Search to save the environment

Mathew Riley | 8 February 2017

Head of Digital, Bluestone360

Digital communication is about the cumulative, the peer-to-peer influence, the passing on of things you like, things that are useful, ideas that matter; so when John, our Lead Developer here at Bluestone360, recently sent an email around the office about Ecosia, a search engine that plants trees with 80% of its advertising revenue I decided to look into it in a little more detail.

Founded in December 2009, Ecosia have an amazing big idea…

As part of our vision to reverse the tide of deforestation, we want to plant one billion new trees by the year 2020.

And they’re getting there steadily. As I write they’re approaching 6.25 million planted trees. Spending thirty seconds on the page gives you a nice little buzz as you see the number of trees increasing in real-time as you search. I’ve been using Ecosia for a day, and I’ve helped plant 52 trees with other users already.

A few excerpts from one of their blog posts demonstrates the difference I, you and lots of others could make if we used the Ecosia search engine regularly:

Let’s say you search with Ecosia three times a day for a year. That would mean 1095 search requests a year. Since we plant a new tree for every 56 searches on average (you can find more information on this here), you alone could finance

19.5 real trees every year

Now imagine that you persuade 500 people, for example in your office, to start using Ecosia and contributing to the tree planting effort. That would mean that in one year we could plant

9750 actual trees

What if you could convince an organisation of 5000 members to install Ecosia as their default search engine? In one year that would be

97,500 trees planted

And now imagine a university with 15,000 students. If they were to all make the switch to Ecosia you could finance the planting of

292,500 trees in just one year!

Very admirable and very achievable one would like to think, but, in these search engine obsessed (SEO) days of needing to get to the top of the search results pages and in front of eyeballs, does Ecosia perform for the searcher, and for the advertiser? How does it compare with Google?

It’s powered by Bing for a start, that’s Microsoft technology; whether you’re a Mac-addict, a committed PC, or just don’t care, you can’t argue against that level of technology.

Comparing search engine results pages (SERPS) shows that Ecosia lacks some of the contextual information that Google displays (the brief description and synopsis), but nothing that severely reduces the relevance or usefulness of the search results. Have a look at the SERPS for the phrase “rainforest deforestation”…

Find out how Ecosia earns its money through searches here.

I’m not going to delve into Google or Microsoft’s green credentials and how they might compare, because I don’t think that matters in this instance. Ecosia is one of those concepts whose time has come; a seemingly simple idea enabled by a combination of technology and a concern for the environment married with real-life impact. It’s unlikely that I’ll stop using Google completely; I need to use it every day as part of my job, but achieving the right balance in the way we live our lives is important, even more nowadays, so I’ll be sure to continue using Ecosia and spreading the word.

Maybe you will too.