App

Eat less meat, buy from ethical businesses, and track your eco habits

So there you are, sitting with your shiny new slab of glass and metal. You’re pawing at its screen, surfing the internet, finding junk to buy, downing a bottle of water, and ordering take-out, when it suddenly hits you: you’re basically destroying the planet single-handedly.

Fortunately, your phone can help. Sure, you’re not going to become the world’s greenest eco-warrior overnight, but there are apps that can adjust your habits, ensuring that you take better care of the planet – and, in doing so, better care of yourself.

Food for thought

Although we shouldn’t blame cows alone for global warming – human fossil fuel consumption is a much bigger contributor than agriculture and people eating meat – humanity cutting down on meat consumption en masse would be broadly beneficial. We’d see less deforestation for farming, and there’d also be less methane emitted by cows, if there were fewer of them.

We’re not suggesting you suddenly flip to being vegan overnight, but if your diet is balanced quite heavily towards ‘carnivore’, perhaps take a look at apps that could help you shift towards a greater number of plant-oriented meals. Kitchen Stories (free) and Tasty (free) are excellent apps for cooking new things, with, respectively, easy to follow photo and video guides. Both offer the means to filter the list of recipes you’re provided, so you can hone in purely on dishes you’re not yet regularly cooking.

Green Kitchen

If you want more of a razor-sharp focus, Green Kitchen ($4/£4) is a good bet. Instead of attempting to fill its virtual pages with every suitable recipe under the sun, this one’s more like a traditional cookbook, and offers just over 150 handpicked ideas, covering main courses, snacks, and drinks. Each recipe is flagged as gluten free, raw, vegan, or whole grain as appropriate, and there are built-in timers too.

If you’re out and about, your iPhone can help you eat green as well. Vanilla Bean (free) quickly and efficiently points you at nearby restaurants that offer vegan dining. And if you don’t fancy going entirely green, options exist to adjust your selection to prioritize outlets that at least sell local and organic produce, thereby ensuring ingredients in your order have been subject to fewer air miles.

Waste not, want not

Another area of food production that warrants keeping an eye on is food waste. Estimates vary regarding precisely how much perfectly edible food – or food that was edible but ignored for days – is thrown away on a daily basis, but it’s a lot. We’re talking many, many tons – and that’s really not OK if we’re looking to live in a more eco-friendly and sustainable future.

In Europe, Too Good To Go (free) has worked with a large number of food outlets, which alert you by way of a big green dot on a map when they will have cheap food for sale. Bakeries will offload the day’s produce before it goes stale; and restaurants will at the end of a meal shift provide so-called ‘magic bags’ – a range of tasty treats at a knock-down price far below what you’d normally pay. So you can do your bit for the environment and get a bargain.

Too Good To Go

Too Good To Go perhaps works best in bigger cities – and isn’t yet in the USA at all (although the organization is looking to expand). Still, that doesn’t mean your iPhone can’t help you cut down on food waste, even in the USA. NoWaste (free + IAP) is a useful app for logging food you’ve got at home, and tracking expiration dates. It requires effort on your part to punch in all the data, but makes it far less likely the mushrooms and broccoli you shoved to the back of the fridge, behind a massive carton of something or other, will actually be eaten rather than spoil and be thrown into the trash.

Of course, waste isn’t just about food, and plenty of apps are creating local marketplaces where you can give and find things for free. Olio (free) is a nicely designed example, albeit one that’s often not heavily populated with tons of offers; oddly, Facebook (free) Marketplace might be a better option for most – see if you have a local ‘freebay’ group you can join, submit to and collect from. Also, if you fancy getting your local neighborhood involved, why not set up a WhatsApp (free) group specifically for offloading items to people who might want or need them?

Habit forming

Behaviors need changing if new approaches are going to be infused into your routine. You might want to look at shopping habits – try Good On You (free) and CoGo (free) for initial stabs at aligning purchases with personal values – but also, you may find the need to track habits to fully get on board with greener, ethical living.

Popular iPhone habit trackers like Streaks ($5/£5) work well for this, and are a good bet if you’re already using one – just add an specific eco-friendly task (like carrying reusable bags, avoiding plastic water bottles, or eating greener) until it’s a part of your daily routine, and then move on to the next thing. However, if you want something specifically for tracking green habits, there are options.

Eevie

Eco-Tracker ($1/£1) is a grid-like habit-former that gives you an at-a-glance overview of how you’re doing with green habits on any given day, and quick access to trends over the week, month, and year. Eevie (free) doubles down on design and clarity, with big, bold interface elements, and useful nuggets of information about how changes to your routine can have a positive impact. And if you prefer a more social component to habit tracking, there’s Oroeco (free), which encourages you to become a ‘climate hero’ through lowering your impact, and compares how you’re doing with friends and family.

No single action by any individual is going to save the world from climate change and make it a better place. Much of the world’s problems are down to government decisions and large corporations. But you as an individual do have power – to change their own habits, and through en masse trends shift the thinking of those in charge. With the apps outlined in this feature, your iPhone can be a key component of such change.