Ecosia, the search engine that uses its profits to plant trees, is launching a new shopping feature.
The company, which was founded in 2009, donates its available funds to tree-planting organizations. He claims to have planted 130 million trees in 30 countries around the world.
Ecosia Shopping recommends products on Amazon, Kelkoo and Idealo, and other business partners that have been sustainably produced, reused or refurbished. The feature is now available in the UK, Germany and France.
The search company takes a small percentage of these affiliate links (between two and five percent) and uses the revenue to further its green effort.
According to Ecosia, it usually takes about 50 searches to raise funds to plant a single tree, but its new Shopping feature could raise those funds much faster depending on the price of the products purchased.
In collaboration with the Technical University of Berlin and the Berlin University of Technology, the researchers select a range of green alternatives for the 20 main product categories – including backpacks, clothing and sportswear – recommended at the top of their search results. Over time, Ecosia will introduce more categories to provide consumers with greener choices.
Changing consumer search preferences is a daunting task for Ecosia. Google has a virtual monopoly on the search market, with 92 percent control from November 2021. Microsoft’s Bing, the second-largest search engine that provides the algorithm used by Ecosia, has just under 4.5% market share by comparison.
For the company, “the big challenge is to get people to break their buying habits,” said Christian Kroll, founder and chief executive of Ecosia. The Independent. “A lot of people just go to Amazon, now they have to go to Ecosia.”
Ecosia’s partnership with Amazon may raise some eyebrows for long-lasting shoppers; The shopping giant was recently discovered to be destroying millions of items – including smart TVs, laptops, drones and more. – per year, rather than giving them away. Amazon claimed that “no items are sent to landfill in the UK” and that “as a last resort, [it] will send the items to energy recovery”.
Mr Kroll says Ecosia had ‘big talks’ about working with Amazon, but to have the ‘biggest impact’ he was working with them because of consumer demand for convenience, good prices and choice – even for people who shop green.
“We have very little time and I think we cannot be ideologues in all areas,” he said, with the company “hav[ing] choose what fundamentally solves the problem the fastest”.
According to the researchers, the need for mindful consumption is an increasingly pressing concern for shoppers. “Buyers are becoming more conscientious and placing greater value on sustainability in their choices. Our data shows that consumers increasingly want to buy from retailers who share their values, even if it costs them more,” said Brian Green, chief solutions officer at Adobe who collects data on shopping habits. The Independent.
More than a third of UK shoppers buy from smaller retailers because of the lower environmental footprint, while one in four plan to buy second-hand as Christmas approaches. “Products marketed as sustainable grow more than five times faster than those that are not,” he added. “It’s clear that people want to buy for a good cause, and retailers should definitely take notice.”
However, tackling climate change doesn’t just mean consumers are making greener choices when shopping; it also means buying less and “disrupting our current patterns of production and consumption,” according to Dr Teresa Domenech Aparisi, senior lecturer in industrial ecology and circular economy at University College London.
The material consumption of the world’s cities is expected to increase from 40 billion tons in 2010 to around 90 billion tons in 2050, according to the International Resources Panel.
“While raising awareness and providing information is necessary to inform better sustainability choices, it is also important to emphasize that the best sustainable choice is always to avoid buying something you don’t don’t need,” said Dr. Domenech. The Independent.
Even pushing a new shopping feature, Kroll agrees with that assessment. “The best buy is no buy at all,” he said, but traditional buyers are “quite far” from that extreme.
“We need to push users gently – and there are probably a few users who are willing to go much further and drastically reduce all their consumption – [because] there are a lot of people starting their sustainability journey and for them it would be a great, great thing if for the first time in their life they bought a refurbished product.