What if the next question you asked a search engine could help save the planet?
That’s the idea behind Ecosia, a free browser extension that uses advertising revenue from basic search queries to reforest our planet. Once the extension is installed on their browser, users are free to search the internet as they usually do — all while Ecosia collects a few cents from every click on a sponsored search result.
For every 45 searches, Ecosia earns enough money to plant a tree. Through their efforts, they’ve been able to plant over 62 million trees since first launching in 2009.
Though the act of planting trees may sound simple on its surface, at scale, it might be one of the most effective means of stemming the catastrophic effects of carbon emissions on our planet. According to a July 2019 study in the journal Science, a sustained worldwide effort to plant 1 trillion trees is the most powerful lever we can pull to limit further global temperature rises and protect human life on our planet.
Planting a forest roughly the size of the United States is an undoubtedly daunting task, but Ecosia makes it free and easy for anyone who uses the internet to play her part — and it’s catching on. According to Forbes, in 2018 Ecosia more than doubled the number of trees it had planted since its founding.
It’s on track to beat that record again in 2019.
The company currently has tree-planting projects in 15 countries with strong forest ecosystems, including Brazil, Nicaragua, Haiti, Uganda and Indonesia. They partner with local organizations that have the expertise to plant and foster healthy new trees in their respective environments, helping to ensure the trees’ survival, improve biodiversity, and create employment opportunities in impoverished agricultural regions.
Ecosia also built its own solar plant to run all their servers on clean power, making the company carbon negative. “This means that if Ecosia were as big as Google, it could absorb 15% of all global CO2 emissions!” says its blog. “That’s enough to offset vehicle emissions worldwide.”
Of course, reforestation cannot solve climate change in a vacuum (and certainly one company cannot solve it alone). Global leaders will still need to focus on ending emissions from coal and gas while curbing deforestation so the influx of new trees won’t be negated by the rapid depletion of the world’s forests.
But in the toolkit of environmental solutions, reforestation has the potential to be the most powerful, cost-efficient and scalable option we have.
“The beautiful thing is that it is a universal issue,” Jean-Francois Bastin, the Science study’s lead author, said in an interview. “It can unify us against a common threat, where anyone can have a role to play, by acting on supporting the restoration of ecosystems, but also by changing the way we are living on the planet.”