This year, I finally entered the modern era with the purchase of a smartphone. When searching for applications that could take advantage of the amazing computing power of this little machine, I was overwhelmed with choices. There are programs that run the gamut from fun to functional, and I was doing my level best not to buy anything that would not keep me too glued to my phone and out of the real world. Being environmentally and socially conscious, I was pleasantly surprised to see a growing number of applications that not only could keep me informed of my surroundings, but may even help to improve how I care for the earth, make smart purchases, and support my community.
Seafood Watch- Concerned about the health of the oceans, but still long for a fish dinner? The Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, a digital version of their popular laminated card, lets you know which fish are safe to eat, most sustainable, and which to avoid. The latest version also allows diners to share their favorite restaurants and markets that provide conscious ocean fare. Sushi guides even give the correct Japanese term for what you order to clear up any cross-cultural confusion. Best yet, it is free to download for both iPhone and Android.
GoodGuide- Making purchases with the well-being and safety of both your body and the planet in mind can be challenging when staring at the thousands of choices lining the shelves of your local supermarket or drugstore. Enter GoodGuide, an application that allows you to search over 50,000 toys, personal care, and household products and rates them according to health, environment, and social responsibility. GoodGuide will let you personalize your app, scan barcodes, and is free to download.
greenMeter- Turn your phone into a vehicle efficiency device with greenMeter, which can help calculate your car’s fuel and power usage, and evaluates your driving habits in order to make the most of your gas money. Results are displayed in real time, and the software asserts that it will pay for itself in savings within 1-2 trips to the gas station. Available for about $6, it might be worth a try if you are looking to change your driving habits and stay informed as to when you car needs a tuneup.
Skeptical Science- Arguing with a climate change skeptic, but too flustered to answer in a succinct manner? Need some help with remembering numbers? Want a good chart or peer-reviewed paper to back up your claim? John Cook’s Skeptical Science iPhone App could help you convert a non-believer using cold, hard data. It also provides responses to the top 10 most used denial phrases. Climate nerds may also enjoy the Global Warming Prediction app that uses land, sea and air temperatures to create aggregate models and forecast the weather.
Sky Map- Looking at the night sky, it could be a bit of a challenge for those of us modern hominids who have lost much of the knowledge of our forebears. Luckily, Sky Map uses GPS, compass, and accelerometer data to take a picture of the stars, and tell you the name of the constellation in question. Moving your phone against the sky, the screen registers a representation of the cosmos where you can search for astronomical curiosities, save searches, turn layers on and off, and track the movement of heavenly bodies. Free for Android users.