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Ecosia – the search engine that plants trees – Berlin

‘Simple’ solutions can be the most powerful. That’s why I’ve been a big fan of Ecosia for a while already. Ecosia is a search engine that plants trees with every search you do. It is such a good feeling to see their tree counter go up while surfing the web!

Videos always explain best.

Cool facts

  • So far 2 Million trees have been planted. This equals 14 times Hyde Park in London or 5.7 times Central Park in New York!
  • Ecosia’s goal is to help end deforestation by planting 1 Billion trees until 2020
  • There are about 2.5 Million monthly active users submitting 720.044 search requests every day
  • Users and Ecosia are currently financing the planting of one tree every 14 seconds together

With Ecosia having such an inspiring story, I was curious to hear more about the team’s story. About the way they work and travel. Jacey Bingler, head of media relations, immediately responded very enthusiastic to my request and was more than willing to share some of their ‘behind the trees’ team stories.

At the office

ecosia_table

Our new office in Kreuzberg/Neukölln

We have been onboarding a few new team members lately. Our new office, a former chocolate factory in Kreuzberg, Berlin, finally offers enough space for our now 12 staff members (among them also freelancers who don’t come to the office every day) and our upcycled furniture. We have a vertical garden instead of wall decorations, plants are hanging from lamps above our kitchen table and we have wooden wine crates as bookshelves (incorporated with more plants). We have a balcony and a nice backyard so planting plans for this summer are already in the making. A rope wall separates the kitchen from the working area.

Letting our users plant trees with something as useful as a search engine is what we get up for every day. Our big goal is to have planted 1 Billion trees by the year 2020. So naturally a lot of details at the office are related to trees, wood, forests and planting.

Non-meeting days

We have non-meeting days on which everyone can work from where she or he wants. Be it the office, a café, at home or a foreign country. It is possible to work remotely for a couple of weeks to be able to go on an extended vacation, take part in summer programmes abroad or visit relatives. Those non-meeting days usually are Tuesday and Thursday, but if people want to travel or visit different cities for a prolonged weekend, we are very flexible.

Opening party of the new Ecosia office (by Bernd Brundert)

Opening party of the new Ecosia office (by Bernd Brundert)

Office life

We all go out for lunch together on Mondays. Many of us are vegetarians, so we usually settle for a place with organic, vegetarian or even vegan food, produced from local goods. On Wednesdays we have a team breakfast. Our Happiness Officer Alexis usually buys groceries: fresh bread, spreads and olives from the Turkish market along the canal on Tuesdays. On Fridays we end the week with an “All hands”-session. We sit down and talk about what we learned, achieved or failed at during the week. There are drinks, snacks and sometimes presentations if someone has anything cool to show.

The new office’s location at the canal allows breaks in the sun by the water. We love the vibrancy of Neukölln/Kreuzberg. You can sometimes hear more than seven different languages in one lunch break. At the office we usually speak English, we have colleagues coming from Australia, Canada, England, North America, Poland, Spain, Tunisia and Germany, so English is the best way of communicating.

Work trips and sports

At the moment we are thinking about renting a little house with WiFi on the countryside close to Berlin to work from there for a few days in August. Work during the day and maybe jump into a lake or river in the breaks, we could have BBQs and music sessions in the evenings.

ClXBAur

A team picnic at Tempelhofer Feld.

We often do stuff as a team. Like going to concerts, sustainable film nights or sports events. As soon as it gets a little colder (which hopefully won’t be that soon, we were so happy when summer finally arrived two weeks ago), there will be a little running group after work. A few of us already run at the canal anyway. Doing so after work with colleagues can be even more fun and sometimes just perfect to relax. As we also have a shower at the new office, we are planning to have a yoga session every friday morning to start into the weekend more relaxed. We will take turns instructing.

On the road

Going to Burkina Faso

We would love to go travel to Burkina Faso to meet our partners at the planting site in Aribinda. However there currently is a travel alert for Burkina Faso, so we’re still discussing if and when to go. We’re aiming for October, although we’re not yet sure how many people from the Ecosia team will be joining. Fingers crossed it will work out!

