App Smart

For ideas on how to live greener, think mobile

Smartphones and tablets may not seem to be designed with the environment in mind, being made of complex layers of plastics, metals, and electronics and using chemical batteries. But apps may help you adopt environmentally sensible habits in your daily life.


Free on iOS

BrightNest, free on iOS, is a beautiful general guide to improving your home. One of its many categories is simply called Green.


When you sign up for your free login, you can choose to receive only green tips — from “conserve water like a pro” to ideas on performing a home energy consumption audit. Tapping on a tip brings up more detailed information that is nicely illustrated, written well, and easy to follow. Sometimes, though, a lot of tapping is needed to navigate through the menus and tips.


Free on iOS and Android

One thing you can do to make your life greener is avoid throwing recyclable items into the trash. The iRecycle app, free on both iOS and Android, can help.

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The app is simply organized. First you pick the category of item you need to recycle, like paper or batteries. The app then offers a detailed list of options — recycling particular types of paper, for example.

You can either let iRecycle use your current location or type a site into its search box, and it will list establishments nearby (in the United States only) that will take your items for recycling.


Free on iOS and Android

GoodGuide, free on iOS and Android, helps you identify environmentally sound household items to buy.


You can search for items by name or scan a product’s bar code, in which case the app will try to identify the item for you.

When you have found an item in the list, the app displays detailed information about how it is made, its environmental impact, and even data on the company that makes it.

GoodGuide has filters that allow searches for items that are not tested on animals or have other characteristics.

Though it was recently updated, it does not have information on everything.

I found some omissions, including recent devices like Apple’s iPhone 5.


Free on iOS

Installing solar panels is a way to improve your home’s green rating and possibly save money. But choosing the right kind of solar power installation can be complex. Solarchecker, free on iOS, may help with that.

The app performs some calculations based on your geographic location and where you would like to put your panels. It then reports how much power the panels could generate. If you enter some more details, it can help calculate how much money you would save.

It’s not the easiest app to use, though, and it helps to have done some research before you use it so you know what a kilowatt-hour is.

Kit Eaton writes on technology for The New York Times.
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