[Earth Day Study] Fossil Fuel Searches Spike 23,900% Over Last 3 Years

April 13, 2023image

This year, the annual holiday celebrating our planet falls on April 22. Earth Day marks a chance to take stock of how far we have come with sustainability efforts, where we still need to improve, and what we need to do to get there.

Internet search trends and traffic data reveal people’s top climate concerns and signal consumer priorities when it comes to saving the planet. Where do people turn to learn more about the environment, and what are they most curious about?

The internet also tells us which fashion brands garner the most website visits, as well as how sustainable those companies are. Particularly given the fact that this year’s theme for Earth Day is “invest in our planet,” we should take a hard look at where we put our dollars.

Let’s dig into the data to discover what people are talking about ahead of this year’s Earth Day.

Leaders in the sustainability space

From nonprofit organizations to individual activists, the fight for a cleaner climate calls for passion and dedication.

Global data from January 2020 to February 2023 reveals that the most-searched environmental nonprofits across Google are PETA (People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals), WWF (World Wildlife Fund), and Greenpeace. Particularly with the first two organizations, it’s clear that a love of animals is at the core of people’s relationship with our environment.


PETA and WWF are the sustainability-focused organizations and nonprofits with the most website visits. But claiming third place in traffic is the Audubon Society, which works to preserve birds and their habitats.

Among individual climate heroes, whom do people search for most?

Greta Thunberg claims the top spot. Behind Greta in searches is David Attenborough, the British journalist best known for writing and narrating BBC’s Life series.

Looking for nature on the big screen

We turn to movies and TV to learn more about the world around us, and sustainability is no exception to this rule. Particularly in the documentary genre, the breathtaking footage, unknown terrains, and surprising facts captivate audiences by revealing more about the planet we all live on.

The most-searched film in this category is Seaspiracy, the 2021 Netflix documentary that pulls back the curtain on fishing’s effects on marine wildlife, as well as the corruption that allows such devastation to continue.


Behind that is the 2021 Oscar winner My Octopus Teacher, which follows a swimmer’s evolving relationship with an octopus he encounters beneath the waves.

And the third most-searched nature documentary over the past three years is the 2013 film Blackfish, which examines the practice of keeping orca whales captive, particularly exposing SeaWorld’s actions.

All three of these documentaries focus not only on animals but specifically on underwater species. Perhaps the ocean’s physical depth and darkness make people even more curious about what lies within.

How green is our shopping?

So people turn to organizations, activists, and media to better understand the challenges facing our planet. But what do they do with that information?

Sustainable fashion is a growing trend as more folks look to lessen the impact of their wardrobe purchases on the planet. Patagonia stands out in this space for its strong commitment to carbon neutrality, robust conservation efforts, and an overall brand mission that celebrates nature, which much of its products are designed for.

In fact, Patagonia claims the top spot of most-searched and most-visited retail sites in the sustainable fashion vertical over the last three years. Close behind it are Reformation and Everlane, sustainable fashion brands that boast their own mission statements on reducing environmental impact.


Other notable top brands in this space include Rothy’s, Allbirds, and Girlfriend Collective.

While these sustainable clothing brands mark an exciting step toward a cleaner climate, the reality of our online shopping habits is a far cry from eco-friendly. Fast fashion brands alone produce 10% of the globe’s carbon emissions, contributing to pollution at an alarming rate.

The fast-fashion brand Shein boasts online search and traffic numbers that dwarf any sustainable clothing brand by 10-fold. What’s more, Shein traffic grew 485.4%% from 2020 to 2023.

Other massive fast-fashion brands with huge search and traffic numbers include Zara and H&M, showing that buying cheap clothing still has a grip on how we shop, even at a cost to our planet.

But it’s not all bad news for how we’re buying new threads. Searches for “thrift stores open near me” surged 235% from 2020 to 2023, revealing that shoppers have a growing enthusiasm for recycled fashion and sustainable shopping.

And with ’90s and early 2000s styles coming back into fashion, what better way to try the trend than going straight to the source?

Increasingly common climate concerns, according to search trends

From how we buy our clothes to where we invest, we have a long way to go to clean up our environment. But it’s not like people aren’t paying attention to the problem of climate change.

In fact, searches for “are insects going extinct” increased by a staggering 950% from January 2020 to February 2023. Other searches that skyrocketed over the same period include “effect of overfishing on the environment” (up by 540%) and “the species which are most likely to become endangered species” (up by 450%).


Again, humanity’s love of animals shines through in these trends, where people are increasingly worried about climate change’s effects on other species and their habitats.

Search trends also tell us that people want to better understand the forces behind climate change. For instance, Google searches for “define fossil fuels” shot up by 23,900% in the US over the three year period. Searches for “greenhouse gas definition” also rose by 1,976.9%, again signaling a hunger for knowledge.

As we learn more about the causes of climate change, we become more empowered to take action. And we’re seeing people seek out resources for how to do their part as well. Global searches for “5 ways to prevent soil erosion” rose by 504.2% over the last three years, and queries for “what is renewable energy” were up 82%.

From exploring our traffic and search trend data, we start to see the biggest challenges facing our planet, as well as what we stand to lose. We love animals, but we also love fast fashion!

The best news is that people are searching more and more for information and resources around climate change and sustainability. This year’s Earth Day comes on the heels of massive growth in awareness, and as we become more educated on what needs to happen to clean up our environment, future Earth Days will have even more to celebrate.

Interested in uncovering more? You can use Semrush tools like Keyword Overview and Traffic Analytics to stay on top of other environmental and climate search trends.