Tree-Planting Search Engine Sees a 1150% Increase in Use After Amazon Rainforest Fires

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Move over, Google. An eco-friendly search engine saw a 1150% increase in daily downloads in a single day after the Amazon rainforest fires.

Ecosia is a search engine that uses 80 percent of its profits from advertisements to plant millions of trees in Brazil, Ethiopia, and other emerging economies, Business Insider reports. The website claims to have planted 65 million trees to date – an impressive number.

Usually, Ecosia sees about 20,000 downloads per day. But recently, large swaths of the Amazon went up into flames in an urgent environmental disaster. As more people became aware of what was going on, people began using Ecosia en masse in an attempt to help combat the damage.

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On August 22, the company experienced 250,000 downloads in a single day, but the record-breaking moment was bittersweet for Ecosia.

“We had our team meeting and people were, on the one side, very happy because of the numbers but also very sad because of the forest fires,” Christian Kroll, Ecosia’s chief executive, told Business Insider. “So it’s both exciting and a tragic occurrence.”

The sudden burst in popularity is largely thanks to word-of-mouth. The app is frequently mentioned by Instagram and Twitter users who are spreading the word about the rainforest fires. Ecosia is now the top-ranked iOS app in Brazil.

Photo Credit: iStock

The Amazon rainforest experienced over 72,000 fires this year so far, an 83 percent increase from 2018. This is partly because of dry weather, and party because Brazil’s new president, Jair Bolsonaro, has walked back a decade’s worth of environmental protections. His actions have given cover to thousands of illegal farmers and ranchers to light fires to burn down forest to create more arable land for them to use. It’s a difficult situation because many of them have no other way to earn income, but the damage they’ve done to the forest – and thus to the world – is enormous.

Christian says he was inspired to start Ecosia after learning about environmental damage during his travels to South America and Nepal.

“In my opinion, planting trees helps people and the environment at the same time,” he said. He’s right.

He founded Ecosia in 2009, but it doesn’t do all that search work on its own. It partners with Microsoft’s search engine Bing to power its search results and display ads.