Imagine how many times you use a search engine every day. You probably lose count after a while. Well imagine if you could do some good every time you made a search online. Thankfully you can due to a growing band of Google alternatives that have been created to make a positive impact socially and environmentally.
The concept is simple enough. Every time you make a search it creates revenue for the search engine, and a portion is passed onto good causes. Some search engines go a step further building an ecosystem that produces a much lower carbon footprint by using renewable energy sources to power its servers.
The latest entrant in this growing sector is called Ekoru (Ekoru.org) and it donates a portion of the money it makes from searches to ocean conservation charities every time you use it. “We’re passionate about letting users help clean and reforest our oceans by turning every web search into an environmental action,” says Ekoru founder Ati Bakush. His firm donates 60 percent of its revenue to two ocean conservation partners — Big Blue Ocean Cleanup and Operation Posidonia.
As an added bonus, Ekoru’s servers are powered by “run-of-the-river” hydro-electricity, the cleanest form of water power. The servers are also in a data centre that uses natural airflows instead of air conditioning. This allows every search to be as environmentally friendly as possible, unlike some of Ekoru’s bigger rivals.
The search engine is a family affair, set up by Australian-born Bakush and his Malaysian wife Alison Lee, and the couple live in Kuala Lumpur with their four children. “With our growing concern over ocean pollution emanating from Asia we decided to use our collective skill sets to try and make a difference,” he adds.
Its partner Big Blue Ocean Cleanup removes plastic waste from oceans using volunteer teams worldwide, while Operation Posidonia, led by University New South Wales, combats climate change by replanting ocean seagrass. “Plastic rubbish at the peak of a Borneo mountain, mounds of trash in the middle of the Simpson desert, and litter washed up and strewn across the beaches of Southeast Asia, humankind leaves traces of themselves everywhere, even in the most remote places,” Bakush says.
The Ekoru team decided on conserving oceans as they cover 70 percent of the planet and contain 97 percent of the world’s water. “I’d reached a point in my life with four young children where I began to question what sort of legacy and future our generation is leaving behind,” he continues.
Ekoru follows in the footsteps of Ecosia, another eco-friendly search engine. Ecoasia earns money from clicks on ads that appear above and beside search results. The ads are delivered via its partner Bing, who pays Ecosia a share of the revenue generated from these ads.
Ecosia says it earns a few cents for every click on an ad from Bing, or a portion of the purchase price made through an affiliate link. Ecosia then gives the profits from this ad revenue to planting projects. The amount it earns per ad depends on the key word and value of what is being advertised. Some search terms like “credit”, “bank account” or “solar panel” are more lucrative than say “chocolate”.
Another socially responsible search engine is Lilo, which uses ad revenues from searches to finance positive changes. Lilo says it redistributes 50 percent of its revenue to support environmental and social projects. For each search made, you earn a drop of water which can be given to a number of partner projects that Lilo supports.
Like Ekoru, Lilo has also thought about the carbon emissions of searches, something many of us don’t think about despite search engines requiring huge servers which consume vast amounts of power. Both Lilo and Ekoru offset some of the carbon emission of its searches. Although in fairness, Google also runs similar renewable energy projects.
What internet searchers also may like are the privacy rules these new search engines are introducing, at a time when people are worried about how much of their personal data is stored by the big tech giants. “Privacy on the internet is in short supply these days. Whenever you go online, your personal data is collected by Google, Facebook, Twitter and a myriad of other companies you’ve never heard of,” says Bakush.
Ekoru says it takes proactive steps to protect users’ privacy, and can’t share or sell their data to third parties because it doesn’t keep any in the first place. Ecoasia also states that it doesn’t store searches, which it also encrypts. It also promises not to use tracking tools like Google Analytics.
So you are getting the best of both worlds — helping to protect the planet, and your personal data at the same time.