One of the greatest barriers that stands between sustainability and the mainstream is convenience. Eating, buying, and living more sustainably is rarely—if ever—more convenient than, say, Amazon same-day service or single-use coffee cups. What’s more, many sustainable businesses and organizations belong to niche communities made up of people who have the time and money to educate themselves and invest in alternatives. And unfortunately, this leaves the majority of people in the dark about ways they can decrease their personal footprint.
The good news is, there are some great organizations working to meet consumers where they are—on their phones! Check out these five free apps that are putting sustainability on speakerphone. Even if you just download one of them, I promise it’ll be one of the most valuable apps on your phone.
If you’re: Looking to support more sustainable fashion & lifestyle brands:
So, how ethical are those leggings made of plastic water bottles? Is that commercial company’s sustainable clothing line actually sustainable? Good on You has made it their mission to find out. Part shopping guide, part media source, Good on You makes ethical and sustainable shopping easier than ever. In their directory, every evaluated brand is given a rating ranging from a very sad face to a very happy grin as well as a summary explaining why each brand scored where they did. The app also lets you search clothing categories, including Plus Size, Activewear, and Maternity—areas not known for having many sustainable options—and offers exclusive in-app coupons.
Although not available by app (yet), Done Good’s free browser plug-in is a lifesaver for anyone trying to make more mindful, but affordable, purchases. Say you type “Coffee tables” into your browser. Done Good’s plug-in will automatically generate a notification on the side of your screen with a list of sustainable furniture recommendations and exclusive promo codes. When searching sites like Warby Parker, Done Good will also pop up to reassure you that the brand you’re supporting is considered an ethical choice by the organization. Likewise, if you’re searching within websites that sell Trump products, you’ll get an FYI for more PC options out there.
If you’re: Looking for sustainable freebies and/or bargains:
Olio is a fantastic app dedicated to ending food waste. Ever wonder what happens to all that bread leftover at your local bakery or your favorite cafe? Well, if you’re one of the nearly 1.5 million users of Olio, the answer might just be at your fingertips. One of my favorite sustainability Youtubers, Sustainably Vegan, first tipped me off to the app. A London native, she uses Olio to take advantage of local restaurants’ and bakeries’ leftovers that would otherwise be “binned”. Used actively in about 50 countries, Olio shows you local vendors and individuals who have quality leftover food they are getting rid of for little to no cost. And if you’re not quite on board with this side of the sharing economy, you can still benefit from Olio’s quick and hard-hitting weekly newsletter, Zero Waste Weekly.
Very similar to Olio, Bunz helps prevent waste but on a more generalized scale. On the app, you can find used clothing, unopened food, and virtually anything else your heart desires. Bunz operates on a loyalty basis, meaning every time you post an item to give away or trade with someone, you earn Bunz currency or “BTZ”. You can then go on to shop using the currency you earn with other members or businesses that accept it. Every day, the app also does a BTZ drop where users can go in and earn additional Bunz for that little extra “cash”. Bunz has been particularly popular in Toronto, Ottawa, Vancouver, Montreal, L.A., Brooklyn, New York, San Francisco, and London, so if you’re in or around those areas, boot up the app and check out what’s up for grabs.
Urban horror story: It’s a hot summer day and you’re carrying around your reusable water bottle—well done—when suddenly you’re down to the last drop. Here you are, out of water and thirsty. What do you do? Buy a plastic water bottle? Hope you’ll stumble upon a park with a water fountain? With Tap, finding a public water source is only a search away. Using your location, the app identifies close-by fountains and taps where you can refill for free. And it’s not just for urbanites; even at my office deep in the Burbs, I can easily find bottle filling stations just down the street. The app is 100% user-friendly and impossible to mess up…unless, of course, you drop it in water.
If you’re: Looking for more sustainable beauty & skincare options:
Your bronzer may look fire. But have you ever thought what chemicals might be behind the glow? Think Dirty looks at the contents of everything from nail varnish to dish soap. However, unlike some of the other apps I’m highlighting, Think Dirty has kind of sworn off the whole “sustainability” label. Instead, the app has chosen to, “focus exclusively on the chemical content of the products in question.” That said, it’s not just ironic that the products with better scores tend to be the ones made and processed more sustainably…
After being evaluated, Think Dirty gives products a numerical rating of 1-10 (1 = GREAT! and 10 = RUN AWAY!) based on their composition. In every analysis, the app’s Advisory Board—made up of experts in science, medicine, and environmental standards—goes into the nitty-gritty of each ingredient and the level of risk it poses to our bodies and health. Think Dirty even has a list of verified brands, making it easier for people like us to make better choices at checkout.