Ecosia was 10 years old in December 2019.
Ten years ago, Ecosia was just an idea. The founder Christian envisioned a search engine that plants trees during a backpacking trip around Argentina, where he learned about the importance of forests and their impact on communities.
Since then Ecosia has grown into a powerful climate movement with 16 million monthly users, who have planted 76 million trees globally. From the highlands of Peru to the former palm oil plantations of Indonesia, Ecosia users have been changing the world for the better since 2009.
Ecosia was born! Christian started the company with the help of his sister and a few friends. We were a tiny team with no office and one developer… who was still in school! Before we ever planted our first tree, we decided to donate our surplus income to ecological conservation projects.
Our small team moved into an artist’s mosaic shop in Berlin. We released Treely, a feature that enabled online shoppers to plant trees, which was later integrated into the main Ecosia search engine. We began working with WWF Germany, a large conservation organization, to protect forests in Brazil’s Atlantic basin.
A fresh start: we merged our smaller projects into the main search engine. Over the course of the year we managed to raise €250,000 for conservation, began publishing financial reports and were featured in the Guardian for the first time.
Growth was slow, but the roots were firm. Christian was busy working on other projects, and it was unclear whether Ecosia would get big. We had on average 20 million searches a month, and we continued funding forest conservation projects. But we wanted to tackle the root cause of deforestation and work with smaller, local organizations in order to track our impact.
Partnering with The Nature Conservancy in Brazil, we began planting hundreds of thousands of trees in the depleted Atlantic Forest – a region we are working in to this day. By the end of the year we donated nearly a quarter of a million euros and were able to plant a tree every minute. Our friend Tim, an entrepreneur and investor, came on board and Ecosia grew from a hobby project to a start-up.
After years spent building a search engine that people wanted to use, Ecosia began making enough revenue to expand tree planting to the desertified Sahel in Burkina Faso. A tree price of 28 cents meant we were able to plant three new trees every minute. We also gained B-corp status and became recognized as a certified social business.
We reached one million planted trees by January, and had already planted three million by the end of 2015. We grew our team and relocated to our new office, a former chocolate factory in Berlin’s Kreuzberg. The first results from Burkina Faso showed a desert slowly turning green.
Our movement began to gain pace; we visited Burkina Faso to see our trees growing there and meet the local reforestation team. Our awesome tree-planting officer Pieter joined the team and began planting trees in Peru and Madagascar. We ended the year on 5 million trees and growing fast.
Across the internet, word about the search engine that plants trees was spreading and we hit 500k followers on Facebook. Our planting portfolio was growing, too: we added Indonesia, Uganda, Ethiopia, and Morocco to our list of projects. We reached the 10 million trees milestone and launched our new mobile apps! Christian also travelled to Borneo to visit a project for the first time.
Gathering momentum, Ecosia reached 30 million planted trees, equating to 1.5 million tonnes of CO2 removed from the air. With all those trees in the ground, we needed a way to document their progress for our users. Travelling to Ethiopia, Burkina Faso and Uganda, we met some amazing people and saw the impact for ourselves.
We built our first solar plant and connected it to the grid in April. We also stepped up activism in our home country of Germany and offered to buy the Hambacher Forest from energy company RWE to prevent its destruction. Our first European project, in Spain, was born. In response to our rapid growth, Christian made a long-term promise legally binding: by giving up his shares in Ecosia, we became a company that can never be sold or have profits taken out of it.
In a year that gave us Greta Thunberg and climate strikes, Ecosia’s mission has become more relevant than ever. The devastating effects of deforestation became clear when the Amazon fires made global news, and many people turned to our search engine as a way to help.
We reached 50 million planted trees in February and now plant a tree every 0.8 seconds. We pledged an additional three million trees for Brazil in response to the threat of Bolsonaro. A second solar plant was built to take us beyond 100% renewable energy. And we’ve refined our search experience and introduced green search features.
It is our mission to plant a billion trees and inspire a global reforestation movement. We are expanding our team and want to build a product that enables you to make greener choices. We want to build on our reforestation programmes to include rewilding, restoration and tackling the root cause of deforestation. The climate crisis is here, but we are more ready than ever to face it together.