I bet you are using Google as your main search engine
I think most of us are doing so as it’s convenient, fast and mostly delivers the results we are looking for. It is pre-installed on Android phones, the Chrome browser and, unless you make a conscious effort to use a different search engine, you stay with Google.
But what if you wanted to be greener when you search? Let me introduce you to a Green Search alternative.
Google Dominates Search
For those who might not be aware, Google dominates the search landscape (and many other areas). Google sits at just under 95% (!) market share here in Australia, followed by Bing (3.34%), Yahoo (0.78%), DuckDuckGo (0.71%) and Ecosia (0.16%)*.
Microsoft are a valid second contender with their own search engine Bing. Their audience tends to be slightly more affluent and older than Google’s. Bing comes pre-installed with Windows laptops and Xbox among other things.
DuckDuckGo is the go to search engine for anyone keen to protect their online privacy.
Ecosia is the one I find the most interesting, especially when talking about Green Search as searches on Ecosia plant trees. Have you heard of Ecosia before?
How do they all rate when it comes to green credentials?
We are talking about two mammoth global corporates and 2 small companies, so comparisons are not that easy to make when it comes to Green Search. Both Google and Microsoft are leaders when it comes to tech companies doing their best to mitigate climate change and reduce their carbon footprint. But, they are huge and so is their energy consumption. And don't forget that Google dominates the search market, so in my opinion it is always worth to support others whenever you can.
Google** have been carbon neutral since 2007 and in 2018 matched 100% of the electricity consumption of their global operations with renewable energy for the second year in a row. They are the world’s largest corporate purchaser of renewable energy. Over the last decade, they have partnered with more than 40 carbon offset projects to offset more than 19 million metric tons of carbon dioxide emissions. On average, a Google data center is twice as energy efficient as a typical enterprise data center.
Microsoft*** have operated carbon neutral since 2012 and just pledged to be carbon negative by 2030. Within the next 5 years (by 2025) they will shift to 100% supply of renewable energy (power purchase agreements for green energy contracted for 100% of carbon emitting electricity consumed by all their data centers, buildings, and campuses).
By 2050 Microsoft will remove all the carbon from the environment the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975 (through a portfolio of negative emission technologies (NET) like afforestation and reforestation, soil carbon sequestration, bioenergy with carbon capture.
They are launching an initiative to use Microsoft technology to help their suppliers and customers to reduce their carbon footprints and have set up a new $1 billion climate innovation fund to accelerate the global development of carbon reduction, capture, and removal technologies.
DuckDuckGo don’t seem to release any sustainability metrics (at least I haven’t been able to find any) with their focus being on protecting the consumer by not tracking them and selling their data.
And Then There Is Ecosia Planting Trees
Never heard of them? You should give Ecosia a chance if you care about our environment.
They were founded in December 2009 in Germany, using their profits to plant trees (about every 45 searches plant a tree). Their mission is to build a better internet: one that is transparent, more than CO2 neutral and privacy friendly. They have been a certified BCorp since 2014 (the first German BCorp ever to be certified).
How do they make money? From ad revenue: their paid search listings are provided by Microsoft Ads and they get a share of the proceeds of every click on these ads.
As I write this, Ecosia have planted 85 million trees. Their tree projects are happening all over the world in areas where they are needed the most, i.e. Africa, South America and South East Asia. They are very transparent about what they do, so check out their website for more information.
They even ran a campaign on January 23 2020 with all searches that day planting trees in Australia to help combat the devastation after the recent bushfires. They are going to plant 26,446 trees in the Byron shire.
Ecosia have over 15 million users worldwide and, last year (2019), built their own solar energy plant to power every search. So pretty good eco credentials so far.
Interestingly, they introduced green search features not that long ago: a green leaf icon shows planet-friendly organizations and a fossil fuel plant icon labels companies that are still promoting the expansion of coal mining (check their website for details on how they do the rating).
As a consumer, how can I support them?
Make Ecosia your default search engine (you can do this in any browser) and they also offer a plugin that automatically makes them your default search engine in any browser. There is also a mobile app for both Android and Apple. It’s worth giving it a go, but don’t expect the same search experience and results as with Google.
In terms of usability, Google leads hands-down and if you are used to Google search results, you’ll likely be disappointed initially, but please give it a go anyway and persevere. It is a different experience and Ecosia are working on improving their search engine on an ongoing basis.
As an advertiser, how can I support them?
Run search ads with Microsoft Advertising. You need to select the partner network to allow for ads to be shown on Ecosia. If you want to run your ads on Ecosia only, you will need to exclude any other partner sites. Don’t expect a lot of volume though as only 15 million users globally are using Ecosia at the moment, but hopefully this number is going to increase.
What do you think? Are you going to give Ecosia a go? And if you are already using Ecosia, what do you think?