At its core, Ecosia is a search engine based out of Germany. It collects revenue through ads - as people click on webpages searched, a small amount (a few cents, but significantly variable) is earned. Ecosia uses Bing search results, and its collaboration with Microsoft Bing has allowed it to earn out of Bing ads.
What is different about Ecosia is that it donates 80% of its surplus income towards planting trees, and does this by funding nonprofit conservationist organisations. This means, as an end user, every click of yours counts to some amount of afforestation. Ecosia is also committed to maintaining the planted trees.
In its beginning years, about 2009-10, Ecosia donated to a program by WWF Germany to protect the Amazon forests. From December 2009 to August 2013, Ecosia donated to 'Plant a Billion Trees’ program that was led by Nature Conservancy. Since 2014, Ecosia is funding the ‘Great Green Wall’ reforestation project in Burkina Faso.
With over 2 million active users and over €2.8 million of donation, Ecosia is ranked as the top 2 startup in Germany according to StartupRanking in April 2016. Ecosia is also recognised as a social business or ‘B Corporation’ by B Lab. Ecosia is also fully financially transparent, allowing users to see donation recipes and business reports. With over 4.5 million trees planted via Ecosia’s donations, it is undoubtedly kindling a new wave of reforestation.
As a user, you can make Ecosia your default search engine and it'll count the number of trees you’ve indirectly planted. To be honest, Ecosia is a great search engine for normal queries; however I see myself using Google for more interactive search results. If you want to make a mark without physically going out there and planting trees, Ecosia is for you. (Do pick yourself up and plant trees though, it’ll make you happy!)
What is Ecosia?: https://info.ecosia.org/what
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(All information provided is from the time of writing the article)
Sources: Ecosia, StartupRanking, Wikipedia