Technology may not be a panacea to
solve the climate crisis, but green applications (eco-apps) are helping to
drive awareness and foster responsible action. There was a time when eco-apps
did little more than provide lists of so-called “green” products and services.
Now green-themed apps have turned mobile devices into portals for environmental
education and sustainable action. The smartphone market share is now
estimated to be more than 40 percent in the U.S. Around the world, smartphones
are proliferating and green apps are growing along with them. Eco-apps can help
people be more efficient and reduce their energy consumption.
There are a wide variety of energy
apps including those that monitor efficiency and consumption. Apps help with
things like recycling and other aspects of green living. Mobile and tablet based smart energy
applications help consumers to optimize their energy and water consumption,
monitor their appliances, water heater and other electronics. These apps can
also monitor and operate HVAC, grey water (from rain), automated windows
(shutters and blinds) and lighting systems. They can even provide information
about renewable energy conversion and variable price grid management.
Here is a list of some of the best
eco-apps compiled from a variety of sources including the Department of Energy, Environmental Protection Agency, Living Green Magazine, Clean Techies, Good & Green Guides, ecofriend,
Energy and the Globe
and Mail. Most of the Apps listed below are free or cost less than one
end of May 2012, the Department of Energy announced the winners of its Apps for Energy competition. Apps for
Energy challenged developers to build applications that help consumers get the
most out of their energy usage data. These apps were created using Green
Button, which is an open standard for sharing electricity data of utility
customers. The goal was to help consumers to understand and reduce their energy
The Apps for Energy competition
had a few key goals. The first was to encourage open innovation around Green
Button. With Apps for Energy, they challenged developers to leverage the
enormous potential of Green Button data by building web and mobile applications
that help homeowners and business understand their energy usage and take
action, so they can save money by saving energy. As the number of utilities
around the country offering Green Button data increases, the importance of
these applications will continue to grow. Equally important is the effort to
create a thriving, energy-focused developer community that is committed to
using technology to address real-world challenges, like reducing energy waste.
Developers submitted more than 50
web and mobile-based applications for the competition. This wide range of apps
ran the gamut from a program that helps commercial builders reduce energy
waste, to a fun, social game that lets you compare your energy-usage to that of
First Prize went to LEAFULLY for an
app that helps utility customers visualize their Green Button data as a variety
of units, such as the amount of trees needed to offset an individual’s energy
usage. This app is the brainchild of Seattle-based team, Timothy Edgar and
Nathan Jhaver. This app calculates a user’s energy use and then displays the
impact in terms of an equivalent number of trees. Users have four main views:
overview, trends, calculator and ways to save.
The Leafully app compiles historical
data for energy use (electricity, natural gas and miles driven) and provides
hourly breakdowns. Leafully even addresses sleeping energy, efficient
appliances and peak time use. The app also lets a user see the energy they are
using from their utility and the impact if they were to use only renewable
energy. Users sign into the app with their Facebook account, which encourages
energy reduction competition amongst friends.
Second prize went to MELON for an app
that evaluates the energy performance of commercial buildings to help building
owners to obtain the Energy Star benchmark. DC-based startup Melon describes
itself as the first company to utilize Green Button data to simplify the
process of obtaining an ENERGY STAR benchmark for commercial buildings. The app
uses Green Button to evaluate the energy performance of commercial buildings.
Third prize went to VELObill, which
is similar to Leafully except it focuses on the cost of energy as opposed to
the environmental impact. VELObill was created by Zerofootprint and it provides
consumers with an easy to understand comprehensive picture of their energy use
including how much they spend on gas, water and electricity, whether their bill
has gone up or down, and how they compare to peers. In addition, VELObill shows
consumers how to save money, who can provide them with help, and offers tools
to manage their plan of action.
The first student prize went to WOTZ for an app that was submitted
by a team of students at the University
of California, Irvine. This app lets users explore and play
with Green Button data. The app provides several games based on the “shape” of
your data, and provides creative comparisons to illustrate your usage.
The second student prize went to BUDGET IT YOURSELF
for an app that is a collaborative project from a team of students at Case Western
and the Cleveland Institute of Art. The app helps users track their energy
usage and make energy-savings goals.
Some other popular apps using
Green Button include Innovative Solar Demand Response, Grid Fortune and iEnergy. To see the full range of diverse, innovative and
engaging energy apps developed for the competition click here.
