Switch your search engine: an easy way to save the planet?

On average, Google processes over 6.5 billion searches per day and over 67% of our overall searches go through their system. Their closest competitor, Bing processes just over 870 million searches per day. Whenever we click on an ad through these searches we send advertising cash to the company.

If only there was a company out there that put this money to good use…

Well, yesterday I found out about Ecosia, a web search engine based in Germany. Like all search engines Ecosia presents ads next to search results. For every click on a sponsored link Ecosia are paid by Microsoft Bing, their ‘partner’ organisation. The amount they are paid varies depending on the specific ad, but on average they donate about 80% of ‘surplus income’ to non-profit conservationist organisations. At the moment they are running a tree planting campaign and tell us on their home page that they have planted over 6 million trees worldwide. The company states that each click on a sponsored add raises about 0.5 Euro cents. This means that it takes about 56 searches (0.28 EUR) to plant a tree.

The company was formed in 2009 but has grown substantially in the last couple of years. They have previously worked with The Nature Conservancy and an organisation known as WeForest on their ‘Greening the Desert’ campaign in 2014.

Now, I’m certainly not advocating people don’t use Ecosia, as it’s a legitimate search engine that has great benefits. The end point is that by using this search engine there is at least more chance that money will go in to conservation. However, I was interested to do a bit of digging to see quite how deep their eco credentials really are.

In essence, Ecosia is basically Bing, or at least it has a partnership with Bing and they get a percentage of revenue, with the rest passing to Bing (Microsoft). Of course the money will only pass to the ‘eco projects’ if you click on the ads (which of course if you have an adblocker you won’t see).

Ecosia claims to be a carbon neutral company. Here they stack up quite well. The small amount of energy that they use comes from the German energy cooperative Greenpeace Energy, who are a bit like Ecotricity in that they buy and build renewables. This is good. However, Bing (Microsoft), who continues to power most of the searches, does not declare where their energy comes from and so this makes it difficult to stack up.

In essence, if you are considering using this search engine you should be thinking microsoft v google, rather than necessarily ecosia v google. However, personally I’ll be switching and trying it out.

One thought on “Switch your search engine: an easy way to save the planet?

  1. Recently I got an email from Ecosia in reference to this post:

    “We do have an official partnership with Bing, we use their search technology and ads. For a rather small team like ours this is huge since it allows us to do what we do best: finding and supporting as many high-quality tree planting programs as possible while an experienced partner has our back and offers decent search experience. This has been working so well in the past that we have been able to finance the planting of more than 6 million trees, equaling close to 4 million Euros of financial support. This money doesn’t go to Bing, it goes directly to all of our tree planting partners, which are currently based in Burkina Faso, Madagascar, Peru and Indonesia. We publish our business reports and our planting receipts on our websites, which we are in fact redesigning right now to make them even clearer for our users. These updated versions should all be published in the coming weeks.

    While Microsoft has been CO2-neutral company-wide (making your searches with Bing CO2-neutral, too) since 2012, you can even have a positive effect on the environment by using Ecosia and helping us support reforestation with your searches.”

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