Planting Trees One Search at a Time

May 22, 2019

By: Meredith Oglesby

Sometimes all that is needed to set a movement in motion is passion and a great team of people for support.

Three students’ idea to address greenhouse emissions through the use of Ecosia, a sustainable search engine, is being implemented throughout The Ohio State University campus. College of Medicine students Austin Oslock and Wendelyn Oslock, who are husband and wife, and Mark McIntyre placed second in the Ohio State Energy Partners Smart Campus challenge, receiving $40,000 to make their idea a reality.

Ecosia, a German-based company, donates 80% of its profits to tree planting organizations around the world. Revenue is generated when people click on advertisements as they search. It takes roughly 45 searches to plant a tree.

The students’ goal is to have Ecosia set as the default search engine on all the desktop computers across the Ohio State campus, says Wendelyn Oslock, who also is working on her master of business administration degree through Fisher College. Austin Oslock is earning a master’s degree in public health.

Wendelyn Oslock explains that Ecosia is a search engine that can be added to web browsers like Safari, Google Chrome or Internet Explorer.

The team is asking Buckeyes to set Ecosia as their default search engine by visiting typing Ecosia.co/OSU into their browser or clicking on this link: https://info.ecosia.org/?tt=b3fb11c2. A blue button that reads "add Ecosia to (your browser name)" will appear in the first section of the page. By clicking this button, users will be instructed on how to add Ecosia. 

Already, Ohio State Wexner Medical Center has decided to add Ecosia as an extension in Internet Explorer on all medical center devices.

“The work, effort and thought for this initiative across Ohio State’s campus has been completely student led,” Aparna Dial, sustainability consultant, Wexner Medical Center, says. “This is a brilliant, neat way to do what we are doing anyway, but doing it in a more meaningful way to make a difference.”

Additionally, there is a potential collaboration between the Office of the Chief Information Officer and Distance Learning to have Ecosia accessible on the iPads for freshmen, Austin Oslock says.

So far, the Ohio State community has planted over 3,500 trees in just three months, with the goal to plant 300,000 trees within the next year, Wendelyn Oslock says.

Ohio State is the first university in America and the largest university in the world to set Ecosia as our default browser, she says.

“As a community, Ohio State can plant hundreds of thousands of trees each year to help sequester carbon dioxide from the atmosphere,” she says. “We also can get people to start thinking about the ways our everyday choices impact the environment.” 

Most of the team’s work to encourage students, faculty and staff to use Ecosia has been through email, social media and grassroots efforts.

Student organizations also have helped. Engineers without Borders, Students for Recycling, Net Impact Undergrad, Engineers for a Sustainable World, Growth International Volunteers Excursion (GIVE) and Sustainability in Medicine gave out small succulent plants across campus to promote Ecosia.

Ecosia has had tremendous growth, donating funds for the planting of over 50 million trees since its start in 2009, says Austin Oslock. It has safe privacy features that do not sell personal data to advertisers, and it has no third party trackers.

Their passion has led the team to envision a more sustainable mindset for the Ohio State community.

“We are hoping it makes people more comfortable making changes that have a positive impact,” Wendelyn Oslock says.

Students who have an interest in social media can engage across Ecosia social media platforms by liking the Facebook and Instagram pages and downloading the Ecosia app, via the Ecosia.co/OSU link, on their personal devices.

Any student organization interested in hosting an Ecosia promotional table for the fall semester should email OSUonEcosia@gmail.com.

Questions? Contact the student led initiative.  

Learn more about Ecosia https://www.ecosia.org/

Meredith Oglesby is a student communications assistant at the Sustainability Institute at Ohio State.