Hundreds of computers around campus are switching their default search engine to Ecosia, allowing students and staff to plant trees one search at a time.
The switch, which was announced on the Sustainability at Sheffield blog last month, is the result of a two-year long campaign led by the People and Planet student society.
Ecosia on Campus is a global movement where students from all over the world lobby their universities to adopt the Ecosia search engine. Ecosia is based in Berlin and donates 80% or more of its profits to non-profit organizations that focus on reforestation.
The University of Sheffield will be the latest university to join other higher education institutions in the UK who adopted Ecosia on their campuses, including the University of Sussex and the University of Leeds.
Dominic Meeks, Chair of People and Planet Sheffield, said that the Covid-19 pandemic made the final discussions with the University difficult due to correspondence issues and the absence of staff.
In the end however, Meeks is very glad that they were able to finish the talks over the summer and switch the default search engine in time for the start of the new academic year.
Although the benefits of Ecosia in Sheffield will not be seen immediately due to less face-to-face teaching and reduced capacities, Meeks hopes that the usage on campus will increase in the future. However, Meeks knows that there is more work to be done, particularly because new Covid-19 restrictions prevent students from working around campus as much as they used to.
“We know the campaign is not finished,” the second year biology student said. “Everyone is still mainly working from their own space so the more we can encourage people to install Ecosia on their laptops, the more we can make a difference.”
Possible future plans to spread the word about Ecosia include the distribution of QR codes around the Students’ Union to encourage more people to use the search engine on their personal devices.
To make his vision of every University computer running Ecosia a reality, Meeks set up a Facebook group and engaged with like-minded individuals from universities all over the world who were working on the same cause. Through this communication he gained valuable insight in how to tackle some of the University’s initial concerns, enabling him to convince them that this was a risk-free decision with global benefits, he wrote on the Sustainability at Sheffield blog.
“Especially now during Covid there is such a positive link between mental health and being outside in green spaces,” Meeks said. “I think it shows that it’s really important for our own good as well as the good of the planet.”
To help convince the University about Ecosia, Meeks was supported by Fred Henderson, a former University of Sussex student and co-founder of Ecosia on Campus. Henderson said: “Now that the University of Sheffield has made Ecosia its default search engine, we will be able to plant thousands more trees this year.
“I can’t thank Dominic and the People and Planet team enough for initiating this environmental change, and to the faculty and IT department for implementing the switch. I hope it will inspire other universities around the world to join the movement.”
Ecosia has already planted over 100 million trees in total, with student searches accounting for over 135,000 trees since the launch of the Ecosia on Campus campaign three years ago.
Now, Sheffield students can help grow this number further by using the following link to enable Ecosia on their personal devices: ecosia.co/sheffielduniversity.