In the fall of 2011, the
Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced the winners of their Apps for the Environment competition. The
winner of the EPA’s “Best Overall App” was Light Bulb Finder by
Adam Borut and Andrea Nylund of Eco Hatchery. Light Bulb Finder helps users
switch from standard incandescent to energy-efficient light bulbs. With simple
inputs about bulb and fixture types, the app recommends energy-saving bulbs
with the right light quality, fit and style. Light Bulb Finder calculates
financial payback and environmental impact. Energy-saving bulbs can be
purchased via the app or at local stores.
The EPA’s runner up for Best
Overall App was Hootroot by Matthew Kling of
Brighter Planet. The Best Student App was EarthFriend by Will Fry and Ali
Hasan of Fry Development Company and Differential Apps. The Best Student App
runner up was Environmental
Justice Participatory Mapping by Robert Sabie, Jr. of Western Washington University.
The Popular Choice Award went to CG Search by Rajasekaran Bala of
Cognizant Technology Solutions.
Other eco-apps include Green Genie, which is a
complete guide to the sustainable lifestyle. Developed in collaboration with a
LEED Accredited Professional and a professional sustainability consultant, this
app offers more than just green tips, it is a massive collection of green
projects and resources. Green Genie shows users how to reduce their impact and
save money doing it.
Whirleo is the first game developed in conjunction
with global eco-charity 1% for the Planet, it lets players control colorful,
spinning tops on planet Rotopolis. As they travel, each Whirleo cleans up
pollutants released by the begrimed Guzzler. Players swipe and tilt their
touch-based smartphones and tablets to make tops whirl across land, sky and
water. They locate hidden power-ups, discover magical crystals, solve puzzles
and unlock new characters while learning about environmental issues.
Yoink is an app that reduces waste by providing
a fast and easy way to find or give things away that may otherwise by thrown in
the garbage. It employs an interactive map for local sourcing. There is no cost
for this app and all that is required is a private message through the app to
organize the pickup.
iamgreen’s Battery Saver is an app that allows users
to adjust their battery settings to cut out unnecessary energy draining
settings such as bright screens and unneeded Wi-Fi. It also includes an energy
quiz, offers tips on saving energy and plants a tree with each purchase.
A wide range of apps are available
that help people to reduce energy usage in the home. Such apps can remotely
turn off appliances that use energy when they are not in use but remain plugged
in. Research has shown that homeowners who are able to check how much
electricity they are using in real time save an average of more than 10 percent
almost immediately by turning off unnecessary lights and appliances.
Power Center is a power saving device that helps users to manage
the energy use of home appliances, eliminate stand-by power, and save
electricity. It provides real–time feedback which enables users to follow the
energy consumption of each individual electrical device. It can
automatically turn off appliances when not in use.
Meter Readings is an app for recording readings from
electricity, gas and water meters. Based on manually entered data, it displays
graphs and tables of weekly and monthly costs and year-to-year comparisons,
predicts your next bill and helps check bill accuracy. The app can handle
Control4 is a home energy app that allows users to
control everything from security, lighting, and temperature to music and video
for homes with the Control4 system.
app is an innovative Solar Electric Home Energy Management System that lets you
monitor energy produced from SunPower-branded solar systems in real time.
SunPower® Monitoring provides on-the-go access to the information to help save
on energy expenses. Homes with the SunPowersolar system connected to SunPower
Monitoring can monitor the energy produced by this solar system in real-time,
wherever you are.
The Wiser Home Control app
allows anyone who owns a Wiser Home Control energy management system to control
everything from lighting, security, climate and even camera monitoring can be
controlled from their smartphone.
Kill-O-Watts is an app lets users calculate
energy use and predict bills. Users must input power consumption data for
individual devices (this information is usually supplied with new appliances,
computers, etc.) or pick typical devices from a database that comes with the
app. Then specify how many hours a day each is used and utility rates.
Kill-O-Watts can then tell you every device’s monthly usage and cost.
Ecobee sells smart thermostats that have an app that allows users
to adjust the thermostat remotely.
Watts Plus is an app that calculates approximately
how much an appliance costs to run.
iGo Vampire Power
you calculate how much electricity you may be wasting in each room of your
Diary is an app
that helps you track your weekly water consumption by tracking what you use for
drinking, cooking, washing and more, so you can reduce your use and save money.
