13 Apps To Help You Go Green

by JR Thorpe

Remembering to live green can go further than setting a reminder to put out the recycling, buying organic, and saving all your peelings for compost. Apps for environmentalists, it turns out, are actually a new frontier for green lifestyle, both for sustainable crusaders with all their local organic food stalls memorized, and those of us who've just woken up to the whole living-green thing. In case revamping your life to get a bit more eco-friendly seems overwhelming and difficult, no worries: there's an app for that. And, luckily, it's probably served without any sanctimony.

The diversity of green apps out there reflects the fact that there are many ways in which to eco-fy your daily grind, from commuting choices to shopping decisions to energy consumption. A lot of these suckers just focus on tracking your actions and suggesting how to make them a little greener — like taking public transport, or switching off the clothes dryer. Others are collections of ideas for improvement, or data about different places and companies.

They're resources, not life-changers: we're not yet at the stage where an app can sort the trash, put sustainably caught fillets of fish on the table, and convince Liz the stubborn intern to join the carpool. But that day may be coming. Until then, here are 13 apps to push you into Captain Planet mode.

1. GoodGuide (Free)

The GoodGuide is a guide to environmental shopping, but it's not meant to make you run screaming just because you see "chemical" in the ingredients list. It's more nuanced; letting you scan a product's barcode or search it, then giving rankings based on health, environment, and societal impact. It can even show up more info on the parent company's environmental policies. It's only available in the U.S., for now.

2. Commute Greener (Free)

Commute Greener does what its name suggests, giving you tailored suggestions for your daily commute to make it as low-emission as possible — from the most efficient map routes to ride-sharing suggestions in your area. It's also meant to make you feel mildly competitive, accumulating badges and rewards as you become as green as possible. It's the commuting Olympics.

3. Rippl (Free)

Rippl has the potential to be incredibly annoying. It's a curated, personalized reminder app to give you tips and tricks on greening your lifestyle, and could easily sound like your nagging (very eco-conscious) mother. That it doesn't, and gently encourages you to incorporate small changes into your routine every day instead, actually makes it pretty useful.

4. iRecycle (Free)

This is pretty basic. If you have absolutely no idea where your local recycling facility is, download iRecycle and it'll find it for you. You can customize your search based on what you're trying to recycle — including old VCR tapes! — and it'll find the nearest place for you, with all their contact information and restrictions.

5. Carma Carpooling (Free)

Carma is a carpooling app for various parts of the U.S. that helps you find people to carpool with and makes the whole begging-for-gas-money thing redundant: every member of the pool pays 20 cents per mile using credit on their app accounts, and most of that goes to the driver. You can find strangers along your route or use it to coordinate trips with friends.

6. Leafully (Free)

Leafully isn't designed to be complicated: it's an energy use app that alerts you when your energy consumption is going overboard and needs to be pulled back. It can only be used on four energy utility companies at the moment, but if you're one of their members you can use it to monitor your consumption — and, cutely, it measures your energy in trees.

7. Plugshare (Free)

Exclusively for those who've taken the next step and bought an electric car, Plugshare is an app-map: it plots out every electric charging station across the U.S.. Obviously, this is a massive bonus when you can't just pull into any station you like to charge — though hopefully, that'll be the case in the future.

8. Climate Counts (Free)

Climate Counts is an activism and advocacy app. Its database contains most of the world's big companies, and it ranks them according to their work on climate change. Are they addressing it, ignoring it, releasing details on how green their production is, blocking environmental laws in their country? Climate Counts has the answers — the implication being that, if a company scores low, you should vote with your feet, and your money.

9. PaperKarma (Free ... Initially)

If you're being assaulted by junk mail that'll just have to be recycled, PaperKarma is on the case. It asks users to take photos of offending mail, including your name, address, and the sender's details — and then it does the wrangling on your behalf to get them to stop it. It's hardly automatic, and there are charges involved, but it does seem to have a high success rate.

10. greenMeter ($5.99)

Yep, you have to pay for this one — but it's worth it. The app greenMeter is an energy consumption tracker for your car, and it's designed to detect and change your driving habits in order to conserve fuel. If you happen to be a fuel hog and have no idea why, calibrate the app to your driving and see what it says.

11. Pollution (Free)

Pollution is more than an air quality measuring app (though its air quality ratings cover much of the U.S. and many international destinations). It also identifies potential sources of pollutants in air, water, and soil, from factories to power plants — which is not going to give you much peace of mind, I'm afraid.

12. Joulebug (Free)

Joulebug takes the whole making-life-sustainable thing and shapes it into a game. Every suggestion about an eco-friendly habit or practice that becomes a reality is a way to earn Pins, Trophies, Badges, and other assorted goodies. You can compete with people in your neighborhood for greener-than-thou status — but you've got to tell the app whenever you take its advice.

13. Green Travel Choice ($1.99)

Like Commute Greener, this is an app that tries to minimize the environmental impact of your trips — but GTC, one of Commute Greener's partners, is focused on international tourism. If you want to jump on a jet plane, this is the app to tap to make sure your worldwide travel is as green as possible. Plus, they're linking up with ecotourism businesses to guarantee your holiday's sustainable, too.

Images: Charlotte/Flickr; Green Travel Choice, JouleBug, Pollution, greenMeter, PaperKarma, Climate Counts, Plugshare, Leafully, Carma, iRecycle, Rippl, Commute Greener, GoodGuide