River Valley Student Editorial Club
Ecosia and how you can save our planet
By Lynsy Chua (22J11)
In the last few weeks, Singapore has experienced more wet weather than usual. It was reported that 2022 was one of Singapore’s wettest years since 1980. This phenomenon was caused by greater monsoon surges, which can be attributed to climate change. Perhaps some of us welcome the rain, after all we know how comfortable it is to sleep in during rainy mornings.
Recent rainy weather in Singapore
Looking at the bigger picture however, more extreme rainy weather, in the case of Singapore, is caused by more adverse climate change and this should be a cause for concern. Our small efforts, such as increasing the air conditioner temperature to 25 degrees Celsius, just do not seem to be impactful as climate change worsens. How can we combat the issue of climate change more extensively?
We are all familiar with the many ways to combat climate change; taking shorter showers, switching from private transport to public transport, turning off switches when not in use, the list goes on. However these methods only see gradual, subtle impacts. Eating less meat will not immediately impact climate change.
One cow produces approximately 1600 quarter pound burgers
It takes years of such small actions to make a significant change. Even if you practise these methods continuously, you are not likely to experience the impact of your actions since this change in our environment is so minimal. Furthermore, methods like these to help our environment have been repeated to us since young and can become quite repetitive and boring. Enter Ecosia, a search engine that plants trees to help reverse climate change.
What is Ecosia?
Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees. They use revenue generated from ads to fund local reforestation projects in all parts of the world. Their projects aim to provide jobs to the more vulnerable populations while making a positive impact on the environment. As of today, Ecosia has planted over 155 million trees across 20 locations, from Haiti to Madagascar, investing over 36 000 000 euros ($50 million SGD) in their reforestation projects, and that number is ever-increasing.
Ecosia search engine
Closer to home in the Philippines, Ecosia currently partners with Non-Timber Forest Products-Exchange Programme, which works with indigenous communities to plant native seedlings that restore the land. Through nurseries and rainforestation efforts carried out since 2020, they are able to protect 5 types of wildlife, including the Visayan spotted deer, an endangered species of deer.
(Left) Planting programmes funded by Ecosia in Philippines
(Right) Visayan spotted deer
My Experience Using Ecosia - The Merits and The Demerits
Personally, I have been using Ecosia for months now, having first heard of it through a YouTube video. It has been an interesting experience for me, especially since we students may be more accustomed to other search engines. However, to consider the functionality of Ecosia, it is integral we dive into the several positives and negatives about it.
Firstly, I really appreciated the aesthetics of Ecosia. Seeing the number of trees planted increase with each use of the search engine is a reminder that your efforts to use this engine consistently is paying off and this is rather gratifying.
Number of trees grown displayed on the Ecosia search engine
Secondly, the impact that Ecosia has on the environment is fairly extensive, compared to other simple ways to prevent climate change.One simple search can contribute a tree to the Earth, directly combating climate change. Additionally, given how dependent we students are on the internet, seeing as we constantly have to search up things, think of the number of invaluable benefits we could bring to the planet we call home if we switch our browsers to Ecosia.
Thirdly, Ecosia creates jobs when carrying out the tree planting projects. They engage communities that are often overlooked such as indigenous people and employ farmers to plant these trees, thus benefitting not just the environment, but also the communities by lifting them out of poverty.
Ecosia aims to empower women through tree planting projects
To begin with, Ecosia’s search results are powered by Microsoft Bing, different from what most students use, which is Google Chrome. To add, some may also say Ecosia is less user friendly due to its smaller font size and “cluttered” search page.
Top: Search results for rv tribune using Ecosia
Bottom: Search results for rv tribune using Chrome
Next, Ecosia may generate ‘less good’ search results than Chrome due to the differences in algorithms used. While this is true in some cases, most of us would not have such complicated searches to the point where it is unable to generate answers to what we are looking for.
Some other ways you can help our planet
If you feel uncomfortable using another search engine, why not try the Solar Forrest app? Users of the app grow virtual plants by shining light on their phone and a light sensor in the phone will detect the light. Once the growth is completed, the plant will be donated, at no monetary cost to users and a physical plant will be planted by the company the following year.
A virtual plant grown on the Solar Forest app(available for both iPhone and Android users)
You can also physically grow plants to protect the environment and offset your carbon footprint. In fact, you do not even need to spend money since many platforms such as Carousell, Plant Freecycling and Plant Swap SG on Facebook often offer free plants. Of course, you have to be responsible for taking care of the plant and research extensively before getting a plant!
Sustainability is essential in Singapore as we are a small country with limited resources, and being sustainable can help conserve resources which enables the health and longevity of our country. As RVians, we should be more involved in our society and play our part in helping the environment by adopting a sustainable lifestyle.