Let’s spread the positivity!
Now that the year is half-way finished, we can shed some light on all the good we’ve accomplished in 2019 and get inspired for the future! Here are 20 environmental achievements worth celebrating.
20 Feats Worth Celebrating
1. Thanks to Brands, Reusables Grow
With China’s decision to stop accepting foreign recyclables, many countries were left with a backlog of trash – a reminder we need to look beyond the blue bin. TerraCycle founder Tom Szaky knows “the garbage problem keeps getting worse and worse.” This is why TerraCycle announced a plan making single-use plastic a thing of the past.
In the near future, you’ll be able to order household items in reusable packaging. And once you’ve had your way, the packaging will be collected from your doorstep.
The company’s new initiative, Loop, is similar to curbside pickup except the packaging won’t be broken down … just used again! Names such as Coca-Cola, Procter & Gamble, and Unilever have already jumped on board agreeing to end disposable packaging. The future is now, and it flows in one … big … loop.
2. The EU Took a Stand Against Plastic
In March of 2019, a pregnant whale washed up on shore with 50 pounds of plastic in her stomach. Sadly, the issue of plastic in our oceans is only getting worse.
A recent report from the director of the Trash Free Seas program at the Ocean Conservancy stated, “plastics are now found everywhere in the world, throughout the entire marine ecosystem and food chain, from seabirds to sea turtles to seals.” (Nick Mallos) However, the European Union voted to ban 10 categories of single-use plastics – from straws and cups to plates and cutlery. The ruling should be in full effect within member states by 2021.
3. NYC Schools Went Meatless
Meatless Mondays! Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that beginning Fall 2019, New York City’s public schools will no longer be serving meat the first day of each week. The reasoning for this move is to “keep our lunch and planet green for generations to come.” (Blasio)
The fact that kids in NYC are down to munch on veggie meals once a week is pretty cool! Plant-based diets are more common among young people. And with tons of evidence that meat farming plays a large role in greenhouse gas emissions, they’re taking a leap towards a greener world.
But to answer your question … no … mystery meat Mondays will not be missed.
4. New York Banned Plastic Bags
To top it off with a final eco-friendly ban, New York has become the second state to ban single-use plastic bags. The legislation also allows counties to opt-in to a 5-cent fee on paper bags … revenue going to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund. In a statement released in March 2019, Governor Andrew Cuomo said, “these bags have blighted our environment and clogged our waterways … [the agreed plan will] be a way to protect our natural resources for future generations of New Yorkers.”
5. More Companies Turned to Regenerative Agriculture
Reported by Scientific American, our soil can only handle 60 more years of traditional farming before it’s depleted. And according to Maria-Helena Semedo of the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO), about a third of the world’s soil has already been degraded. This is why regenerative agriculture – a process which mimics how nature improves soil health and extracts carbon from the atmosphere – has become more important now than ever.
In 2019, General Mills partnered with farmers to implement these practices on 1 million acres of soil. Other companies such as Hormel Foods and Danone North America have committed finances to regenerative agriculture. One company, however, has made the leap entirely. Applegate Farms released a new line of regeneratively made sausages “to show the world that raising animals and eating meat doesn’t have to be a problem.” (John Ghingo)
6. Polystyrene Was Left in the Dust with The Eco-Sensitive Cooler
Polystyrene – more commonly known as Styrofoam – has been a popular material for disposable coolers … until now. It is quickly being removed from supply chains because of how toxic it is. Leading the trend, cooler company Igloo has released theReCool, the world’s first eco-sensitive cooler. Made from recycled tree pulp and paraffin wax, it is 100 percent biodegradable and can hold ice for 12 hours. It can also go five days without leaking water! After that, it can be recycled or dried out for reuse.
Although brands like Igloo have committed to reducing harmful packaging, when it comes to states, Maryland is ahead of the game! In March of 2019, the state Maryland became the first state to ban Styrofoam. What a win!
