Looking out for feasible, effective, and easy ways to stop climate change has become an important goal in our daily lives. As one of the least contemplated measures – believe it or not – surfing on the internet could contribute greatly to a more sustainable environment.
The idea of sustainable internet use was immensely influenced by self-proclaimed eco-friendly search engine start-ups. A recent and ideal example is a German company called Ecosia. Ecosia’s corporate purpose is to plant trees whenever someone uses their internet browser. Its homepage ticks off in real-time the number of trees planted by Ecosia users (at last count: 139,824,089). The company claims to donate at least 80% of its profits to fund tree-planting programs.
Despite these good intentions, critics remain suspicious. If you dig deeper into the topic, you will find that the tree-planting policy is only activated if a user actually clicks on ads – and not by simply browsing with Ecosia. And more and more skeptics are asking whether planting trees really is the best measure to stop climate change. In the end, most people just stick with Google.
However, the Helene Lange Gymnasium, a Unesco-project public high school located in Hamburg, tried to work with Ecosia. Student government introduced the search engine and was able to plant 51 trees. Charlotte Heuser, an 11th grader, says this motivated her to use Ecosia for extensive research, but she also admits that she doesn’t use the alternative search engine more than Google. “Come to think of it, though,” she says, “I should, since I can’t think of much that speaks against it.” One slightly irritating aspect is that sometimes the order of results is different on Ecosia since Google has more information or pages. Yet, “when you hear that you have contributed to planting a certain number of trees, I think you feel like you’re making a difference,” Heuser says. Johanna Eichler, another student from this climate-conscious school, likes the overall idea but still is not persuaded. “I personally don’t use it yet. But I do think it could be an easy way to make a change for the environment because changing all these small habits to environment-friendly alternatives can really add up.”
Fortunately, Google is quite aware of its ecological responsibility and has claimed to be carbon neutral since 2007. There’s something ominous about Google’s statement, though. The company has been investing in renewable energies and more ecological technologies and was thus able to report its carbon neutrality early on. Nevertheless, Google has not completely overhauled their business practices. Instead, their success can be attributed to Google’s philanthropies, such as funding of upgraded agricultural facilities that decrease methane emissions from livestock farming, according to German news service WinFuture. All in all, Google and other search engine companies need to directly make their own contribution to climate protection. It’s not enough to simply pay money for others to do so in Google’s name.
You may be wondering by now: “Are sustainable web search engines truly recommendable?” The simple answer is: Yes. Whether planting trees is the best measure to stop climate change remains questionable, but using alternative search engines is a simple first step toward the universal aim of protecting the environment and saving our planet. With this mentality, it should be easy to switch from the all-too-familiar Google to Ecosia or any other sustainable search engine – as long as you’re aware of the actual background and ‘environmentally friendly’ strategies. The future of our planet is priceless, and the next generations will be keenly grateful for your commitment. Now, it’s our time to make a difference.
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