There are more than two million apps and a growing number of them have an ecological purpose. The huge and growing eco-apps market is making a significant contribution to the welfare of the planet and its inhabitants.
This post is a follow-up to a 2012 eco-apps article. When that article was published four years ago there were less than 800,000 apps. As of June 2016, there are approximately 2.2 million apps available for download from the major sellers. In 2015, global mobile app revenues amounted to $41.1 billion. Consumers are projected to more than double their spend on apps over the next four years. By 2020, the apps market is expected to be worth more than $100 billion.
Ecologically oriented apps are organized around a number of categories including air and water quality, transportation, energy, education (games), consumer information, food and visualizations and chemicals.
Most of the apps listed below are free and run on iOS and Android. The paid apps range in price from 99 cents to $4.99.
Air & Water Quality
EPA AirNow: This mobile app provides real-time air quality information that you can use to protect your health throughout the day. Just enter the zip code of your location to get the current air quality index information and air quality forecasts for ozone and pollution.
State of the Air: This air quality app shows live color-coded maps for any U.S. location and includes both ozone and particulate pollution counts. The app also provides air quality alerts, short-term forecasts, and opportunities to learn more about air quality risks. It also includes a mechanism to contact lawmakers to push for more stringent pollution regulations.
aMobileFuture’s Pollution: This app compiles information from various pollution databases around the world and then shows you which big polluters are emitting what near them. Coverage includes 1,380 cities, mostly in Europe and the U.S.
Bluesky Map: This smog-busting mobile app from the Institute of Public and Environmental Affairs (IPE) allows users to monitor air and water pollution in China. The app uses government-installed air and water monitoring systems and reports real-time emissions from sources all over the country. High pollution areas are identified with orange circles. This app encourages citizens to report high levels of pollution by emailing government officials.
Dropcountr: This app enables you to conserve water by connecting you to your water utility company via smartphone. Water companies can send customized drought and water budget messages, or notify you of leaks. You can also see how much water you use and compare these figures to others. The app will also help you to set a reasonable water budget to conserve water. You can organize their water consumption by day, week, month, or year. Dropcountr also informs you of rebates to help you save money.
Carbon Emissions Calculator for Air Travel: This easy to use app allows passengers to estimate the carbon emissions attributed to their air travel. Simply select your origin and destination airport, specify the class of travel and number of passengers. The app will display the carbon footprint and the distance traveled.
Alternative Fueling Station Locator: This app locates alternative fuel stations, including electricity, natural gas, biodiesel, e85 Ethanol, propane and hydrogen. It was developed by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Renewable Energy Laboratory (NREL) and draws on information from Clean Cities’ Alternative Fuels Data Center (AFDC). The app can find the 20 closest stations within a 30-mile radius for any alternative fuel. You can view the locations on a map or as a list containing station addresses, phone numbers and hours of operation.
Zimride: This ridesharing app uses social networks to enable real connections. Once you set up a profile you are able to book a ride in your area, or post a ride of your own. Drivers can charge for rides but Zimride does not charge for the service.
Carma Carpooling: This app helps you find nearby people to share your commute with so that you can reduce traffic, emissions, and the cost of your trip. Riders pay the driver and Carma’s website claims that carpooling with its platform is often cheaper than the bus. More than 80 percent of the fee goes to the driver, however, drivers can also give free trips by adding people to their favorites.
Waze: This traffic navigation app helps you to waste less time and reduce emissions by avoiding gridlock. Drivers share real-time traffic delays including things like accidents and traffic jams so that others can avoid them.
Roadify: This app gives you real-time data on transit info in 50 cities in the US and Canada. It tells you when the next bus or train is coming and it can even relay information explaining delays.
GasHog: This fuel efficiency app works by entering the odometer reading and amount of fuel added each time you fill the tank. The app then calculates the fuel economy of the previous tank and compares it to historical averages. The app also offers tips for improving fuel economy.
Ohmconnect: This energy app helps customers save energy, reduce emissions and earn money doing it. It’s designed for people getting energy from the grid. You earn money by powering down electric devices in your home for about 30 minutes following a notification from the app. It can interface with smart gadgets like Nest thermostats, or a Tesla Model S. The app can also remotely turn things off for you. Ohmconnect is only available in California.
Entelligo Pro: This app is intended for home solar salespeople to help them find a better deal for their customers. Entelligo Pro is a mobile sales app that lets people selling renewable energy technologies calculate the costs of solar panels and installation for a customer during their doorstep pitch. It provides graphs and other simple visual data to show the customer how much money and CO2 they can save. It can even create a digital sales proposal that the customer can sign on the spot.
