What if I told you that you could plant trees by searching for stuff on the internet? Sounds pretty ridiculous, right? But, that’s exactly what the Ecosia search engine does. They use the money they make as a search provider to plant trees around the world, and as you may know, tress are one of the best ways to fight climate change.
How Does it Work?
There’s a reason Google has an insane amount of money from offering free services. Searches are data, and data is extremely valuable. In addition to that, ads and advertising space are another currency of the web.
Ecosia provides searches and displays advertisements, so they make money. They use that money to hire people around the world to plant trees. Ecosia also shows you which results in your search are eco-conscious sites by displaying a little leaf icon text to them.
When it comes to the actual results, Ecosia provides great ones. Instead of building a whole search engine from scratch, they built on Microsoft’s Bing search engine. Now, Bing isn’t the absolute best, and I’m the first person to admit that I’m not exactly a fan of Microsoft, but for these purposes it certainly gets the job done.
Do They Really Plant Trees?
Yes. It’s super easy to be skeptical of a corporation claiming that they’re doing something good, especially in the tech world. It’s not like companies haven’t made overblown or completely fraudulent claims about charitable actions before, but in this case, the company is actually fairly trustworthy.
Ecosia is a certified B Corp. If you’re not familiar with them, B Corps need to meet a strict set of standards, and they’re evaluated by a third party to ensure they’re keeping up their end.
At the same time, Ecosia realizes that you’re probably going to question their claims. As a result, they publish detailed financial reports that show that they are, indeed, planting the trees.
What About Privacy?
Some of you shut down the second you read the word, “Microsoft.” I know who you are. I was one of you. I’m going to put it bluntly; Ecosia isn’t quite as private as the likes of StartPage or DuckDuckGo. That said, it’s not bad.
Ecosia only hands off the searches to Microsoft. You interact directly with them, and they’re the ones handling data about your interactions. They store searches for a week and only log IP addresses. So, if you’re already using a VPN, there’s not much to be concerned with. They also don’t employ third party trackers and allow you to opt out of all tracking with “Do not track” in your browser.
As a whole, Ecosia is more private than the likes of Google, or even plain Bing. Unless you’re being extra paranoid, there’s no serious privacy concerns in using it.
How to Get Ecosia
It’s super easy to get started with Ecosia. First, you can just go to the Ecosia website, and start searching. If you want to make it your default search provider, there will be a little box on the Ecosia home page, letting you add it to your browser.
Ecosia also offers mobile apps for Android and iOS. The apps are full browsers. Essentially, they’re just re-branded Chrome, so they’ll work as smoothly as Chrome does, but they’ll use the Ecosia search engine by default.
You don’t need to commit to Ecosia right away. You always have the option of just trying the search for a while. In the upper right of the search screen, you’ll see the amount of searches you’ve made and how much progress you’ve made towards planting trees. It’s almost like a mini game, and it’s sort of encouraging to see that you’re online searches are going towards something positive.