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Five green smartphone apps to shrink your carbon footprint

Small choices can have a big impact on how you treat the planet. Here are some apps that will help you green up your lifestyle.

Going green -- whether you do it because you are worried about the environment or you simply want to reduce the number on your monthly electric bill -- can be as easy as making a reasonable choice. Putting a soda can into the recycling bin instead of throwing it away. Thinking through the route you drive to work. Pausing before you print a 20-page document to consider whether the electronic version will do the trick. Here are five apps to help with your green decision making.

1: GoodGuide

With GoodGuide [iTunes and Android App Store], you use a barcode-scanning feature to find out whether the products you're thinking about buying are green, safe, and healthy for your family. You can create your own personal filter to rate products according to the issues you care about. The app includes ratings for more than 120,000 products, and you can create your own personal shopping lists based on the results you receive. Free.

2: LiteFaire

LiteFaire [Android App Store] helps you estimate the cost and energy savings involved in replacing your light bulbs. You can display room-by-room estimates of replacement costs, energy saved, and the point at which your investment pays for itself. LiteFaire is available in a free version and in a Plus (no-advertising) version. If you've been thinking about changing to energy efficient lighting, this app can help give you the data you need to make the call.

3: National Green Pages

National Green Pages [iTunes and Android App Store] is a directory listing offering contact information for thousands of green businesses that have made commitments to ethical practices, socially just principles, organic farms, sustainability, and more. The listings are still somewhat limited-there were only a few places in the directory for my town-but it's a good idea that's sure to grow. Free.

4: greenMeter

greenMeter [iTunes only] keeps an eye on your course as you drive and analyzes the power efficiency and fuel usage while you're doing it. What's more, the app can help you learn how changing some of your driving habits can increase your fuel efficiency. Simply tilt the device like you're accelerating and navigating the landscape, and greenMeter displays your efficiency results in real time. There is a cost for this one -- $5.99. But the way things are in some parts of the country today, that's less than two gallons of gas.

5: iRecycle

iRecycle [iTunes and Android App Store] gives you access to recycling centers in your area and helps you find the right place to dispose of more than 240 materials. You can do a quick search by your current location or search by ZIP code, address, or city. This app is created by Earth911, a company that specializes in what it calls "product end-of-life solutions." Its recycling database has grown to more than 1 million recycling centers across the country, so you're sure to find the place you need in this free app.

Other green apps?

What are your favorite green apps and widgets for the Android and iPhone platforms? Have you found any good eco-apps for Windows Phone 7 devices? (We didn't.) Share your recommendations with other TechRepublic members.

About

Katherine Murray is a technology writer and the author of more than 60 books on a variety of topics, ranging from small business technology to green computing to blogging to Microsoft Office 2010. Her most recent books include Microsoft Office 2010 P...

2 comments
christopher.stewart
christopher.stewart

If you purchase and install a Bluetooth ODB2 adapter, it can provide a huge amount of accurate data about your vehicle. I never realized how my driving habits were wasting fuel. My coworker turned me on to this after he nearly cut his fuel usage in half by using it. He drives a Chevy 2500HD pickup.

spdragoo
spdragoo

I can see a real usefulness for National Green Pages and iRecycle. I'm a little up-in-the-air on LiteFaire and GoodGuide, maybe because I see buying new types of light bulbs & grocery shopping as an activity that I plan for first, & only perform if I'm working off of a list. If they had a desktop app available as well, that'd probably be more useful... but that's just my personal preference. greenMeter...seems kind of more like a game to me. Unless you know how much to tilt your smartphone so that its acceleration matches the acceleration of your car, and make sure that the app is aware of the vehicle you have (i.e. it doesn't confuse a 2010 Chevy Cobalt 4-cylinder with a 2002 Chevy Malibu V6), the app's results aren't going to provide even a good baseline comparison. Plus, there's the whole legal & attention issues with using your smartphone while you're driving...