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  • Writer's pictureValinda

How Ecosia is Changing the World One Search at a Time

Updated: Dec 11, 2023

When Christian Kroll went backpacking in Argentina in 2019, he realized how important can trees be for communities and entire countries all over the world. That’s when he came up with an idea for a search engine that would help plant trees.


In July 2020 Kroll’s startup Ecosia announced planting its 100 millionth tree. Such amount of trees absorbs 1771 tonnes of CO2 every day. And for many people, it sounds just too good to be true. So if you’re wondering whether Ecosia is legit or can’t quite grasp how it works, keep reading.


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What is Ecosia?

Ecosia is not just another search engine; it's a tool for positive change. Like other search engines, it generates revenue through advertising, but that's where the similarities end. Ecosia is committed to using those funds for good. Instead of lining their pockets, they sponsor tree-planting initiatives in areas that need it most. But how does your search turn into a tree? Ecosia has a team dedicated to finding the right organizations and communities to partner with. They carefully select the location, species, and number of trees to be planted, ensuring a positive impact on the community.

If you're interested in learning more about their efforts, Ecosia's website features country profiles with detailed information on their mission in each location. For example, in Indonesia, Ecosia is tackling the issue of palm oil plantations. These plantations are harmful to the environment and the local wildlife, but they also provide vital income for many in the community. Ecosia not only promotes a palm oil boycott but also helps these communities find alternative sources of income by restoring forests on former plantations.

Ecosia doesn't just send money and hope for the best; they stay in touch with their partners and visit the sites to monitor progress. They invest a small amount of money at the start and gradually add more as the partner proves trustworthy.


What kinds of features does Ecosia offer?

Ecosia is a search engine that offers several features to its users, including:

  1. Web search: Ecosia allows users to search for information on the internet using its search engine, which is powered by Bing.

  2. Image search: Ecosia also allows users to search for images on the internet using its search engine.

  3. Video search: Users can search for videos on the internet using Ecosia's video search feature.

  4. Maps: Ecosia provides maps that are powered by OpenStreetMap, which allows users to search for locations and get directions.

  5. News: Ecosia provides news articles from various sources, including Reuters, The Guardian, and The Independent.

  6. Plant trees: Ecosia's unique feature is that it uses its profits to plant trees in various parts of the world. Users can track the number of trees that have been planted with the help of their searches.

  7. Privacy: Ecosia is committed to user privacy and does not track or sell user data to third-party advertisers. It also uses HTTPS encryption to protect user data.

what is ecosia?

How does Ecosia help the environment?

Since its founding in 2009, Ecosia has accomplished the following:

  1. Planted over 160 million trees: Ecosia has used its profits to plant trees in various countries such as Burkina Faso, Madagascar, and Indonesia. The organization's goal is to plant one billion trees by 2024.

  2. Reduced carbon dioxide emissions: Trees absorb carbon dioxide, which is one of the main greenhouse gases responsible for climate change. By planting trees, Ecosia has helped to reduce carbon dioxide emissions and combat climate change.

  3. Provided jobs and education: Ecosia's tree-planting initiatives have created jobs and provided education for people in various countries. For example, in Burkina Faso, Ecosia has partnered with local communities to create jobs and provide education on sustainable farming practices.

  4. Promoted transparency: Ecosia is transparent about its finances and publishes its monthly financial reports for anyone to see. This transparency ensures that people can see how their searches are being used to plant trees and support sustainable initiatives.

  5. Encouraged others to take action: Ecosia's success has inspired other organizations to follow its lead and use profits for social and environmental causes. Additionally, Ecosia has encouraged individuals to take action by using its platform to educate people on environmental issues and encourage sustainable lifestyle choices.


How does Ecosia generate money and what do they do with it?

Have you ever wondered how search engines make money? Well, for Ecosia, it's all about advertising. Like Google and other search engines, Ecosia gets paid by advertisers to display their ads at the top of search results. And when you click on one of those ads, Ecosia gets paid a fee by the advertising company. But here's the cool part: 80% of that fee goes towards planting trees.

So, not only are you getting the search results that you're looking for, but you're also helping to plant trees around the world. But where does that money go exactly? Ecosia invests its profits into biodiversity hotspots, which are areas that are facing extreme threats and have a high number of species. By planting trees in these hotspots, Ecosia is making a real impact on the environment.

Of course, there are other ways that Ecosia could make more money, but for now, their focus remains on their mission to plant more trees. And it's working - they've already planted over 65 million trees! So, next time you need to search for something online, consider using Ecosia and do your part to help the planet.


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How do we know it’s all true?


There’s another aspect in which Ecosia is different from its competitors: it discloses all the details about the company’s activities, including monthly financial reports. For example, in the report from June 2020, you can see that Ecosia generated a total income of €1.474.316,- that month. A staggering 80% of the surplus was allocated to planting and preserving trees all around the world.


