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How Voice Assistants Are Helping the Environment—and How They Could Do More

voice tech climate change environment

 

While much more needs to happen for meaningful environmental action, with almost 8 billion of us roaming the earth, individual changes still count as either helping to advance or pacify the effects.

In the last decade, we've collectively turned to technology in the hopes that it will help us tidy up. From ocean cleanups to a literal machine that removes CO2 emissions from the atmosphere, technologists are going all in to ensure a livable planet for future generations.

Although it's not all heavy contraptions and Sci-Fi sounding machinery, some environment-saving tech helps in its own small way online—diligently tweaking the little things that individuals can actually control. You can do things like share excess food, track your water usage, and even plant 12 trees a month from home.

Now, voice assistants are here to do their part for the planet too.

Spreading awareness

Voice is working wonders in the world of education. From helping kids with learning disabilities to supplementing medical workers with life-saving information in an emergency, education is undoubtedly one of Voice's strong suits.

Naturally, people have begun to use this power for good.

Google Assistant has a popular action called Climate Change Trivia, while Alexa has skills like Environmental News and Climate Change News that provide daily updates on the latest scientific findings and current events.

There don't seem to be any flash briefings on the subject just yet, so it's an excellent opportunity to create your own flash briefing!

Promoting greener living

With a worldwide movement focused on reducing their carbon footprint, Alexa skills are popping up to guide people through Voice.

How to be Eco-friendly is one skill packed with daily tips and suggestions to live a little bit greener.

Recycle Track is another skill that helps out with one of the trickiest part of an eco-friendly lifestyle—knowing what's recyclable and what's not. All you have to do is tell Alexa what you have, and she'll let you know how and where to recycle it.

Captain Earth is an interactive adventure skill where kids play a Captain whose mission is to save the earth. The story is entwined with the fundamentals of re-using and recycling as a fun way to teach kids the importance of conservation.

Saving on energy usage

Both Google Assistant and Alexa are capable of controlling your lights and other electronic devices, and many apps have optional timers to shut them off after a certain time (or even as soon as you leave the room).

Google in particular recommends connecting your eco-minded assistant with a smart thermostat, LED lights, and sprinklers to help curb over-use. They also suggest installing leak detectors like LeakSmart so Google Assistant can swiftly shut off your water in the event of a wasteful flow.

Enabling donations through Voice

Okay, this one isn't solely for environment-related causes, but it still helps.

Since the launch of Alexa Donate, users have been sending money to charities of their choice. It's a good idea to check which causes are trustworthy first, but you can always support known charities, like the WWF, that are working to protect animals and their natural habitats.

Every little bit makes a difference for someone.

How else Voice could help

Voice is growing in popularity across countless industries, so it's reasonable to believe that it can be put to good use for environmental efforts too. Here are just a couple of ideas (that you're welcome to pick up and run with!)

Eco-friendly shopping suggestions

No matter your stance on climate change, there's no denying that we have a pollution problem. Fast fashion, non-recyclable products, millions of packages being flown and driven across the world—you name it.

With more than 30% of US users shopping online with Voice, it could make a significant impact if voice assistants nudged shoppers towards more eco-friendly alternatives. For example, if you order a family-pack of plastic cutlery for a party, Alexa could suggest choosing a similar product made from bamboo or recycled materials instead.

It could even suggest the location of your nearest thrift stores if you search for clothing, or recommend grocery stores that have refill stations or plastic-free produce.

Food sharing alerts

In the same way that apps have been give a voice through assistant like Alexa, food waste apps could extend to voice assistants too.

The point of these apps is to keep good food out of the landfill (where it emits nasty methane). So if someone a block away bought too many oranges, they can put an "ad" on the app for someone who needs oranges to collect them for a small fee.

Now, if we add Voice to the mix you could use Alexa or Google Assistant to add foods you want or need to a list—in the same way you'd make a shopping list—and whenever someone puts up an ad for any of those items, you'd get an alert on your device. Maybe you could even call or message them through your assistant to set a pickup date.

What else could Voice do?

Have any ideas of your own? Tell us in the comments!

We'd also love to hear how you're using Voice to help the environment—or even watch you present your ideas at the world's largest voice tech event: VOICE 2020.

If you wish you could wield voice technology to build and market eco-friendly innovations, don't miss this four-day event to meet, learn from, and lock down deals with the biggest minds in the industry. You'll have dozens of hands-on workshops and specialized talks to choose from, so make sure you register for VOICE to stay in the loop.

GET 10% OFF VOICE 2020

 

Alexa skills, Google Actions, Sustainability, Create

Jenny Medeiros

Written by Jenny Medeiros

Jenny is an engineer turned tech writer. She has hands-on experience in VR, AR, video game development, and UX-focused web design. Nowadays, she partners with tech companies to help explain emerging technologies simply. When she's not writing, she's likely daydreaming and forgetting her tea.

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