14 healthy living apps to help you kick off a green new year

green iphone
CC BY 2.0 Claus Burfelt

If one of your resolutions for the new year is to live greener, more healthily, and more in line with your values, these apps will give you a hand.

When we learn about an issue, whether it's about food or health or pollution or water or social justice, we often get the urge to do something about it, to take action and make a change in our lives that will have some effect on it, even if it's a small one. But all too often, when we're in the moment (in the grocery aisle, for example), we don't always have the information right at hand in order to make the best choice possible to support the causes we believe in.

With all of the misleading marketing and labeling tactics used by companies to convince us that their product or service or system is better than their competitors, it can be really difficult to cut through the nonsense and find the products that are really in line with our values.

One big advantage we can give ourselves in trying to make healthy or green changes in our lives is to use the tools that are readily at hand, namely our phones or tablets, to help us get the information or advice we need, when we need it. Whether it's being able to quickly vet products at the grocery store because of sketchy food additives, or to find a healthier meal at a restaurant, or to boycott companies because of their shady environmental or human rights practices, a variety of healthy living and conscious consumer apps can make those decisions easier.

Here are 14 apps that can help support your healthy living efforts, your green activism, and your values-based lifestyle:


eEcosphere:
This new green social network (iOS only) aims to help its users discover, adopt, and share the best sustainable living ideas, while inspiring them to take meaningful action on causes they support. The app essentially 'gamifies' each person's journey to going greener, and makes it easy to share specific actions and ideas with their friends via social media, including uploading pictures of sustainability actions they've adopted and completed.

Food Scores: An easy-to-use food database and iOS app that can help make choosing nutritious and healthy foods much simpler, so you can make the most informed food-buying decisions. The Food Scores tool covers some 80,000 food products, and scores items on a scale of 1 (best) to 10 (worst), by factoring in nutrition, food additives or contaminants, and the amount of processing. The tool weights a food's nutritional value heaviest, followed by ingredient concerns, and then processing (weighted relatively lightly compared to nutrition). Each listing also has detailed information about the food product and the ingredients it contains, and how the score for that product was determined.

HealthyOut: This free app offers a simple solution for making healthy food choices when eating out or having restaurant food delivered. Users can search for meals from nearby restaurants that fit their dietary or nutritional preferences, whether they eat a paleo, vegan, lactose-free, or gluten-free diet, with every dish listed on the app coming in at about 1/2 the calories and 1/2 the fat of average restaurant meals. The HealthyOut app is available for both iOS and Android platforms, and allows users to filter meals by characteristics such as low carb, low calorie, low fat, high protein, and heart healthy designations, and includes popular diets

BagIQ: This new digital health and nutrition system, described as being "like FitBit for food," uses the data from each food purchase (nutritional value, ingredients, price, and other attributes) to score food choices, in order to help guide users toward foods that better fit the user's lifestyle and health goals. Available for Android, iOS, and as a web app.

Foodtweeks: This free app, for both iOS and Android, asks users to pick the food they're considering eating, and then suggests "tweeks" to that food item that effectively cuts some of the calories from it. Once the "tweek" is chosen, whether it's cutting out the mayo or skipping the cheese or using only half of the salad dressing, a donation is made to a local food bank for the equivalent amount of calories, in order to help feed hungry families.

Think Dirty: This app allows users to scan a personal care product's barcode and get not only a list of the ingredients, but also see how they stack up in terms of their potential toxicity to the human body. The app gives products a score on the "Dirty Meter," based on the inclusion of certain carcinogens or allergens, and offers alternative options for cleaner products. Includes over 1600 brands, and 60,000 products, and is available for iOS or on the web.

Buy Partisan: Which political party does your shopping support? BuyPartisan aims to help you put your money where your beliefs are. This free app (iOS and Android) allows shoppers to scan the barcode of a product they're considering buying, which brings up that company’s political spending information, including the donations of the CEO, Board of Directors, employees, and political action committees (PACs). The app also allows users to compare that info from several companies, in order to find products from companies that best support their values and beliefs.

GoodGuide: The GoodGuide app instantly reveals whether products are safe, healthy, green and socially responsible while you shop. The app’s barcode scanning feature lets you quickly access GoodGuide’s science-based health, environment and social ratings for over 170,000 products.

Buycott: This vote-with-your-wallet app could save you time and keep your conscience clear by taking some of the guesswork out of shopping. Buycott (iOS and Android) helps you not only avoid companies that support questionable practices in their business (or in political lobbying and advertising), but also helps you focus your spending on those products and businesses that DO support the causes that you believe in.

OpenLabel: This app, currently in beta for iOS (Android coming soon), aims to bring radical transparency to everyday products through its labeling system, which allows both individuals and organizations to attach their own labels to a product, instantly, using the product's barcode. These labels are then open to the public to see, and to comment on, through the website and the app, in essence acting as a social network and review platform for products where users can share their thoughts on the products and help others to either choose or avoid buying them.

Smart Gardener: This web app lends a (green thumbed) hand to potential backyard growers and teaches its users the skills necessary for an abundant organic garden, from planning to buying the right seeds to starting seedlings and planting them in the soil. Smart Gardener guides users through the process of choosing the plants best suited for their location (and the database includes over 3000 organic, GMO free, edible varieties), determining where in the garden to plant each variety, and deciding how many of each to plant to feed their household.

Waterprint: This iOS app helps you calculate just how much water is embedded in your daily activities, including what you wear, eat and drink. The Waterprint calculator tells you how much water it takes to grow a banana, manufacture a T-shirt, or brush your teeth, so you can make wiser water choices.

Dawn: Dawn is a crowdsourced platform that allows parents to easily rate and identify fitting and age-appropriate apps, games, videos, and other media that also match your family values. Instead of serving as a way to censor or block certain media from their kids, parents can use Dawn to discover positive apps and games that are most suitable to their children's age and unique character.

Changers CO2 Fit: Changers, the company which brought us the tweeting solar charger and the socially networked solar credit system, is back with a new offering. The CO2 Fit app, which is for both iOS and Android platforms, makes carbon emissions personal by tracking each trip you take, and what method of transport is used (car, bicycle, public transportation, train, or plane), to calculate the amount of CO2 emissions generated (or avoided) for each trip.

What other apps have you been using to help support your green lifestyle, activism, or healthy living efforts?

Tags: Apps | Shopping

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