Preserving the Environment

Five Apps for the Tech-Savvy Environmentalist

October 4, 2018
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Five Apps for the Tech-Savvy Environmentalist
Environment Apps 1
New apps make it easier than ever to help the environment. Photo by Hero Images/Getty Images
Thanks to these tools, you can make an eco-friendly impact just by phoning it in.

So you want to fix the environment? That’s a big job. Absent clear policy change from the powers-that-be, the onus is on all citizens to do their part and pitch in as much as they can. How much time and energy each one of us can devote to the cause varies, of course. Which is why we’ve rounded up five eco-friendly apps that will help put anyone, no matter their individual circumstances, on the path to sustainability.

SKEPTICAL SCIENCE

Here’s an alarming statistic: In a 2018 study, Yale researchers found that more than a quarter of Americans believe that global warming is naturally occurring (and, worse, 14 percent think that it’s not happening at all). If you happen to strike up a conversation with such a denier, the Skeptical Science app is your secret weapon. Run by a team of volunteers who have a wealth of combined expertise in climate science and environmental issues, the organization’s app lists common climate-denier arguments — such as “lack of consensus on who is causing climate change,” and “animals and plants can adapt” — next to true statements and then links those statements to science-based, peer-reviewed research that support them. Not only will you be able to fact-check the discussion in real-time, you’ll be armed with a wealth of knowledge and statistics that will either keep your heated banter going — or provide some big-picture food for thought that just might turn each skeptic you encounter into a climate-change believer.

DROPCOUNTR

Unless you live in a place where water conservation is mandatory — as was the case in California, for example — chances are you don’t give much thought to every drop you use throughout the day. That’s a mistake, even if droughts aren’t an issue where you are: A decrease in our water supply can lead to increased pollution from over-irrigation, and the destruction of pollution-filtering wetlands. What’s more, monitoring the amount of water you consume in your home can cut your monthly water usage by up to 9 percent, which can translate to serious utility savings and rebates. That’s where Dropcountr comes in: The free app partners with utility companies to track and analyze your home’s monthly water output, alerting you of leaks and usage by the gallon. The easy-to-understand graphs and charts also compare your household with others in the area, alongside data of what’s considered “efficient use” — hey, if a little guilt-tripping gets you to turn off the water when you brush your teeth, we’re game! While it’s only available in a handful of states — search by zip code to see if the app is available where you live — you can email your utility company to request it.

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Seafood Watch helps diners find fish that were caught in environmentally sustainable ways.© Monterey Bay Aquarium

SEAFOOD WATCH

If you’re eager to add more fish to your diet but are concerned about the environmental impact of doing so, Seafood Watch is here to help. Developed by scientists at California’s Monterey Bay Aquarium, the app is a pocket guide to finding fish caught or raised in an environmentally sound way that protects the long-term health of the species — info that’s not always easy to come by when buying seafood (or dining at your favorite sushi restaurant). Search for sustainable fisheries near you by inputting your zip code, or look up specific types of fish by name. The latter produces a shockingly comprehensive list of fish by type, ocean location and catching method, along with colored fish icons that indicate your best option. Overwhelmed by the amount of choices? Research your favorites before going out, and you’ll have no need to worry about putting your waiter or fishmonger on the spot.

GOOD GUIDE

If you’re confused about whether there’s anything toxic in the products you use on your body or in your home, you aren’t alone. A quick trip to the FDA’s website underscores the problem: “Under U.S. law, FDA does not have the authority to require cosmetic manufacturers to submit their safety data to FDA,” it reads. “The burden is on FDA to prove that a particular product or ingredient is harmful when used as intended.” That leaves a loophole the size of the Kardashian empire for cosmetic and household-product manufacturers to walk through — and walk through it they do.

Needless to say, much of this has a direct impact on the physical environment. Common cleaning products like this one contain chemicals that persist in the environment and are toxic to many forms of life; microbeads from a vast array of products end up in our oceans, absorbing toxins as they enter our food chain.

Enter Good Guide and its product-rating system. The Good Guide team assesses personal care, cosmetic and household products — more than 75,000 to date and counting — and gives each product a score from zero to 10. Scores hinge on what a product contains and the degree of transparency from the company regarding those ingredients (for example, “fragrance” is about as specific as “natural” when it comes to describing what exactly is in that bar of soap you just bought).

The app is easy to use, and you may be surprised by what you discover. Procter & Gamble’s Magic Eraser, for instance, scores a 10 (the least toxic rating) while Little Twig Organic Baby Powder gets a big fat zero (meaning, run for the hills!). Speaking of babies, there’s a special “Baby & Kids” section, so that you can keep your kiddos clean — and safe.

OROECO

There’s been much hand-wringing over our carbon footprint here in the U.S., and there’s good reason for it. We are the biggest carbon polluter in history, ahead of the EU and even China, and our per capita fossil-fuel consumption still dwarfs every other country by comparison.

If you’re looking for a way to reduce, or just track, the size of your climate footprint, Oroeco is a bit like the MyFitnessPal of the eco-app space. Oroeco allows you to see how so many disparate aspects of your life contribute to the warming of our planet — even things you might not necessarily think much about, like the clothing you choose and the entertainment you consume. The app then turns that data into a game of sorts. Users can track performance, set goals and compete with friends to see who can hit the lowest carbon “score.”

In order to benefit from its full range of services, Oreoco requires a bit of a lift upfront — you need to input a variety of info, including your salary range; the average number of miles you fly per year; how much you eat; and the amount you spend on goods and services. But the results should present you with a pretty good idea of how you measure up to your peers and where you can shave off a few points to win the game. In the process, you’ll become a more responsible global citizen — and that’s a win for everyone.

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