Ecosia: Does it do anything?

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Ecosia: Does it do anything?

Post by Red » Tue Jun 11, 2019 7:18 pm

I've been seeing a lot of ads for this Search Engine called Ecosia, which generates revenue from each search to plant trees in places like Ethiopia. I know a lot of people believe that planting trees will reduce climate change, but I don't think this will produce enough to make an impact.

Should I use Ecosia instead of Google?
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Jun 12, 2019 2:16 am

Probably not, and it might be worse if they aren't doing it right since these things take inputs.

Imagine buying trees in plastic pots that have been fed fertilizer then irrigating them then most of them die because you didn't do it right or didn't plan for long term irrigation or something along those lines. And even if they live you may very well have put in more than you get out. I would not trust them to be competent, which was kind of Monbiot's point in his article on climate indulgences.

Let forests regrow naturally without inputs, then you won't be at a net loss and appropriate foliage will grow there for sure.

Also their search algorithms are probably less efficient which means more carbon emissions per search.

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Post by Red » Wed Jun 12, 2019 8:25 am

Typical. Something well intentioned is not only based on pseudoscience, but is incompetent at accomplishing anything useful, and is probably counterproductive.

And is this the Monbiot article you're referring to?
https://www.theguardian.com/environment ... supplement

Oh yeah, and I found someone on Quora with a similar question.
https://www.quora.com/Is-Ecosia-better- ... han-Google

What do ou think of the guy's response? It seems pretty similar to what you said (I skimmed what the person wrote).
No. It’s actually quite worse from what independent research suggests.

For one, it uses Bing as it’s back end, which means they are wasting significant resources with each search. Microsoft still doesn’t use 100% renewable energy, they’re at 40% and lower in some places around the world. Google, however, is entirely run on renewables. And remember, they don’t get paid when you search, they get paid when they get you distracted with what you didn’t realize was an advertisement, so plenty of the people who use the engine but are smart enough to figure out the ads burn energy without planting anything. And if you aren’t, it is designed to take you to sites you didn’t want to go to. It’s the only way they make money.

But beyond that:

This is a company openly misleading people about their goals and intentions. For example, they advertise that they planted enough trees to swallow up one point five million tons of CO2, which sounds big until you realize that considering that is less that half of a tenth of a percent of the human OVERAGE in terms of where we need to be to save the planet, and considering this is them after a decade of trying … this isn’t actually helping anything. The fact that they use BING instead of Google, which means they are using non-renewable sources to power their searches and super inefficient power usage in general, is something they could change easily if they were willing to but comes down to a “small” company being unable to put profit aside over the planet. Which is … fine I guess, but when you build a company on THIS IS THE ECO ANSWER it reads as a giant scam when you openly ignore the environmental impact of what you offer to make more money.

Especially when they have talked in the past about simply paying their way to undo carbon damage they’ve done, which isn’t how anything works.

Eco is a great buzzword because our planet is essentially a match head and if we don’t want it to strike we need to immediately get the water out. We’re about to suffer permanent, tragic consequences and everyone wants to feel like they can make a few small changes to stop that.

Anyone selling you a search engine that saves the planet by planting a small fraction of trees based on how many people click the ads they inject into searches (they don’t get paid per search, only when they lead you astray during their searching, think about that as well) probably has a bridge in brooklyn they’d like to sell you too.

Starbucks wants to distract from the fact that they are a massive producer of the world’s waste by paying PR firms to tell you it’s your fault for using straws. Car manufacturers sell hybrids making at most 40 a gallon as “hyper efficient” because the old ways of making 60 MPG didn’t net enough of a return for them in the long run. And I’m sure tech companies like Microsoft want to be able to tell you their ridiculous power consumption levels would go down if only you’d use this one specific search engine instead of the thing they told you to do yesterday, despite it being the same thing, because they know how well the branding will trick us into thinking we’re at fault.

Do you want to help the environment? Don’t think about the search engine. Use google to find places near you to do ecological volunteer work. Reduce community power usage in general by fighting for renewable sources of energy for everything that you have access to, from your local government to the federal level. Donate directly to WWF or to the EDF or to someone who can use resources to fight.

