10 Good News Eco Stories
Everywhere we look at the moment, the news is grim. So we thought it was time to balance the scales a bit. Things ain’t all bad. There are good things happening around the world. And they show what can be done with ingenuity, empathy and determination. Three attributes the human race has in abundance when we give them a chance…
1. Tesla Energy makes saltwater drinkable in Kenya
When a drought began in 2014, the villagers of Kiunga in Kenya eventually had to drink water from saltwater wells. The salt in the clothes caused rashes in children and long-term consumption of saltwater began to cause kidney problems in some residents.
GivePower, a non profit organisation, owned by Tesla, built a desalination system entirely powered by solar panels and battery storage units. Construction cost GivePower $500,000 and took only a month to set up. The system now provides 20,000 gallons of fresh drinking water every day – enough for a population of 25,000. The plant has not only dramatically improved health, it has also been the catalyst for local business growth with residents starting a freshwater delivery business to supply other communities, and a group of women opening up new freshwater clothes-washing businesses.
2. Humpback whales return from the brink
By the 1950s, mass overfishing by the whaling industry saw the South Atlantic population of humpbacks reduced to only 450 whales.
In the 1960s protections started to be put in place, but many thought it was too little too late. Then whaling in the area was halted altogether in the 1970s. The result? A study from the University of Washington’s School of Aquatic and Fishery Sciences published in November 2019 revealed that the species’ population has now rebounded to 25,000 once more. That’s nearly as many as estimated existed in the 1700s when commercial whaling began intensively. It shows how quickly nature can recover if we give it even half a chance.
3. New blast furnace turns landfill into 100% emissions-free clean energy
The Sierra Energy Company in California vaporizes non-recyclable garbage that ends up in landfills and turns it into clean energy with no waste or emissions.
Fuel produced by their ‘FastOx’ technology is 20 times cleaner than California fuel standards. All gases created by the process are captured for reuse as fossil fuels, fertilizer, hydrogen, or ethanol.
With significant new funding behind them, they plan to expand their business to new sites, showing that you can convert landfill into clean energy, fuels – and cash!
4. Global emissions fall 2%
2019 saw the biggest drop in global carbon emissions from the electricity system in 30 years. Fit ell by 2% last year as countries worldwide sped up the phasing out of coal-fired power plants. Climate thinktank Ember, revealed that the US and the EU had led the way as power from coal plants fell by 3% in 2019 alone, and coal production had collapsed by a quarter. Meanwhile renewable wind and solar power rose by 15% in 2019 to produce 8% of the world’s electricity.
5. World’s first driverless electric vehicle launched
Cruise, the self-driving car start-up, part owned by Honda and General Motors, has unveiled its first autonomous vehicle. Chief executive Dan Ammann explains it’s a new concept in car ownership that he believes is going to become standard in the near future. Drivers need to move from individual ownership to sharing. This will reduce emissions, congestion and accidents. ‘It’s not a product you buy, it’s an experience you share. The car is all electric and 100% driverless.
6. Revolutionary solar-powered water battery slashes Australian university’s fuel bills by 40% in first year
Since September 2019, Australian university, USC, has installed a 3-story ‘water battery’ to power its air conditioning—and has already reduced its electrical usage by 40%. The first-of-its-kind battery stores energy generated by 6,000 solar panels placed across campus rooftops. Over 25 years, it’s projected to save $100 million and significantly cut the university’s greenhouse gas emissions.
7. Plastic in the ocean: new barge turns the tide…
Malaysia’s Klang River releases more than 15,000 tons of plastic waste to the oceans every year. It’s in the top 50 of the world’s most polluting rivers. But in a new initiative, you can now see ‘The Interceptor’ created by Ocean Cleanup quietly working away on the water. It’s an ingenious barge waste collector, specially designed to direct then filter plastic from the river as it flows downstream. It collects an astonishing 50 tonnes of rubbish a day. Additional barges are now in Jakarta, the Dominican Republic and Vietnam.
8. Clean energy to power all new Welsh homes by 2025
In Wales, housing currently contributes 9% of all greenhouse gas emissions. Housing Minister Julie James said reducing the carbon and energy impact of new homes was essential to meet the government’s overall target of reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 95% before 2050. “We need to take action now to make a significant step change to the way we heat and power our homes,” she said.
The Welsh Assembly has legislated that all houses built after 2025 must be powered by clean energy, with the aim long term of reducing domestic CO2 emissions by 80%. The measures also mean that householders could save up to £180 per year on their bills.
This is just the start. Naked predicts that the whole of the UK and Europe will follow suit soon.
9. New study reveals for the first time that we have the space to plant enough trees to reverse the climate crisis
A study in the journal Science by The Crowther Lab of ETH Zurich has proposed that the most effective way to tackle climate change is to plant more trees. Globally, there are 2.2 billion acres of land suitable for reforestation, of which 0.9 billion are unused by humans. If they were planted, we could capture two thirds of human-made carbon emissions.
Study lead author Jean-François Bastin said: “We excluded cities or agricultural areas from the total restoration potential as these areas are needed for human life.” So there’s an area the size of the US available for new forests and the study has pinpointed where this would be possible. Once mature, the forests could store 205 billion tonnes of carbon: two thirds of the 300 billion tonnes produced by humans since the Industrial Revolution!
10. New factory uses enzymes to recycle all plastics in hours – backed by major corporations
Backed by giants such as PepsiCo, Nestle and L’Oreal, French startup Carbios is developing a new process that uses enzymes to break down the worst PET plastics into a form that can be reused to make clear water bottles. In October 2019 the company announced it had secured funding for the construction of a new recycling plant that will biorecycle multicolored plastics, food trays, polyester clothes and the like This is a major step forward in tackling waste that currently has a near zero recycle rate.