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Question of the Week: How would you use mobile software to protect the environment?

2009 November 2

Cell phones and smart phones can provide information when you need it and where you need it. Tell us when and how you’d use mobile technology to make a purchase, spend more time outdoors, or make a decision that could affect the environment.

How would you use mobile software to protect the environment?

Each week we ask a question related to the environment. Please let us know your thoughts as comments. Feel free to respond to earlier comments or post new ideas. Previous questions.

Editor's Note: The opinions expressed here are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.

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29 Responses leave one →
  1. Bgcoffeelovers permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Hi everyone, My wife and I use the embedded GPS in our phones when we are traveling to identify locations which are closest in distance. This in most cases allows us to simply park and walk… “There is an APP for that” check it out… Walk instead of driving.

  2. Bonnie Aylor permalink
    November 2, 2009

    I would get the PDA phone with the microsoft software, etc, and use it to download docs and stuff from and to my phone. Integrate that with a keyboard that way when something is needed right away I don’t have to drive to a location that I can access a full computer with, nor do I have to use the electricity needed to run such a computer, just download or upload from my phone and do the repairs, etc, and be on my way! :) I can also do that sitting at the beach, ah! How environmental, LOL! I’m loving it.

  3. SAHIL permalink
    November 2, 2009


  4. Ce Ce Des Marais permalink
    November 2, 2009

    I purchase tons of plastic scrap to recycle. My company takes this plastic scrap and manufactures 100% recycled plastic shipping pallets. I do much of this on my cell phone. I may be driving by a company that has plastic sitting in the back of their facility. I get on my cell phone and try to purchase that scrap. Often times I find the scrap was going to the landfill.

  5. Laura Merugula permalink
    November 2, 2009

    I have done away with paper planners without the expense of a PDA. Gmail has a calendar service that is free and can be accessed with your gmail ID; the calendar tab can be found at the top of the email screen. The part that makes it mesh with my basic cellular service and my life is the option to send text messages. I can schedule an appointment months in advance, and select reminder option “SMS message” (or email) to text me a few hours or days in advance so I won’t miss it. I have a $20 phone with basic service and either $.25/text or unlimited at $5/mo; I use the latter since my friends contact me frequently this way. I don’t have to pay for an expensive unit, nor an expensive plan. It’s great and keeps me on the go with a career and a family to manage, a family that happens to prefer to be connected but not perpetually “on-line.”

  6. stan phillippe permalink
    November 2, 2009

    couple ideas:

    cell phones with cameras could ‘scan’ bar codes on products which could be tied to databases to provide information on the product. Some information is already available; other may be in the near future, such as to provide information on life cycle carbon footprint comparisons between products, or toxic ingredients, etc.


    mobile devices with cameras and/or gps, could have a ‘plastic push pin’ app that could be used in the open ocean to ‘push pin’ locate the largest masses of marine debris when spotted from vessles, maybe even low flying aircraft, passing over or thru the garbage patches. This could be from private vessles, Navy, commercial shipping, etc. Anyone who wants to join in and be alert to notice visible debris. The app would relay by phone the location (using the gps) and maybe a photo (using the phone’s camera) to a central database that could track and map frequency of push pins to better locate the largest debris locations, and ultimately, to better put some boundary on at least the macro-debris like the huge wind-rows of plastic in the gyres. (some of these are miles long entanglements of fishing nets and other debris that have piled up in the gyre. Unless they are removed, the largest masses will ultimately erode into millions of micro-plastic bits and and be much more difficult, or impossible, to remove, not that the largest masses will be a piece of cake. But they may represent the low hanging fruit right now as part of a mitigation strategy. If nothing else, the information would help define the problem.

  7. Green Explorer permalink
    November 2, 2009

    We plan on using the new mobile devices that allow you to put geo-tagging on pictures. We plan on taking pictures of trash and pollution on the state and national scenic river by our post. We will then send the pictures to our server and make them available on Google Earth or MS Earth. This will show bring awareness of how much and waht type of trash is in their neighborhood. This is part of our clean-up program and we hope to put a bounty on each site. check out to se how we are doing.

