Many people I encounter, including myself, are concerned about the environment and want to live a more sustainable lifestyle. However, the question of how to do so in a society or community where not every member shares your concern can be somewhat bewildering.
As Saint Augustine reminds us:
“You say, the times are troublesome, the times are burdensome, the times are miserable. Live rightly and you will change the times.”Saint Augustine (Sermon 311, 8)
The change I hope to see around me begins with me. It begins as I make the changes I can while also sharing what I learn with others in the process.
Yet where do I start?
I have found the website Pathways to Sustainable Living (created by Villanova University) to be a very helpful site to begin the process of education, reflection, and action around the issue of the environmental crisis. I highly recommend checking it out, especially if you are curious about your impact by how you live and consumer power, travel, eat, and make purchases.
Yet there are five mobile apps I have recently discovered that have been useful as I have begun my own journey of reflecting more deeply on 1) the impact I have on the environment; 2) ways that I can make small changes that will lead to larger changes; and 3) ways I can influence those I live and minister with to also consider lifestyle changes (this list does not imply endorsement by the Order of Saint Augustine).
Perhaps the quickest and easiest change one can make to begin having an immediate impact. Most search engines profit off the various searches we make on the web. Unlike Google and Yahoo, Ecosia.org turns those profits into dollars that are used to plant trees. At the time of this posting, Ecosia claims to have planted almost 140,000,000 trees with the searches. You can even set it up as the default search engine that other apps/websites open for internet searches.
How does one find motivation to change unless they discover just how easy it is to begin the journey to sustainable living today? EcoCRED is an excellent app to begin exploring one’s impact on the environment, easy habits one can develop to live a more sustainable lifestyle, and the tools needed to stay motivated. The app lets you calculate your daily carbon footprint and identify and commit to new habits that help reduce your footprint, such as ditching the use of plastic straws or switching to plant-based milk. Further, to help you remain motivated, the app invites you to set a goal of daily carbon reduction and “close rings” as you successfully adopt the habits you identify during the setup of the app.
#3: Recycle Coach
Many want to recycle where they can, but most do not understand how recycling actually works let alone what can and cannot be appropriately recycled. The fact that recycling standards and policies vary by neighborhood adds another dimension of complexity. Recycle Coach helps you identify schedules and policies specific to your hometown and learn about various aspects of recycling such as what to do with all those Christmas greeting cards and how to dispose of electronics.
#4: Green Choice
Green Choice invites us to examine the food we eat. In addition to helping one sort through which foods are least impactful on the environment, it also helps one evaluate the food they eat from the perspective of animal welfare, human rights, nutrition, and food safety. Changing just one brand in your weekly shopping list based on the search results within the app can enable you to begin making a small but substantial change today.
Similar to EcoCRED, this app enables you to calculate your footprint, identify new lifestyle habits, and provides tools to help you stay motivated. What is neat about this app is that it allows you to compare your footprint against the U.N. goal and other countries. Further, it helps you stay motivated with an optional integration with your phone’s GPS system and Health data to track your car trips, flights, and to earn points while choosing more sustainable options (the app also provides an option for manual tracking to estimate your progress in reducing your footprint).