By: Melissa Shepard, USM Eco-Rep

While technology can take us away from nature, it can also be used to bring us closer to it. Over the last several years, nonprofits, publicly fund entities and private companies have developed smartphone apps that allow people to engage with nature in a different way. In this article, I will be sharing the top three apps that I use in my everyday life that connect me with nature or help me protect the environment. All the apps are easy to use and available on both Google Play and the IOS App Store.

The first is Transit, which may be familiar to you already if you are a frequent metro commuter. With the knowledge of your location and where you want to go, it provides you with a number of public transit options and schedules from Uber to the METRO lines (including the Huskey Line of course!). What I love best about this app is that it updates you on where the metro is and how long until it arrives to you.
Second up is All Trails, an app that is high up on my all time favorites. If you are into the hiking scene, this is the app for you!

All Trails is the ultimate outdoor guide that requires your location to provide an extensive list of hiking trails. What sets this app apart from other outdoor apps is that it gives you a lot of information, including user insights. For each trail you will get a description of the trail and surrounding area, including how many miles the trail covers, whether it is dog friendly or not and when the trail is accessible.

The app also provides the map of the trail, intensity level, directions to get there, reviews and more. Did I mention you are able to save trails to the app if you ever wanted to plan a trip or save the hike for another day? This app makes adventuring into nature easy especially if you’re not familiar with the area.

My final recommendation is an alternative to Google, called Ecosia. Ecosia goes beyond your typical search engine. Each time you reach around 45 searches with Ecosia, they will plant a tree in a country in need. They are currently planting all across South America, Africa and parts of Asia. As I’m writing this, over 40 million trees have been planted! Another factor that sets Ecosia apart from other search engines is that they don’t sell search data to advertisers, meaning that they set a respect of privacy for any and all users. This is such a simple and easy way to give back to the environment.

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