Positive Environmental Stories - Spring 2024

Positive Environmental Stories - Spring 2024
Photo by AbsolutVision / Unsplash

As someone who shares and reads daily climate news, it is understandable how the constant changes or lack of them can grind us down. A study by the Lancet, featured in Harvard Health Publishing, found that 84% of children and young adults between the ages of 16 to 25 are at least moderately worried about climate change, and 59% are very or extremely worried.

The vast majority of our news comes from the media who plays a huge role in combatting climate doom. Likewise, many reporters stick to objective facts which can often make it feel like we are not making progress fast enough. Fortunately, the media also has the power to highlight the positive changes around the world, to help show that there is hope!

So, for 2024, every 3 months I will be rounding up a selection of positive news that I have shared on Mastodon, which you may have missed. However I am considering posting this style of content more frequently.

France implements compulsory composting. Here’s how it will help slash emissions | Euro News

France brought in a new ruling as of 1 January 2024 which made organic waste recycling mandatory under new 'compost obligatoire' rules.

With support from the government’s Green Fund, municipalities must provide residents with ways to sort bio-waste, which includes food scraps, vegetable peels, expired food and garden waste.

Households and businesses are required to dispose of organic matter either in a dedicated small bin for home collection or at a municipal collection point. Previously, only those who generated over five tonnes of organic waste per year were required to separate it.

The waste will then be turned into biogas or compost to replace chemical fertilisers. Alternatively, it can be composted at home.

UK unveils plans for 'biggest nuclear power expansion in 70 years' | Techxplore

In January the UK government announced plans for what it said was the country's "biggest expansion of nuclear power for 70 years" to bolster its energy independence and meet carbon emission targets.

"Nuclear is the perfect antidote to the energy challenges facing Britain—it's green, cheaper in the long-term and will ensure the UK's energy security," said Prime Minister Rishi Sunak.

"This is the right long-term decision and is the next step in our commitment to nuclear power, which puts us on course to achieve net zero by 2050 in a measured and sustainable way," he added.

1.5 billion fewer plastic bags used in Colorado thanks to fee, Boulder recycling center estimates | Denver7

Denver7 reported in January that after a year of the statewide fee on single-use plastic bags, the Eco-Cycle recycling center in Boulder estimated between 1.5 billion and 1.8 billion fewer plastic bags were used in Colorado in 2023.

A Minnesota Utility Is Swapping Coal for Solar. It’s Like Taking 780,000 Cars Off the Road | Inside Climate News

In January Inside Climate News reported that one of the largest coal plants in the country will soon be replaced by the nation’s biggest solar farm. It’s part of a growing trend that climate and environmental justice advocates say is necessary to mitigate the accelerating climate crisis while safeguarding the rural coal communities that have the most to lose from the clean energy transition.

On New Year’s Eve, Xcel Energy shut down one of three power generating units at Sherburne County Generating Station, Minnesota’s largest power plant and among the biggest coal-fired power plants in the Midwest. The utility, which has pledged to generate 100 percent carbon-free electricity by 2040, plans to shutter the facility’s remaining two units in 2026 and 2030.

Wind and solar capacity in south-east Asia climbs 20% in just one year, report finds | Carbon Brief

Carbon Brief in January reported on date that said Solar and wind capacity in the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region increased by 20% in 2023, bringing the total to more than 28 gigawatts (GW). 

The technologies now make up 9% of electricity generating capacity in ASEAN countries – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – according to a new report from Global Energy Monitor (GEM).

Combined with a large base of hydropower, the growth in wind and solar takes the bloc close to its renewable energy capacity target of 35% by 2025, GEM says.

Cigarette recycling: Slovakia is transforming filters into asphalt for roads | Euro News

In January Euro News reported that, Bratislava’s city waste management firm Odvoz a Likvidácia Odpadu (OLO) has said they will place specially designed containers for discarded cigarettes at public events as of 2024.

In collaboration with the Bratislava City Council and the companies SPAK-EKO and EcoButt, OLO will help transform the waste material into asphalt for roads.

