“I’ll Google that”. Like Hoover and Xerox, Google has become a verb in its own right. And there’s a reason for that:
“Google – unquestionably being the best search engine out there, makes use of powerful and intelligent algorithms … to let the users get the best out of a search engine with a personalized experience.” – It's FOSS
But I’ve tried something different: “I’ll Ecosia that”.
Why? Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees. Each search you carry out earns a point; for every 45 points, Ecosia plants a tree.
How does it work? Like every search engine, Ecosia is paid for by advertising. Their difference is that they use their revenue to fund not-for-profit organisations who plant trees in places where it will have a significant impact; current projects include Madagascar, Brazil & Spain.
Is it legitimate? Ecosia is certified by B Corp to
“meet the highest standards of verified social and environmental performance, public transparency, and legal accountability to balance profit and purpose.”
Each month, they publish their financials so you can see exactly where the money goes.
Is it private? More people than ever have concerns about Google tracking their data (hint: if you don’t want your searches to be tracked at all, use DuckDuckGo – duckduckgo.com). Ecosia does use trackers but commits to anonymising all searches within one week, encrypting your search and not selling your data.
Is it environmentally friendly? Ecosia’s own servers run on 100% renewable energy. But the search is powered by Microsoft’s Bing search engine and Microsoft aren’t quite there yet, although they’re moving in the right direction:
“by 2025, we will shift to 100 percent supply of renewable energy” and “by 2030 Microsoft will be carbon negative, and by 2050 Microsoft will remove from the environment all the carbon the company has emitted either directly or by electrical consumption since it was founded in 1975.” – Microsoft blog
Even on current figures, Ecosia estimates every search removes 1kg CO2 from the atmosphere due to the carbon-negative effect of the trees they plant.
Is it effective? I’ve been using Ecosia for a little while now. It does come up with different results from Google but it almost always finds what I’m looking for. And if it doesn’t, I just add #g to my search term and it redirects to a Google search. Likewise, among other search tags, #w searches directly in Wikipedia, #a in Amazon, #b in Bing, #yt in YouTube.
Any downsides? Other than having to allow ads, my only complaint is that it doesn’t work with some of my security extensions like Bitdefender’s TrafficLight.
Try Ecosia on ecosia.org. If you like it, install the browser extension, change the default search in your browser’s settings and/or download the app on your phone.
Save the earth by searching the web!
Browser extensions are little programs that extend the functionality of your browser. They’re easy to add (see the great instructions on LifeWire) and can make your browser a safer, more productive or more fun place. There are thousands available and the ones that work best for you will depend on how you use the internet. Here are four of my favourites to give you ideas.
uBlock Origin: Adverts are a mixed blessing. Reputable sites use advertising revenue to pay for valuable content they make available for free. But when websites allow the adverts take over, you can use an adblocker like uBlock origin to do something about it. By default, uBlock is very simple: it hides all the adverts on a page. If you decide you want to support the website, just a couple of clicks will show the ads. uBlock also warns you if you click on a link that will take you to one of the questionable sites it’s aware of.
LastPass: Although there have been some recent concerns about security vulnerabilities in password managers, the advice is still that “the benefits … outweigh the risks”. I rely on LastPass to remember all my passwords; this extension automatically pops the right password in the right place, allowing me to login with ease. It also recognises when I use a new password and will save it if required.
Dream Afar: I love the simplicity of Chrome. But to me, the New Tab page takes that simplicity too far and is just … boring! To fix that, I’ve installed Dream Afar. The stunning pictures can be set to change daily or hourly, while choosing a one-minute update interval pretty much guarantees you’ll see a different image each time you open a new tab. Love a photo? Download it with a single click and keep it forever. Add to that an easily accessible search bar, a list of my most visited sites and quick links to my Chrome bookmarks, apps and history and you have what I think is one of the best new-tab extensions out there.
Save to Pocket: If you’ve ever found yourself reading an article or watching a video when you really should be doing something else, just because you’re afraid you won’t find it again, help is here. A single click on Save to Pocket will save the page to a read-it-later list at getpocket.com allowing you to easily go back to it when you’ve got some free time!
My other favourites include OneTab and Wayback Machine. What are yours? Share in the comments.