- Go to Ecosia.org and install it as your default search engine. All their profits go towards planting trees around the world.
- Tell your friends and family about the alternative to Google that will allow them to combat climate change with every search.
My laptop and router run on green energy. So how much of a carbon footprint can I possibly generate from the occasional online search?
The answer, predictably and rather terrifyingly, is a lot. In 2017, almost 75% of online searches went through Google; they alone notched up 3.5 billion searches every day. And the data centres housing the information we’re after consume huge amounts of energy, not just to run the servers themselves, but to operate the air conditioning that stops them from overheating.
While improvements continue to increase data centre efficiency (from using excess heat to warm local buildings, to siting them where there’s an abundant source of renewable energy), all these advances suffer from the rebound effect: with increased efficiency, gains are often offset or even negated by increased take-up.
In many ways, Google is leading the fight: they’ve been carbon neutral since 2007 and reached 100% renewable energy for their operations in 2017. But the fact remains that their raison d’être is to (often notoriously) generate as much profit for shareholders as possible.
Which is why I was delighted to discover Ecosia.org. Search the web using Ecosia and any profits they make go towards planting trees all around the world, with all the consequent benefits, from limiting CO2 emissions and soil erosion to boosting local economies. Their servers run on green energy, their monthly accounts are published online, and even their financial reserves are responsibly invested.
Better yet, install Ecosia as your default search engine and a small tally in your browser will tell you how many trees have been planted thanks to your searches.
Google is the market giant, with the resources to ensure a service that others struggle to match. So while Ecosia works for me, it would be unrealistic to claim it’ll always be the optimum search engine for everyone. But this a great example of how a small consumer decision can have an enormous impact: while I’m sitting at my desk or tapping into my phone, do I choose to help line the pockets of Google’s shareholders, or contribute to the planting of trees all around the world?