Grist’s guide to green iPhone apps
Wondering what brand of toothpaste is the most eco-friendly? There’s an app for that.
Need to know which species of fish on the menu were caught sustainably? There’s an app for that.
Long to plant a tree with every swish of your PhoneSaber? There’s not an app for that … yet. But check out the apps that plant trees — digital and otherwise — that are already available.
Contrary to the rest of the going-green retail world, iTunes doesn’t have a “green” category in its app store (For better? For worse? Can’t decide….). And search for “green” in the iTunes store and the first app that appears is “BreakMeter — the Golf Green Reader.” Hmmm … that’s not quite what I meant.
Fear not this categorical inconvenience, dear Grist reader, we have examined the 50+ carbon calculators, shopping guides, mileage trackers, and more of the green iPhone world and offer some recommendations on where to best spend your App store dollars.
How our guide to green iPhone apps works:
- The categories: Shopping, Food, Transportation, Energy Monitoring, Recycling, Business and Activism, Entertainment, News, and Green Living Tips.
- The ratings: The number of “stars” is the average of all the ratings submitted for a specific app by iTunes customers.
- Did we miss one? Tell us about it in the comments section.
3rdWhale Mobile: This app uses GPS to find green restaurants, stores, and travel destinations in 100 cities in the U.S. and Canada, and displays results on a map with directions. No iPhone? 3rd whale is working on Android and Blackberry phones. Free 2 stars iTunes
Gorgeously Green Survival Guide: Want to know the dirt on your makeup before you buy it? This app suggests chemicals to avoid in makeup and sunscreens and gives tips on food and product labels. $0.99 5 stars iTunes
shopgreen: This app is more than just a shopping tool. Enter information about your green habits and the app will connect that information with promotions from local businesses. No iPhone? shopgreen is available on other mobile platforms. $0.99 2.5 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Get the GoodGuide. Reviewers praise the level of detail in the GoodGuide database as well as its ease of use.
Green Sushi Selector: Can’t remember which types of seafood is safe to order at your favorite sushi joint? Use this app, using either the English or Japanese names for fish species, to see how the fish was caught. $0.99 no rating iTunes
Seafood Guide: Recommended by AppCraver, this app lists most commercially-sold fish by region (North America only) and rates those fish for sustainability. Brought to you by the Monterey Bay Aquarium, the app may be fishy, but the info is certainly not. Free 3 stars iTunes
Whole Foods Market recipes: With this app a Whole Foods recipe is never far from your fingertips. Search by ingredient, course, or special diet, and use the locator to find your nearest Whole Foods store. FYI: It was an app store favorite in June. Free 4 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Get the Seafood Guide. The info comes from a reputable source and users appreciate being able to look up both the English and Japanese names for sushi.
Search the iTunes app store for transit apps specific to almost every major American and international city. (Seattle? Try Seattle Bus. Bangkok? Try BKK Transit. State College, Pa.? Try CATA bus. You get the idea.)
Bike Your Drive: This app doubles a basic cyclocomputer and carbon calculator. Instantly compute your average speed and elapsed time on the bike as well as how many calories you’ve burned and lbs of CO2 emissions offset. You can save multiple routes and geotag photos of landmarks. Free 3 stars iTunes
Carbon Footprint: Like other fuel economy calculators, this app records fuel economy, costs, and consumption for multiple vehicles. This one also shows how you compare to the average American. $0.99 2.5 stars iTunes
Carticipate: Carpool to work? This app facilitates carpools around the world. Enter your desired destination and departure time, and the app will find available options. No iPhone? Try the facebook app. Free 2.5 stars iTunes
FuelGauge: Designed for the mileage nerd, FuelGauge emphasizes data. Track fuel efficiency in different units (English or metric) and over time (short- and long-term trends), calculate fuel costs in different currencies, and analyze fuel consumption for different vehicles. $0.99 2.5 stars iTunes
GasHog: Like FuelGauge, GasHog is all about the data. Track fuel economy, costs, and consumption trends for different vehicles. This app also offers tips for more fuel-efficient driving. $0.99 3.5 stars iTunes
greenMeter: Like the other mileage apps, greenMeter uses the iPhone accelerometer to measure fuel consumption, efficiency, and costs. However, this app includes more information on your car’s carbon footprint and provides detailed graphs of fuel consumption. The folks at the Living Green Channel and the New York Times Green Inc. blog praised this app. $5.99 3 stars iTunes
Green Gas Saver: This app uses the iPhone’s internal accelerometer to monitor your fuel efficiency. It provides specific feedback on efficient cornering and accelerating as well as a green driving score (note to developers: the market is saturated, find something else for which to use the accelerometer). Free 2 stars iTunes
Traffic: Using Google traffic feeds, this app maps traffic congestion around your location. Avoid idling in traffic and emitting greenhouse gasses by checking the traffic sitch before you drive. $1.99 2 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Because transit apps are so specific to the transit systems (or lack thereof) of your locale, get greenMeter. Reviewers like the detailed graphs of fuel consumption statistics.