“If visitors to a festival, run, market or other urban event throw cigarette butts into a special container, they will contribute not only to a cleaner environment but to the material recovery of this type of waste,” Martina Čechová, manager of the circular economy at OLO, said in a press release.

The joint project will see used cigarette filters made into special fibres that can then become an admixture for the preparation of asphalt to be used on road surfaces.

The UK has the fewest heat pumps in Europe. Can new planning rules change this? | Euro News

in January Euro News wrote that the UK government announced it will relax planning rules on protected buildings in England to allow the installation of heat pumps and solar panels. The measures are part of wider efforts to reach net zero targets.

Cairngorms handed £10.7m Lottery boost in bid to become UK’s first net zero national park | Sky News

Sky News in February reported on the Cairngorms receiving £10.7m funding boost as part of plans to transform it into the UK's first net zero national park.

Sandy Bremner, convener of Cairngorms National Park Authority, said they were "delighted" to receive the lottery funding.

He added: "This five-year, £42.3m initiative will put the power to tackle the nature and climate crisis in the hands of the people in the park.

"It will benefit people's health and wellbeing, develop sustainable transport solutions and help nature - and we are ready to get going on delivering for all those who live, work and visit this very special place."

Veganuary racks up record 25 million participants for 2024 | Edie

Edie in February reported that around 25 million people worldwide participated in Veganuary this year, with nearly three-quarters of the UK population acknowledging awareness of the event, regardless of their participation.

The campaign spans across countries including the UK, the US, Germany, Italy, Spain, France, Austria, Switzerland, and Chile, where nearly 25 million individuals experimented with veganism in January this year.

Veganuary said it provided direct assistance to more than 1.8 million individuals attempting a month-long vegan lifestyle through its complimentary resources.

Asthma emergency admissions plunged as lockdown improved air, Oxford study finds | The Guardian

The Guardian in February reported on a new study in Oxford which found that emergency hospital admissions for asthma dropped by 41% in 2020 as air pollution from traffic fell due to Covid restrictions.

Dr Suzanne Bartington from the University of Birmingham, who led the Oxford study, said: “The Covid-19 pandemic led to a unique opportunity where we could study the impacts of rapid changes in human activities on air quality.”

National studies have already found large falls in the number of asthma exacerbations during the 2020 lockdowns. This included a 36% reduction in admissions for asthma in Wales and Scotland, but the Oxford study is the first UK-based analysis to include air pollution directly.

This disused mine in Finland is being turned into a gravity battery to store renewable energy | Euro News

One of Europe’s deepest mines is being transformed into an underground energy store. It will use gravity to retain excess power for when it is needed.

The remote Finnish community of Pyhäjärvi is 450 kilometres north of Helsinki. Its more than 1,400-metre-deep zinc and copper Pyhäsalmi mine was decommissioned but is now being given a new lease of life by Scotland-based company Gravitricity.

When there is excess power - from wind turbines on a windy day for example - weights would be winched up the Pyhäsalmi mine’s 530-metre auxiliary shaft. To generate energy these weights can be released. This turns the winches into generators, creating either a short burst of electricity or a slower trickle depending on what is needed.

California bill would ban all plastic shopping bags at grocery stores | AP News

AP News in February reported on a new bill announced in California which would ban all plastic shopping bags in 2026.

California already bans thin plastic shopping bags at grocery stores and other shops, but shoppers at checkout can purchase bags made with a thicker plastic that purportedly makes them reusable and recyclable.

Democratic state Sen. Catherine Blakespear said people are not reusing or recycling those bags. She points to a state study that found the amount of plastic shopping bags trashed per person grew from 8 pounds per year in 2004 to 11 pounds per year in 2021.

India looks to rooftop solar to provide ‘free electricity’ for up to 10 million homes | Euro News

Euro News reported that just a few years ago, someone who wanted to install a rooftop solar connection in India faced getting multiple approvals, finding a reliable company to install the panels and heavy expenses before seeing the first surge of clean energy.

However things are changing according to Euro News as the government has streamlined the approvals process, made it easier for people to claim subsidies and pushed mountains of cash - including $9 billion (€8.3 billion) announced this month - to encourage faster adoption of technology that's seen as critical for India to reach its clean-energy goals.