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Save the Trees or I’ll Break your Knees: Beware of greenwashing

With the rise of climate change and its tremendous impacts on the environment, many companies have turned to the practice of greenwashing, or incorrectly marketing products as environmentally friendly in the hopes of making a greater profit.

Because of this, research about sustainability of certain companies should be done now more than ever. With the popularity of search engine Ecosia, which markets itself as “the search engine that plants trees,” it is important to delve deeper into the inner workings of the company to determine just how true the company stays to its ethics.

According to the Ecosia website, the Berlin-based search engine launched in 2009 as a not-for-profit that donates all of its earnings to climate action with at least 80% of profits going towards tree-planting projects, publishing detailed financial reports and frequent updates on their projects in effort to achieve total transparency. 

The organization plants trees in over 30 countries, working with local organizations in areas that face widespread threats to biodiversity, and it has planted over 500 native plant species in said countries, allowing for the diversification necessary to revive and sustain an ecosystem. 

However, as a branch of Microsoft Bing, it is also important to consider the overall environmental impact of Microsoft, who is seemingly holding up their ethicality as they have committed to making all of their operations carbon neutral, according to Atlas of the Future.

That being said, the company has also been accused of greenwashing, as they sponsored an oil and gas conference the same week they announced their newfound dedication to the planet. The company was also cited as a defendant in a lawsuit against tech companies following the death and serious injury of children working in Microsoft’s cobalt mines. Ultimately, the ethicality of Ecosia checks out, but it is important to keep in mind the highly questionable past of its parent company.

In comparison to Google and Bing, Ecosia proves to be the more sustainable and ethical search engine simply because it is a non-profit with funds going directly towards the fight against climate change. This looks especially good against Google’s contracts with oil and gas firms and frequent tax avoidance practices, using off-shore subsidiaries. Ecosia, on the other hand, received a very positive rating on tax transparency.

Ultimately, it should not be left to search engine companies to solve the climate disaster. The existence of an organization such as Ecosia suggests the immense failure of the government to do its job to the point that private companies must step in to do it for them. Looking past this, however, the reliance Ecosia has on Microsoft still makes the engine imperfect, but its mere presence and mission still makes it the most ethical option, as it is still the only search engine that directly helps the planet.

Meg Diehl is a freshman studying journalism at Ohio University. Please note that the views and opinions of the columnists do not reflect those of The Post. What are your thoughts? Tell Meg by tweeting her at @irlbug.

Meg Diehl

Assistant Opinion Editor

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