Four Free Green Apps to Help You Navigate the Aisles
What we buy has an impact. Whether we’re shopping for food, clothes or a cup of coffee, every time we choose a less-polluting option, the environment (and our health) reaps the benefits. But reading labels isn’t enough when so many products from cosmetics to cleaners mask their toxic ingredients with clever marketing. Smart phone apps can help you determine which companies care about health and sustainability and deserve your hard-earned dollars.
GoodGuide is powered by scientists, nutritionists, environmental lifecycle analysts and toxicologists, and it has been widely featured as a “must have” green app for good reason. Using your phone’s camera, you can scan the barcode of whatever item you plan to purchase, and through a database covering everything from apparel to household cleaners to appliances, GoodGuide will rank the product on measures of health, environment and social responsibility. You’ll discover details like whether the product contains carcinogens or produces toxic waste and whether the company that makes it has a safe working environment. And you can share what you find with friends and family. As founder Dara O’Rourke says, “Our hope is that when enough people use this information, we’ll not only make the marketplace a more transparent place, but we’ll also get companies to produce better products.” www.GoodGuide.com
Since the livestock industry produces more greenhouse gas emissions than cars, going vegetarian is a great choice for the environment. But animal products and byproducts are found in more than just the meat aisle. Skin lotions can contain proteins from cow’s neck ligaments, for example, listed simply as “elastin.” That’s where the Animal-Free app comes in. It’s a full-featured reference guide for those who want to avoid any animal ingredients that may be lurking in items they purchase, even those claiming to be “green” or “all-natural.” Find and match the ingredients on the label with those listed in the app’s comprehensive library and discover whether they are animal-free, sometimes animal-derived or always animal-derived. If the product does contain animal-derived ingredients, Animal-Free will list an alternative animal-free product that is comparable to the one you’re looking at.
The Fooducate app is designed for anyone who wants a better handle on ingredients, nutrition labels, marketing hype and health claims. It’s currently only available for iPhones, although the company is working on a Droid-capable version. Scan barcodes in the supermarket aisles and they’ll be matched to a list of more than 200,000 unique food products, allowing you to instantly assess real nutritional value.
Fooducate assigns each product a letter grade along with a brief explanation and ingredient warnings. Shoppers can easily see what manufacturers don’t want them to notice, such as excessive sugar and sodium, trans fats, high fructose corn syrup, food colorings and additives and preservatives. The app also offers recommendations for healthier alternatives. Hemi Weingarten, CEO of Fooducate, says there’s a definite connection between the environment and healthy eating. “Once shoppers see all the chemicals, they opt for the healthier, less-processed options the app offers,” she says. “These tend to be products that are more eco-friendly as well.”
If you want to find a nearby organic coffee shop or restaurant—or you forgot to bring a pair of hiking boots on a camping trip—Find Green, a GPS-enabled app available in the Android Market, can point you in the right direction. Scroll through categories that include over 100,000 listings of everything from local breweries to bike shops to recycling centers. Once you select the type of green establishment you’re looking for, decide whether you need it to be within walking, biking or driving distance. Find Green will then pull up a map with directions to get you there, as well as a detailed description of the business, including address and phone number. After you arrive, you can rank the relative “greenness” of your experience, and even write a review for future patrons.
LINDSEY BLOMBERG is an editorial intern at E.