Ecosia is a non-profit search engine that uses search ad revenue to plant trees. It doesn’t have DuckDuckGo’s privacy focus, nor Google search results. But it does have a unique mission.
This search engine is getting bigger and more widely recognized. For example, starting with Apple̵
Ecosia’s main mission is to plant trees
Ecosia is a non-profit search engine that aims to help the environment by planting trees. The search engine’s mission is to absorb as much CO2 as possible by planting trees to reduce the impact of climate change. This is done for the planet, for people and for animals.
The service recognizes that trees can help lift and lift vulnerable populations out of poverty through the regeneration of depleted soils and through agri-forest food growing programs. The search engine is also concerned about the plight of animals around the world losing their habitat due to deforestation.
Ecosia is currently committed to 20 tree planting projects in 15 countries around the world, from South American countries such as Peru and Brazil to Madagascar and Ethiopia in Africa, and other countries including Spain and Indonesia.
These efforts focus primarily on biodiversity hotspots, which make up only about 2.3% of the Earth’s surface, yet account for half of all unique plant species and more than 40% of birds, mammals, reptiles and amphibians . Trees are also planted in some of the poorest agricultural regions in the world to help restore soil, enhance biodiversity and provide alternatives to monoculture crops.
Ecosia is transparent about its turnover and tree planting activities. The search engine regularly posts financial reports on its blog to reveal the total monthly earnings and determine what percentage was used to plant trees. In November 2020, the search engine generated more than € 1.8 million ($ 2.2 million) and funded more than 650,000 trees.
To split the expenditures, Ecosia spent 40% of its revenues from this period on trees, and another 10% went to green investments such as solar power plants and regenerative agriculture. In total, 47% of sales were used for taxes and operating expenses, while 3% was used for advertising purposes.
Convert ads to trees
Ecosia makes money like most other search engines: through advertisements. Just like DuckDuckGo, affiliate ads that appear next to the search results allow the search engine to make a profit. This profit is then used to finance the planting of trees.
According to Ecosia, about 45 searches are needed to finance the planting of one new tree. This number can be drastically reduced depending on other factors such as whether you click on an ad and how “valuable” the search term is in terms of ad payout.
The search engine also has a partner program with HotelsCombined called Ecosia Travel. If you include the word ‘hotel’ in your searches, a new search box will appear at the top of the results to help you book accommodation. When you do this, Ecosia claims to plant about 25 trees depending on the value of your booking.
Ecosia also has the Ecosia Shop, which sells merchandise such as T-shirts, hoodies and bags. T-shirts are designed to be returned, recycled and reprocessed into new products after use, further showing Ecosia’s commitment to sustainability.
More privacy conscious than Google
Search engines like Google have a poor track record when it comes to privacy and store your search history in a profile that is used to serve you more relevant ads.
As a result, many have abandoned Google in favor of privacy-conscious search engines such as DuckDuckGo. While Ecosia is arguably also a privacy-respecting search engine in some ways, planting trees is its primary mission. In comparison, DuckDuckGo is completely focused on privacy in all aspects of operation.
Ecosia states that it “will never share your searches with anyone, except with services directly involved in answering your query, such as Bing.” Ecosia is powered by the Yahoo! and Bing search algorithms. DuckDuckGo also uses Bing for its searches, but explicitly states that this information is not collected or passed on in the first place.
Some information must be passed on to Bing for the service to function. According to Ecosia, this includes your “IP address (obfuscated), user agent string, search term, and some settings such as your locale and language.” By default, Ecosia sets a Bing-specific identifier to “improve” search results, a feature that is disabled if your browser has the “Do Not Track” flag enabled.
Ecosia promises not to allow third-party trackers in their searches. This means that advertisers cannot track your search activity in Ecosia and link it to an existing profile. We tested this with both Safari and DuckDuckGo’s iPhone app and found no third-party trackers. Both browsers had “Do Not Track” enabled, which suggests the search engine respects this setting.
For your search data, Ecosia promises not to store any personal profiles of search behavior. Ecosia claims that all searches are anonymized within a week of being performed, and says there are no agreements to sell this search data to third parties. Your searches also use standard HTTPS encryption, which has become the standard even on Google and Bing.
So what’s it like to use?
Ecosia works like any search engine powered by Yahoo! and Bing algorithm, including DuckDuckGo. While the results are often not as numerous or relevant as Google’s, they are usually good enough to get you where you want to go. While DuckDuckGo uses Bing for most of its results, it also gets additional results from other search engines, while Ecosia doesn’t.
Whether you get “better” results from DuckDuckGo as a result is up for debate. It probably depends on what you are looking for.
DuckDuckGo has a popular feature called “Bangs”, which allows you to search for other websites directly from DuckDuckGo’s search field. Ecosia has search tags that work in the same way, allowing you to add tags such as #videos to search videos, #gimages to search Google Images, or #wolfram to search Wolfram Alpha. View the full list of search tags here.
On Ecosia, there is support for rudimentary unit (“2 oz in g”) and sum (“2 + 2”) conversions, but no currency conversion support. You can translate words quite easily (“hello in Japanese”), but it is not Google Translate. At any time, you can click “Filters” to filter the results by time or click “Settings” to change the settings for region and safe search.
How you interact with Ecosia depends on how you use a search engine and how willing you are to sacrifice features to contribute to a sustainability project. Or to put it another way, if Ecosia accounts for 90% of your searches, are you willing to go the extra mile and hit Google or Bing for the other 10%?
RELATED: What is DuckDuckGo? Meet the Google alternative to privacy
Switch to Ecosia
Ecosia, like DuckDuckGo, has already made its way into some of the most popular browsers on the web. This includes Google Chrome and Safari for iOS 14. Other browsers that include an option to search with Ecosia are Adblock Browser, Maxthon, and Brave.
To search with Ecosia by default, launch Google Chrome and click the “three dots” ellipsis icon in the top right corner of the window. Choose Settings and then click on “Search Engine” in the menu on the left.
Now click on the drop-down list under “Search Engine” and choose Ecosia.
Safari on iPhone and iPad
On an iPhone or iPad, launch the Settings app and go to Safari> Search Engine. Choose Ecosia from the list to set it as your default search engine.
(If you don’t see Ecosia in the list, make sure you’re running iOS 14 or later by updating your iPhone or iPad.)
Most other major browsers are supported through an Ecosia add-on. Visit Ecosia.org in your browser of choice and look for the blue bar that says “Add Ecosia to (Browser)” and click on it.
There are also Ecosia add-ons for Safari (Mac), Firefox and Edge.
Also consider DuckDuckGo
Ecosia offers a real alternative to Google with an eco-friendly twist.
If you like the idea of ditching Google, but want a little more functionality and a strong emphasis on privacy, consider switching to DuckDuckGo.
RELATED: What is DuckDuckGo? Meet the Google alternative to privacy