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10 apps that help you be more sustainable in every area of life

These tech tools can help you buy eco-friendly clothes and products, and avoid wasting food.

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Peter Cade/ Getty Images

It's long past time to dust off the mantra that many of us were taught in elementary school -- reduce, reuse, recycle -- as the earth faces a climate emergency that's putting future generations at risk

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Over the past year, scientists have reiterated that being eco-friendly can't just be a hobby anymore. But while suggestions like improving energy efficiency and restoring ecosystems might sound like massive undertakes, there are ways you can make a difference in your own corner of the world. For instance, seeking out more ethical shopping opportunities can help boost both the environment and small businesses. Eating less meat, using reusable bags when grocery shopping, unplugging appliances that aren't in use and reducing water waste are all ways to be more eco-conscious from home -- especially as much of the world is hunkered down amid the coronavirus pandemic

But thanks to technology, you're not on your own as you try to be more eco-friendly. Here are 10 apps and services that can help you live a more sustainable life each day. 

Read more: Go greener with these cool eco-friendly products in 2020

ThredUp

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ThredUp/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Clothing might not seem like an obvious way to help eco-conscious efforts, but it's important to know where your clothes come from -- especially since the fashion industry as a whole has a lot of work to do to become more environmentally friendly. One sustainable change you can make is shopping second-hand. A good resource to get you started from home is ThredUp

ThredUp is both an online clothing consignment and thrift store as well as a styling delivery service, offering lower prices on high-end items -- new and used -- from brands such as Kate Spade and Coach. ThredUp also has a Goody Box clothing delivery option. It doesn't require a membership fee or subscription, though there is a $10 styling fee. 

There's a lot to explore on the site, but browsing curations for inspiration or searching specific brands can make it a little less overwhelming. On top of the regularly discounted items, there's also a Sales section. You can also get a head start on spring cleaning (and make a few bucks) by donating or selling clothes to ThredUp -- just click the Clean Out tab

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the World Health Organization say it's unlikely that you would contract COVID-19 through packages, but if you're nervous, you can also just save your favorite items to order later or hold off on donating clothes. 

Read more: Introducing Tech for Good: Stories of people using technology to make a better world

Olio

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Olio

Borrowing instead of buying is another eco-friendly change you can incorporate into your life. With the Olio app, available on iOS and Android, you can help reduce food waste in your area. Simply take a photo of the item(s) you want to share, and any neighbors who also use Olio will get an alert. Otherwise, you can browse items your neighbors are willing to share, like food, cleaning products or other miscellaneous items. From there, connect and arrange a pickup time. 

Olio is still operating during the coronavirus outbreak, and posted a safety guide on its site. The site is also working to help vulnerable neighbors during the pandemic. 

Too Good To Go

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Too Good To Go

Too Good to Go is a service that connects 22 million people across Europe with leftover food from supermarkets, restaurants and cafes -- saving 100,000 meals per day and radically reducing the amount of food waste in each country, and providing discounted meals to millions. If you live in one of the areas where it is available, you can download the Too Good to Go app on iOS and Android.

Read more: Europe saves 100,000 meals per day with one app. Here's how it could work in the US

PaperKarma

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Paperkarma/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

With the PaperKarma app, you can reduce the amount of paper junk mail coming to your house. Just use the app to take a photo of the mail you no longer wish to receive, like catalogs, charity donation requests, credit card offers or mail from a previous resident. Select the name or address to remove it from the company's mailing list, and tap unsubscribe. 

Ecosia search engine

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Ecosia

Before you next deep-dive into an internet rabbit hole, try out the Ecosia extension for Chrome. Ecosia uses the profits (from ads) that it makes from your searches to plant trees. During the Australian wildfires earlier this year, Ecosia directed all of the search profits to plant trees there. The search engine reported it was able to plant 26,000 trees in one day.  

Ecosia works around the world, and publishes monthly financial reports for accountability. Ecosia also says it doesn't sell your data to third-party advertisers or use third-party trackers. You can also download a mobile version of the extension as an app for iOS and Android.

Tap

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Tap/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Plastic pollution has become a monumental problem for the planet over the years. The Center for International Environmental Law predicts that by 2050, annual plastic emissions could exceed 2.75 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide equivalent from plastic production and incineration. 

Replacing plastic bottles with a reusable water bottle is an eco-friendly alternative. The Tap app for iOS and Android can help you find refill stations on the go. The Tap Refill Station network consists of coffee shops and restaurants, drinking fountains or filtered water ATMs. The app will show you a station's location, the fastest walking directions, and details about the water at a certain location. It'll let you know, for instance, if you can get it chilled, filtered, sparkling or flavored.  

Happycow

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Happycow/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

A research analysis published in the journal Science cited that cutting out meat and dairy from your diet could potentially reduce your carbon footprint by up to 73% if you live in the US. Of course, going vegan isn't an overnight decision, and you should research before making such a big change to your diet. But if you're already a vegan or a vegetarian, Happycow is an app for iOS and Android that can help you find accommodating restaurants worldwide that might be open for takeout or delivery right now. 

Just download the app, or use the website, and search your city, zip code or region. Happycow will return restaurants that are vegan, vegetarian or have veg-friendly options. 

Giki

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Giki/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

If you live in the UK, the Giki app is a quick way to find out if a product is eco-friendly. Giki has a built-in scanner so you can check items while shopping. The app awards badges based on how sustainable a product is -- the more badges, the better it is for the environment. Giki gives you information about whether a product is responsibly sourced, is committed to animal welfare, and is packaged with recyclable materials. If a product doesn't score well, Giki offers alternatives. You can also favorite products that you like. The app is available for iOS and Android

If you're not in the UK, try the CodeCheck: Food and Cosmetic Product Scanner app or the Sustainable Palm Oil Shopping Guide app. Both of these have built-in scanners that can help you find more eco-friendly products while shopping.

iHuerting

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iHuerting/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

If you're able to do so, keeping a garden is a great way to control what goes into your food and help the environment. But if you're like me, keeping a garden alive is where the challenge arises. To make your thumb a bit greener, check out the iHuerting app on iOS and Android. Keep a log of what you're growing and see what vegetables are in season for planting.

The app can remind you to fertilize, water and care for your plants. The app also includes a guide to pests and diseases, as well as organic solutions.   

Think Dirty

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Think Dirty/ Screenshot by Shelby Brown/ CNET

Similarly to Giki, Think Dirty can help you find eco-friendly cosmetics and beauty products. The app helps you learn about potentially toxic ingredients in personal care and makeup products, so you can compare as you shop. Think Dirty rates products on the Dirty Meter, taking into consideration ingredients, certifications and health impacts. You can also keep track of the items you already own in the My Bathroom Rating. Think Dirty is available on iOS and Android

More eco-friendly apps on iOS and Android

If you want to dive deeper into the world of planet-friendly apps, here are a few more to check out:

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