A few weeks ago I promised a roundup and review of environmental sustainability lifestyle apps designed to help us live greener, more eco-conscious lives. I combed the App Store, looking at apps for both iPad and iPhone and I was quite surprised that there weren’t more options. The following seven apps stood out to me, for better or for worse. Hopefully you will find a few of these useful as you go through your own environmental sustainability journey.
This was the most fun of all the apps I reviewed. There are a few distinctive features about the GoodGuide app that makes it stand out. First, every product in their database is reviewed on the criteria of health, environmental impact and social impact and assigned a blended score which is displayed on a red yellow or green background. This serves as a guide for how the product measures against comparable items. After the score, the next most valuable feature is the ability to filter on the issues that matter most to you. I chose nutrition, scientifically proven health hazards, animal welfare certifications and fair trade. Maybe organic, energy efficiency and pollution matter more to you — the filter is completely customizable. If a product you are considering has violations in any of the criteria you select, it is flagged and you are provided with info on why it failed the check. The GoodGuide app allows you to save lists of products to trust and brands to avoid for future reference. It has a barcode scanner, which you know means I ran around my house scanning everything in sight. Finally, I recently read an article about GoodGuide partnering with Target to rate some of their products and I’m looking forward to seeing that happen. This app is a freebie, but it would be worthwhile even as a paid app. It is intuitive, well designed and informative. I highly recommend giving it a try.
This app is fun and educational. Creating good habits and doing simple things to green your life earns you digital pins and badges. You can keep your achievements to yourself, share them with the Joule Bug community or brag a little bit on your social media channels. I liked the interactivity and ease of use and found the advice to be sound and practical. My favorite video games are ones where you collect stuff to earn upgrades so it is no surprise I enjoyed the badge quest aspect. I’m working on an iPhone 4S and had a few crashes, but it wasn’t unbearable and I suspect the newer hardware probably supports the app better. I’ll be looking forward to bug fixes, though. The down side of this app — nobody on your Facebook feed cares if you “recycled on-the-go” or if you “planned a meat-free meal” but the tantalizing offer of bonus points may tempt you to overshare. If you have a hard time self-editing these sorts of social media posts, proceed with caution.
Any sustainable habit you want to improve is in your hands with the ripple app. This free app is sponsored by Ocean Conservancy, the group that puts out the sustainable fish list every year. Using Rippl, you can set a new sustainability goal and receive reminders on your phone to help you stick with it. There are dozens of goals to choose from so you can choose according to your personal priorities. I chose “Carry A Reusable Mug” and I’m doing OK but there is much opportunity for improvement. On the days I forgot my mug it was a real bummer having to check the “NO” box. Worse yet, the app holds you accountable because you can’t clear the little red notification icon until you ‘fess up about how you did that day. Of the apps I tested, I think this one is the most likely to inspire real, lasting change.
Powered by Earth911.com this app helps you know what to do with all sorts of items at the end of their useful life. The app is based on your geographic location so it knows the rules for your local recycling program and even when and where the next local Household Hazardous Waste (think batteries, paint, chemicals, and tires) collection takes place. Earth911 advises on recycling everything from notebook paper to construction materials, electronics and auto parts. You won’t use this app every day, but when you need it you’ll be glad it is there. The lists are comprehensive and the links are super-useful. This would be an especially helpful app for someone like Jenny who is just starting an in-home recycle program.
The Environmental Working Group puts out Dirty Dozen and Clean Fifteen lists every year to inform consumers which produce items have the most or least pesticide exposure. I think the information is really valuable but consumer guides are available at their website. There’s not much here apart from the lists, so I didn’t find the app necessary. Still, it works properly and there’s certainly no harm in using it if an app is more convenient for you.
Trash Nothing! is a freecycling matching service. The terms of service state that users cannot sell or trade items and should only take things that are for personal use, not for resale. The idea is to have a free exchange of usable goods. Listings are organized into groups that serve a specific geographic area. Users can either list what they have to offer, or they can list things they need and hope someone has the item to spare. The group that serves my area isn’t very active and it seems like the “wanted” posts outnumber the “available” posts. Trash Nothing is a strong concept, but I didn’t see a compelling reason to use this in lieu of other forums like word-of-mouth, Facebook or Craig’s List. For me, this is one to skip, but results may vary depending on the activity level of your local freecycling community.
This app was pretty much the worst ever. It is a festival of advertisements with the occasional generic green living tip from their “Home” category thrown in. After you see a couple tips you get another advertisement. If you want to see tips from more categories you have to buy them at $0.99 each. You can also buy rights to an an ad-free version if you don’t want to be assailed by pop-ups constantly, but by the time you unlock everything and nix the ads to make this it usable, you’ve spent $4 on this “free” app and you get nothing you couldn’t accomplish with a Google search.
Do you have any favorite “green” apps? Did I list your favorite here? Or maybe I missed it? Join the conversation in the comments below. The Wilderness Girls love hearing from you!