Cattle crossing the desert on Lilengo site before reforestation _ Credit WeForest

Cattle crossing the desert on Lilengo site before reforestation _ Credit WeForest

Cattle grazing beneath trees a few years after reforestation _ Credit Beeldkas and OZG

Cattle grazing beneath trees a few years after reforestation _ Credit Beeldkas and OZG

Travel habits and vacation tax

Many of us come from rather far away countries, so if we want to visit relatives and old friends, flying is often the only option. However we try to avoid flying by taking the train or a bus when possible. The German long distance bus scene has just woken up from a yearlong ban by Deutsche Bahn. Now that certain city connections are allowed to be offered by all kinds of bus companies and not only Germany’s main private train provider, there’s a lot of choice, reasonable prices, frequent fares and most of all, the possibility to pay a little extra and purchase a “carbon neutral” ticket.

Whoever oon the team goes on vacation, he or she must pay “vacation tax”, i.e. bring something small (mostly edible) back from the country he or she went to, for the whole team to try. We had Biscotti from Palermo, Manchego from Madrid and Sugarfrosted Pecans from Houston lately.

The Ecosia team in Berlin, before expanding

Unmissable items in the suitcases of Ecosia team membersOTF-98

  • Himalayan salt
  • Non-BPA Nalgene bottle
  • Walking shoes
  • Notebook+pen
  • Ecosia stickers

Berlin tips from the team

Place to stay

Short-term – the couchsurfing scene is alive and kicking.

Long-term – Find an apartment through WG-Gesucht. Also there are Facebook groups where people offer homes for rent.

Places to work

  • This is a pretty solid list of larger open spaces.
  • Via ShareDesk you can find cool workplaces as well.
  • And of course at the new Ecosia office in Schinkestraße 9!

Must go place

Tempelhofer Feld. It is really great there. Used to be an airport and the airfield is now a giant public park with little gardens, the possibility to run, skate and bike on the runways etc. There are festivals, open air cinema and concerts.

Technical stuff

Schermafbeelding 2015-07-22 om 11.29.48

Which search words plant most trees

This is a good question, but hard to tell, since revenue per click varies from region to region and ad to ad. We haven’t had the bandwidth to look into that yet and also want to treat this topic with great care as we believe in our users’ right to maintain their privacy.

How many trees Google could plant if they had the same policy as Ecosia

Wikipedia names Google’s net income for 2014 at 14.444 Billion US dollars. So if this is their surplus income and they donated at least 80% of that just like we do, they’d be able to donate 963 Billion US dollars a month. This equals about 874 Billion Euros according to current currency rates. Planting a tree in Burkina Faso costs 28 Cents at the moment. So if Google donates 80% of their surplus income every month just like us, they’d be able to plant 244.720.000.000 trees every month. That is nearly 250 million trees every 30 days.

Which online tools do you guys use to enlarge your impact?

We don’t really use any every day office life tools that actually enlarge our impact. We like using Buffer and Mailchimp for our daily business, but we’ve recently discovered BGood and really like their idea of encouraging people to do good every day, because it totally fits our efforts to enable people to support the environment with an everyday tool.

Who to interview next

  • Team Treehouse, namely how they pull off the 32-work week in practice (work-life balance as a catalyst for team creativity/achievement)
  • We are really fond of the guys at Fairphone, they’re working on such a cool idea. They are a fellow BCorporation. What I would like to know is: what do they think about having all European BCorps meet for a two day event somewhere in Amsterdam or Berlin?
  • The guys at Hoffice
  • Forest500.org . We just recently endorsed them and they do exactly what you were asking about Google: show the world how the “big players” could quickly reverse the tide of deforestation if they just went ‘green’.
  • Tim Schumacher, our business angle, suggested his colleagues from AdBlock Plus.
  • Our partner BGood. Their whole business model is based on trusting their users. We’d love to know if that’s ever given them any trouble and how they feel about trust in general.

Add Ecosia to your browser as well and start planting trees today!

Schermafbeelding 2015-07-22 om 10.59.50

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