Fun and games and sustainability on your smartphone

Kathryn Ferrara
Masters in Journalism candidate at Northwestern University. I'm not as boring as that may sound, I promise. For now I'll just say I love cooking, traveling, photography and cars. If you want to know more, please drop me a line!

The FarmVille Effect. It’s what they’re calling it these days.

“It’s the ‘everyone’s a winner’ kind of thinking. That psychology incentivizes people to do things that they wouldn’t normally do, to talk to each other and compare each other’s progress,” said Hafiz Huda, who has worked in the sphere of gaming techniques for almost ten years.

And now apps are actually getting people to look at their energy usage. Which makes sense for a topic that can sometimes sail right over our heads.

Light Bulb Finder



“Game mechanics are being applied to things that aren’t usually as fun,” said Huda, vice president and executive creative director at Infuz, a digital creative agency. “If you can make homework more fun and it’s a game, then you usually perform better.”

It’s the reasoning behind many new apps on energy efficiency. With a greater focus on a more engaging consumer experience, companies, including Facebook, are rolling out gamified energy apps this year. The social media juggernaut’s energy app will encourage Facebook users to compare their home’s energy input with friends, neighbors and against the national average.

Apps can help break down complicated information into bite-sized pieces and focus on a very niche area, whether that means you’re interested in starting a green business, where to find the closest electric car charging station or simply ways to lower your energy bill every month. There’s app for all of those. Of course there is.

In need of your own energy app? Take a look at the Chicago-based apps below. The following three were among the finalists in this year’s Apps for Metro Chicago Illinois competition facilitated by the Metro Chicago Information Center.

Light Bulb Finder

An extra $120 in your pocket every year? Yes, please. The developers of the Light Bulb Finder app claim that making the simple switch from incandescent to CFL or LED light bulbs can shave that much money off your energy bills each year. The app’s goal is to make the switch as seamless as possible.

Don’t know what is what when it comes to our light-emitting friends? You can input the fixture and current light bulb you’re trying to replace, and the app will tell you what you need to buy with a picture and everything. Check out the app’s demo video below:

Light Bulb Finder’s website


Parking. The word seems to have a groan ingrained in it. It just seems to be an eternal problem in urban centers like Chicago. From an energy standpoint, it’s pretty obvious that it would be more efficient to drive immediately to an open parking spot (even if it’s three blocks away) than to circle around the block a number of times with all those lovely exhaust fumes trailing behind you.

FasPark is an app just for Chicagoans looking for a parking spot. Enter in your desired address, and it will tell you where you can find an open spot. Then it will do double duty and serve as a GPS to tell you how to get there. It’s easy to use, and the app’s developers said that in their experiments, the app saves between 20 and 50 percent of drivers’ search time.

See how it works in the app’s demo video below:

FasPark’s website


Both a social network and online gaming app, Ghabit addresses energy in the larger context of everything green. The app allows you to easily connect with other people and track and compare your green habits with theirs. Members are told what the forward-reaching impacts of their green habits will be and earn rewards when they reach certain green goals.

A sort of green version of Facebook, Ghabit encourages ongoing continuous use but can also serve as a bit of green inspiration through its Gidea section that cultivates innovative and creative green solutions. To learn more, click on the app’s demo video below:

Ghabit’s website

What are your favorite apps? Have any energy ones you like? Tweet us at @ChicagoLoopster with #chicagoapps.
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