having used ECOSIA for a couple of months, I find it inadequate for more technical search compared to e.g. Google. I study political science and search of some specific concepts and events do not give the same quality of results as Google does. But the benefit of planting trees makes it a great alternative and Google can always be plan B if you don’t find what you were looking for in the first place.

And for the good nerds out there, ECOSIA’s info page is worth to check out. It shows the vision behind the concept with impressive infographics and you can read more about financial reports and information about the reforestation projects. They are big on transparency, kudos for that!

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