January is always an opportune time to break with bad habits, and among our worst are the little things we do to hurt the environment. These aren’t the major infractions, like leaving your Colorado running or using your A/C all day, but small mistakes likes forgetting to recycle or buying cosmetics with unsustainable ingredients.
Enter technology to make 2015 the guilt-free year 2014 wasn’t. Answering the demand for more conscious yet worthwhile experiences, a number of free apps — all available on both iOS and Android — have cropped up to help you make smarter decisions.
Sift (formerly Re-App) is a mobile app allowing NYC visitors to measure and track how green they are, and turn garbage into money, literally. Users are asked to record the green actions they take every day, cataloging the items they compost, recycle or reuse. When they reach certain levels within the app, the user is rewarded, for example, with free songs downloads and shopping coupons. The new version launches later this month.
2. Food Tripping
New Yorkers and visitors wanting to eat more consciously should download Food Tripping, created to help people find healthier, more sustainable dining options. The tool uses GPS location to see exactly where you are, creating a map of curative and conscious venues nearby, from farmers’ markets to juice stores to artisan bakeries and beyond. You can narrow your search based on location, name, popularity, and category. As it’s a community platform, you can add your own recommendations and reviews to the database.
3. Think Dirty
Despite the name, Think Dirty helps NYC visitors shop cleaner, avoiding personal care items with potentially harmful ingredients. When shopping, scan the barcode of a product and the app presents you with full information, from ingredients to more sustainable alternatives. Think Dirty’s creator, Lily Tse, was inspired when watching Annie Leonards of “Story of Cosmetics,” where she learned about hidden product ingredients, like hormone disruptor chemicals that have been possibly linked to breast cancer. Not only that, but in the U.S. the word “natural” has no legal definition, while domestic cosmetic products contain thousands of possibly harmful chemicals banned in Europe and Canada. Think Dirty helps consumers to make informed decisions without being fooled by misleading packaging and marketing terms.
While at first glance this may not seen like a conscious travel app — it helps people locate and pay for parking quickly and cheaply — it reduces carbon emissions for those exploring NYC by car. According to Donald Shoup, Distinguished Professor of Urban Planning at UCLA, “Thirty percent of the cars in congested downtown traffic were cruising for parking.” The app helps these people find a direct parking destination without mindlessly wasting gas and emissions while searching. A GPS-enabled map pops up in your destination location, showing all of the parking garages as easy-to-read bubbles with pricing information. Choose the cheapest one, reserve and go.
Do you workout? Get the double benefit of staying in shape while also earning money for a good cause with Charity Miles. Walkers, runners and bikers earn between $0.10-$0.25 per mile by simply turning on the app when moving, as Charity Miles records your distance and donates the money — provided by sponsors like Timex Sports, Humana and Lifeway Foods — to your specified charity. It’s possibly the simplest way to give back during your time in NYC.
You can also donate to charity when you make purchases around NYC; not just any charity, but ones you truly believe in. Buycott was born out of a desire for a more united and educated consumer base, allowing users to create and join campaigns with causes they feel passionate about. When shopping in the Big Apple, scan the barcode of a product to have the app trace its origins and provide information on the company that made it, to see if there is any reason why you may not morally want to buy it. With this app, your NYC trip can help fund forward-thinking companies.
GoodGuide was founded by Dara O’Rourke, a professor of environmental and labor policy at the University of California at Berkeley, who wanted to make shopping transparent and allow people to make more ethical, healthier choices. To combat the issues of unavailable, complex or biased product information, GoodGuide allows New Yorkers to scan a product barcode or search their database to be presented with simple, scientifically based ratings that help them vote with their dollars and shop their personal values.
This story was originally published on Drive the District
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