Making Your Screen Time a Little Greener

By: Katie Gabe

As a college student during a pandemic, I spend increasingly more time online. I spend so much time on my school days studying and taking classes on a laptop, relaxing on my phone (hello, impulsive online shopping), looking up homework help and texting classmates about my struggles. Knowing that so many other people are in similar situations, I’m so excited to share a few of my favorite environmentally-conscious apps and websites. These apps and websites help to make my numerous hours of staring at a computer and my love for online shopping friendlier to the planet, as well as make me feel a little better about my weekly screen time notifications!

  1. Etsy 

Etsy is a great app that supports smaller businesses and facilitates finding ethically made products. One simple search of “eco friendly products” directs you to a plethora of products that are made to reduce your impact on the environment. Whether it’s reusable dryer balls, sandwich bags, or candles, Etsy has it all— and at reasonable prices!

  1. Mercari, Vinted, Poshmark, Depop, thredUP, Curtsy, and all other resale apps

Thrifting, or resale, apps are my go-to for online shopping. Many apps focus on clothing, but a few also share used home and technology products. Not only does shopping secondhand reduce your carbon footprint, but it also reduces the price tag! My personal favorite clothing resale app is Mercari, but Poshmark, Vinted, Depop, Curtsy and thredUP are also awesome options. Even Facebook and Nextdoor have places to sell used clothes, decorations, technology, and anything else– even Miami gear! You can narrow down your options by size, color, brand, style, or anything else! You can also sell your own clothes you don’t need or wear anymore: who doesn’t love a little extra money?

  1. Ecosia

Ecosia is a fantastic app and website that works just like Google, except a tree is planted with your every search. According to their website, not only does the engine run on 200 percent renewable energy, removing CO2 from the atmosphere, but the profits that the company makes goes toward planting trees across the planet! Making the switch from Google to Ecosia will make you feel a little better about looking up all those confusing homework problems and terms. It even keeps track of how many searches you’ve made, so you can see how many trees you have helped to plant! 

  1. OceanHero

OceanHero, similar to Ecosia, is a search engine focused on recovering “one ocean-bound plastic bottle for every five searches”. The advertising profits from this search engine are used to fund efforts to reduce the amount of plastic waste in the ocean. There is no mobile app for OceanHero, but they do have a website

  1. Forest

If you have trouble focusing on schoolwork or anything else when your phone is around, and you’re willing to spend a little money, this is a wonderful app that will help you (and the Earth) out! With Forest, you can set a time to focus, and you can earn coins and grow small virtual trees- leaving the app causes the tree to die! As you grow your own virtual forest, you also earn coins. The Forest team partners with Trees for the Future to plant real trees on Earth. As you spend time focusing and grow your own virtual forest, you are also setting and achieving goals, which all help you earn in-game currency, which you can use to plant a real tree. When you do earn enough coins and choose to plant real trees, the Forest team donates to their partner and creates planting orders.

  1. ClimateSavior

ClimateSavior is a wonderful app that will help you set and achieve climate goals to reduce your ecological footprint. Some fun challenges I have accepted include taking shorter showers, using only reusable shopping bags, and only buying recycled clothing. As  I step closer to accomplishing every goal, the app tracks my climate efforts and my CO2 reduction.

  1. Good on You

Online shopping is tempting for me. If you’re like me, you don’t want to invest in companies that treat workers unfairly or use resources harvested in an unsustainable way. This app is super helpful because not only can you search for brands you’re interested in to find a rating of their ethicality, but you can also discover new brands that source their products sustainably and ethically. 

  1. Charity Miles

If you like to go on runs or walks daily, weekly, or even every now and then, this app is perfect for you! When you download Charity Miles, you can track your walks, runs, bike rides, and steps. For every mile you move, you help earn money for your charity of choice from Charity Miles’ corporate sponsorship pool. Your actions can help donate to charities like the ASPCA, The Nature Conservancy, World Wildlife Fund, Girl Up, She’s the First, National Park Foundation, and others. Working out could change the world. Literally.

  1. Seek by iNaturalist

Have you ever been outside (or inside) and wondered what that giant bug was? Or what kind of tree, spider, or bird you just saw? When you use Seek to observe a creature or plant, the app will identify it for you. Once you’ve identified the creature, you can also upload your findings to a database of species information (called iNaturalist) used by scientists everywhere for their own research. If you’re interested in helping identify these creatures, download iNaturalist, too!

With all these new apps and websites at your disposal, helping the planet (and everyone on it) just got so much easier. So save some money by thrifting online! Look up all those confusing topics from class! Shop ethically and get active! Use your screen time to change the world!

Photos courtesy of Pixabay & Pexels, and screenshots courtesy of Katie Gabe

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