What the Tech: Ecosia search engine

What the Tech

Ecosia, a search engine non-profit company just celebrated planting its 100,000,000th tree. If you haven’t heard of Ecosia you’ve probably been using Google or Bing as your search engine. Ecosia is similar to those companies but different as well.

“We make advertising revenue the same as any search engine provider out there, but what’s unique about us in that we take 80-100% of that to reinvest into tree planting projects around the world,” said Ruby Au, head of North America for Ecosia. “We started planting in Brazil, that’s where we put down our first tree and now that’s expanded to planting projects in Africa,

Southeast Asia and now we’re eyeing some tree planting projects in North America hopefully.” Ecosia, which has been around since 2009, plants a tree for every 43 searches using its engine. Ads do appear in the search results and the company earns money for each of those ads. A little more when people click on one and even more when a user purchases something from one of those links.

“We actually go to planting sites and we try to find partners with expertise in the area. That could be an NGO (non-government organization) or a small farmer in the area,” she explains.

“Whoever it is that has that expertise in the region and knows how to plant and who the stakeholders are, how to involve the community. Those are the partners who actually do the planting.”

“And as we plant, we’re very much involved in the local community. It’s creating jobs and as the environment rejuvenates, like in Burkina Faso, one of our biggest tree planting operations, you’re seeing a desert-died area come back to life, setting it up for farming and water again,” Au said.

As for the search engine, it is as simple as Google or Bing. A search bar is on the page and little else. Enter what you’re searching for and Ecosia returns thousands of results. Unlike Google though, Ecosia does nothing with your personal information or your search requests.

“It is a completely privacy friendly search engine,” said Au. “We don’t permanently store your searches, we delete them after a week. we don’t sell any of your data to advertisers. All of your searches are encrypted and we don’t use any external tracking tools.”

You can use Ecosia by going to www.ecosia.com. There’s also a Google Chrome extension you can install in the Chrome browser and to make it your default search engine. There are Ecosia search apps for Android and Apple devices as well.

“We not only want to plant trees with our profits, but we also want to make sure our users are protected and that our users are able to engage in the web in a way that’s ethical and fair to them,” she explained.

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