Imagine a company that plants trees when someone uses their service. A German startup, Ecosia, promises to do exactly that when people use their search engine.
Trees for searches
“An average search generates around 0.005 € of revenue. It costs roughly 0.25 € to plant a tree, which means that Ecosia can plant one tree every 50 searches. On average, these trees will each remove 50 kg of CO2 during an expected 15 year lifetime. This means that if Ecosia were as big as Google, it could absorb 15 percent of all global CO2 emissions! That’s enough to offset vehicle emissions worldwide,” the company said in a blog.
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As of now, about 8 million users across the world are funding 20 tree planting projects. These include planting fruit and nut trees in Ghana, mangrove trees in Madagascar, and acacia trees in Ethiopia. To make sure that the tree planting projects are proceeding as planned, the company has hired a chief tree-planting officer who oversees projects and visits the sites regularly. Satellite imaging is used to ensure that the trees are not subject to illegal logging activities.
Ecosia does not have its own search engine. Instead, the company has partnered with Microsoft Bing to provide such a service. Started in 2009, the company has grown quite substantially and is popular in Germany, France, and the UK. Ecosia is also rapidly growing in the U.S. largely due to student movements in campuses. For instance, Ohio State University students have been campaigning to make Ecosia the official search engine of the university.
“People now use Ecosia in 183 countries and we’re really excited that users have helped us plant 50 million trees. However, the reality is that it is not enough. We need to change the way we eat, the way we farm, the way we generate our energy — we also need to plant a trillion trees. It sounds unachievable, but it is the equivalent of 10 percent of the world’s annual military spend,” Christian Kroll, founder and Chief Executive of Ecosia, said in a statement (AFN).
The fire raging in the Amazon rainforest has apparently given a boost to Ecosia’s revenues and tree-planting efforts. Usually, the company’s app and browser extensions are downloaded about 20,000 times per day on average. But on August 22, almost 250,000 downloads were registered, showing a 1,150 percent increase in user base. It even became the top-ranked iOS app in Brazil.
According to the company, its team has numerous employees from Brazil. “We had our team meeting and people were, on the one side, very happy because of the numbers, but also very sad because of the forest fires. So it’s both exciting and a tragic occurrence,” Kroll said to Business Insider.
Ecosia aims to plant 100 million trees by the end of the year. Till now, the company’s efforts have helped to restore about 60,000 hectares of land. To make sure that Ecosia uses the profit only for planting trees, Kroll has given a veto share to Purpose Foundation, an organization that provides support to companies that focus on fulfilling socially beneficial projects. This basically means that Kroll will never be able to use Ecosia to make a profit for himself. He is also not allowed to sell the company to a third party.