I use my phone for just about everything — timing dinner on the stove, coordinating playdates for my kids and their friends, keeping track of my work schedule, and photographing important moments. And ever since I upgraded my cell phone to a version with more memory, I’ve been discovering more and more apps and tools that can help me improve my life — including when it comes to being more environmentally responsible.
I have found apps that help me monitor my home utilities to be more energy efficient, reduce waste while cooking and grocery shopping, and figure out what (and where) to recycle.
Here are just a few of my favorites, and how they can help reduce our impact on the environment.
1. Wink — Smart Home: With a range of smart products such as light bulbs, outlets, and thermostats, the Wink app allows you to control your home’s functions wherever you are. This means you can turn off a forgotten light from your desk at work, or wait until you’re on your way home to turn on the air conditioner. You might be able to connect it with certain smart appliances, too. Having control of your utilities any time, any place, will help you conserve energy and reduce your power bills.
2. Freecycle + trash nothing!: The app for Freecycle makes it even easier to find a new home for stuff you no longer need, which extends a product’s life of usefulness and diverts it from the landfill. Join your local group and post photos and descriptions of what you’re giving away.
3. Food Tripping: This GPS-based app helps you find alternatives to chain restaurants and fast food as you’re driving. It’ll connect you with farmers’ markets, organic coffee shops, locally owned cafes, and eco-friendly restaurants that are along your route.
4. JouleBug: Like a fitness tracker for sustainability, this app tracks your sustainable actions and turns them into a fun, friendly competition against your friends and your community. You log accomplishments such as using a reusable water bottle or shortening your shower time, earning badges along the way and comparing your progress to others’. You can even link the app to your utility bills to see how your actions reduce your usage.
5. Supercook.com: I’m cheating in my list because Supercook is technically a website, not an app, although you can access it on your smartphone’s web browser. It is invaluable in helping me cut down on food waste by finding recipes to cook, with ingredients already in my refrigerator. Before they have a chance to go bad, type the ingredients into the search and Supercook.com will find recipe options that can make use of them.
As technology improves, it should help us improve our ability to be more sustainable, but only if the technology we use is itself also sustainable. We should keep this in mind when choosing what technology to use, and how we use it. What’s most important for us, and the planet, is sharing knowledge and doing our best to make choices that help us maintain healthy bodies, communities, and environments.