My fiancé and I were hiking along a forest trail when I spotted an alluring bird in the canopy. I pulled out my simple bird whistle, mimicking tweets to bring in the shy creature. After prolonged moments of wry amusement and perhaps boredom, my partner pulled out his smartphone, called up a bird-call application (commonly called an app), selected the correct species and played a perfect recording. Sure enough, the curious bird flew in close to survey the snoops.
This event got me pondering whether technology can enhance our understanding of nature rather than just distract us. Apps are tools that can not only help us interact with the natural world, but also inform, educate and allow us to share our discoveries with others. The magic of smartphone technology is that it provides an encyclopedia of knowledge in a handy portable form. Here’s a taste of a few smartphone green apps that may pique your interest in ecology-themed applications.
- (FREE) Find green products with the GoodGuide mobile app, which rates more than 100,000 products and companies for health, environment and social responsibility.
- (FREE) Determine the carbon footprint of your daily commutes with the Carbon Tracker.
- (FREE) Is your sushi sustainable? Check out Monterey Bay Aquarium’s Seafood Watch app, where you can access recommendations on sustainable seafood. You can also find the restaurants and markets that sell them here.
- (FREE) iRecycle details 800,000-plus recycling resources by location for more than 240 materials.
- Green Tips is an all-purpose compendium for maintaining an environmentally friendly lifestyle.
- For the green-thumbed: The Essential Garden Guide provides facts on everything from growing fruits and veggies to garden design, soil composition, pests and diseases, food storage and more. The Herbs Grower Handbook lists descriptions plus tips for growing and cooking with herbs.
- Interested in the latest science and research news? This app provides recently published journal articles and abstracts.
- Point your phone at the sky to identify stars, constellations and satellites in real time with this star guide.
- Identify North American birds by photos, descriptions and calls plus update your life list with the Audubon bird guide.
- Audubon also offers a similar mammal guide where you can search by zip code, keep life lists, peruse photo albums and record field data.
- Audubon’s butterfly guide identifies more than 600 North American species by size, region, zip code, color and habitat, including those in your backyard.
- Check out the fish guide for identification and angling tips.
- (FREE) When you’re done identifying wildlife, geocache them with the WildObs app, a collaborative community linking scientific studies with citizen/science participation.
Climate and Weather
- Do climate-change skeptics’ claims leave you speechless? Arm yourself with knowledge with this app, which allows you to browse skeptics’ arguments and provides a summary of the real science, plus graphs and links for more information.
- Get regular updates and forecasts of local weather conditions worldwide on this weather app.
- The National Weather Forecast app offers marine weather and tide tables for all US coastal regions—perfect for fishers, sailors and surfers.
- (FREE) The NatureFind app offers descriptions, maps and photos of parks, zoos, botanical gardens, museums, trails and wildlife refuges, as well as events for all age groups.
- Green Travel Choice uses a GPS system to show CO2 emission estimates for plane, bus, car and motorbike trips so you can plan your journeys wisely.
- (FREE) Learn about foreign customs and cultures in 165 countries and avoid social faux pas with this world customs and culture app.
The list of applications grows every day, with more than 200,000 currently available from Android and 500,000 from Apple. With wise discernment, we can use this extraordinary technology to expand and share our knowledge of the Earth and learn how to tread lightly upon it. Do you have a favorite environmental apps to recommend to other EcoHearth readers? If so, comment below!
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