Human ingenuity has a lot to answer for. Cars, aeroplanes, hydraulic drills, offshore oil rigs, coal-fired power stations: every one of these polluting contraptions began as nothing more than a glint in an eye, a half-formed idea flitting across a mind.
There’s no doubt that each of these marvels of engineering has, at one time or another, been of great use to humanity. What’s equally clear, however, is that these carbon negative inventions are no longer serving our interests. Our capacity for technical innovation has transformed us into a species intent on unplugging its own life support: the same trait which had previously secured our planetary dominance is becoming our undoing. Humanity’s relationship with its own ingenuity increasingly resembles a bonfire on a frozen lake: it glowed bright for a moment, but is burning our support out from under us.
The final hope for the redemption of mankind’s spirit of innovation lies in the tech industry. The advent of smartphones has put an unprecedented abundance of information into the hands of ordinary people - and, as such, represents a means of combating the climate crisis. With this in mind, we’ve written up a list of the best environmentally-focused apps. These are examples of human inventiveness used as it was intended: for the good of both people and the planet.
There’s no denying it: smartphones can be a distraction. Forest, however, seeks to turn this problem into an ecological solution. During a period in which you wish to go phone-free, opening the app will mute notifications and make a virtual tree grow slowly on your screen. Should you bow to temptation and leave Forest, your tree will die. And whilst it may not be obvious how this links to the environment - it’s only a few pixels on a screen, after all - Forest allows its users to win in-game credits which can be used to purchase real-life donations to Trees for the Future (a company which plants trees in Africa).
If there’s two things we hate, it’s junk mail and waste. In fact, it’s tough to separate the two: unwanted promotional letters are an appalling waste of paper, and invariably end up in the bin. That’s where Paper Karma come in. Simply take a photo of the offending item, and, after a few quick clicks, the app will automatically unsubscribe you from the distribution list. It’s as easy as that.
Corporate marketing can be a deceptive thing, and, given major brands’ shared propensity to stretch the truth in their promises of sustainability, it’s tough to trust any of the environmental claims we see in adverts or on packaging. GoodGuide, however, presents a solution. They act as a kind of polygraph test for greenwashing supermarket brands; their database contains detailed information on all major products, allowing consumers to make an informed decision on what is (or isn’t) sustainable. And if you’ve chosen something which isn’t especially kind to the environment, GoodGuide automatically recommends an eco-friendly alternative.
Food waste is a major problem throughout the developed world. The UN estimates that 1.6 billion tons of food is wasted every year - the equivalent of one-third of all food produced for human consumption. Thankfully, though, NoWaste is here to help. The app allows you to track the food you have in your kitchen: after logging its expiry dates, the app will give notifications when it is about to expire, as well as calculating how much food you’re wasting based on your shopping lists and eating habits.
How many times have you skulked into a cornershop and furtively bought a plastic-enclosed drink on a hot day? None? A likely story. Thankfully, though, your most recent walk of corner-shop-shame can be your last. Refill allows you to find a place to fill up your empty containers with drinking water - and given it boasts over 190,000 refill stations, you’ll never have to choose between thirst and single-use plastic guilt again.
One of the most efficient means of shrinking your carbon footprint is to consume less meat; a veggie or vegan diet is green in more ways than one. Thankfully, HappyCow simplifies the process of culling animal products from your diet. It offers reviews and locations of vegan restaurants; a guide to healthy vegetarian food; reviews of natural food stores; recipe options, and travel guides.
Too Good To Go
Like NoWaste, Too Good To Go aims to combat food waste - only rather than focusing on the home, they target businesses. Too Good To Go partners with cafes, restaurants and supermarkets to list food which would otherwise be thrown away - unsold produce, for example, or goods nearing their expiry date - and puts it up for sale on their app at reduced prices. This allows both consumers and businesses to save money, whilst also reducing food waste. Everybody wins!
Living carbon-minimally can be complicated; it’s hard to know where to begin. Joulebug makes the process of beginning this journey a treat rather than a chore. The app sets you challenges to compete, each one helping you to reduce your carbon footprint. Completing these tasks grants you achievements, which can then be shared with friends. The introduction of this competitive element is an especially nice touch - it provides extra motivation to keep at it!
Growing your own fruit and veg can be a bit daunting, to say the least. Though it might seem you need all sorts of specialist knowledge to begin cultivating your own personal crops, iHuerting lowers the barrier for entry: it allows you to keep a record of your plants, and reminds you to water or fertilize them at opportune times. More importantly, perhaps, it gives advice on what to plant based on which fruit or veg are in season. If you’re a little hesitant to take the plunge, let iHuerting be the catalyst for your having a go!
Green Kitchen specialises in recipes for vegetarian home-cooking. The app contains 159 recipes, offering photo guides and timers to ensure that even an amateur’s meals are cooked to perfection. It’s also one of the best designed apps on the list: its graphics are sleek and well-crafted, and its interface is intuitive.