There’s an App for That
Technology has created innovative solutions for simplifying how we make sustainable choices. With the accessibility of smartphones, tablets and computers, apps are helpful tools for all kinds of purposes. Yet it can be difficult to know which ones are worth your time, so we did some research. These are a couple of our favorite free apps for helping you live more sustainably:
- iRecycle. We know recycling is important, but sometimes it’s not as simple as throwing stuff into your recycling bin. This recycling app makes it easy to recycle tricky items like leftover construction materials or toxic household items. Using your zip code or address, iRecycle identifies the nearest recycling options for over 350 materials that you can select. Once you find a nearby recycling option, the app provides contact info, directions and other information to make the process as easy as possible. The simple interface makes the app especially easy to use.
- JouleBug. Many of us have good intentions, but follow-through can be difficult. The JouleBug app turns sustainable actions into a game and social competition. The app has tips for reducing your impact in categories such as habits, energy, water, waste, transportation, food and drink, shopping, office, outdoors and “advanced.” By following the tips and taking actions, you earn points and develop your personal profile, which tracks pounds of CO2 saved, waste diverted and gallons of water saved. You can follow friends to see how their activities compare or join monthly challenges to compete with other users from around the country.
Using electricity more efficiently is one of the easiest ways to reduce your carbon footprint. Plus it saves you money. Some actions, like turning off lights in an empty room, are easy. But technology can help reduce wasted energy and increase efficiency for the harder things. These “smart” devices do the worrying for you so that you don’t have to remember to unplug your TV when you’re on vacation or turn your thermostat down while you’re sleeping. These technological innovations are worthy of the Jetsons.
- Smart Power Strip. It is estimated that 5% to 10% of household energy use goes to the standby power consumption of printers, computers, TVs and other electrical devices. Instead of remembering to physically unplug these devices, a smart power strip cuts electricity to the device once it goes into standby mode. Think of it as a silver bullet for the vampire suck of wasted energy.
- Energy Use Monitor. Ever wondered how much energy your microwave or electric tea kettle uses? Energy use monitors allow you to see exactly that. The monitor plugs into the outlet, and the appliance plugs into the monitor socket to give you real-time energy use information. Many energy use monitors can tell you exactly how many dollars or kilowatts an hour your appliances and electronics use. It can be a useful tool for understanding what is contributing most to your energy bill and how you can reduce your electricity use.
- Smart Thermostat. Heat and air conditioning account for close to 48% of the average American’s home energy costs. That means a smart thermostat could save you quite a bit of money by increasing the efficiency of your heating and cooling. These thermostats learn from your patterns and adjust the heat or A/C accordingly. You don’t have to remember to turn the thermostat down when you leave the house all day. Even better, many smart thermostats allow you to control temperature remotely with your smartphone-you can get the house warming up before you arrive home!
- Home Energy Management System. These systems give you total control over your energy use by providing direct feedback on the energy consumption of your entire home. Armed with that information, you can figure out how different uses are reflected in your energy consumption and learn how to adjust your habits for energy savings. Many energy management systems also allow you to control your electronics, lighting and appliances remotely with your smartphone so you’ll never have to turn the car around to make sure you turned the stove off.
Join Our Facebook Group: ICL Greentips
Have you tried an energy management system before? Is there an app that you especially like or dislike? Share what you’ve learned with our ICL Greentips Facebook group and help us promote sustainability! We want to have fun with this challenge, so we’re inviting you to share your ideas, knowledge, challenges, mistakes, inspirations-and progress! The group is open to everyone. Just ask to join and you’ll be able to post your comments and learn from others. See you there!
Remember to Sign the Pledge
Do you want to make a commitment to reducing your impact? Excellent! Sign the #greentips pledge and let us know how you use technology to reduce your energy use!