Searching Green

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Green search engine Ecosia turns clicks and searches into life-saving remedies for the rainforest.

Author Anna Rees, 09.03.12

Green search engine Ecosia turns clicks and searches into life-saving remedies for the rainforest.

We want to peg the term “trailblazing” to search engine Ecosia but for a business that is founded on supporting rainforest projects, an adjective that has its origins in the removal of bark from trees – a tagging practice that today is used in the felling of trees – seems a little in poor taste.

So, in the interest of avoiding incorrect adjectives, Ecosia is good. It’s jaw-droppingly great in fact. Why? For starters, it donates a whopping 80 percent of its revenue to rainforest restoration or protection projects in the Amazon.

It starts off just like any other search engine i.e. you type in your request. Like any other search engine, it brings up a list of links, some of them sponsored (but still relevant to your search query). Should you click on a sponsored link, the company in question pays a sum to Bing or Yahoo for each click. The majority of that sum then goes to Ecosia, who donates at least 80 percent of it to the World Wildlife Fund in support of its work in the Amazon.

So far, Ecosia has clocked up almost 1 million euros in donations. The whole premise behind the project is to essentially “make up” for some of the environmental damage search engines contribute to because, well, search engines don’t exist in a vacuum. In 2009, a group of researchers discovered that performing two searches on Google emitted approximately the same amount of CO2 as boiling the kettle to make tea. According to their research, each Google search emits approximately seven grams of carbon dioxide.

At the time, those figures were contentious and were swiftly refuted by Google, whose rebuttal stated that the average Google search emitted about 0.2 grams of CO2. Their calculations also stipulated that the average car driven for one kilometer emitted the same amount of carbon dioxide as a thousand Google searches. Other estimates vary depending on whether one needs to turn on the computer to conduct the search or whether the computer is already running.

As you can see, the arguments surrounding search engines and their CO2 emissions are as clear as mud. Which further emphasizes that, in this search-engine-reliant world, self-aware organizations such as Ecosia should be the norm rather than the exception. Head to Ecosia and get clicking.

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