Some of the best harmonies between technology and sustainability occur when everyday people are given the tools to make small changes in their daily lives. When combined, the impact of those two things has enormous potential. It’s all about the people power. These new apps do just that; they allow anyone with a smartphone to do all kinds of things, like share a car in France, report illegal trash dumping in India, or find sustainable seafood in the USA. Whether you’re traveling to any of the places below, or if you call one of them home, I highly recommend checking out these cool sustainable travel apps.
This is one of my favorites new technologies. India is an amazing country — the food, the culture, the language, the people — I could go on. One of my favorite things about India is the thirst for knowledge and drive for improvement from the locals living there. India is known as the “Start-Up Capital of the World” for good reason. There is something invigorating about seeing so many people passionate for change.
I came across Swachh Bharat at a social enterprise event in Bangalore. The app’s simplicity and the practicality of the idea impressed me. Swachh Bharat is Hindi for Clean India. Across India, there are a lot of issues with infrastructure keeping up with the growing population. In most places, they have very poor trash collection/waste management systems. This, paired with a lack of education on recycling and litter prevention, leads a lot of trash. People throw candy wrappers and soda bottles on street and dump household trash on their corner, all of which is less than pleasant. It’s also illegal. Swachh Bharat allows users to take a geo-tagged picture of pesky, constant garbage piles. The app then routes that photo to the appropriate municipal department to both it clean up, and offer better solutions (dumpsters, recycling bins, etc.).
Currently only for the USA, iRecycle hopes to expand soon. This app helps you recycle virtually anything in your area. Have you ever tossed something in the garbage only to be plagued with the thought “Hmm, can that be recycled?” Most of the time, the answer is yes, but few of us know how or where to do it. Enter: iRecycle! It turns out, you can recycle anything from paint cans to old CDs. The simple-to-use app helps you figure out where and how!
This is another app only available in the USA, however, PaperKarma has big plans. According to their website, for every 19 pieces of mail that the average person receives, only one piece is personal mail. The rest is thrown out, most unopened.
With PaperKarma, you take a picture of the address section, click submit, and the app automatically takes your name off whatever list it is on. It’s a way to unsubscribe from that junk mail arriving in your mailbox. The stats in PaperKarma’s infographic below are a great summary of the environmental problems caused by all of that junk mail.
Good Guide allows users to evaluate products as they shop — from anywhere in the world. Scan bar codes or look up a product from their database and see its rankings on the spectrums of social performance, environmental, and health. With Good Guide, you can find out anything about a product, from whether a t-shirt was ethically produced to how your tomatoes were grown.
When I travel, one of the first things I like to do is figure out what the locals like to do and where they like to do it. Locals have the best insight into their city, and following their lead has led me on some awesome and unexpected adventures. Global Yodel is an app (and site!) to connect travelers with a local’s perspective.
It’s part social media platform and part database of destinations around the world. With close to 1,000 places covered — from New York City to rural Australia and lots of places in between — Global Yodel is still growing. Have some knowledge to share? Check out their website for how to get featured.
Worldwide (mostly): website
In some parts of the world, car sharing has really taken off. Several companies have launched in recent years, and all of them connect people driving to people looking for a ride. For example, say I was in Toulouse, France and I wanted to head north to Paris. I could easily skim BlaBlaCar’s website (which was formerly CoVoiturage in France) and find people who are making the trip on my desired date. I then would pay a small fee to the driver — usually small and just enough to cover a portion of the petrol — and voilà! a cheap road trip and a new friend, just like that. Ride sharing hasn’t taken off in the USA as much as it has in other parts of the world — it’s quite common in parts of Southeast Asia, Europe and Australia. There are a few routes around major U.S. cities, but in general know that it’s a lot more common elsewhere on your travels!
Field Trip runs on in the background on your phone and alerts you when you are passing by something interesting. Whether it is a monument with an interesting history or a diner with really good milkshakes, Field Trip keeps you informed. Best yet, it works whether you’re walking or driving.
You can search by location or by category, or you can set the notifications to only alert you when you are nearing something specific (such as, hiking trails). One downside, however, is that it does use a significant portion of your phone’s battery — it’s similar to constantly using the GPS.
Do you know of other apps promoting sustainability? Let us know!
Cindy is a traveler with an insatiable urge to immerse herself in other cultures. She has been traveling around the world for the past six years, and is currently living in Cordova, Alaska for the summer. Follow her adventures at Casilocal. She is also a GV Ambassador helping map the world of social enterprises and sustainable volunteer opportunities.