Ecosia, the “search engine that plants trees.”
Founded in 2009, the company is already the talk of the town. Founder Christian Kroll talks about why trees are being used to combat the climate crisis, what Ecosia is also doing for the climate, and the competition with Google in the Greentech. Live Conference 2022.
Ecosia invests advertising revenue in tree planting projects
Most people have already heard the principle of what Ecosia is. After all, it works just like any other search engine: you enter a term and get results, including ads, through which Ecosia finances itself.
The difference, however, is that Ecosia uses the revenue generated to support tree-planting projects.
According to Christian Kroll, the vision is simply to solve the climate crisis. Well, this goal is not quite that simple, but Ecosia at least wants to make a contribution to this.
It is important to know, however, that not every search automatically plants a tree. This only happens when you click on an ad. Thus, Ecosia earns from the advertising revenue and invests this in turn in planting trees.
However, this does not mean that users should click on ads indiscriminately just for the sake of trees. According to Kroll, Ecosia should be used just like any other search engine. Most of the time, people will automatically click on an ad at some point during a search. On average, this results in a tree being planted for about 45 search queries.
Cooperation with local communities for CO2 absorption by trees
So what do the tree planting projects look like in more detail?
“We always say we plant the right trees in the right place,” says Kroll. To do this, Ecosia works with local communities and adapts the projects to local conditions.
The benefits seem obvious. Trees draw CO2 from the atmosphere and can also store it over the long term. They also bring degraded ecosystems back to life. Local people have the opportunity to earn money by harvesting nuts and fruits and restoring fertile soil. A search with Ecosia, by the way, absorbs about 0.5 kg of CO2 per search, according to Kroll.
“We are pioneering the tree planting sector […], which is a bit of a shame. We’d like more people to be active there with the same seriousness, because tree planting actually has the potential to absorb several hundred gigatons of CO2 over the next few decades.”
Transparency, data protection and green features
Of course, planting trees does not automatically save the world. Moreover, not all trees are created equal, and not every seed planted will grow into a healthy tree. That’s why Ecosia is trying to make the search engine more attractive to users in other ways.
They invest in renewable energy and develop green features. These include, for example, the Climate Action Tracker, which shows how much a country is doing to solve the climate crisis, or the Climate Pledge for large corporations, which is intended to make greenwashing transparent.
In addition, Ecosia discloses income and expenses monthly in financial reports, pays taxes, and does not store personal data. Since 2018, the company has also been transformed into a “company in charge”. So it can’t be sold or pocket profit for its own enrichment.
Competition with Google remains difficult
Ecosia is nowhere near Google’s level, but with 20 million users and a market share of one percent in Europe, it is already well on its way.
Unfortunately, competition with Google is not that easy.
“Google is not only the largest search engine in the world […], but Google also owns Android, Chrome, YouTube and so on. That is, all these access points that you need to install a search engine on a device in the first place, unfortunately they also belong to Google,” Kroll explains.
Ideally, Ecosia can continue to get people to use the search engine, and thereby try to make Internet use greener. After all, he says, it can’t hurt to change the way people search. In a way, every click has an impact on the market and can make a difference.