CarbonCatcher: If you can get past the background image of a polar bear hovering over the Earth and collecting CO2 molecules with a net, this app could help you offset your food-miles. Use this app to purchase carbon credits via PayPal and then count them toward your daily meals. Free 2 stars iTunes
Carbon Calc: This app finds your carbon footprint by combining the toll from your annual air and automobile travel with your home energy consumption. Use that total to compare your carbon contribution with that of the average American (23 tons!?) and the average European (Don’t ask. It will only make you feel guilty). Then, after you’ve just given yourself a world class guilt trip, the app offers the opportunity to purchase carbon offsets via PayPal. Free 3 stars iTunes
GreenYou: Calculate your carbon footprint with this app by entering your annual automobile travel, transit use, and household water and energy consumption. After you calculate the carbon damage, the app provides tips to reduce that footprint. Biggest drawback: this app overlooked air miles. $0.99 no rating iTunes
Green Calculator: This app records your carbon emissions by adding average carbon values for your lifestyle choices (i.e. how much you air condition your home) and your carbon-spewing events (i.e. a flight from New York to Seattle). There is also a free Lite version. $1.99 no rating iTunes
Global Warming Personal Calculator: The developers for this app didn’t waste money on frivolous graphics, but what the GWPC lacks in fashion it makes up in function. Using country specific estimates, it calculates individual carbon footprints based on your given automobile and air travel, household heat consumption, and electricity usage. $0.99 no rating iTunes
iCarbon: The complete opposite of the GWPC, this app is all about style. It adds home energy usage and flight miles to calculate your carbon footprint and completely overlooks automobile travel (yikes!). But it does feature a pretty rockin’ picture of coal on the landing screen. Free 2.5 stars iTunes
MeterRead: Use this app to monitor your energy consumption via your electric meter. Simply synch your meter with the app’s digital one and the app will estimate your month’s energy consumption on an ongoing basis. $2.99 3 stars iTunes
MyCarbon: Like the other carbon calculators, this app calculates tons of emitted CO2 for your gasoline, energy, and utilities consumption. Unique to this app, it shows a tracker of your month-to-month carbon emissions displayed over a soothing picture of blades of grass. Free 2.5 stars iTunes
Twavel: Carbon footprint + social network = Twavel. The app has a carbon calculator dedicated to calculating travel-related CO2 emissions and a social network so you can boast about your CO2 reductions to fellow Twavellers (don’t we have enough social networks already?). There is also a gratuitously cutesy insect icon involved that’s supposed to help teach kids about carbon. Free 2.5 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Get Carbon Calc. Though the option to purchase carbon offsets is kitschy, reviewers like the organization of the app and the opportunity to compare their footprints to those of average U.S. and E.U. citizens.
EcoFinder: Live in San Francisco? Want to recycle? This app, brought to you by a partnership of San Francisco’s Department of the Environment with web developer Haku Wale, can tell you what, where, and how to recycle in the city of San Francisco. Free 3 stars iTunes
iRecycle: Find recycling and disposal locations across the country with this app from recycling nonprofit Earth911. Search by item or location to find 100,000 municipal and private drop-off sites. Free 3.5 stars iTunes
Local Reuse: Don’t throw it away, give it away. This app connects otherwise landfill-destined reusable items with people who want the ultimate free bargain. Enter your zip code to see what’s available in your area. Free 2 stars iTunes
Plastic Recycler: This app essentially replaces the note on your fridge reminding you what plastics you can recycle, but it doesn’t do much more than that. To use this app: you find out your local recycling policies for plastics, then you enter them into the app by pressing the icons for the seven types of recyclable plastic, then you lock the app. Free 2.5 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Assuming most readers don’t live in San Francisco, get iRecycle. Reviewers like that you can search for recycling locations across the country — but check the website first to see if your city is served by the app.
Business and Activism
ACTPrinter: Mac users can avoid paper entirely with this AppCraver-recommended app. Download this app and the free Mac OS X-supported (sorry PCs) PDF printer for iPhone, and you will be forever free from extraneous bits of paper like boarding passes, recipes, movie tickets, etc. $0.99 3 stars iTunes
GreenCard: Share business cards without exchanging cardstock. This app sends a digital business card to your iPhone contacts. If you modify your card, all past recipients will automatically receive the update. Free 2 stars iTunes
A Real Tree: Plant a tree in one of 12 deforestation-plagued countries when you buy this app. Endorsed by the United Nations Environment Program, A Real Tree has partnered with Sustainable Harvest International and Trees For The Future to plant trees that contribute to local economies. $0.99 4 stars iTunes
iPhorest: Similar to A Real Tree, this app is another buy-a-digital-tree-plant-a-real-tree kind of app. Differences: The Conservation Fund does the tree-planting, which will start in wildlife habitats in the American Gulf Coast; and you can interact more with the iPhorest tree, for instance, by shaking your iPhone to simulate a storm. $4.99 2.5 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Get A Real Tree. Reviewers like that it only costs $1, but still plants a tree in a country plagued by deforestation.
