Q: I’ve finally got my iPhone set up exactly the way I want it. I’ve got my playlists, my budgeting tools and even my favorite games. Now I’d like to download a few applications to help my family stay healthy and make smarter decisions about what products we buy, use and recycle. What are some good apps that I should buy to get started?
A: While everyone is obsessed with the iPad and all its cool capabilities, I’m still crazy about my iPhone. It’s the perfect pint-size tool and it gets the job done. Besides, who’s going to whip out an iPad for their grocery list? I have enough trouble remembering my reusable shopping bag.
Fortunately, there are some pretty cool apps to help smart shoppers make even better decisions about the products they purchase. Here are four go-to apps that just happen to include one of my favorite features — they’re free.
Seafood Watch: There may be more than one fish in the sea, but the numbers are dwindling. Blame industrial-scale fishing; blame our taste for seared ahi tuna. Whatever the cause, once-plentiful fish populations have taken a serious hit. To help consumers find more sustainable options, The Monterey Bay Aquarium introduced printable pocket guides broken down by region. Thankfully, they followed up with an iPhone app that lists fish by name and groups them in categories such as “Best Choice,” “Good Alternative” and “Avoid.” Given the choice between trout and mahi mahi at a restaurant recently, a quick search helped me make the better choice. (Let’s see iPad users discreetly whip that thing out on a dinner date.) A built-in sushi guide lists fish names in Japanese and English so it’s easy to find tips on Ebi (shrimp) or Unagi (eel).
Dirty Produce: Consider this app your go-to guide for produce. Compiled by the Environmental Working Group, it lists items based on two categories — the “Dirty Dozen” and the “Clean 15” — based on the level of pesticides typically used. I had already become a fan of the nonprofit organization’s Skin Deep database, which lists ingredients in everyday consumer products such as moisturizers, shampoos and makeup. Entering your favorite cosmetics into the site can be a sobering experience. As for the produce app, it let me know that peaches may be worth the organic price tag since they rank high on the Dirty Dozen list. Of course, I could always make piña colada since pineapple scored high marks on the Clean 15 side of the aisle.
iRecycle: From batteries to used motor oil, this app helps you track down recycling locations for more than 200 items. While I don’t use this app daily, it is a great resource when I need to re-home old televisions or broken metal chairs. With each location, iRecycle lists the phone number, website, address and other accepted materials, leaving me very few reasons to fill yet another landfill. This app also offers articles and event listings so that you can connect with like-minded individuals. In my area, I’m looking forward to Electronics Recycling Day and a tour of homes.
AroundMe: As someone who is severely geographically challenged, AroundMe offers a means to avoid several wrong turns during my search for the nearest gas station, coffee shop or movie theater. Like a virtual concierge focused on saving my time, money and gas, this app tracks down the businesses I want when I’m traveling or trying to navigate my own ’hood. Hey, every day is a new adventure.
Happy shopping, and remember to pay it forward by adding a few of your own suggestions below.