6 Super Summer Apps - man walking on a beach looking at his phone Photo © chalabala \ fotolia.com

Screen time and sustainability don’t have to be mutually exclusive. A recent US Public Interest Research Group study found that hand-held technology advancements are leading smartphone users to choose multi-modal transportation over privately owned vehicles, especially among 16- to 34-year-olds. Beyond making car sharing, bike sharing, cab hailing and public transit more accessible, many mobile apps are making it easier to live lighter and more conscientiously.


1. iBird Yard+

Give wings to your inner naturalist with this great bird-spotting app. Identify and learn detailed information about 231 North American bird species found in your backyard using search parameters like colouring, flight style, song and more. Even cleverer are the app’s playable bird calls. BYOB (Bring Your Own Binoculars).

New to birding? Download the freebie iBird Lite instead. Looking for something more comprehensive? Download iBird Pro or iBird Plus (iPhone only).

iOS ($4.99), Android ($9.99) | ibird.com


2. buddhify 2

Unwind with this slick and easy-to-use app that teaches you how to relax and be mindful of the moment. There are more than 40 guided meditation audio exercises for every situation – whether you’re travelling, going to bed, browsing the internet or just plain doing nothing – all designed to help you develop mindfulness, concentration and balance. Bite-sized exercises range from five to 20 minutes, or there’s a timer for self-guided practice.

iOS ($1.99) | buddhify.com


3. Bike Repair

This pocket mechanic troubleshoots 85 common bicycle problems and includes 64 repair guides with photos. Choose the bike part that’s causing you grief and the app will guide you through how to detect and fix the problem – everything from broken spokes to changing a tire to adjusting a front derailleur gets the step-by-step treatment. The majority of repairs described require no specialty tools, making Bike Repair perfectly suited to beginner and intermediate DIY mechanics.

iOS, Android ($3.99) | bikerepairapp.com


4. Green Travel Choice

GPS navigation meets responsible travel in this nifty app. Tap in your start and end points to determine your travel options for nine common modes of transportation and their expected CO2 emissions. Wondering if you should fly or drive from Calgary to Vancouver? The app shows flying would emit approximately 180 kilograms of emissions per person, whereas taking a small car would emit only 136 – but an SUV would be 286 kg, so that may be the best way to take the whole family.

It works for shorter trips, too: if you’re going from Toronto’s CN Tower to Casa Loma, your best bet (besides walking or biking) is to take the subway (0.3 kg) or bus (0.4 kg). Taking a medium-sized car would emit 1.3 kg.

iOS ($1.99) | greentravelchoice.com


5. Swim Guide

A reservoir of detailed information about the current and historical water quality of more than 5,000 beaches and swimming holes in Canada and the US. Click a button to find out where the closest beaches are and which ones are safe for swimming and enjoying. While the purpose of Swim Guide is to help beach-goers avoid unsafe beaches, it also allows them to share photos through social media, review hot spots and find directions.

iOS, Android (free) | theswimguide.org


6. AllTrails

Adventure waits at your fingertips! AllTrails is a massive, user-driven index of the best places to hike, mountain bike, trail run and enjoy other outdoor sports across North America. Filter some 50,000 trails by location, activity, difficulty and user reviews – think of it as your essential pathfinder.

iOS, Android (free) | alltrails.com

Courtney Richardson is a uWaterloo Environmental Studies grad and a freelance writer.

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