7. Burger King Goes Vegetarian
Livestock farming contributes to 18 percent of the greenhouse gases worldwide, severely affecting climate change. Moving towards sustainability, Burger King announced its collaboration with Impossible Foods to add veggie Whoppers in select stores. Dubbed the ‘Impossible Whopper,’ it’s made with plant-based materials to mimic the taste of meat … all without the pollution.
Would you like that whopper with or without beef?
8. Ride-Sharing Went Green
Topping off the push for renewable energy, earlier this year Lyft grew a green thumb. They announced an electrifying plan to invest in thousands of hybrid vehicles users can request when using “Green Mode.” Hand-in-hand with their initiative to make rides carbon neutral, this is another step to improving quality of life. A company news release stated, “replacing gasoline-powered cars with EVs is a significant step forward in our efforts to improve the quality of life in our cities.”
Humor me here! Click on your browser and search “Lyft CEO.” Is his last name a coincidence? I think not.
9. All-American Blue Jeans Turn Green
Do you want your jeans in blue or green? Turns out you can have both! Jeans have been around for so long that denim can be seen as natural. Sadly, it’s not … it’s actually quite wasteful. The yarn used to make denim is pulled through boxes filled with 2,000 liters of indigo dye and water. Together, the boxes needed add up to the length of a football field. …You’d think there would be an eco-friendlier way to make one of the most popular pieces of clothing in the world.
As of June, Wrangler has broken this manufacturing tradition! Developed at Texas Tech, a new streamlined process emits indigo dye via foam. Called “Indigood,” the new method eliminates over 99% of the water from the dyeing process. Not only does this remove water waste from the equation, but it decreases energy use, too.
10. Airline Makes it Easy for Passengers to Reduce Their Carbon Footprint
Air travel is a problem highly toxic to the planet. Amazingly, Edelweiss airline is making it easier for passengers to reduce their carbon footprint while they explore the world. The airline has an option for flyers to fly carbon-neutral, which also adds offsets to the price of the ticket.
How does it work? When you book a flight on flyedelweiss.com, their partner MyClimate.org calculates the carbon emitted during your flight. They also find the dollar amount needed to offset emissions. Passengers can then add that offset amount via their ticket during the booking process. Finally, MyClimate uses the money to fund projects around the world fighting carbon emissions, deforestation, and support education of environmental protection.
11. Puerto Rico Set Plans for a Sustainable Future
In 2017, Hurricane Maria killed over 3,000 people and did $91.6 billion in damage. Rolling with the punches, the people in Puerto Rico are building stronger, more-resistant communities. Eighteen months after the hurricane, the island is now planning to move to 100% renewable energy. By 2050, with the help of a massive solar grid, Puerto Rico will have turned misfortune into prosperity for all.
12. The UK Safeguarded Ocean Territory Twice the Size of England
“The UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean – but we know there is more to do,” said Environment Secretary Michael Gove. Happily, the United Kingdom has designated a massive area of ocean territory as a marine habitat. The legislation protects 41 patches of sea – the largest expansion of the UK’s “Blue Belt” to date. This area is a collective 4,600 square miles of habitat … nearly eight times the size of London.
13. Renewable Energy Took the Lead
The report is in: 75 percent of coal production is more expensive than solar or wind and a third of the world’s power comes from renewable sources. By 2025 the picture becomes clear … the entire US coal system will be out-competed on cost by wind and solar. The best part? This accounts for the cost of building new turbines and solar panels.
Mike O’Boyle, co-author is the report for Energy Innovation, expects “there is huge potential for wind and solar to replace coal, while saving people money.” How’s that for a sustainable future?
14. 100 Million Trees Spread Their Roots
Trees provide the very necessities of life. They give clean air, protect our drinking water, and provide shelter for many. Though, they are still threatened each day.
With the brand-new Time for Trees Campaign, hopes are high and goals are big. By 2022 The Arbor Day Foundation aims to plant 100 million trees around the globe and inspire 5 million people to carry the mission forward. The mission? Removing 578,000 tons of chemical pollution from our air. Now that’s a positive change for all! “Together, we can create change … through trees.” (Arbor Day)
15. United Together to Save the Bees and Butterflies
It’s estimated one out of every three bites you take each day was made possible by a pollinator, yet they are at a critical point in their survival.