Don’t buy that more consumption done slightly differently will fix our problems of over consumption. You cannot consume your way out of over consumption.
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:48 pm

@Red I think so, yes.

And that's a pretty good answer minus the implication at the end that consumer behavior doesn't matter.

It makes a difference to consume less animal products, choosing lesser harms like veggie burgers, and it makes a difference to burn less fuel -- although the best way to do that for most people is public transit or simply smaller/lighter vehicles (electric if possible) and driving less rather than buying a hybrid.

Its not helpful to say the trees they planted did nothing, it is helpful to point out that the cost of using Bing probably outweighs that and that they only plant trees if you're bad at internetting and constantly click on ads by mistake.

Would like to see analysis on the actual carbon costs of those plantings, though, rather than only projections on the gross carbon speculatively captured if all trees grow to maturity. It's the net, not the gross, that matters.

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Post by Red » Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:00 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:48 pm
And that's a pretty good answer minus the implication at the end that consumer behavior doesn't matter.

It makes a difference to consume less animal products, choosing lesser harms like veggie burgers, and it makes a difference to burn less fuel -- although the best way to do that for most people is public transit or simply smaller/lighter vehicles (electric if possible) and driving less rather than buying a hybrid.
I have a question about this (although I think it has already been answered in another thread); Even if you are extremely conservative with your energy usage, you recycle, etc., yet you still eat meat, is the amount of CO2s you didn't release basically negated since you still use animal products?
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 3:48 pm
Its not helpful to say the trees they planted did nothing, it is helpful to point out that the cost of using Bing probably outweighs that and that they only plant trees if you're bad at internetting and constantly click on ads by mistake.

Would like to see analysis on the actual carbon costs of those plantings, though, rather than only projections on the gross carbon speculatively captured if all trees grow to maturity. It's the net, not the gross, that matters.
Would you say that more trees does a significant amount to fight climate change? I read an article that says that increased CO2 helps grow more trees (I don't necessarily deny this, though this benefit is outweighed by the harms of climate change). But we can't forget that methane is a big problem too.
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:38 pm

Recycling isn't very significant, but it's something everybody should do because it's easy.

I think it's possible to reduce more than vegan, but it would not be easy.

If you took a two minute cold shower every other day (instead of a ten or so minute warm one daily), and you did not use heating in the winter (you just wore a bunch of layers inside) and didn't use AC in the summer (just sat around mostly naked and put up with the heat) and you only did a load of laundry once a month, and only took public transit...

Yeah, that might add up to more than going vegan and otherwise living a much higher quality life with warm showers, heating and AC, clean clothes and a modest car with limited driving.

The trouble is that most of our energy use is beyond our control in the infrastructure we rely on even if home energy use is very small, so you'd have to not drive *and* reduce home energy use to next to nothing.

And at that point of inconvenience, why not just be freegan if you really want to eat meat? Then maybe you can not be smelly all the time.

About trees, it depends on where they are in part.
Methane is worse than CO2, but if you absorb enough CO2 you can make up for that difference.
My question is more the production of the trees, their pots or whatever, the trucks moving them around, and whatever is needed to support them while growing.
Trees are really more useful when they shade houses in the summer because they can reduce energy usage, or when they're used in alley cropping. Otherwise I wouldn't jump to invest energy to plant them when the most useful places for forests to regrow will regrow on their own if we leave them alone.

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Post by Red » Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:59 pm

brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:38 pm
Recycling isn't very significant, but it's something everybody should do because it's easy.
I know this is getting off topic, but is it okay to throw something in the recycle if it still has some liquid in it? When I was collecting cans and bottles during lunchtime at school, I always went through the trash (don't worry, I carry Purell almost everywhere I go) and found tons of recyclables with liquid in them, and threw them in the recycling.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:38 pm
I think it's possible to reduce more than vegan, but it would not be easy.

If you took a two minute cold shower every other day (instead of a ten or so minute warm one daily), and you did not use heating in the winter (you just wore a bunch of layers inside) and didn't use AC in the summer (just sat around mostly naked and put up with the heat) and you only did a load of laundry once a month, and only took public transit...

