The search engine that aims to save the world’s rainforests one click at a time, Ecosia, has recently celebrated its first birthday. Now it’s time to wonder whether the future is bright for the green internet machine.

In the last 50 years, one third of tropical rainforests have been destroyed, killing thousands of inhabitant species. The clearing and burning of rainforests accounts for up to 25% of man’s CO2 emissions into the atmosphere and is the second largest cause of climate change. What’s more, a report by Gartner, the industry analysts, states that the world’s IT services contribute 2% of the world’s greenhouse gases – on par with the world’s airlines. Evan Mills, a scientist at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory in California stated that “data centres are among the most energy-intensive facilities imaginable”. Given these statistics, it’s astonishing that something proactive has not been done sooner to tackle the issue that the internet presents to climate change.

Ecosia, launched in December 2009 in Wittenburg, has identified a way for even the laziest of us to help prevent further damage – through our obsession with surfing the web. Working with WWF International, the search engine donates 80% of its income from sponsored links to save the world’s rainforests from deforestation. All we have to do is switch our default search engine to Ecosia.

Charitable though this may be, Ecosia is not a non-profit organisation; it’s a social business powered by Bing and Yahoo. And there is a small catch: the payments from sponsored links are first received by Bing and Yahoo; they then pass the “larger chunk” of that money to Ecosia – not as altruistic as one might have originally hoped.

Nevertheless, Ecosia has since its inception, generated just under 125,000 Euros ($164,000) for its rainforest protection programme. That’s 125, 000 Euros more for the rainforest than any other internet search engine so perhaps we can forgive the missing “small chunk” after all, it’s just good business.

Currently Ecosia’s birthplace, Germany, dominates its customer base making up 62.77% of its global searches. The USA contributes 6.67% and the United Kingdom just 1.3%. So the search engine has its work cut out if it hopes to establish itself globally.

Given the world’s immense dependence upon the internet, Ecosia has provided people with an incredibly powerful yet simple tool to help prevent global warming that, I hope, will continue to grow in popularity and prompt other search engines to realise their potential in the battle against climate change.


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