  8. antonio permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Impactando a la sociedad con anuncios constantes y agresivos, en el movil, de como la contaminacion a repercutido en todo nuestro medio ambiente, claro relacionado con las actuvidades diarias, comocon el desgaste energetico del combustibles, el cuidado del agua, etc.. asta provocar una conciencia colectiva en equilibrio con el medio ambiente…. O crear software sencillo donde te espesifique datos comunes, como cuanta agua se nesecita para producir sierto alimento, o cuanto CO2 expulsa un automovil al viajar de nuestra casa al escuela o a la officina, etc…

  9. Linda permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Often times I’m in a restaurant or a grocery store and I want to order fish but I can’t remember which fish are safe to eat and which are listed on state or federal fish consumption advisories. Also, advisories differ from place to place. I think it would be useful to have a phone app that allows you to plug in your location (or it gets it from the phone gps) and the type of fish you want and returns advisory information.

  10. Jackenson Durand permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Technology is Science application more pragmatic. Like every nature’s tools, people were using technology in different ways. People who are nature’s passionate would use natures’ tools positively and greenly.
    I already did staff like, using my mobile software to allow my friends to discover the nature environment beauty images.
    We can use the same software methodological to prevent environment disaggregation by sending bad picture from people’s behaviors on environment for houses representatives.
    Mobile software can prevent and helpful by using this device data in the most accurate way.

  11. maddy permalink
    November 2, 2009

    Hey! I came on here to say this is how I currently use my phone :-)

    Text the word fish followed by a species to 30644 to find its health rating (brought to you by

    Here is a link for an iphone app:

  12. drshana permalink
    November 3, 2009

    i think mobile is an important item of our life because its provide lot of facilities to do something easy and quickly. then we can use mobile software to solve the environment matter.

  13. Patrice Quintero permalink
    November 3, 2009

    At Colorado Springs Utilities, we’re using social media/mobile devices to help protect the environment. In the last year, we’ve established communication channels through YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. Using these avenues can help cut down on the traditional print avenues we’ve used in the past. Of course, they’ll never go away completely, but if we can reduce our use of paper (and the trucks that deliver the paper), then we can make a positive difference. Since the tips we provide via these channels are about conserving energy and water, that’s also a plus. Also, we’re on our way to e-billing, which will also cut down on paper resources.

  14. Charles permalink
    November 3, 2009

    Hi Laura, you’re obviously really handy with handheld PDA and all… but did yo uread the question? How would you use one to protect the environment? Maybe look up recycling centers if you’re out driving around?

  15. ivon richardsen permalink
    November 3, 2009

    My answer to your question,”How would you use mobile sofywear to protect the environment?” If this applies; I would use the G.P.S. to guide me where I’m going so I would be taking the shortest route, thereby using less gas, thereby helping to
    save the environment.
    Take care.

  16. Michael E. Bailey permalink
    November 4, 2009

    The Cell phone is a great thing to have with you but use it after you stopped the car. The Oso Creek Trail had several sewer manholes near it that needed repair and were close enough to the trail to cause it to sink some in places. I took pictures with my phone sent them to the water district, and the district replaced several manholes and repaired the trail where it had been damaged. It can also be important in getting text information for bus routes and schedules so the car can stay home. Best wishes, Michael E. Bailey.

  17. Dr. Spaceman permalink
    November 4, 2009

    Stan you bring up a good idea in regards to scanning bar codes to obtain information on certain products.

    I believe the best candidate to pioneer a ‘product lifecycle database’ would be Wal-Mart. They are currently requiring all of thier suppliers to do a lifecycle study on all products sold in their stores. They are looking at many different aspects such as materials used, recycling capabilities, packaging, transportation, etc…

    I certainly hope this becomes standard practice throughout the retail industry and it would be very beneficial for the consumer to have this information at their fingertips. Let’s hope that soon; “There is an app for that.”