Yeah, that might add up to more than going vegan and otherwise living a much higher quality life with warm showers, heating and AC, clean clothes and a modest car with limited driving.
That sounds feasible. I can halve my environmental impact!

I'll start a new thread on this.
brimstoneSalad wrote:
Wed Jun 12, 2019 4:38 pm
About trees, it depends on where they are in part.
Methane is worse than CO2, but if you absorb enough CO2 you can make up for that difference.
My question is more the production of the trees, their pots or whatever, the trucks moving them around, and whatever is needed to support them while growing.
Trees are really more useful when they shade houses in the summer because they can reduce energy usage, or when they're used in alley cropping. Otherwise I wouldn't jump to invest energy to plant them when the most useful places for forests to regrow will regrow on their own if we leave them alone.
As a (more scientifically literate) tree hugging hippie, I want to ask how much we should concern ourselves with trees.
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Post by brimstoneSalad » Wed Jun 12, 2019 7:07 pm

A little liquid is OK. You can pour them out into another bottle to take to the bathroom, though, then dump it all and put the last bottle in the recycling.

With trees a lot of it is about location. Sustainable forestry is pretty good, though. We need to be building more from wood.

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:53 pm

Heating is quite significant. Looking into ways to reduce your heating CO2 footprint is well worth it. If you own your home, things like buying insulation or at heat pump are worth looking at.

Other things like wearing extra jumpers are a factor. You can also reduce your heating CO2 by living in a smaller residence, or in an apartment rather than a house, or sharing a house with someone rather than living on your own. Sharing only really works if the other person/people is either environmentally conscious or frugal.

Look at the source of heat. Wood is better than gas, and gas is better than heating oil (in global warming per unit heat). Wood from replanted trees is now our family's primary heating source. However, due to the albedo changes (cutting down trees caused more heat to be reflected from the ground back into space) it's likely that wood is quite low impact for global warming even if the trees are not replanted, at least in temperature regions. While wood is better for global warming, it does cause CO2 pollution and may annoy the neighbours.

Planting trees in the tropics, and avoiding cutting them down, is a genuinely good global warming reduction tactic. But planting trees in the temperate zones makes little difference because the albedo effect counteracts the carbon effect. This is the scientific consensus. I did a thorough analysis on the effect of tree planting on global warming and posted my findings on another forum. If you are interested ask me to copy and paste it here (it will be a large amount of text including many links) or you can PM me for the link. (I am not going to post links to a competing forum here unless I get told it's OK.)

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Post by Jamie in Chile » Thu Jun 13, 2019 7:57 pm

I clean bottles with liquid in, and then recycle them. You don't want to make things difficult for the recyclers. If something has messy oily liquid or is very dirty, maybe trash it. It's also a good idea to ask your local recycling centre a few questions here and there from time to time. I've been cutting out the part of the pizza box that was stained and trashing it, but when I asked they told me that they will accept that and clean it. But this varies by place. The rules for recycling vary significantly by place. You need to ask locally what the situation is for your local area. Even within countries there can be significant variation between different states/ municipalities/regions/towns.

If you want to reduce your carbon footprint, I could help you. But we'd need to start a new thread. They'll probably be lots of questions. If you could answer some questions - about 20 or 50 - I can tell you what your carbon footprint is roughly and how it breaks down (i.e. 10% in x, 20% in y) and give you some ideas to cut it. But influencing others, voting, and being an activist can be just as important as your own personal changes.

I think as I recall you are quite young (16-18)? There are number of decisions you can likely make in the next few years that can have a significant effect on your life for some years ahead.

Look at going to a University or a job near your current family and friends - but since you're smart you'll benefit from living in a good sized city so don't stay too small town. But avoid studying in another country or on the other side of the US. Then you have to take flights just to visit family, maybe you end up falling in live with someone thousands of miles away. From personal experience....don't travel far.

Choose to live near to your work or study, chose to live in a smaller house, chose to live in an eco house etc, those kinds of things.

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