I’m planting trees. Are you?

Every single time I do an Internet search, I am planting trees. Yes, you read that correctly. And you might have noticed that I did not say, “Every time I Google.”

Trees are weapons to save the planet

That’s because I changed my Internet browser from Google to Ecosia after I read a Bloomberg report about this German-based company that donates around 80% of its profits to planting trees; those profits come from the adverts run alongside search results. Really, I don’t have anything against Google (what would I do without Translate?) or any other search engine. But why not do some good while you’re searching?

It takes 45 searches for Ecosia to fund the planting of one tree. A counter on my search results screen tells me that I’ve planted almost two trees in just over a fortnight. I know that’s a lot of searching, but plenty of my work-life day entails checking facts and references, researching issues, figuring something out, and keeping up with the news.

Ecosia has grown steadily in its decade of existence, but rocketed in recent times – just as concern about the health of our Earth has taken centre stage because it must.

According to a blog post in February this year, Ecosia planted one tree per minute in Burkina Faso in 2014. In February, its tree counter reached 50 million trees planted all over the world, which translates to 2.5 million tonnes of carbon dioxide removed from the atmosphere and 60,000 hectares restored.

When I last looked at the tree counter, which ticks up every 0.8 seconds now, it had hit almost 75 million.

Planet-saving weapon

“It’s easy to underestimate the massive impact that planting trees can have, with reforestation found to be the cheapest and most immediately effective weapon in the fight to save the planet,” Ecosia founder and CEO Christian Kroll is quoted as saying in the Bloomberg report.

It’s important to note that the company is also involved in ensuring that the right trees are planted correctly in the right areas: “…if you plant monocultures instead of mixed forests, you end up with ecological dead zones. If you plant non-native species, they could become invasive and end up destroying biodiversity. If you don’t partner with local communities, your trees won’t survive at all,” it says.

Naturally, this company also produces its own solar power. “Servers use a lot of power,” it says. “If the internet were a country, it would rank #3 in the world in terms of electricity consumption.”

And it embraces activism. In search results, Ecosia uses a fossil fuel plant icon to highlight the 20 firms behind a third of all carbon emissions. Planet-friendly organizations get a green leaf icon.

Ecosia Travel is a new addition: it plants 25 trees on average every time you book a hotel.

Investments in the future

Christian Kroll used the money he made from stock trading to set up Ecosia.org after he’d been confronted by the problems of deforestation on a trip around the world.

Today, Ecosia has more than 8 million active users and has invested more than 9 million euros in tree planting – with focus ranging from protecting habitats for orangutans in Indonesia to restoring year-round water flow in a river in Ghana.

Ecosia works with local partners to support tree-planting projects in 15 countries. It hones in on biodiversity hotspots, “which hold particularly high numbers of unique species”. Severely threatened, they have been diminished by at least 70%, Ecosia says. The Earth’s 35 identified hotspots cover just 2.3% of our land surface, but support “more than half of the world’s plant species and nearly 43% of bird, mammal, reptile and amphibian species found nowhere else on earth”.

Get searching

I managed to install Ecosia without any hassles, and I’m decidedly non-techy. I do like its privacy policy. “Forests need protecting and so does your privacy,” it says. Briefly, it doesn’t sell your data to advertisers (as many web services do), it encrypts your searches so that nobody else can see them, it doesn’t use external trackers, and it allows users to turn off even the minimal tracking that Ecosia uses to improve its services.

However, the new is usually unknown and therefore scary – hence a couple of looks of horror when I’ve mentioned that I’ve switched to this upstart. Something so good must be a scam! Right? Well, wrong.

I base that on independent reviews and my own experience: I can tell you that Ecosia works perfectly – and it feels good too. Find reviews here, here and here. Or install Ecosia and get searching to do your own research while you plant trees.

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