Change doesn't always have to be monumental to make a lasting impact on the environment. The collective power of many goes a long way. The more you can easily incorporate sustainable practices into your daily life, the better off the world (and by extension, everyone in it) will be. Technology has made this kind of micro-activism even more easy by providing on-demand access to information and tips that can help you be more sustainable. In honor of Earth Day, Inspire researched and tested five consumer apps that help you make small changes in your daily routine -- from what you eat to what you buy. Leveraging technology as a tool for doing good in the world is easier than you might think.
1. Eat Sushi Sustainably: The Seafood Watch App
Do you ever wonder if the sushi or salmon you consumed was sustainably sourced?
Eating more sustainably is a great way to make small dietary changes that are better for the environment. Consider starting small and expanding your palette from there. The Seafood Watch App1 helps users stay informed on current sustainability best practices. Once downloaded, you can search for a specific variety of fish or conduct a broader search to understand the types you should avoid and those that are safe to consume. A recent tuna search revealed that while Bluefin is in danger, Skipjack is a good alternative. The app includes filters for farmed or wild caught fish depending on your preference, and overall the UI is intuitive and easy to use. By staying informed while shopping or eating out, your eating habits can become a force of positive change for the ocean.
2. Gamify Your Commitment to Sustainability: Oroeco
Oroeco2 is one of the most comprehensive carbon emissions trackers, giving users a look at how each of their purchases and activities creates emissions.
The trick to get you hooked? Gamification. You can set personal goals for yourself and compare your stats with neighbors, friends and even celebrities. Tips on how to improve your consumption prioritize the actions that have the biggest impact. Once you meet your goals or surpass those within your network, you get the opportunity to win prizes, such as a Nest smart thermostat or $250 cash. While the UI could be more intuitive, Oreoco provides an easy, fun way to improve your environmental impact.
3. Instead of Always Buying New, Repair Your Tech: iFixit
iFixit3 is designed around the repair and fix model, providing numerous 'tear down' guides for popular tech products and offering ways to fix or customize devices.
Did the screen on your iPhone 6 Plus break again? Need to replace the LCD screen on your Canon DSLR? iFixit will show you how. You can search the iFixit database for your specific device and see what the iFixit community has contributed as well. The free guides all specify how difficult specific projects are and how long they take to complete. You’ll get more longevity out of each device, plus you’ll save money and cut down on technology waste in the process.
4. Make More Sustainable Tech Purchases: Greenpeace Green Guide & DoneGood
It’s always good practice to understand how the companies you support manufacture their products.
While there are many high profile tech companies such as Google and Cisco that have adopted more sustainable practices4, not all products are sourced ethically. Some have wasteful supply chains, or build products in factories where workers have low quality of life. The GreenPeace Guide ranks electronic manufacturers by how well they disclose emissions, the energy efficiency of their products and supply chains, how transparent they are on conflict mineral use and a number of other factors5. Currently, Indian electronics company Wipro is ranked the highest due to their transparent emissions policies, its commitment to lowering these emissions, and the high energy efficiency ratings of its products. You can download the full report on each company to dig into the ratings further. Another great option is DoneGood6, an app and Chrome extension that integrates with your preferred online shopping sites and helps you find more sustainable products. If there’s an ethical, sustainable company on the list that offers what you need, you’ll be alerted. It will also let you know if there are applicable discounts. It’s a great way to find new, sustainable brands.
5. Double Check Purchases Right at the Store: Ethical Barcode
Many companies will claim high standards of sustainability, but how can you know for sure before making a purchase?
Ethical Barcode7 is an app with a simple design and UI that has one main goal: to find out where your money is going when you purchase everyday items. It’s easy to use when you’re out shopping for whatever you need: just scan the barcode and see user ratings, news and certifications on the company. Ethical Barcode pulls its data from thousands of sources so that you can make the conscious choice when you shop. It doesn’t always find the really niche products, but it still helps to make informed purchasing decisions.
Note: at publication time, Ethical Barcode did not have a US-based iOS app.
These are just a few ways you can use technology to improve your environmental impact. New innovations are making it easier to adjust your daily actions and routines for the betterment of the planet. This Earth Day, consider testing one or more of these apps and sharing your progress.