There is also an app to help
people with their recycling. An app called My Recycle List is “a grocery list
for recyclers” and aims to take “the pain out of recycling by making it
straight forward to find recyclers with the least amount of trips.”
There is also an entire range of
apps designed to encourage more efficient driving. Eco-apps even make it easier
to make informed decisions about the purchase or lease of the most energy
efficient vehicles. E-Cars Pocket Guide allows users can compare
different cars on important elements such as electric driving range and battery
capacity. These apps can even tell you how much it costs to drive an electric
vehicle compared to a car with an internal combustion engine.
An app called greenMeter can be
used the same way you would use a GPS. The app’s sensors record your speed and
changes in acceleration tell you if you are driving efficiently. Following this
app reduces speeding, rapid acceleration and braking, which can reduce gas
mileage by one-third.
The GasHog app can
facilitate your car’s overall fuel efficiency by offering a plethora of
calculative features that can add up to your car’s overall fuel efficiency. The
features include calculations (all in international standards) of the odometer
reading, amount of fuel added, and total cost to generate the fuel economy of
the tank. It also displays important tips on reducing the fuel consumption of
The Carticipate app is for ride sharing. All users need to
do is input the data of their destination. This saves energy and makes driving
The Good & Green Guides are sustainable travel guides that show
inhabitants and tourists how to enjoy a city while taking care of the
environment. The new sustainable travel guide has over 4200 rated sustainable
points of interests. This first of its kind app responds to growing consumer
demand for finding credible sustainable options. The criteria for what is
included in a Good & Green Guide are strict, objective and transparent.
Each point of interest is thoroughly researched and reviewed by local
volunteers and students, then rated using the Good & Green Star System for
three categories of sustainability – Good, Green and/or Great. The guides offer
points of interest including fair trade shops, organic markets, yoga studios,
aid organizations, vegetarian restaurants, eco-fashion shops, natural cosmetic
shops, green hotels, and more. 23 different categories are organized into five
easy to navigate chapters.
Fresh app integrates a dashboard, which shows locally available
fruits and vegetables. You can search for seasonal natural delicacies and
expand your search by radius distance. Moreover, the app also displays a
calendar with yearly availability of fruits and vegetables with their growth
relation to specified locations and their cultivation attributes.
app is designed for both the gourmets and the gourmands.Locavore gives you a
list of seasonal produce in a chronological week by week fashion. It also shows
you locally available food commodities in farmer’s markets and restaurants,
along with the foods-related government and NGO data (for each state). The
informative scope is enhanced by Wikipedia articles and a myriad of recipes.
The GoodGuide app allows
users to select the best of eco-friendly products.This app allows you to select
the best of eco-friendly products with a detailed built-in rating system.
GoodGuide is the world’s largest source of information about the health, social
and environmental impacts of products and companies. A team of chemists,
toxicologists, nutritionists, sociologists, and environmental lifecycle analysis
experts rated over 150,000 consumer products. Barcode scanning reveals how a
product scores on a scale of 0-10, and suggests better alternatives.
3rdWhale app is for green shoppers. It contains
over 20,000 green businesses across 30 major cities in United States and Canada. Businesses included are
vetted according to stringent selection criteria involving third party
certifications and accreditations.
The Green Boot
is an app that helps to provide funding for public lands and nature
organizations. The user starts the app while running, hiking or walking in the
wilderness or even on the treadmill. The app records the steps as a pedometer.
Once finished, the user submits his or her steps and chooses the program that
should benefit from the donation. As Green Boot tells it, “There are no actual
funds given by the user. The funds are donated from the proceeds from the ad
stream that is running while the user is signed in to the program. Therefore,
the more users using the app, the more possible donations there are for
organizations that really need it.”
The National Parks Conservation
Association app provides a complete view of park wildlife, as well as a
comprehensive ecosystem review of 50 national parks.
chemical sniffing app has the ability to detect dangerous gaseous components. Developed
by NASA, this app has a chemical sensor that can be connected to an iPhone to
identify and reveal very small traces of chemicals like methane, ammonia, and
This is only a tiny fraction of
the plethora of eco-apps that are helping to turn handheld devices into mobile
green machines. Some of these eco-apps have been around for years while others
are new. The next generation of eco-apps will be even more effective at putting
the power of technology to work for the environment.