ECOcal: Some people actually know when geese will begin to molt or what the best time is to spot Orion’s belt (January), but for those not in the know there is an app that keeps a schedule of natural phenomena. ECOcal is a visual calendar of Earth’s natural cycles paired with a Gregorian calendar. When do bees start to buzz around? Download the app to find out. $3.99 3.5 stars iTunes
FlyToMap: View maps of U.S. National Parks and waterways with this series of apps from cartographer FlyToMap. Park maps contain trail maps from the National Park Service as well as lakes, rivers, and points of interest. Water maps contain nautical charts and depth contours. $0.99-$2.99 see FlyToMap website to download individual apps.
GreenMachine: To all recycling nerds who still regret downcycling their original Game Boys, GreenMachine is the app for you. This game combines Tetris with sorting recyclables for all your procrastination needs. $0.99 no rating iTunes
Green Energy Now: Essentially a green trivia bank, this app features an assortment of random green facts, a news reader, a green tip generator, and a green trivia quiz — perfect preparation for green trivia night at your local watering-hole. $0.99 3 stars iTunes
Green Light: Read by the light of a glowing CFL with this flashlight app. $0.99 3 stars iTunes
Green Thumb: Like gardening? Competitive gardening? Then you probably don’t waste too much time playing games on your iPhone, but for those minutes between mulching and watering this app presents 60+ gardening-themed puzzles. $2.99 5 stars iTunes
Green Triangle: Concerned about the environmental impacts of the percussive musical instrument industry? Forgo the real triangle for the iPhone app that chimes with a mere shake of the wrist. Need a full band? Get the maracas, the bongos, and, yes, the cowbell. $0.99 3 stars iTunes
iPlanet!: For those who subscribe to social networks for the sake of being in social networks, the developers of iPhorest have created a network to turn the world green — digitally. Every user who downloads this app adds a pinprick of green light to a digital globe. Free 3 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Get Google Earth. Reviewers like that it’s exactly the same as the computer program, and beyond the voyeuristic entertainment value, you can use it to get directions and check traffic.
GreenSpot: Follow the latest environmental headlines from sources like the New York Times, the Associated Press, and Yahoo! News with this app’s topic-specific feeds. If you like its taste in news, the app also hosts a podcast. $1.99 3 stars iTunes
The Green Brief: This app is essentially a collection of green RSS feeds plus a green living tips generator. The news stream consists of headlines with summaries, but they don’t reliably include links to the full-stories. $2.99 no rating iTunes
iNewz Green: Follow topic-specific feeds that draw from multiple sources like TheDailyGreen, Planet Green, and Popular Science. Share articles with the integrated email, Twitter, and Del.icio.us features, and read articles in offline mode. $0.99 no rating iTunes
Mission Zero: This AppCraver-recommended app aggregates climate and energy news from all over the web into topic-specific feeds for your iPhone. Sites like TheDailyGreen contribute to food news and TNR’s The Vine to politics, but beware of sources like jpmorganclimatecare.com — not exactly known for its muckraking climate news. Free 2.5 stars iTunes
If you can only download one: Get the GreenSpot. Reviewers like the news sources and podcast.
Green Living Tips
Get Green: Get a tip a day with this app. The tips seem informative — the example in iTunes explains why balancing coffee grounds with dried grass in your compost will offset the nitrogen in the coffee. Plus, a seasonal filter prevents suggestions for a greener Halloween from popping up in April. $0.99 3 stars iTunes
Go Green: Every time this app opens, you will be greeted with a new green living tip. While beneficial in theory, some of the tips ring hollow — the next time you travel, consider the bus? Boring. Beware: ads appear in the app. Free 3 stars iTunes
The Green Book: A New York Times bestseller in app form, The Green Book dispenses the tips and advice of the book of the same name. The app also includes celebrity anecdotes from the likes of Cameron Diaz and Will Ferrell. $5.99 3.5 stars iTunes
Green Lemur: Get the tip of the day or look up topic-specific tips with this app. Some of the tips are unquestionably shallow — buy an organic cotton suit! — but the tips cover a lot of breadth, so there’s bound to be some helpful advice. Free 3 stars iTunes
iamgreen: More than just the average tip generator, this app offers tips, makes quizzes, and encourages users to compare their greeniness to others around the world. The app also makes lifestyle suggestions for how you should best use your iPhone and computer to minimize your carbon footprint. $1.99 no rating iTunes
If you can only download one: Get Green is for you. Reviewers like the tip-a-day function and the thoroughness of the tips’ suggestions.