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Sustainability Champion spotlight: Ecosia, tree planting and COP 26

Niamh Kinch, Vet student, speaks about her journey as a Sustainability Champion, from helping to make Ecosia the University’s default search engine, to what she learned at COP 26.

Being the student representative for the Sustainability and Social Responsibility Committee at the Vet School and University Sustainability Champion since I joined in 2018 has influenced me in many ways. The main one is how I want to combine my passion for improving not only animal health but also this planet we live on, and the lives of the people in it.

Edinburgh On Ecosia campaign

University of Edinburgh students have financed 1,722 trees with 100 installs and 151,549 searches, October 2021

University of Edinburgh students have financed 1,722 trees with 100 installs and 151,549 searches, October 2021

I joined the Edinburgh On Ecosia campaign in 2018 as I was keen to be part of the movement to make Ecosia, the internet search engine that uses the profit it makes through advertising to finance tree-planting projects worldwide, the default search engine for the University of Edinburgh.

Ecosia is the world’s largest not-for-profit search engine. It has planted more than 135 million trees across 30 countries worldwide. In 2014 Ecosia was accredited as a B Corporation and in 2017 it built the first of its four solar plants to ensure it is 100% renewable, reaching 200% renewable in July 2020. In 2018 Ecosia gave away its shares to the Purpose Foundation, to assure that it can never be sold and that no one, including the founder, can profit or receive dividends from the company. Ecosia was founded by Christian Kroll in 2009.

I discovered Ecosia through social media and I remember thinking that if a university as big as the University of Edinburgh were to switch to Ecosia, the number of searches made by students and staff, and therefore trees planted (roughly every 45 searches Ecosia plants a tree), would be huge! So I found the campaign group and got stuck in.

My first year of vet school was extremely tough: to this day I still feel it was the hardest year, to all the first-year vet students out there, we see you, we’re proud of you and you will be amazing vets one day.

I remember feeling overwhelmed one day and then thinking:

I’ll get through vet school, it’ll happen one way or the other, but if there was one thing I’m going to make happen by the time I finish these long five years is to get the University to make their main search engine Ecosia.

A long four years later, with a lot of networking, social media advertising, campaigning, talks with IT and the amazing team we have at Edinburgh on Ecosia, this September we finally did it. Ecosia is now the search engine for the University of Edinburgh. It took a whole community of amazing people to make this happen and I couldn’t be more grateful to have worked with them, so allow me a moment to thank everyone who was part of our Edinburgh on Ecosia team.

Edinburgh on Ecosia Instagram

Tree planting with Ecosia for COP 26

Niamh Kinch tree planting

Niamh Kinch tree planting

I love nature, especially trees: everything about them brings me peace and reflecting on that now I think I just wanted to be part of the Ecosia on Campus movement because I wanted to share the peace trees bring me with others. It’s been a rough couple of years for us all, to say the least, and that’s why I was so happy to be able to attend a tree planting event with Ecosia in Edinburgh on 4 November 2021. We planted 500 native trees at Hunters hall park in Edinburgh that day and I look forward to watching them grow and benefit the local community.

Planting the trees gives me hope. It brings me hope to know that future generations will benefit from these trees, connect with nature and learn to protect them and the rest of the land we and others live on.

COP 26: Community is Power

I was invited by Ecosia to attend their event with Patagonia at COP 26 on Saturday 6 November. The event was ‘Mobilising systems change for a regenerative future’. It was such a privilege to listen to four amazing, powerful women speak on topics from food safety injustice, making the connection with where our food comes from and the people who grow or raise it to the importance of grassroots organisations, feminist solutions to the climate crisis and the ripple effect of tree planting by local communities for local communities. I plan on using that privilege to continue to be part of climate activism movements and seeing what further and new action I can get involved with from all I learned.

After the talk we went to the protest rally where I met my friend and fellow Vet Sustainability Champion Fran Haddock: we talked about the important and urgent role the veterinary profession plays in the climate crisis such as advising farmers on sustainable farming practices, accessibility in the profession and taking action on biodiversity loss. We shared our hopes for a sustainable and accessible veterinary profession and I hope more veterinary professionals get involved in taking action to make these changes happen. There are so many different ways to do so and an abundance of information out there on how.

Signs saying "event the dinosaurs were smarter" and "save the damn bees!"

Signs saying “event the dinosaurs were smarter” and “save the damn bees!”

Afterwards, we listened to speeches from climate activists:  it was a privilege to be able to listen to speakers like Vanessa Nakate, whose new book ‘A Bigger Picture’ is something I would definitely recommend as a present to your friends and family this December. Giving space to listen to those from marginalised groups who have already been facing the worst effects of the climate crisis is not only the right thing to do but something we must do if we are to all get through this.

Although incredibly disappointed in the outcome of COP 26 from a governmental and accessibility point, I hold hope and remember one of the chants at the rally ‘The people, united, will never be defeated’ as it reminds me that change is not passive and taking collective action on tackling climate justice through accessible community organising can and does make a difference. Big or small we all have a part to play if we want a future for all.

My recommendations


  • The Yikes podcast
  • Mothers of Invention
  • Green Dreamer
  • Hot Take


"Climate justice for all, accessibility for all, hope for all, love for all"

“Climate justice for all, accessibility for all, hope for all, love for all”

For books head to Lighthouse Books, Edinburgh’s radical bookstore, where you can pick up a copy of Vanessa Nakate’s book! They also deliver for those unable to visit the shop.

A Bigger Picture


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