The New Green Thumb

iPhone apps that can help you live a more eco-friendly lifestyle

Photographs by Lane Johnson (iphones); narvick/ispockphoto (sky)

Over the past few years, iPhones have become so ubiquitous that they are no longer viewed as just flashy, expensive gadgets, but rather as useful tools. Nearly everyone can find a reason to become a bona fide, twitchy-thumbed addict, whether it’s to check our email every 0.24 seconds, avoid getting lost on the freeways, or figure out where to find great Lithuanian food. Even better, now with a quick visit to the iTunes app store we can harness the power of our iPhones to help us live more eco-friendly lifestyles.

Here’s a roundup of apps that offer a greener life with just a couple taps of the finger and clicks of the thumb:

The GoodGuide Don’t leave home without this free app. No matter what product you’re shopping for, the GoodGuide’s iPhone app can help you find the greenest, safest, healthiest version of it. The GoodGuide’s comprehensive database of over 75,000 products and companies covers everything from crayons to cars to cereal. Simply scan a product barcode with your iPhone camera and you can see the product’s ratings for health and nutrition, environmental standards, and social responsibility. Or, search for and view the top-ranked products in categories such as household cleaners, baby food, hair care products, or toys. Ingredients, nutritional data, recommendations for similar products, and comparison tools are also available.

Transporter & Caltrain xPress Public transportation is a great option for getting around, but it can sometimes be a hassle to figure out connections, locate stops, and remember schedules. This is where the two free apps Transporter and Caltrain xPress come in handy. If you ride MUNI, BART, or AC Transit, Transporter can help you figure out arrival times, map out where you are, and keep track of frequently used stops. Caltrain xPress provides a handy trip planner: Simply enter your desired initial and final stations and it will provide a list of upcoming train times, with details such as express routes and fares.

Locavore Eating local is one of the biggest eco-friendly decisions we can make, and it’s a healthy and delicious choice, as well. The app Locavore helps you locate and choose food that is in season and grown close to wherever you are, and lets you know what fruits and vegetables will soon be coming into season. It also provides links to farmers’ markets and recipes. This $2.99 app can be very useful, especially in the Bay Area where we have such an abundance of locally grown food.

Farmers Market Finder Take Locavore one step further by downloading Farmers Market Finder, which puts a comprehensive list of farmers’ markets in your pocket. Market listings in Santa Clara County are provided for free, with additional directories available for purchase by state (99 cents for the California version). Search for a market based on location, hours, types of products offered, or whether you can pick your own produce. The app also provides detailed directions, maps, contact information, and a “favorites” function for convenience. Finding fresh, green produce has never been so easy.

Carticipate Another great way to minimize fuel consumption (and gas costs!) is to carpool. Using the power of the iPhone and social networking, Carticipate can help you rideshare more efficiently with friends, family, and coworkers, plus find people in the area with similar destinations. Simply open up this free app and indicate where and when you’d like to travel. Carticipate will broadcast your location and destination so that other drivers can contact you to coordinate carpooling. Or, check out the schedule of trips that have already been planned and choose one to join.

iRecycle Everyone knows about the importance of recycling, but do you know where to take old batteries or used tires? What about that iPod from two years ago that doesn’t play for longer than 10 minutes anymore? Unfortunately, a lot of stuff is thrown away just because people don’t know where to recycle it. Enter iRecycle, a free iPhone app in which you enter whatever product you want to recycle; the app provides a list of registered recycling facilities near you that will accept that product. Handy recycling tips are also included.

Green Charging Some of the best things in life are also the simplest. This tiny little app costs 99 cents and has just one function: It prevents you from leaving your iPhone plugged into the charger and forgetting about it. With this app, you’ll minimize wasted energy and also preserve the life of your battery. It may not be an enormous energy savings, but every little bit helps.