Join 1363 founders getting motivational stories of how other founders started and grew their online businesses

Ecosia: The Search Engine That Plants Trees


Saving the planet under the pressure of looming climate catastrophes is close to impossible. Sadly, global CO2 emissions are the highest seen in history. This is courtesy of the ‘bounce back’ effect many booming businesses faced at the hands of COVID-19.

One of the grandest environmental perils is deforestation, especially the cataclysmic effects the Amazon rainforest is facing. To prevent a bad scenario turning worse, Christian Kroll created an awe-inspiring platform, Ecosia.

Ecosia is a free search engine serving one majestic purpose - planting trees in the name of a healthier and more ecological tomorrow. No arts and crafts are required - the engine plants tree after tree based on the number of their engine web searches. Out of all eco solutions available today, Ecosia is the fastest and most efficient - planting a new tree across 9,000 global locations - in just 1.3 seconds!

With over 15 million active users - read planters - this is the story of how Ecosia became a more-than-business brand!

A Trip That Changed the World

Christian Kroll is the founder and current CEO of Ecosia. He was born in East Germany in 1985. In a town of barely 40,000 people, he wasn’t as altruistic at the beginning of his life. In fact, most of his focus was directed at doing business, which is how he found himself in Nuremberg, studying business administration.

At the age of 18, he decided to take a trip to India, where he would spend the next three months traveling. This was the trip that introduced him to the realities of global warming and the devastation it could have on communities, even those as large as India. It marked the moment when he first began pondering about the future of our planet, and it’s also where his drive began to make the world a better place.

Once back in Germany, he spent some time studying exactly how Google’s business model works – specifically, the revenue they receive from Google ads. As a business major, he saw that the effectiveness of the model came from the seamless integration of advertisements and how revenue was raised from them.

As someone who was deeply inspired by his travels to try and replant some greenery into the world, this gave him an idea.

One that would use a search engine similar to Google’s, but would turn money into trees – not the other way around.

The Birth of Ecosia

With an unfinished, yet ambitious idea in mind and a determination to get things up and running, Christian moved to Nepal in 2007 after finishing his university studies. Once there, he tried to launch his own search engine by the name of Xabbel, which would raise funds for a local charity from people using it. Unfortunately, the project failed due to Christian’s lack of knowledge on how to properly start a business.

This experience led him to move to South America, where he spent over 10 months. There, the idea for Ecosia was born and so was its name, a combination of the words ‘eco’ and ‘utopia’. In 2009, Christian returned to Germany, where he finally embarked on the path to create the only search engine in the world that actually plants trees.

With no technical understanding and a complete lack of funds, Christian initially sought help from his friends and family, who helped him draft the first contours of Ecosia.

In December of 2009, Ecosia was launched into the world – and so, the mission for a recuperating future began. Ecosia is a search engine similar to any other on the market, earning its funding from website advertisements, search engine traffic, and additional pop-up ads.

The main difference in Ecosia is that 80% of the money received from ads clicks is donated directly to planting projects.

Christian’s story is an excellent reminder for anyone with a lack of know-how on technicalities that they can succeed. It takes passion and drive to push an idea forward, but also, its proper execution and deliverance. What began as a small concept during a trip abroad is now leading the charge in the fight for reforestation in jeopardized areas.

Reforestation Through Clicks

Since the launch of Ecosia in 2009, the search engine has been successful in raising thousands of euros in revenue. Initially, Ecosia partnered with WWF Germany to help protect the surrounding area. By 2011, they had raised over €250,000.

Throughout 2013 and 2014, Ecosia’s profits were donated to the Plant a Billion Trees program, which aims to restore the Atlantic Forest. In 2015, another project for reforesting was started in Burkina Faso with the help of the World Bank and the African Union. For these efforts, in 2014 they received a B Corporation certification for their incredible work in saving the environment and being corporately responsible.

In 2015, Ecosia had already donated over €1,500,000 for rainforest protection, holding over 2,500,000 users. In the same year, the company was shortlisted for the Europas under Best European Startup Aimed at Improving Society.

From 2018 onwards, Ecosia has been employing a renewable-only work environment, with all of its servers running on 100% renewable energy through the use of solar power.

Following the 2019-20 bushfires in Australia, the Ecosia team donated all of their profits to ReForest Now, an organization aimed at saving the Australian outback. As a result of their tremendous efforts, the company managed to plant over 26,000 trees. By late 2020, they had planted over 100 million trees in 16 countries and averaged one planted tree per 0.8 seconds - from advertising alone.

Transparency in Funding

As per Christian’s wishes, Ecosia is a ‘steward-owned’ company. This means that no profits can be taken out of the company, nor can any shares be sold outside of it.

All efforts for investments are realized directly through local partners across the world. From the very get-go, Christian’s initial vision for Ecosia has never once revolved around the idea of it being profit-oriented.

The initial investors for Ecosia were Christian and his partner Tim Schumacher. While the two have garnered financial support through their local partners, the majority of the funds flowing into Ecosia comes through the search engine and their crowd-investing platform. The latter allows for individuals to donate money to various organizations that are aiming to lower CO2 emissions.

A Green Future

Today, Ecosia has over 15 million users. While this is a drop in the ocean in comparison to other similar platforms, it is slowly climbing in popularity for most daily users globally. Christian’s only wish for the future of Ecosia is for it to scale massively and gain billions of users. Not because of higher earnings, but because the more interest the platform generates, the more possible it will be to plant trees where they are needed the most.

As of now, the Ecosia team has helped plant over 130 million trees across the planet. It also invested over €12,000,000 in reforestation projects all around the globe. This alone equates to about 50,000 metric tonnes of CO2 being removed from the atmosphere - each month.

The Ecosia team is currently supporting 20 tree-planting projects and has partnered with various organizations. Such are the Eden Reforestation Projects, Hommes et Terre, and many others dispersed in over 15 different countries across South America, Asia, and Africa. Their primary focus is to create biodiversity hotspots with unique species of flora and fauna impacted by both the global warming wave, and human intervention.

For Christian, this is only the beginning of Ecosia and its planet rescue mission. His vision of a healthy world is one that makes the most of the tree planting process. That way, nature can recuperate all over again, and thrive before industries do - all achieved from the comfort of our own beds!