By Diane Maceachern
Mom’s Clean Air Force
I recently decided to look for mobile apps that would make it easier to reduce my carbon footprint, save energy, shop greener, and buy less. I have an Android phone, so I pulled up what I could on that device, but much of what I found is available on both an Android (Samsung or Google Phone) or iOs (Apple iPhone).
As you can imagine, there are hundreds of apps that promise to make green living easier. I decided to focus on those that met four criteria:
- The app received either a 4 or 5 star rating (out of a possible 5) from users.
- At least a handful of the app’s reviews were written by independent third parties (as opposed to one or two obviously written by the developer).
- The app seemed to be new or recently updated (as opposed to dumped into the market say in 2011 and not revised since).
- The app would enable me to achieve some meaningful result if I used them. I was looking for apps that would actually lead to behavior change, not simply provide information or entertainment (which ruled out apps like dictionaries, games, and descriptions of technologies without concrete action steps attached to them).
I searched several terms, like “eco,” “green living,” “home energy saving” and “carbon calculator” to generate the most relevant results. Just searching “green” delivered a lot of apps about the color green, not the lifestyle! I did not search for free apps specifically, because most of the apps are either free or very cheap. I did look at how many downloads an app had, presuming, an app that was downloaded thousands of times would be pretty useful. However, it takes a lot of publicity to generate awareness in such a crowded market, so I didn’t rule an app out just because it was less popular than other similar apps.
I also reviewed the three articles MCAF previously published on mobile apps:
Here are some of the apps I found worth recommending for busy moms — in three categories: driving/transportation; home energy and lighting; and sharing/minimizing consumption — all of which can have a significant impact on the amount of carbon dioxide and air pollution you generate.
This app aims to make it easier to calculate your car’s fuel consumption. It also provides tips on how to drive efficiently to use less gas. Your gas consumption “history” is saved so you can review the numbers from time to time to see if your driving is improving. You can also use the numbers to calculate your travel cost per kilometer or mile. Greener Mile offers something similar.
This app promises to motivate you to drive less by making it easy to track fuel expenses for distance traveled. It will generate a mileage log, reports and other information you can review to help you use less gas.
Though this app is in French, it is very easy to understand. It lets you compare the carbon footprint of different means of transportation you might use (car, motorbike, truck, bus, train, plane, ferry, walking) to cover a particular distance. You can use it for going to work, running around doing chores, or planning a business trip or vacation.
Do you travel for business, especially internationally? This free app makes it easy to calculate how much CO2 your flight will emit while offering tips on how to reduce the overall environmental impact of the meetings you attend. By the way, several airlines make it easy for you to buy “carbon credits” right on their sites.
Carma Carpooling (formerly Avego)
Carma enables you to share your commute with your neighbors, along with the cost of the trip: at the end of the ride, the driver automatically receives a payment from the rider, based on the distance traveled. Other car sharing apps include: PickupPal and Zimride
HOME ENERGY SAVING AND LIGHTING
Energy Saver by Texo
This free energy-saving app makes it convenient to track home energy usage, compare electricity providers, and save money on your electricity bills. It can be used either at home or at work. Plus, it offers many useful energy-saving tips. You can monitor your usage during peak, off peak, shoulder and regular daily time periods. Plus, you can track your electricity use over time to see when you use the most or least electricity. BONUS: The app also shows what your CO2 emissions are based on how much energy you’re using, providing additional incentives to reduce electricity use.
LIGHT BULB FINDER from EcoHatchery
This free app makes it easy to switch from conventional light bulbs to energy-saving equivalents that also meet your requirements for fit, style and light quality. You can view bulb images along with what they cost, how much money they’ll save you, and what their environmental impact will be. You can use the app to create shopping lists and buy bulbs directly through the app or at local stores. Easy peasy!
Bright Nest offers many suggestions in different categories for beautifying your home. The Green category is full of ideas for conserving water, conducting a home energy audit, saving energy, and more.
Recycling plays a key role in saving energy, but apart from bottles and cans, it’s often not obvious where you can recycle what. This app makes it easy to find local, convenient recycling facilities, providing access to more than 1,600,000 ways to recyclve over 350 materials.
As you might expect, Ebay and FreeCycle, two of the most popular websites focused on sharing or swapping stuff, both have mobile apps, as well. Simply search freecycle app or Ebay app on your favorite browser and you will find the link for your smart phone or mobile device. Interestingly, Craig’s List has not developed its own app. Many developers have jumped into the breach with their own apps to use with Craigs List. One that’s been popular for iPhone users is offered by cPro here. This option for Android users also comes highly rated.
Yerdle was established specifically to promote sharing as a way to reduce consumption, as well as CO2 emissions. Though originally web-based, Yerdle now encourages folks to use its app, which is free on the Apple store. NOTE: In order to be a “Yerdler,” you have to give away your own stuff for free in order to get stuff.
Cutting down trees to make paper, turning the paper into junk mail, shipping that mail to your home, then trashing all that paper not only takes CO2-absorbing trees out of the environment, but generates an enormous amount of CO2 through all the energy used throughout the process. Whatever you can do to limit your use of paper and cut back on junk mail helps. That’s where Paper Karma plays a role. You simply take a picture of unwanted catalogs, coupon books, fliers, credit card offers, white and yellow pages and other junk mail and send it to Paper Karma. They will find the sender and remove your name and address from their mailing list.
Do you have any favorite apps that help you save energy and reduce your carbon footprint? Please share in the comment section!