For people in developed countries, the Internet has become a necessary resource for daily life and a tool upon which the success of most businesses depends. But for those in developing countries, a healthy and profitable piece of land to farm is instead essential to survival, and a surplus insures the stability of the community. One business based out of Berlin has taken these two truths and molded them into a product that both benefits and empowers citizens of developed and developing countries.
Ecosia is a search engine (easily added to Google Chrome or Firefox) that generates its income through ads and uses 80% of its proceeds to plant trees. Since its founding in 2009, it’s resulted in the planting of more than 4 million trees around the world, mostly in West Africa’s Burkina Faso. Users simply have to search the Internet using Ecosia to add money to the cause—perfect for people who want to help with rising global CO2 levels, but feel at a loss for how to do so. “What makes Ecosia special is that it was founded to tackle the specific issue of deforestation and climate change by generating funds through a useful tool,” says Jacey Bingler, head of public relations at Ecosia.
The search engine is the brainchild of world traveler and dedicated social reformist Christian Kroll. After he graduated with a degree in business administration, he decided to travel the world—India, Thailand, Nepal, and finally Argentina—in search of an idea for a business model that would have a positive global impact. While in South America, Kroll was confronted with the horrors of rainforest deforestation. So, consequently inspired by reforestation projects in the Atlantic Rainforest in Argentina and Brazil and Thomas L. Friedman’s Book, “Hot, Flat and Crowded,” he began work on Ecosia.
“Many social businesses have a business model that makes room for donations, but they weren’t necessarily founded to cater to a specific good cause,” Bingler says. Ecosia is founded on the basis that it will obviously empower those in Burkina Faso, but also its users. There is a tree counter next to the search bar that tells users how many trees they have helped plant, and the company is transparent about its financial statements too.
“The communities in the villages in Burkina Faso are involved in every step of the planting program,” Bingler says. “They are consulted and asked permission before a new planting site is opened. They keep everything that is produced in the course of the tree planting program, i.e. seeds, forest goods etc. and they don’t have to buy seeds or land (the land is public property) to create as little dependencies as possible.”
When a forest is reintroduced to an area, it not only minimizes CO2 effects, benefiting the global population, but also benefits the local community by helping with water retention in soil, which allows for other plants, such as herbs and grass, to grow for livestock to eat. In turn, this empowers the women of the villages who harvest and sell the surplus, as well as the children who now heard the livestock closer to home and have time to attend school. The company is on a “journey to one billion trees,” and you can help with just the click of a mouse.
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