There are so many businesses that donate part of their proceeds to charities that it makes shopping with them feel a lot easier. With the advent of crowdsourcing websites like Kickstarter and GoFundMe, people have tons of ways to give back. Despite being a broke-ass, it makes me feel awesome to give part of my meager earnings to organizations and people who will do something more important with than buying iced mochas.
Now charitable business models are moving into an even more digital space: search engines. Have you ever wondered why Google is so profitable when so many of their products – including their incredible search engine – are available for free? Their income is derived from digital advertising. Those sponsored ads that show up at the top of your search results? They’re where Google gets a part of its income. Ecosia is a search engine that takes the income generated from the digital ads on their search results and uses it to plant trees around the world.
You can access Ecosia via their website, or you can download their free browser extension. (Currently available for Google Chrome, Firefox, Safari, and Opera.) This extension will redirect your address bar search through Ecosia’s search engine instead of the default search engine. (Usually Google or, god forbid, Bing.)
The results are basically the same, which isn’t surprising. The only difference is that Ecosia doesn’t have all of the information about you that Google does like location and web history. It’s only noticeable if you, like me, do about 1,000 searches every day. Considering the positive effects of searching on Ecosia, it’s not that big of a deal.
Wondering how those trees get into the ground? Ecosia works with organizations around the world to assist in region-specific needs. Different ecosystems have different struggles. Ecosia works directly with conservation organizations in these areas to address those needs through the people that know them best.
For example, in Peru, forests were demolished in the 1980s to make room for all of the cocaine everyone wanted to make. (Not kidding.) Coca plantations ravaged the ecosystem, and they’re still struggling to recover. Ecosia is working with Pur Projet, a Parisian environmental organization, and Peruvian agricultural cooperatives to reintroduce cocoa and coffee crops. This effort is meant to stimulate the economy and repopulate the region with native plants. Farmers are also being educated in environmentally conscious farming techniques like sustainable harvesting, agroforestry, and forest management.
This is such a cool, minimalist way to have a positive change. You can follow along with Ecosia’s travels as they visit the tree-planting organizations they support around the world through their Facebook page and Instagram. Imagine if you were shopping for ethical fashion using Ecosia’s search engine – that’s like a double-whammy of philanthropy!