Entelligo Home: This app allows a householder to do what Entelligo Pro does for themselves, even contacting a local solar provider.
Wind Farm: This locator app can find wind farms around you. There are over 12,000 wind farms on the app which shows real-time energy production data for some of them. Wind farms are color coded according to size and capacity. Other information provided includes the number and model of turbines. It also estimated electricity production per year for each wind farm and estimates the number of homes that this electricity could power.
Google’s Project Sunroof: This Google app allows you to assess your home’s solar potential. This energy app is a web application and it works by simply entering your zip code. You will get an estimate of how solar might work on your roof.
VELObill: This energy app makes it easy to read and understand your energy bills. The information provided helps consumers to reduce their energy usage and utility costs by making smart decisions about consumption. You can view your utility usage and determine if it is high or low. You can also compare these results to peers and examine ways to save. You can create an energy saving action plan and decide whether to change consumption habits or seek an infrastructure upgrade to their home.
Education & Games
One Stop Green: This mobile app provides daily green tips as well as a solar, wind, water, and lightning calculator. The app walks you through the steps required to do your own energy audit. A feature called My Green Tool Box helps you find possible savings and solar, water, and wind system requirements as it automatically determines sunny days, inches of rainfall, and wind speed at your location. The app also allows you to share your green discoveries by email, Facebook, and Twitter.
#climate: This educational app helps you to discover and share actions that you can take to combat climate change. You can build a profile and specify the topics you’re passionate about. When you log in to the app, you’ll see suggested actions personalized for you. You can choose an action to learn the intended impact and the details you’ll need to take part. Then, you can share actions on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr, and Google+ with a single tap. You can track your progress on the platform with metrics like the number of supporters you’ve recruited, the count of reactions you’ve inspired, and the number of shares you’ve caused.
Ecoviate: This app is designed to spread social sustainability via a newsfeed of environmentally friendly activities and posts on eco-friendly tips and products that help you save energy, conserve water, and in other ways reduce your impact on the environment. The app is gamified with “Eco-Points” and rewards, and you can see how you rank among your friends with a leaderboard. The Ecoviate team plants a tree for each download of the app.
Oroeco Climate Hero: This web app tracks your personal impact on climate change and you are encouraged to engage in friendly competition to reduce your impact on Facebook. The app provides 50 tips to reduce your footprint. These tips are personalized based on your location, your data and by how you can save money and reduce emissions. You can track how the choices you make (including how you spend your money) impact climate change. You can reduce your footprint with customized actions in each area of your life.
Green Wars: This educational app helps you to reduce and reuse within a game format. The central concept is to ‘earn green by going green’, so players buy products at low prices, travel, and try to sell products at a higher price. The three-step process is repeated with the options to take out loans or save money with interest each time you travel. The game ends with an estimate of the money you’ve “earned” and your credibility points, giving you a final score. Throughout the game, the app offers green tips.
GoodGuide: This app helps you find safe, healthy, green, and ethical products with product reviews based on scientific research and ratings. Products are rated on a zero to 10 scale for their health, environmental impact, and social impact. The ingredients, health impacts, and certifications contribute to the health rating. Resource use, environmental impact, and a company’s transparency contribute to the environment rating; the impact on consumers, worker safety, and effect on the community contribute to the society rating. The overall score of each of the more than 250,000 products in GoodGuide’s database is an average of these three scores. You can find ratings for food, personal care, and household products, and scan the barcodes of products in-store to retrieve information about them while you shop. You can also select the environmental issues that you care about most to see how products align with your preferences, get customized product recommendations, and create your own shopping lists. Embedded videos demonstrate ways one can green up daily life.
Ethical Barcode: This consumer app provides information about the products we purchase every day and what our purchases actually support. This app harnesses information from about 20 nonprofits to help shoppers make environmentally friendly decisions. A quick scan of a product provides a snapshot of the manufacturer, its owner, an overall grade on those companies’ ethics and the factors that comprise that grade. The percentage-based score also factors in certifications and recent news about particular companies.
Greening Your Family-Free: This green app is a practical tool for parents who want to make safe product choices for their families. There are a variety of categories ranging from food, cleaning, and personal care, as well as many subcategories that offer facts about what to avoid in manufactured products. Besides advising you on what not to buy, another helpful feature of this app is the list of environmentally friendly products that are safer options. The paid version is more extensive and provides more than 30 recipes and tips for concocting your own non-toxic cleaning products.
