Bored while browsing? Why not help reforest the planet as you go?

Browser supplier Vivaldi has teamed with Ecosia in a scheme to help plant trees in one of the most barren areas of Africa.
Written by Colin Barker, Contributor

Results you can see: Lilengo three years ago (left) and the same area today (right).

Picture: Ecosia

One way to take some of the tedium out of browsing might be to do something good for the planet along the way. To help you do that, the browser builder Vivaldi has teamed up with the search engine Ecosia to create a scheme that plants trees while you browse.

From today, users of Vivaldi's latest release (1.9) will, along with the latest software updates, get access to Ecosia, a search engine that gives 80 percent of its earnings to a scheme for planting trees in Africa.

Clicking on the magnifying glass icon in Vivaldi will reveal a menu of search engine options, including Ecosia. You can also search through Ecosia in the address field after selecting this option in the Search settings.

Users updating Vivaldi who have previously selected a different default search engine will need to restore the search defaults in the settings prior to Ecosia becoming available.

While searching with Ecosia, users will see a small tree counter appear in the top right-hand corner of the screen. It will show a personal record of how many trees you have helped to plant using the environmentally-conscious search engine.

Ecosia donates at least 80 percent of its profits from search ad revenue to support tree planting programs around the world.

The charity says it has already planted close to 7.5 million trees since its launch in 2009, and is hoping to reach 1 billion by 2020.

One of the areas of Africa highlighted by Ecosia is the town of Lilengo in Burkina Faso. Lilengo -- which actually means 'barren soil' in the local languages -- had until three years ago been almost completely barren (see picture).

Since then, according to Ecosia, new life has been breathed into the land, and now trees grow where there was once only desert. Ecosia says it is "planting trees in neighbouring villages Baliata and Areel, [and] hoping to repeat the success of Lilengo".

According to CEO Christian Kroll, the initiative represents another step forward in Ecosia's goal to plant one billion trees by 2020. According to Kroll this will help to prove that "technology really can empower millions to have a tangible impact on the planet."

In this latest update, Vivaldi 1.9 adds a number of features and fixes to further improve the browsing experience:

  • Change the placement of extension buttons on the address bar
  • Sorting of notes
  • Improvements to URL autocomplete
  • Ability to change directory for storing screen captures
  • Privacy and security improvements

"In a world where climate change is a visible and significant problem, every way we can contribute to reduce the problem is positive," said Vivaldi's CEO Jon von Tetzchner.

"Being able to do that through what you do every day is a fantastic way to do that," he told ZDNet. "This cooperation with Ecosia lets our users easily search with Ecosia and through that help plant trees."

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