Launched back in 2015, the National Pollinator Garden Network released their Million Pollinator Garden Challenge. In 2019, they not only reached their goal but surpassed it. Over 1 million gardeners and homeowners have joined the fight to save threatened pollinators. Today, as more people join the fight, the registered gardens add up to 5 million acres of enhanced pollinator habitat.
You don’t have to be a beekeeper to save the planet … just plant some flowers!
16. Scuba Divers Break World Record for Underwater Cleanup
In 2015, 614 divers led by Ahmed Gabr hunted down plastics under the waves of the Red Sea. This year, led by Project AWARE, 633 divers from North and South America gathered at Deerfield Beach Pier. Together, the participants removed over 3,200 pounds of debris from the ocean!
As shown by the divers, if you want to create change, it’s as easy as a dip in the water. But … bring a buddy and some gear too.
17. Plastic Waste Meets its Match With #Trashtag Challenge
It seems like there is a new viral trend on social media every day, but this is one I can get behind! It’s rare when a hashtag results in a change to the environment, but the #Trashtag challenge is doing exactly that.
The challenge is simple: go to a place that has become overrun with plastic or trash, clean it, and post your before and after photos. UCO Gear came up with the challenge in 2015, but it hadn’t become viral until a Facebook post tagged “tired teens” featured participants cleaning a polluted forest. And as if the impact hasn’t been big enough, the challenge also increased awareness of important issues … like how many recyclables end up in the trash.
18. Supermarket Praised for Innovative Packaging
This past year, social media users went bananas for an eco-friendly solution to plastic packaging. In Chiangmai, Thailand, the Rimping Supermarket began wrapping their fruits and vegetables in banana leaves and flexible bamboo. This is a common practice among street vendors in tropical climates, but it has never been seen in an international store!
Fun fact: There have been about 9 billion tons of plastic produced to date. How much of that has been recycled? Only 9%. Imagine the change in the world (especially our oceans) would see if all international supermarkets went “au naturale.”
19. Britain Has First Week Without Coal Since Industrial Revolution
Do you remember Queen Victoria? No? Me neither. It’s exciting to say that Britain has had its first coal-free week since she was on the throne! Running the networks in England, Scotland and Wales (ouch that’s big), the last coal generator shut down a 1:24 pm on May 1st. Making history, it came back online seven days later.
This achievement came only two years after Britain’s first coal-free day since the Industrial Revolution. How’s that for improvement?
20. U.S. National Parks Had a Huge Win
During the second week of March, President Trump signed off on the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act – containing 100 bills geared to protect the great outdoors! The act will protect wilderness areas in all 50 states, reinstate the federal conservation fund, and protect Yellowstone from mining.
Though there is still much to do to keep America beautiful, this is a step in the right direction. Are you up to plant trees with The Arbor Day Foundation? Let’s get this nature!
1. A Better Future for All
– Why strive to be your best if you only end up helping yourself? When it comes to being our best selves, we know that we need to look to the future. As you create a future of goodness, continue to let the changes others are making inspire your own actions. And when you act, make sure that you act with the world’s interests in mind … literally.
2. Stand for What Matters
– As we have learned from Nick Mallos, “plastics are now found everywhere in the world, throughout the entire marine ecosystem…” Although this is a haunting issue, the EU took a stand against plastics banning 10 types of non-reusables. New York banned plastic bags, and plastic waste met its match with the #Trashtag challenge. People all over the world are standing up for what they believe in – for what matters. Today, you can too.
3. Aim for Continuous Growth
– Michael Grove made it clear that “the UK is already leading the rest of the world by protecting over 30% of our ocean…” However, how he finished the sentence was humbling “…but we know there is more to do.” Even though the UK is leading the world, they want to do more, they are aiming for continuous growth. There is something special here that anyone can learn from. Even if you are the very best (at whatever you do), there is always room for improvement. The aim for continuous growth is noble for it not only benefits oneself, but those around them as well.