Hate ‘em or love ‘em, there’s a mobile app for just about anything. Some help us waste time, some save time, and then some help us do good and live better. We’ve rounded up 13 apps that promote social good — from staying happy and safe to being more eco-friendly.
What Is It: This happiness-boosting, positive psychology app measures happiness levels during each activity and recommends activities to keep users smiling all day. The technology is based on research from Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, professor of psychology at the University of California, and they were developed by Signal Patterns' SP Labs research team. Features range from educational videos that help understand the mysterious variables of happiness, to recommendations for endorphin-boosting activities. It also lets users create albums of positive notes and other feel good memories.
Social Good Factor: Donates a portion of every app sale to the Live Your Life Well program, a public education campaign (launched by the non-profit Mental Health America) dedicated to helping people combat stress and promote well being.
Details: Available for iOS. Cost: $0.99.
What Is It: Developed by the U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs, this app is designed to help veterans cope with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Millions of people are affected by PTSD every year, so the app could be helpful to even non-military users. Note: The app is not sufficient to treat PTSD alone.
Social Good: Statistics show that about 8 percent of the U.S. population (approximately 24 million people) will develop PTSD at some point in their lives. It’s pretty cool to see government leverage technology and take initiative in addressing this problem.
Get Good Habits
What Is It: Create and maintain good habits by tracking daily actions and getting reminders and rewards throughout the day. Users can identify the habits they want to make, add them to the app, and get started! Check progress over time with easy-to-view graphs and be held accountable for keeping those habits!
Social Good Factor: This app can help users form habits that make a positive social impact. Been meaning to set up a recycling system or volunteer more often? This app makes it easy. Besides, helping others may boost your own happiness and health Altruism, happiness, and health: it's good to be good. Post, S.G. Department of Bioethics, School of Medicine, Case Western Reserve University, Cleveland, Ohio. International Journal of Behavioral Medicine. 2005;12(2):66-77..
Details: Available for iOS. Cost: Free. There are upgraded and premium versions of Healthy Habits for $1.99 and $4.99.
Still having trouble keeping those habits at times? Use a journal app to record what’s going on each week. Notice any trends in behaviors that get in the way of goals? Identifying trouble spots can help address and overcome these obstacles.
What Is It: This is a one-shop-stop to finding fresh produce and understanding the health benefits of eating local. Using the Locallectual.com database, this app can find farms and farmer’s markets nearby, search for specific produce, browse what’s in-season and locate restaurants serving local food.
Social Good Factor: Supports local farms and businesses and may keep us healthy(ier) by eating local produce. And with recent research suggesting that there might not be much of a difference between organic and conventional food, eating local might be the new priority!
What Is It: This resourceful app connects people with good causes. Search and sign up with more than 89,000 participating organizations for volunteer opportunities. See what’s in the area, read reviews from previous volunteers, and sign up or save opportunities for later.
Social Good Factor: The VolunteerMatch application is the result of a pro bono collaboration with imc2, a for-profit organization that has committed to Positive Impact. They are leading by example to show that pro bono service is a great way for businesses to make a social impact. Plus, volunteering skills and time is a social good in itself!
Details: Available for iOS. Cost: Free!
What Is It: Similar to VolunteerMatch, this app connects people (and their dollars) to participating charities. Scroll through their database, select a charity, and donate with a simple tap of a finger. All donations are charged to the user’s wireless bill or automatically deducted from a pre-paid balance. No need to worry about another set of bills!
Social Good Factor: Every little bit helps, and Donation Connect makes it super easy to do our part and make a small contribution to the causes we care about.
Details: Available for iOS. Cost: Free!
What Is It: Ideal for the engaged citizen. With a simple click, SeeClickFix lets users report and monitor local issues like road problems, discuss community concerns, and stay informed with local updates.
Social Good Factor: This app helps close the gap between government and citizens, and makes it easy to give input and contribute to fixing problems in the local community.
Try out Instead, an app that encourages users to swap the little daily (and often unnecessary) purchases for a donation to a favorite cause or charity. LevelUp is also a cool app that lets users make payments with their phone (in place of a credit card, just use the phone) and donates some of those savings to a cause of their choice.
What Is It: Should anything go wrong on an outdoor adventure, this app lets users reach a pre-selected network of friends or 911 for an emergency response. Take pre-emptive action by scheduling an estimated time of return from a trip — an alert will be sent to emergency contacts with a location if that time is passed without turning off the timer.
Social Good Factor: Yodel’s developers, Intelligent Design + Communications, say that they’re all about “apps that solve problems, fill needs, stimulates, entertains, and engages.” This app is a great example of technology being used to help people.
Details: Available on iOS. Cost: $0.99.
What Is It: This location-based app allows users to alert and connect with a personal safety network or 911. The user’s location will be tracked and sent to their pre-selected emergency contacts and they can all collaborate on the user’s Emergency Response Page through a feature similar to an online chat room. Guardly’s loud siren might also ward off potential threats and alerts the user’s emergency network that a threat is present.
Social Good Factor: If used consistently, this app could save lives or spare potential victims from attacks. Talk about doing good!
What Is It: Don’t forget to stay safe in the face of nature’s elements. Developed by OSHA, the Heat Safety app uses information about temperature and humidity to calculate the heat index for a given worksite and displays risk level for outside workers. It also sends reminders for protective measures to be taken, before the sun gets to your head!
Social Good Factor: This app keeps users informed about hot weather that may be hazardous to their health and helps users stay safe, all at no cost!
Walk home late pretty often? The StreetSafe app might be helpful. This app offers a Walk With Me service, so a professionally trained Safety Advisor will stay on the phone with the user until they reach their destination and will call 911 in the case of a threat. The user’s location can be tracked via the phone’s GPS, but hopefully it won’t be necessary!
What Is It: Learn how and where to recycle anything, anytime. Stay informed on the latest recycling news with daily content and tips from Earth911.com. Share on your social networks and save the planet, one bottle at a time!
Social Good Factor: Preserving the ecosystem by helping users recycle effectively is a no-brainer. We’re only as healthy as our environment, and this app makes it super easy to know how to take better care.
What Is It: This app tracks the fuel and power usage in a user’s car and evaluates their driving to increase efficiency and reduce costs. See results in real-time as you drive and adjust power usage accordingly.
Social Good Factor. This app is designed to reduce users’ carbon footprint. Win! The greenMeter app estimates to have saved 2 million gallons of gas worldwide, reduced fuel expenses by more than $5 million, dropped oil consumption by nearly 20,000 barrels, and prevented almost 47,000 tons of CO2 from entering the atmosphere.
Details. Available for iOS. Cost: $5.99, but if their estimates on gas-reduction are even close to accurate, then users will quickly make that money back multiple times over.
What It Is:This app lets users access their home energy data in real-time, anytime and anywhere. Get information for effective energy management, monitor energy usage circuit-by-circuit and save in costs. Users can even access their thermostat through their phone to remotely change temperature settings!
Social Good Factor. eMonitor saves energy, reduces carbon footprint and lowers costs!
Details. Available for iOS. Cost: Free!
My Recycle List is also a good one that lets users search for multiple materials, create and save lists, and more!
What apps do you use for social good? Let us know your favorites in the comments below.