  18. David permalink
    November 4, 2009

    The use of a GPS navigation system has been a great addition to the electronic equipment I utilize while doing environmental work. The obvious advantage is the ease at which it directs me to the site, but the Navigon also provides coordinates to document the exact location (LAT/LONG) of monitoring equipment, accidents or other areas of environmental concern (tire fires, chemical spills, failing stormwater BMPs…); this allows me, maintenance staff, enforcement staff or emergency responders to locate/return to the site and take appropriate actions in an efficient and timely manner.

  19. Albert permalink
    November 8, 2009

    Hi Charles and Laura,

    La question is very complicated. But, in my opinion, la solution would have been informed when you buy the mobile software the more sustainable.

  20. Anonymous permalink
    November 8, 2009

    put DOWN the “mobile software”
    in fact, shut off your computer right now

  21. Jake Sweat permalink
    November 8, 2009

    Just to reiterate what many of the people before me have posted, mobile technology allows me to reduce my impact through using less paper, energy, and utilizing GPS to plan my trip in a less environmentally harmful manner. I enjoy reading the news paper daily on my mobile device, as well as studying for my GRE through applications available through my mobile device. E-receipts and any other form of software that reduces the need for paper are software I take advantage of as they come available. Using my mobile device allows me to use less energy versus my computer at home, while still allowing me to preform most all the same functions. I feel that the “age of paper” is on the down swing with hand-held mobile devices offering a more sustainable and progressive approach to attaining information.

  22. Emilio Malaguti permalink
    November 9, 2009

    EPA is encouraged to make available and publish a mobile phone number like for example EPA-SOS, that could be used by every person carrying a cell phone to call in and notify: spills, fires, animals, damages to the environment, etc in the moment they are seen.

  23. Eric permalink
    November 12, 2009

    This isn’t currently available, but it would be great to be able to scan something in a supermarket on your phone and get carbon footprint, certification status, location of farm, etc. That way people could make more informed descisions when buying products.

  24. Eric permalink
    November 12, 2009

    oops! descisions should be decisions

  25. paul permalink
    November 24, 2009

    I think Laura’s developed a very good way to cut down her carbon foot-print by using economical modern technology, such as that of free e-calendar from Google and cell phone reminders to eliminate the need to buy or use paper calendar/ planner.

  26. mike permalink
    November 27, 2009

    I used my I phone to navigate on emergency response in my job using google maps. The compass also helps to orient . I also used the picture and video capture to report damage to electrical facilities directly to are district storm . I learned alot from this site on how to use it .

  27. Laura Merugula permalink
    December 10, 2009

    Thank you, Paul. @ Charles, you’re a little testy. My response was meant to be a mere contribution to the conversation, whereby I am an average person with average duties, one of which is time-management. Perhaps you could work on your reading comprehension a bit, including such key skills as inference and extrapolation. I honestly can’t follow your conclusion that I must be handy with a PDA; I’ve never used one… wouldn’t know how. The point is – I already own a laptop and a small cell phone, both of which are practically mandated by my employment. Thus, by not purchasing a PDA and thereby not duplicating services and by diligently extending the useful life of my cell phone by good care and maintenance, I am not joining the number of individuals that simply toss out old phones and buy PDAs thus impacting all upstream and downstream processing emissions.

  28. Alejandro R.A permalink
    January 10, 2010

    Bueno pienso que la mejor respuesta es aquella que demande menos y haga igualmente feliz a una persona. En el 2010 viviré a plenitud en compañía de las hormigas

  29. Torry permalink
    March 22, 2010

    You can use a cell phone to locate anyone today over GPS. So you can keep track of your kids or somone who might need help. Basically mobile phones help us get a hold of each other faster when we need it.

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