Ecosia – The Search Engine Helping To Heal Our World
Christian Kroll – The Founder of Ecosia, the Search Engine.
Transcription of “10 Questions and Answers about Ecosia”
1. How did you come up with the idea of Ecosia ?
The idea for Ecosia, pretty much started after university. After finishing university, I asked myself what I should do with my life. I wanted to do something good with my life but I didn’t know what exactly. And during university, I worked on some Internet projects with my flatmate, so I had a little bit of an understanding of how the Internet works and also how search engines work, but I didn’t have any concrete ideas what I could do to help the planet. So I started travelling around. I travelled for many, many months and also spent some time in South America, and there I found out about the importance of trees and the rainforest, especially. and I thought, this is really something nice that we all should do more to protect and increase the amount of trees, and so I thought why not do something for trees and so the idea of creating a search engine that plants trees was born and started in the year, 2009.
2. Why do you plant trees, why not help another cause?
At Ecosia, we decided to plant trees because trees are really awesome. So when you put a tree into the ground, it grows big and absorbs, while doing that, absorbs a lot of CO2 out of the atmosphere, which is really good to fight climate change and global warming. And so, in addition to that, a tree also does many, many other things: it improves the conditions of the soil around it, so that people can actually grow food there again and even maybe sell it on the market; people can benefit from products that trees generate, like even honey or selling some nuts in the local market and things like that; but then also on a bigger scale, actually, trees also help to restore the watershed so that people have good access to fresh water; and it even creates certain microclimates that are just improves the whole situation for everybody in that area. So the trees at Ecosia are just a symbol for so many other good things that are happening around them.
3. What are Ecosia’s main goals and how do you plan to reach them?
Ecosia’s big goal at the moment is to plant 1 billion trees. And 1 billion trees, sounds like a lot, but it has to be a lot because if we just plant a few trees, it’s just not going to have a big enough impact, to solve climate change, so we decided to aim really high and also have a big big impact.
Yeah, 1 billion trees is very ambitious, but I think we can achieve it, but we can’t achieve it alone, so we need the help of you, our users, but also like all the people around us. The more people know about Ecosia and start using it as their search engine, the faster we are going to achieve that goal and actually together, we could have a really big meaningful impact in stopping climate change and creating a better world.
4. How do you decide where to plant trees?
At Ecosia we pick our projects by looking at how much positive impact that the project has. So we try to assess how much benefits are created by the tree planting project, or the people who live there, but also for the nature in that area. So, and that really depends on the region like in Burkina Faso. So the benefit of our project is that we are stopping the desert and providing people with new economic opportunities in that area. In other regions like Indonesia, it might mean that we provide people with other economic alternatives, than selling their land to palm oil plantations. In the end it’s really hard to measure and estimate these things, but we’re trying to have just as much a positive of an impact per euro that we invest, as possible.
5. Why don’t you work with Google?
Initially, we actually worked together with Google but after a few weeks, they decided to end the partnership and release the policy that they won’t work with charitable search engines any more, in the future. The reasoning behind that, is that, according to Google, people would click more on ads than they usually do, because they want to support the cause of search engine, and in our case, to want to support planting trees, and Google says, that they have to protect their advertisers from such fraudulent clicks. So we, at our end, we don’t really see that happening, we don’t see that people really click more on ads than would usually do, and there’s also software that could filter out such fraudulent clicks. But yeah, Google at the moment, at least, decided not to work with Ecosia.
6. There’s a counter in the corner on Ecosia, what does it show me?
So at Ecosia, we show you this little tree counter on the top right of the website and this tree counter tells you how many trees you have already contributed to. So currently it takes around 10 seconds for us to plant a new tree. So every time you search with Ecosia you contribute to 1 of these trees that Ecosia is planting. It doesn’t mean that you planted these trees alone, it just means, you were part of the altar (?), you contributed this much to the planting of that particular tree. On average we, depending on how often you click on ads, it takes around 50 searches to plant a tree completely on your own.
7. How does Ecosia earn money?
When you search with Ecosia, we of course show you search results, but in addition to that, we also display the text advertisements on the right and on top of the search results, and whenever you click on one of these advertisements, the advertiser pays us money that we can then use to plant trees. Depending on the cues that you are using, we generate just a few cents or sometimes even a few euros per click on these advertisements.
So if you want to know how much money we actually earned, you can look that up in our financial reports which we publish every month.
8. Can I use Ecosia on any device?
Ecosia is available for pretty much any device, so you can use it on your computer. We have little browsing extensions for all major browsers Fire, Safari or Chrome, for example, and then it’s also available in the App Stores for your mobile, or for your tablet, so we have an iris app, an android app, and also we have a ?? app.
9. How much do you invest in tree planting programs and how do you prove that?
At Ecosia, we try to maximise the amount of trees that we can plant. So what we do each month is, we look at the revenue that we generate from our search engine and then deduct the costs that we have from operating the search engine, like paying the salaries for the people who work here, but also things like the rent for our office or the cost for the service, for example. So we deduct all these costs and we try to donate as much as possible of money that is left over. However, sometimes we actually just need some money to build up reserves for the future, so in some cases, we take out of the profit, we take a maximum share of 20% and put that on our bank account so that we can make investments in the future. Or if we don’t need the money, then just put it back into the tree planting operations.
So what is different about Ecosia compared to pretty much all other businesses, is that we don’t take money out of the company. So whatever comes in, we just either invest it for the future, or it goes into tree planting. And if you want to look up, exactly how we spend the money, you can actually go on our website and see the business reports that we publish every month.
10. Why should I use Ecosia instead of Google?
What I personally like a lot about Ecosia, is you only need to make a very small change to actually have a very big impact. So I just make my personal daily choice to go to Ecosia and do something good, instead of going into any other search engine. And in the end, if a lot of people make a lot of these small choices, then we can really achieve a lot. So we have already planted millions of trees which just wouldn’t have been possible if now many people like you had decided not to do just a small thing everyday life to make the world a better place.