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Ditch Google With These Ethical Alternative Search Engines

alternative search engines
alternative search engines

I have an uneasy relationship with Google, and have been on a hunt for alternative search engines.  Here are my top more ethical search engines that you might want to try too.

Yes, Google is great at finding everything you need to know in a flash. But here’s the thing: Google, in turn, knows everything about you through your search history.  

Google will know if you’re looking for a job or if you’ve lost your job. It will know if you think you might be pregnant or if you think you might be in labour. If you’re ill, Google will know. Google will know your interests and hobbies. And Google will perhaps know some things you’d rather not share with even your closest friends. Say, for example, if you discovered your other half has a thing for wearing ladies’ underwear then chances are Google would know about it first!

Being such a global giant, I don’t feel at ease with Google knowing so much about me.  Who knows what it does with my data, or what it can do in the future with it.  Coupled with Google’s well-documented tax avoidance, it doesn’t paint a pretty or ethical picture. Thankfully there are some alternative search engines more ethical than Google.

Best Alternative Search Engines

Here are my top alternative ethical search engines that contribute to a better world. From planting trees to those with a zero-tracking policy, do take a look.

Ecosia

ecosia

In my search for alternative search engines, I came across Ecosia. This is a green search engine that donates all of its surplus income to conservation organisations that plant trees where they are needed most.

Transparency is key. As such, Ecoia publishes monthly financial reports. These show exactly how much money they made from your searches, and what percentage of their revenue went towards trees.

Ecosia does not pay out any dividends to its owners. All profits stay within the company and will eventually either be invested or used for tree planting.

What I like is that searches on Ecosia are powered by 100% renewable energy. Ecosia plant trees that fight climate change by removing CO2 from the atmosphere. And they accelerate the energy transition away from fossil fuels by adding solar energy to the electricity grid. This is because they started building their own solar plants in 2018,

And you don’t have to sacrifice low-quality results to do good – Ecosia uses Bing and their own search algorithms. The association with Bing is not brilliant, as Microsoft who owns Bing has also been avoiding paying tax. However, the tree planting element of Ecosia gives it the ethical alternative search engine edge over Google.

Ecosia works just like Google. Simply search for what you want, and as well as your search results you’ll be presented with relevant adverts based on your search terms.  If you click on a sponsored link the sponsoring company pays Bing for the click.  The difference is that then Bing gives the bigger chunk of that money to Ecosia. Ecosia then donates at least 80% of this income to plant trees.  Surfing with a conscience, if you will.  So far Ecosia has planted over 120,000,000 trees.

DuckDuckGo

I wondered if there were any other alternative search engines out there not tainted by tax avoidance.  A bit more searching uncovered DuckDuckGo. This is a search engine that claims not to track you or collect information about you: duckduckgo

As DuckDuckGo doesn’t store your previous searches and is forced to keep its focus purely on its search function, rather than advertising it seems like a fairly smart and innocuous choice for web searching.  And its search function is pretty good too. They don’t have an environmental focus, like Ecosia, but they don’t contribute to tax avoidance, so I’m chalking that up as a win.

My Alternative Search Engine Recommendations

So, as far as alternative search engines go, I found Ecosia great for the environment. However, it’s not so hot if you want to use a website not tainted by tax avoidance.  I might adopt a two-pronged approach to search engines – using Ecosia for general web searches (where, to be honest, I’d be much more inclined to click on sponsored search results) and using DuckDuckGo (which doesn’t collect information about you) for looking for specific web pages (where I would be unlikely to click on sponsored search results anyway).

Have you used Ecosia or DuckDuckGo?  What did you think?  Or are there any other alternative search engines that you recommend?  I’m all ears!

Home, Home and Garden

How to Stop Junk Mail In The UK

how to stop junk mail uk

Sick of unsolicited catalogues and letters? Find out how to stop junk mail in the UK with my handy guide.

