How Cell Phones Aid Environmentalism

Cell phones are now as ubiquitous as business cards at networking functions or strollers at the park. More than half of all people in the world have a cell phone, allowing us to get in touch more frequently, and stay connected with friends and family around the planet. It’s an amazing technological innovation, one that wasn’t even on our radars a mere thirty or so years ago. But smartphones help in many more ways than simply making phone calls. They now actually offer important aid in efforts to support environmental sustainability. Apps have put a wide range of tools at our beck and call, and with a solid camera in your phone and a network of linked up supporters you can become an outspoken proponent of environmentalism and change.

Here are just a few of the ways that eco-warriors are putting their cell phones to work for the environment.

Scientists are adding app creation to their slate of research with more and more frequency. This means that there are now ways for nature lovers to dig deeper into the secrets of the natural world. It’s creating a whole new class of who are referred to as citizen scientists, regular people who have the ability to add to our collective information gathering. One such app is called The LeafView Project, and it lets citizen scientists take photos of the leaves of a plant and easily upload them to a database used by real scientists in their research. It’s making it possible to lay the groundwork for an actual census of international plant life. It’s a great way to track changes, and identify species that need support.

Smartphone apps have also been developed to help people conserve energy. Two of the best ones, EnergySaver and VerdeEnergy, help households track their resource consumption and determine how best to cut down on energy use. Taking it a step further, several apps are now on the market that give users the ability to set and adjust their home thermostat right through their phones, effectively bringing to an end the accidental waste of resources when you forget to turn off the air conditioning before you leave for the day.

Environmentally conscious consumers can also use their phones to help them make green choices when shopping. There are several solid apps on the market for the green shopper that categorize various products by their sustainability or carbon footprint, while also informing shoppers of the companies that are worth supporting. The app Good Guide allows shoppers to scan the bar code of any item and receive a breakdown of its environmental sustainability, while also comparing it to similar products on the market.

What may be the most surprising environmental use for a cell phone is in the analysis of clean water and air. It’s not quite fully there yet, but there may come a time when an individual could monitor air quality with built-in cell phone sensors. But until that day happens, you can tap into the Visibility app and actually get instant feedback as to the amount of air pollution in your general vicinity. You take a picture of the sky, which is then uploaded and run through an algorithm that measures the amount of haze versus coordinates and time. As the user, you’ll get feedback as to how much pollution is in the air, reminding you why you’ve got a cell phone screen protector and why you wish you had something similar for your lungs. And scientists receive important information to help them tabulate increases in air pollution. It’s a truly astounding breakthrough, and seems to be only the tip of the iceberg.