These apps can help you save the world – one tap at a time

Since World Usability Day is coming up and is focused on “Design for the future we want,” I thought I’d share some of the everyday apps and sites I use with features that help meet some of the UN’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals.


I order from Seamless at least a couple times a month, and I’m almost always at home when I do. And when I’m at home I don’t want plastic utensils or flimsy paper napkins! Fortunately, Seamless is working with many restaurants to reduce these types of waste in customers’ orders. When you’re checking out, you can check the box that says, “Spare me the napkins and plasticware. I’m trying to save the earth,” and the restaurant will exclude all extraneous packaging from your order. Additionally, Seamless has added an option to “round up” your order to the next dollar amount and donate that extra change to “No Kid Hungry.”


Living in NYC, the temptation to take a cab, Lyft, Uber, or similar car service is always there at your fingertips. Recently, however, Lyft has added a feature to their app that lets you access your CitiBike membership directly from the Lyft app. This has, on occasion, made me rethink getting a car and instead just hopping on a bike. Not only does it help reduce emissions, but it’s cheaper too!

Lyft’s CitiBike feature in the app.

Apple Wallet / Google Pay

Both of these apps let you save boarding passes, train tickets and other traditionally paper tickets all in one place on your phone. This may feel like a small thing, but if everyone went paperless for tickets, it would have a significant impact!


FreshDirect is a NYC grocery delivery service. When you are shopping for seafood on their app or website, it tells you how sustainable all the options are. According to the Monterey Bay Aquarium, “Roughly one-third of assessed fish populations are over-fished and over half are fully-fished.” And “The easiest and most important thing you can do is ask the question: ‘Do you serve sustainable seafood?’” They do have their own app for this that lets you see the rating for different seafood, which is great when you’re out at a restaurant, but it’s super convenient that FreshDirect has the ratings built into their app and site.

Sustainability ratings are shown by different color fish icons in the FreshDirect app.

Con Edison

The Con Edison app (and I’ve seen this with other energy companies as well) will compare your energy usage with your neighbors. It’s a clever way of pressuring you to do better or praising you if you’re above the pack. They break it out by showing how you compare to “Similar Homes” and “Efficient Homes” all in one chart. From a very practical point of view, it shows how much money I could be saving, but it also shows my direct impact on the environment with my energy consumption.

Con Edison’s comparison feature in the app.


When you go to shop at Amazon, if you type “smile” instead of “www” you get to, which is the “charitable” version of Amazon. When you shop on this side, Amazon donates 0.5% of the price of your eligible AmazonSmile purchases to the charitable organization of your choice. It has all of the same products and the site looks exactly the same, so there’s no reason not to do it! Charitable organizations you can choose to make a donation to range from Doctors Without Borders, American Red Cross, and ACLU to hyper local charities like my kid’s elementary school. They boast a selection of “over one million eligible 501(c)(3) public charitable organizations.”

Categories: Experience Design
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