Junk mail is one of my biggest bugbears. Lately, I’ve taken it on as my own personal mission to stop as much junk mail as possible coming into my house. As such, I’ve found the best places to sign up to stop junk mail. Before we dive in, first, let me warn you, the direct marketing field is a huge money-making machine. Royal Mail wouldn’t even stop delivering junk mail during the Covid-19 pandemic. As such, organisations make it as difficult as possible for you to opt out. Don’t let it deter you though, I’ve got six handy ways to stop as much junk mail as possible.

how to stop junk mail uk

How to Stop UK Junk Mail

 I’ve been doing a ton of research to find out how to stop this barrage of unwanted mail. What can you do to stop junk mail in the UK? Here are my six top tips:

Opt Out of Junk Mail Online

If you are receiving unwanted mail from a company that you have shopped with in the past, or registered with at some point then you can usually take action. Simply log in to their website, and find the section that allows you to update your communication preferences. You should, in theory, be able to opt-out of direct mailings. Instead, you can switch to email only, or opt-out of all communications. Do note that some companies can take up to 12 weeks for these changes to come into place.

Return Unwanted Mail

If you are unable to opt-out of junk mail online, then you can return your unwanted mail. We get so much unwanted mail from H&M. As well as the shop being terrible for the environment, if you buy something online they will automatically put your name on their catalogue distribution list. They will then send you what seems like at least one catalogue a fortnight.  My partner also found himself on that same H&M mailing list, so it came to be that we were receiving two copies of the same catalogue every fortnight.  We seemed unable to stop junk mail from them on their website.

If you are in a similar predicament with direct mailings from a retailer, you can return any personally addressed junk mail to the sender.  Just cross through your address, and add a note to the envelope asking to be removed from their mailing list. Then put it in the post box.  You don’t need to add a stamp – I never do.  Most companies get the message quite quickly and you won’t receive any more unsolicited mail.

Others, like H&M, are a bit slower on the uptake. It took about 3 months of me returning every brochure that was sent to us before they took us off of their list.

Sign Up For The Mail Preference Service

Next on your checklist for stopping junk mail is to sign up for the Mail Preference Service.  This is a free service that you can use to get your name and address removed from lists used by companies to market their products.  This means you should receive no junk mail addressed to you personally from companies that use lists to send out direct marketing materials.

However, signing up to the Mail Preference Service does not stop mail addressed “to the householder” or “to the occupier”. Nor does it stop unaddressed junk mail from being delivered, nor junk mail originating from abroad.

Sign Up for the Fundraising Preference Service

Are you feeling overwhelmed by unwanted marketing contact from a charity? If the charity in question is registered in England, Wales, or Northern Ireland then you can sign up for the Fundraising Preference Service (FPS). After signing up, it takes around 21 days to stop receiving communications from the charity.

The FPS does not apply to charities registered in Scotland. This is because Scottish charities fall under the jurisdiction of the Scottish Fundraising Standards Panel (SFSP). If you are receiving a high volume of unwanted mail from a Scottish charity then you can go through the SFSP complaints process to stop this mail.

Use A No Junk Mail Sticker

The next step you can do is to put a “no junk mail”, or “no circulars” sticker or sign on your letterbox.  This will help remind people, such as local fast food shops, not to put circulars through your letterbox. You can find no junk mail stickers on Etsy* from around £2.

Note, that the use of a no junk mail sticker won’t stop the delivery of free newspapers. You’ll have to add a “no free newspapers” sign on your letterbox as well. I know, it’s ridiculous.

Opt-Out of Junk Mail With Royal Mail

A no junk mail sticker will not stop the postman from putting junk mail through your letterbox.  This is because postmen are contractually obligated to give you any junk mail that companies have paid Royal Mail to deliver.  

To stop the postman from delivering junk mail to you, you have to opt-out via the Royal Mail website.  I’ve found that Royal Mail makes this unnecessarily difficult because Royal Mail gets paid to deliver junk mail, so it’s not in their best interests.  You have to download a form, which you then have to fill in send it back to them via the mail. Not email, because you know, it’s not 2021!

It’s certainly less long-winded than it used to be. However, it’s important to bear in mind that this process lets you opt out of junk mail for two years only. After two years, you then have to re-contact Royal Mail and go through the whole rigmarole again.  

Final Thoughts

You probably won’t manage to stop every piece of junk mail from coming into your home. However, following these five steps should hopefully significantly reduce the amount of junk landing on your doormat.

Have I missed anything on how to stop junk mail?  Let me know in the comments below!