Going green takes a lot of organization and discipline. It's harder to remember to use the last of that broccoli before it goes bad — and to compost the scraps — than to just chuck it in the trash once it's rotten. And buying clothes secondhand is great and all, but how do you find shops that have clothes you'd actually wear?
Technology can be a super helpful tool in these and other areas important for a sustainable lifestyle. If you're looking to start a new, greener future, or if you're already deep in the game but just want to make things a bit easier, here's a list of apps that might be useful.
Warmd is a free app that helps you calculate your carbon footprint. It asks for information like how many people live in your household, your energy and electricity bills, your mode of transportation, and the types of food you eat. Then, the app will give an estimate of the amount (in tons) of CO2 you produce each year. Alongside the estimate, Warmd displays a graph and a few suggestions on how to reduce your carbon footprint even further, which can be helpful if you're not happy with the amount of CO2 you're creating.
2. From Seed to Spoon Gardening
Starting a garden is kind of a "thing" at the moment, as everyone is stuck at home looking for stuff to do. But not all home gardens are good: Some plants aren't suitable for certain areas (and require more energy or water to raise), and fertilizer and pesticides can contaminate local water sources.
Apps like From Seed to Spoon's Gardening Guide are helpful for budding home gardeners because they can provide helpful information about how to grow plants and veggies, how to get rid of bugs without chemicals, and which plants can grow and support each other — also known as companion planting. These guides can get rid of the need for fertilizer and pesticides, making your garden more sustainable for the natural environment around your home.
If you're prone to throwing out expired food that was buried in the back of your fridge, then you might want to look into a food tracking app like CozZo. This iOS-only app will track the expiration dates of all the food you have in your fridge, freezer, and pantry to notify you when something's about to go bad. It's a bit of a pain to manually enter each item in your kitchen, especially if you have a lot, but it's a handy way to keep inventory and prevent any moldy surprises.
Excessive amounts of food waste can create greenhouse gases as they sit on a landfill to biodegrade. It's also a waste of all the energy, water, transportation, and processing used to produce the food.
According to the World Resources Institute, "if food loss and waste were its own country, it would be the world’s third-largest emitter [of carbon emissions] — surpassed only by China and the United States."
Food waste and impulsive purchases can greatly contribute to global carbon emissions, so the founders of Olio decided to fight against the waste by using the sharing economy model. Users can use Olio to set up a network in their neighborhood that will allow households and local small businesses to share or trade extra food and items. All you need to do is post the item you don't want and wait for someone to contact you to pick it up.
Olio has added instructions to make your transactions contact-free during the pandemic, so this app is still a viable way to get rid of all that extra zucchini you don't need.
Are you interested in composting your veggie scraps, but don't have room for a compost at your home? You're in luck: ShareWaste is a website/app that can help you hook up with someone who has a compost and is looking for materials for it. It might sound weird to hand someone a bag of veggie skins and stems, but these scraps can help keep crops and chicken farms healthy.
The textile industry is one of the most polluting industries in the world, according to a Nature report. It produces 1.2 billion tons of CO2 per year to produce clothing — a number that could continue to get worse as more synthetic materials, made from fossil fuels, are used. Recycling options for clothing are limited, and trends like 'fast fashion' have only exacerbated the problem by encouraging shoppers to buy and dump their clothes in a short period of time.
The best way to fight against this type of wasteful shopping is through secondhand shops. Checking out apps from online thrift stores like threadUP is one way to make sure clothes continue to be worn and reused to the very end of their lifecycles. threadUP is also very focused on sustainability, offering tips and ways to repurpose unwanted fabrics.
Going paperless for your bills can make you feel like a winner, but the massive amount of junk mail you receive in the mailbox can quickly sour the feeling. That's where PaperKarma steps in. Available for iOS and Android, this app makes it easy to unsubscribe from these paper mailing lists and end the paper waste invading your mailbox. All you need to do is take a picture of the mail logo, pick your address from their list, and hit unsubscribe. It's quick and easy, but it charges a monthly fee for unlimited services, so PaperKarma might be best for someone who is completely drowning under an uncontrollable amount of junk mail.
Getting rid of paper waste helps the environment by reducing the amount of greenhouse gases created during the paper-making process, cutting down pollution, and saving trees. And we definitely need our trees.
8. 5 Calls: Contact Your Congress
Personal efforts to reduce our impact on the environment are really great. They do help, even if we're smaller than corporations, because our consumer demand can influence what they produce.
But government action is still necessary to enforce regulations that protect our environment. The best way to demand our representatives consider environmental issues is by making them aware of it; 5 Calls is an app that helps you do just that by quickly looking up your representatives and offering a script you can use for your call. It's very helpful for people who want to make their voices heard but aren't sure what to say.
9. Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide
The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo in Colorado created an app that can help shoppers decide which products don't support businesses that use palm oil for their products. Habitat destruction due to palm oil plantations is one of the leading causes of orangutan extinction. And while it might make sense to just boycott palm oil products, it's really daunting to do because it's pretty much everywhere.
The Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide app tries to help out with that by letting you know which product uses sustainably grown palm oil. Use your phone to scan a barcode and it'll let you know whether it's good, bad, or needs improvement. It checks for companies and products that are RSPO certified, so do note that it doesn't work well with non-U.S. packaged products.