By Staff Writer Brendan Pringle.
What if the key to green living existed in the palm of your hand? With the advent of smartphone apps, this dream has now become a reality. Nielsen reported that “31% of US mobile phone users have a smartphone as of December 2010” and predicted that smartphones will “become the majority by the end of 2011.” For those that already have a smartphone, or who are looking into buying one, here are some useful apps that will make it easier for you to keep your eye on the planet.
Green Groceries: Sustainable Shopping Solutions
When you’re at the supermarket, it’s hard enough just trying to decide what to make for dinner. And when your green conscience gets in the way, well, . . . you may just want to pitch up a tent and buy a good pair of reading glasses. Product labels are notoriously ambiguous about eco-friendliness.
Enter the GoodGuide® mobile app. This app offers details on over 100,000 different products and companies, and is constantly updating its database. Categories include food, personal care, household products, pet food, and more. The app also provides consumers with ratings and green alternatives so that you know the green impact of a product prior to purchasing it. Simply scan the item by taking a photo of the barcode, and you can see the immediate details of environmental impact from manufacturing to disposal, along with other notes on health and social ramifications. If you want to make yourself look even more “official,” you could even utter your own beeping sound while scanning, although this may annoy your fellow shoppers. This app is free, and can be used on iPhones and Androids.
For those who frequent the farmer’s market on a regular basis (and for those that don’t), the Seasons App ($1.99) is sure to make your life a whole lot easier. A good rule of thumb for sustainable grocery shopping is to buy what’s in season and to buy it local. This new app provides data on fruits, veggies, herbs, fungi and nuts with over 214 entries. Entries distinguish the local season from the import season for each area and produce item, so that you know when to look for it at the farmers market or grocery store. The app actually uses GPS to auto-detect your current region, and helps you find nearby farmers markets. Data covers US, Canada, UK, Australia and Western/Central Europe. Unfortunately, it’s only currently available on iPhone.
On the Go: From (Quieter) Mother-in-Laws to Personal Secretaries
Backstreet drivers can be a nightmare, but this one could become your best friend. Green Gas Saver, designed by the Apple Seed Store® monitors your driving habits with an accelerometer, alerting you if you accelerate or corner too quickly. This free app also keeps a running score on your green driving habits so that you can monitor your improvement and save some gas. Although it may seem like your mother-in-law in “app” form, this program will reform your driving peccadilloes and preserve the weight of your pocketbook, especially with today’s soaring fuel costs. And unlike your mother-in-law, it won’t bring up any other uncomfortable topics.
Fuel Saver, another free app for iPhones, likewise tracks your driving habits, sensing excessive speeds, over-acceleration, and harsh braking. If any of these three driving errors are traced, the iPhone will make a series of warning beeps. Users have reported an annual fuel savings of about 16%, translating to hundreds of dollars.
Of course, another good way to save on transportation costs (and the environment) is to leave the car at home. PedNav™, a new, free app from RouteMe2 Technologies, turns this inconvenient scenario into a time-efficient solution. This app first asks you for your day plans. Then, based on its knowledge of the location and schedule of these venues (restaurants, offices, shops, etc), as well as the transportation necessary to arrive at these places, it will generate an itinerary of walking/biking/transit options for you, specifying when and how to get to certain places. Users are easily able to enter their specific preferences and the app will take these into consideration for the itinerary. This is incredibly useful for those who need to run several errands throughout the course of the day. Unfortunately, the app is only accessible for devices that run the Android platform, though it may soon be available for iPhone, Windows Mobile and other platforms.
. . . And Last But Not Least: Eco-Friendly Recharging
Since using all these apps can be a drain on your battery, why not try to be green while recharging? Green Charging ($0.99) makes your iPhone vibrate and sound off when it is fully charged. Whether you realize this or not, phones and other devices still consume energy even after they have reached the 100% level. With this app, you can eliminate the extra waste by unplugging at just the right time, saving electricity and money. Another handy feature of this app is that it alerts you about the amount of talk time you have until your battery dies. In this way, you can save your battery for the more important people in your life.
If you have an Android, instead try the free JuiceDefender app from Latedroid®. This app allows you to apply “custom settings to the data connection and Wifi functions” of your phone. Its preconfigured, default profile actually does this for you without further adjustment. Among other features, it will automatically toggle to 2G when your phone is not in use, and scale down CPU energy consumption when your phone is idle. And of course, when you save power, you save money.
The smallest of changes tend to make the largest difference in the environment, and these apps are sure to guide you in the right direction. With such high-tech tools so readily available at our fingertips, we have no excuse to neglect eco-friendly habits, and save some cash at the same time.