Can Green Web Search Engines really make a difference?

Did you know that webservers consume an incredibly high amount of energy? In fact, it has been reported that for every search performed by a user, on average 8 grams of CO2 is released.

Such is the amount of heat generated by servers and computing stations, that server rooms can provide space heating for the whole office building that houses them, provided the heat is not wasted.

We are creatures of habits. Before the apps came along, it was customary for many users to log on to “Google” as the first port of call when starting a browsing session. In fact, even for accessing common websites like YouTube , Facebook or our favourite news website, we would utilize the web search service rather than landing via direct url.

Both google and YouTube had to retune their functionality because of this behaviour of laxity. For example, YouTube instead of allowing the whole video data to be buffered now allows packets of data on “stream as you see” basis. This step alone has saved incredible amount of data transfer, computing power and hence energy that otherwise would have been wasted.

In light of this behaviour, there have been calls for a greener approach to web surfing. Ideas like dark background for most common websites have been rolled out. Many search engines have cropped up over the last decade, that provide a greener alternative to your mainstream search engine. Mind you, these green search engines are not search engines per se. They are just like a different body of a car mounted on the same platform and engine. The green search engines at the backend are powered by Google, Bing or Yahoo. They may have additional algorithms that refine/filter the searches from the main search engines to show results that have more greener credentials.

Green Search Engines donate their earnings or a significant portion of their profits to charitable “environmental friendly causes”. These include carbon offsetting measures like plantation and reforestation.

How do the green search engines generate money? They do it just like normal search engines i.e. through adverts.

Every time results from a search query is furnished, the user is shown sponsored links. If the user clicks them, the search engine gets money from the advertiser. Likewise, advertisers can also pay for the number of avert impressions rather than number of clicks. Therefore, even if the users do not click the sponsored link, they can still be helping out the search engine in making money.

Ecosia is a similar web search engine which operates on the same model.  It is powered by Bing on the backend. According to its own data, every search query though Ecosia raises 0.5 Euro cents. With 56 searches, enough money is generated (0.28 Euros) to fund planting of a single tree. These figures were true as of 1st December, 2016.

Till February 2017, the eco-friendly company had already planted over 6.1 million trees. It had donated nearly 2 million dollars towards this cause since its inception in 2008.

The company’s accounts are kept transparent and it has shown that business that align themselves to eco-friendly causes can thrive.

Screenshot of Ecosia Web Search Engine

Screenshot of Ecosia Web Search Engine

There have been criticism from some segments that suggest that green web search engines may be putting many green businesses at risk. By using their own algorithms in conjunction with main steam web searcher, they may omit results that are genuine. However, this remains just a theory and no data has been categorically been brought forward.

Synergy Files would like to recommend green search engines to our readers. Clearly, they are making a difference. Please help create awareness.

Further Reading:

Does a Darkened Google Really Save Electricity?

How much CO2 can you save with 20 pound investment?

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