If you aren’t convinced by Ecosia’s self-reports, many independent organizations can vouch for them. In 2014 Ecosia gained a B-corp status, a recognition that is given to companies that meet B-corp’s high environmental and social standards. Alongside companies like Patagonia or Alpro, Ecosia has proven to have a positive long-term impact on its community, employers, and the environment.


What about my privacy?

Rest assured, Ecosia promises never to share or sell your data to any third party. However, like all search engines, Ecosia collects some level of data to improve your search results.

While some critical reviews have accused Ecosia of stealing data without user consent, these claims seem a little over the top. Ecosia does display ads in search results, but so do all other browsers. The difference is that Ecosia uses its profits to plant trees instead of lining the pockets of investors.


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Compared to larger search engines like Google, Bing, or Yahoo, Ecosia has a simple and transparent data policy. Their website clearly outlines how they use your data and, while impossible to verify, they seem to have respect for the information they collect. Ecosia claims not to sell data to advertisers, not to track preferences you don't want, and to anonymize searches within 7 days. They also encrypt all searches to protect users from eavesdropping and don't use tracking tools. But if it still bothers you, you can completely opt out of tracking in your browser’s settings.


Overall, Ecosia's transparency and commitment to privacy make it a trustworthy search engine. So, if you want to support a company that's doing good for the planet while also protecting your data, give Ecosia a try.


How does Ecosia compare to other Search Engines?

When it comes to sustainability, Google and Microsoft (who own Bing) are fairly progressive, but Ecosia stands out with its mission to remove carbon from the atmosphere today. Google has been Carbon Neutral since 2017, drawing 100% of its energy from renewables to power its network. Microsoft has vowed to be Carbon negative by 2030 and remove all of its historical carbon emissions by 2050. They have also launched a $1 billion climate innovation fund aimed at reducing carbon emissions.

However, Ecosia is already removing carbon from the atmosphere through every search, which removes about 1kg of CO2. This may seem small, but if Ecosia was as big as Google, it could absorb 15% of global CO2 emissions. In addition to fighting climate change, planting trees has other benefits like preventing erosion, creating habitats for animals, and creating stable growing seasons for farmers.

While Ecosia's sustainability mission is clear, it is worth noting that it is built on Bing and contributes to its carbon footprint. But with Ecosia's investments in solar energy and tree-planting efforts, they are sequestering more carbon than they are producing. Overall, Ecosia's mission sets it apart as a leader in sustainability, but it's important to acknowledge that progress is being made by other tech giants as well.

planting trees

Is Ecosia’s operation Sustainable?


Looking at the company’s operational sustainability is a great way to determine whether its eco promises are legitimate or not. Ecosia’s headquarters are located in Berlin, Germany. In addition to three solar plants in Berlin, in 2020 the company also built its solar system in Rottenbach. That let Ecosia become 200% renewable, meaning they produce twice as much solar energy than it’s needed to power all Ecosia searches. The solar system in Rottenbach sells renewable electricity for a very affordable price thus promoting sustainable energy in the community.

On the other hand, Ecosia’s critics keep pointing out one thing that’s holding the company back. Ecosia belongs to the Microsoft Search Network, a corporation that includes other search engines like Yahoo and Bing. Simply put, Ecosia is not an independent company, it also uses Microsoft’s services. Now when it comes to sustainable energy, Google is ahead of Microsoft. While Microsoft has committed to offsetting 70% of its energy usage by 2023, Google has been offsetting 100% of its energy consumption since 2018.

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Is Ecosia a scam?

Some people are skeptical about whether Ecosia is planting the trees they claim to be or if they're collecting user data to sell. But despite these concerns, there's no evidence to suggest that Ecosia is anything other than a legitimate company. Ecosia has already planted over 65 million trees, which is an impressive feat for a small company with only 8 million users.

Some online articles criticize Ecosia, claiming that it's a browser hijacker or even a virus. But these accusations are unfounded and just plain absurd. Ecosia places ads in search results to generate revenue, which they then use to plant trees. It's no different from what Google does, except that Google keeps the profits for their investors instead of planting trees.

So, is Ecosia legit or a scam? The evidence suggests that it's a legitimate company with a noble cause. While there are always concerns about privacy and data collection, Ecosia has been transparent about its practices and has a track record of doing good. So, if you want to do your part to help the planet, consider using Ecosia for your web searches.

Overall, there is no doubt that Ecosia is a legitimate environmentally conscious company that is worth supporting. Although it’s not perfect, it is one of the best examples of how a business can improve the world instead of damaging it. With his example, Ecosia’s CEO Christian Kroll urges more businesses to take action. He believes that the way the climate crisis is dealt with now is not sustainable. At the moment, private companies harm the environment and non-profit organizations are expected to clean up the mess. Kroll, however, believes that the private sector should start taking more initiative. Moreover, in 2018 Ecosia became a “steward-owned company”, which means that no one will ever be able to sell Ecosia at a profit or take money out of the company.


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