Toxic Baby: This app is by Penelope Jagessar-Chaffer, the creator of the film Toxic Baby. Her new app provides information to help keep our families safe and free of toxic chemicals.
ClimateCounts: This app rates leading companies based on their climate impact and sustainability efforts, and then gives consumers a chance to voice their concerns either by email or on social sites such as Facebook or Twitter. You can search for climate ratings either by company or industry.
Light Bulb Finder: This energy efficient light bulb app gives you recommendations for energy-efficient bulbs that look stylish and help you save the most money. The app allows you to view bulb images, cost, savings, and environmental impact.
Think Dirty: This consumer app tells you exactly what’s in the personal care product you’re about to buy. You scan the barcode, and it shares information about potentially harmful ingredients and gives alternatives.
Dirty Dozen: This food app is a product of The Environmental Working Group’s research and lists the 12 types of produce that contain the most pesticides (Dirty Dozen) and the 15 (Clean 15).
Fooducate: This app empowers food shoppers everywhere to make healthy, informed decisions while at the supermarket. Scan your food and the app generates a letter grade (A, B, C or D) for each product scanned, along with brief explanations and warnings about its nutrients and ingredients. The app will recommend minimally processed, real foods which are naturally rich in nutrients and antioxidants.
Locavore: This food location shopping app shows you which fruits and vegetables are in season and how long they will be in season. It uses GPS to find community supported agriculture (CSAs), farms and farmers’ markets in your area that are selling organic foods. The app can also keep a running list of comments by other Locavore users and the types of local produce they’ve eaten and where they’ve purchased them. The app has one-click access to thousands of healthy, seasonal recipes and other information that can be shared. The app not only lets you know which fruits and veggies are in season—it also lets you know how long they’ll be in season.
Farmstand: This app helps you discover locally grown food from more than 8,700 farmers markets around the world. With the app, you can find the closest market and see what’s going on at farmers markets nearby. It shows you information on each market, such as open times, directions, and photos shared by other market-goers. You can also post your own photos to share with the Farmstand community to promote your favorite farmers markets. You can also add new markets or keep the information on existing markets up to date in the app, and when searching, you can filter farmers’ markets by distance, next open time, or by which ones accept food and nutrition benefits like SNAP, EBT, and WIC. This app allows you to search for community farmers’ markets in the U.S., Canada, Australia, New Zealand and the UK, making it an excellent download for frequent travelers.
Food Community: When you’re on the road or short on time, this app allows consumers to discover local vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, locally-grown and organic restaurants. It also allows the user to connect and collaborate with a community of people who have similar dietary choices.
NRDC Eat Local: This app helps you to locate nearby farmers’ markets and CSAs. All you have to do is click on the state you’re in, and you’ll discover exactly which fruits and vegetables you can expect to find. You can also submit and edit information for your favorite farmers’ markets. It also provides seasonal recipes for the different fresh ingredients.
Local Dirt: This app is a one-stop shop for buying organic, grass-fed, heirloom or free-range foods that are delivered to you direct from your local farm.
Seafood Watch: This redesigned app makes it easier than ever to get the latest recommendations for seafood and learn more about the seafood you eat. You can also locate or share businesses that serve sustainable seafood. It features up-to-date seafood recommendations and searchable seafood, sushi and restaurants. The app allows you to sort seafood by “Best Choice,” “Good Alternative” or “Avoid” rankings. The app also highlights a list of “Super Green” seafood that’s good for you and the oceans. There are additional features like a glossary, links to seafood recipes and news, and other things of interest to all seafood lovers. It also offers access to in-depth conservation notes and reports.
Greenit!: This app helps you to visualize a green world. It helps to make the world more sustainable by taking a picture and adding green elements such as solar panels, wind turbines, trees, flowers, animals, grass, eco seals and much more. You can then save and share your new green idea with friends. You can use the app to make before and after visuals. The app also allows you to add customized font text to each picture and an endless variation of sustainable elements. A great tool for professionals like architects, designers, planners, activists, photographers and sustainable frontline workers.
NASA’s Images of Change: This app tracks the changing face of the planet as a consequence of climate change. This includes retreating glaciers, drought and other impacts from human activity. It offers a global perspective on our planet in flux including before-and-after images.
Richard Matthews is a consultant, eco-entrepreneur, green investor and author of numerous articles on sustainable positioning, eco-economics and enviro-politics. He is the owner of The Green Market Oracle, a leading sustainable business site and one of the Web’s most comprehensive resources on the business of the environment. Find The Green Market on Facebook and follow The Green Market’s twitter feed.
Image credit: Ecobox, courtesy vimeo