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How The Search Engine We Use Can Impact The World

 

We don’t really think about the decisions we make in our day to day life. Not the tiny ones at least. We wake up and we use products online that are available to us for free but are only free because we’re the product. Facebook, Google, Amazon, Airbnb, Uber — we use these products because they’re free, cheap or simply convenient. Each time we do a google search, each time we scroll facebook, each time we make a purchase at the grocery store, each time we throw out good food we make a vote with our money, our lifestyle.

Here is one small example of just one change out of many that can be implemented to help make a difference.

 

Search Engines: Ecosia

I personally love Google Search. It’s slick, it’s clean, it’s convenient to me. I don’t always agree with Google’s practices, but I don’t always feel like I have a choice either. As an example I don’t agree with the economic model Google and most corporations have. Every time I’ve tried to switch however I’ve been disappointed by the search engine results. They are often poor and the look and feel doesn’t feel clean. Periodically I research alternative search engines and try it out for 24-48 hours, sometimes a week. If the first search doesn’t bring up the same or better results that Google would bring then I throw it away and try another one. The most recent search engine I’ve discovered is Ecosia.

It’s a small thing but each time I use Google Search engine, google displays ads which give Google money. Google then reinvests it into itself, pays its employees in a hierarchy from a few k to several million and that’s the end of it. I choose Search engines that (1) respect my privacy and (2) redistributes the money in a way that helps those who need it. Ecosia takes the ad revenue it generates from your searches and uses 80% of it to plant trees. You can learn more about them: Here and here.

 

It wasn’t hard to switch to Ecosia. I simply changed my default search engine in my browsers search settings to ” https://www.ecosia.org/search?q= “. The first thing I noticed when I switched is that the search page is very slick, clean and familiar to what I am used to (Google). Here is an example of what a simple search looks like:

I use an adblocker whenever I search websites. Whenever a site asks me to disable my adblocker so they can profit I feel for them, but I’m not usually moved enough to disable my ads to deal with an obnoxious or intrusive ads they may have. When I disable my ads on ecosia it says:

 

 

“Ads plant trees! We’ve detected that you are using an ad blocker. We plant trees thanks to income earned from ads. Please disable your ad blocker for Ecosia so that we can keep on planting. Don’t worry, we don’t have banners, annoying pop-ups or autoplay videos.”

Ecosia does 4 things. (1) It reframes Ads in a positive light (2) It uses gratitude and tells me how these ad help further a cause that is greater than myself or any one individual, (3) It asks me nicely to disable my adblocker so that they can continue servicing other people, and finally (4) They acknowledge and ease my worries that the ads will be intrusive, annoying or even irrelevant. It also keeps a counter on the top bar to tell me how many trees I’ve helped them plant. As of this sentence, I’ve planted a total of 14 trees just having to research for this post.

This is the first request that has ever moved me enough to remove the ad blocker. They give a lot of information that helps me make the decision to switch over to them; and so far my search results have been just as good or better than Google’s. It even has ‘news’ built in. It is amazing how realizing that the products I use for free are a financial decision that can affect others and at no cost to me; with equal convenience I can help make a difference by the choices I make in the products and services I use…whether I pay for them or not.

By the end of this post I went from having saved 8 trees to 16, the counter helps me keep track of how much of a difference I’m truly making. And while there are other search engines, some that pay you to search and some that pay others. They’re not always good. Ecosia is a search engine that feels good to me and is just one small way out of many that I’m implementing into our lifestyle that I feels make a positive impact in the world.