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Search the Web, Plant a Tree—Every Minute

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.


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Google, Yahoo and other search engines make gobs of money from advertisers who pay to have ads pop up when you look for a term. A few more socially minded search engines like Goodsearch and Everyclick donate a few cents to charity when you seek or shop. But one site begun in 2009, Ecosia, donates a whopping 80 percent of its ad revenue to a program that plants trees in the Brazilian rainforest to counter the rapid deforestation there. Ecosia has become popular enough that it recently hit an impressive benchmark: it is now replanting a tree a minute.

About 200,000 people are using Ecosia each day, undertaking about half a million searches every 24 hours. “Since it costs roughly $1 to plant each new tree, Ecosians are now searching and shopping frequently enough to fund the planting of one new tree every 60 seconds,” says Christian Kroll, founder of Ecosia.org, based in Germany.

Ecosia sends its money to the Plant a Billion Trees program run by the Nature Conservancy. The program’s goal is to restore the Brazilian Atlantic Forest by planting one billion native trees by 2015; more than 116,000 seedlings have been plunked into the ground with Ecosia’s donations. If successful, Kroll says, “the program would have the potential to remove 4 million tons of carbon dioxide from the atmosphere every year, which is pretty amazing.”

Kroll defines his company as a social business, so it also offsets carbon dioxide emissions from power plants that generate the electricity to run its Web servers. It does so by supporting a project at Myclimate.org that funds the sale of solar cookers in Madagascar. The cookers replace old, commonly used wood and gas cookers, reducing emissions and ironically lessening local deforestation for wood as fuel.

At one tree a minute, Ecosia’s donations add up to roughly 10,000 trees a week. Kroll’s goal is to keep growing quickly enough to replant 1 million trees in the next year. Searches through Ecosia are powered primarily by Yahoo, plus its own algorithms and technologies from Wikipedia and Bing. Ads are delivered by Yahoo, which shares a portion of the revenue with Ecosia. For convenience Ecosia also makes Google searches available, but they don’t generate any revenue because Google does not allow funds earned with its application to be forwarded to third parties, according to Kroll.

If Ecosia had as many users as Google, of course, more trees would be planted more quickly. “We could have the chance to end deforestation once and for all,” Kroll says.

Image courtesy of Ecosia

Mark Fischetti About the Author: Mark Fischetti is a senior editor at Scientific American who covers energy, environment and sustainability issues. Follow on Twitter @markfischetti.

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.





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  1. 1. Arbeiter 2:32 pm 11/27/2013

    http://populationaction.org/wp-content/uploads/2012/01/asset_upload_file515_10175.gif

    A social advocate makes virtue of failure: The worse the cure the better the treatment – and the more that is required.

    Link to this

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