(CNN)Where conservation meets bottom line, too often there's only one winner. At this critical juncture in the fight against climate change, scientists have warned we are on track to miss long-term international emissions carbon targets thanks partly to a rise in deforestation around the world.
Ecosia: The search for a greener internet is taking root
"I think we as humanity need to realize that at some point enough is enough. We can't eat money in the end," says Christian Kroll.
Kroll, the founder and CEO of internet search engine Ecosia, doesn't mince his words. A radical when it comes to business and environmentalism, he bemoans big tech ("they create problems that they then try to solve with technology") and believes "the Western view on agriculture ... is slowly ruining our world." Yet, somehow, he remains a beacon of positivity.
Ten years ago, Kroll founded Ecosia as an alternative to the search engine giants. Its mission statement was simple: use its profits to plant trees -- millions of them.
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You may not have heard of the search engine, let alone used it, but it offers a lesson in scale. Like Google, it creates revenue from advert clicks on its search pages, with around half of it spent on planting. Ecosia, which uses Microsoft's Bing for its backend, says one search generates on average €0.005 (just over half a US cent) -- not much, however approximately 45 searches pay for the planting of one tree. So far it has financed 75 million trees planted worldwide across 22 projects and 17 countries, from Brazil to Burkina Faso.
A decade in, Ecosia maintains its long-term goal to plant 1 billion trees and is beginning to diversify its offerings. It also has grander plans to reform what it means to be a business in the 21st century. So can we click our way out of a crisis?
The reason Ecosia wants to plant trees is obvious: they're good for the planet and good for us.
According to a bombshell UN climate report from 2018, it's not enough that we curb carbon emissions in the years ahead; atmospheric carbon dioxide levels need to reduce to keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius.
Trees absorb carbon dioxide and large-scale tree planting has been identified as one way to mitigate climate change. One recent report estimated that restoring the world's lost forests by planting one trillion trees could remove from the atmosphere two thirds of all carbon emitted by human activity since the industrial revolution (some 205 billion tons) -- although some have questioned that figure.
Ecosia claims one search on its platform will remove one kilogram of CO2 from the atmosphere. The company has built solar farms to meet its energy needs and offset its share of the carbon footprint generated by its use of Microsoft servers. But the benefits of responsible tree planting extend beyond carbon capture, notes Kroll. Soil fertility improves, meaning better food security; there's better retention of rainfall, meaning fewer floods and droughts.