The food we eat, the clothes we wear, the way we travel: it all has an impact on the world around us. And when it comes to making informed decisions, unravelling facts from fiction is no easy task. Luckily, a growing number of smartphone apps are at hand to help – informing and motivating us to do what we can to lead more sustainable lives.
How do the products we use each day impact health and environment? Ever checked the ingredients in an average beauty product? Very daunting, unless you have a degree in chemistry. But it needn’t be. Think Dirty is a free app that provides information on over 350,000 beauty and personal care products. Just scan the product barcode using your smartphone, and if the product is in the database, you can see if it contains known carcinogens or allergens, all rated on a scale of 1-10, so you’ll immediately know the level of risk. The products’ ingredients are also listed in full, along with any warnings from regulatory agencies. It’s available for iOS and Android.
Our appetite for fish is big, and two thirds of the world’s fish stocks are either exhausted or have been overfished. Whether at a restaurant or the fish monger, how can you do your bit to minimise any further harm? Easy! The Good Fish Guide app tells you which species of fish are sustainably farmed and which should be avoided. A traffic-light system (green, yellow and red) rates fish according to their sustainability level. A green (=EAT), yellow (=THINK) or red (=AVOID) dot next to each species’ name makes the rating immediately obvious. A couple of extra clicks connect you to their website, where information is provided on fisheries and production methods, and advice is given on more sustainable alternatives. Available for free for iOS and Android from their website.
Last in this section, the HawkSpex app is currently only available for business clients and we are still waiting for the consumer version – but its MO is pretty intriguing. Scan products with your smartphone (no special technology, packaging or labels required) and the app will tell you exactly what’s inside your food, face cream or paint – just to mention a few of the products it will be able to analyse. Magic or what? By turning your smartphone camera into a light scanner, it’s able to analyse the different elements within the object – with each substance reflecting light in a different way. Consumers will therefore have the power to check whether a product really is what it says on the label, e.g. verifying there are no pesticide traces on supposedly organic produce, or hmmm, is that really 100% Arabica coffee I smell?
EVERYDAY GREEN HABITS
Joulebug gives you practical everyday tips and ideas on how to reduce your carbon footprint (and usually save money in the process) – from remembering to take your reusable cup to the coffee shop, to carpooling and buying secondhand clothing. The whole thing is set up like a game, and every “green” decision you make sees you win points. There’s a big social aspect too, with users encouraged to pit themselves against friends and family, share experiences with them and stay motivated to keep up sustainable habits. It’s available for iOS and Android.
ResQ Club is a free app for busy foodies (or lazy ones like me), those on a budget, and anyone who wants to help stop perfectly edible and delicious food going to waste. The app allows you to find local restaurants, cafes, bakeries who have freshly prepared food left unsold, and buy it online at a discounted price (50 per cent discount on regular prices) before collecting it. The app is currently operating in Finland, Germany, Sweden, and the Netherlands. Available here for iOS and Android.
Too Good To Go is another app which works in much the same way – allowing users access to restaurant fare at discounted prices, and saving them from landfill. It covers several European countries – France, Germany, the UK, Denmark, Switzerland and Norway – and Australia too. It’s available for iOS and Android.
You like the idea of an electric car, or you may even have one already, but you’re not impressed with charging stations’ accessibility? The PlugSurfing app is designed to simplify EV users’ access to charging stations, regardless of provider or billing system. Through one single account with PlugSurfing, you get instant access to 35,000 charging stations in 15 countries throughout Europe. In Berlin alone, some 260 charging stations are available for use. The app allows you to see what billing system is used at each charging station, whether the right plug is available, and if the station is currently in use by another driver. There may still not be enough charging stations for EVs overall, but this free app sure makes it easy to access those that are in place. To download click here.
Are you 16 or over, and a cycling fan? This free app is almost ready for launch, and will let you earn some useful extra cash while you do what you love: pedal. Bikuh connects cyclists with advertisers, who will pay 20 cent/km, when you ride around with their advertising disks installed on one of your wheels. To sign up, you need to ensure you clock-up a minimum of 100 km per month riding your bike, generally within busy urban areas. The app will work out exactly the distance you covered and what you’re due, and the money is paid direct into your bank account at the end of the month. Easy peasy. Just remember to make sure it’s turned on each time you set out on your bike! Bikuh will be available Germany-wide from May 2017. In the meantime, you can register your interest here.
You’ve got a little dosh on the side, and you’re thinking of investing it, but have no idea as to how to navigate your way around stocks and portfolios? The free app Shape can help you find ethical and environmentally friendly companies, so you can be sure your hard-earned cash ends up supporting causes that you believe in. Whether it’s gender equality, human rights or environmental protection, Shape lets you search for companies that are aligned with your own personal values, and also investigate whether a company is linked to the tobacco, nuclear, alcohol or weapons industries. This app is ideal if investment is a new world for you. With lots of handy features to help you learn the ropes, you’ll soon be familiar with diversification, portfolio performance, stocks and sectors. Shape is currently only available for iOS. Download it here.
Author: Annalisa Dorigo/ Reset Editorial (April 2017)
Updated: Media Romadona (October 2018)