Sustainability can sometimes feel like a buzzword thrown around too often to have real meaning or a daunting goal in the face of climate change. Thanks to Chris Park, a sophomore in CAS studying chemistry, that word has a tangible meaning again. The Pennsylvania native has taken his passion for the environment and created an initiative to help Boston University further its positive environmental impact in a way that involves all students.
Photo Credit: Chris Park
His initiative is centered around Ecosia. “Ecosia is a search engine, just like Google,” Park said. “However, they use over half of the revenue they receive to plant native trees all over the world where it will benefit communities the most. So far, Ecosia has planted over 76 million trees through its search engine.”
There is a counter in the corner of your Ecosia page that tracks how many trees have been planted as a direct result of your searches, which allows you to see your personal impact on the planet.
At Boston University, Chris has one clear goal with the Ecosia initiative. He wants to make Ecosia the default search engine at BU, meaning that when you log into a BU computer in Mugar and open the internet, Ecosia will be used to run your search instead of the current default, which is Google. Park was awarded a $500 seed grant from the BUild lab and sustainability@BU. Having a tangible goal is one of the many reasons that the Ecosia initiative has had some success already.
“We have been able to use this to increase awareness around campus on what Ecosia is and help people switch over to Ecosia,” Park said.
This is incredibly exciting because it means the merits of his initiative are not just recognized by fellow students but are recognized by administrative organizations, too. Additionally, Chris has had some positive interactions with the IS&T department regarding his idea.
“I have talked to Mike Harvey from IS&T and made Ecosia a shortcut on the BU computers, meaning that right now you can go on any BU computer and search through Ecosia by clicking on the icon on the school computer’s desktop screens,” Park said. “Although this is a great first step, it is still a long way from making it the default browser at Boston University.”
When asked about the role Ecosia can play in the fight against climate change, considering many people view natural solutions to climate change as less effective, Park said, “We need to begin to stop climate change somewhere and every small initiative can help to make this planet better for all of us.” Although Ecosia will not single-handedly solve climate change, switching to Ecosia is an easy change we can all make to help mitigate it.
On Ecosia, it takes about 45 searches to plant one new tree. Over the course of the life of that tree, it will take up around 45 kilograms of carbon dioxide out of the air, meaning that each search on average will remove one kilogram, or approximately two pounds, of carbon dioxide from the air.
In order to get the word out about the Ecosia initiative, Chris has done quite a bit in terms of marketing. He has done tabling in the GSU and given out stickers, succulents, and reusable straws. He took that opportunity to inform other students about his idea and gain support for it. Additionally, he and the other people involved have put up posters around campus to explain to people what Ecosia is and what they are trying to do with it at Boston University. Also, Chris has set up an Instagram account for the initiative, @bu_on_ecosia, and the more followers he gets, the more successful he can be in proving to the administration that he has student support.
“We are trying to increase awareness on campus about Ecosia and increase support to convince IS&T that we want Ecosia to be the default search engine on campus,” Park said. “We have planted over 1,000 trees through Ecosia on BU’s campus and hope to continue to grow this number throughout the rest of the school year.”
By following the link in the bio of the Ecosia Instagram, you can make Ecosia your default browser and make your searches count within the Boston University pool of trees. That link is specific to Chris’ initiative.
“I hope to make Ecosia the default search engine at BU by the end of the year, and then I hope to be able to help other campuses petition their school to make Ecosia the default search engine at their school as well,” Park said.
If you are looking to get involved in Ecosia, Chris explained that you can come to the Environmental Student Organization meetings where they frequently talk about updates on Ecosia, as well as following their Instagram and messaging them. Everyone can help by spreading the word around campus and having your friends download Ecosia through this link to ensure that all searches they make are tracked as part of Boston University’s total tree counter.
It is always super interesting to hear about what other BU students are coming up with to help with big problems in the world. Chris’ Ecosia initiative is a great stepping stone to larger climate action by the university.