Photo via nicolasnova via Flickr CC
Let's face it - it's a rare person these days who doesn't have a mobile phone as a constant companion. And while we talk often about cool green apps and ways you can use your cell phone for activism, there are a growing number of surprising new ways you can use your cell phone to be a little greener. Here are five off-the-wall things you can or will soon be able to do with your cell phone that'll make your life just that much more simple and green.
1. Deposit Your Checks
USAA is a bank for military service personnel and their families. Their Deposit@Home program lets customers deposit checks via images sent through their mobile service platform. Even though it feels a little sketchy in terms of security, it makes sense. Customers simply take pictures of both sides of their checks with the cell phone camera, upload the images into the electronic check deposit system at USAA, and then void the paper check after the deposit clears. It'll be interesting to see if other banks catch on to the system, decreasing the number of trips customers need to make to the bank. While it's ideal to participate in direct deposit in the first place for pay checks, this works well for the random instances where Aunt Maude sends a $15 check as a birthday gift.
There's a growing number of ways to skip the clipping and get coupons directly on your cell phone, eliminating the need for paper and/or getting coupons specifically for green stores and products. Green Perks from T-Mobile will get you coupons for eco-friendlier products and services, and an app from Coupon Sherpa lets you search for coupons right in the store, letting you save paper and money.
3. Show Your Boarding Pass for Planes
Over the last couple years, the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has been working on a way to let people use their cell phones to show their boarding passes at airlines. It's likely you're already familiar with the fact that on most airlines, we can check in early, print our boarding passes and skip the lines at check-in at the airport. Well, we are now able to skip the lines and the paper by showing our cell phones with the bar code displayed when we get to the security line. American Airlines has already extended the capabilities to several of its airport terminals, and it is becoming an increasingly popular practice, with Delta, Continental and others also taking part. Check with your airline next time you fly to see if you can get a 2D barcode pass sent to your cell phone, and eliminate the need for paper.
4. Take a Tour
Skip hopping on a bus or wandering along with a crowd during your next museum trip. More and more, tourist spots are providing tours via cell phone. You can often find tours online for city walking tours, historic sites, museums, and we recently saw the New England Aquarium launch a cell phone tour based around carbon footprint information. The organization murmur provides oral histories of different areas in Canada, based on calling a number posted on a sign in that area. Getting the interesting information you're seeking via cell phone decreases the demand not only for things like tour buses, but also for electronic devices that you can rent in order to listen to audio tours.
From choosing sustainable seafood to finding locally grown foods to choosing products while in the supermarket, cell phones are our friends for eco-friendly and healthier food shopping. We'll see more and more apps come out that will help us choose restaurants that use sustainable, organic foods; help us find farmers' markets with local seasonal produce; help us check out the farms nearby so we can see where our food is coming from. Cell phones will play an ever bigger role in how we eat.
More on Cell Phones and Green Living
How Cell Phones Are Changing the Face of Green Activism
20 Ways Your iPhone Can Save You Gas, Energy, Time and Money
7 Ways to Make Your Cell Phone Battery Last Longer
New Location-Aware iPhone App Helps You Create Green Habits