Most of the news we hear about the environment is pretty bleak. Despite the alarming narratives spread by major news outlets, hopeful stories about the state of our planet do exist.
To help restore your faith in humanity and make you feel better about the planet we all share, here are a few examples of positive steps that society is taking to fight back against climate change and environmental damage.
In 2019, the London Marathon swapped plastic for seaweed
If you plan on running 26.2 miles, staying hydrated is important. For years, plastic water bottles have been the norm at long-distance running events like marathons, but this year a sustainable alternative has emerged: seaweed.
This year’s London Marathon saw the largest trial yet for Ooho, a company that makes seaweed capsules that can be filled with water and other drinks. It’s an ideal solution for runners, who need a fast and convenient way to drink water on the move – Ooho pods can either be consumed whole or bitten into to release their fluid.
Since the seaweed casing is fully biodegradable, any discarded packaging will decompose in a matter of weeks. That’s a lot quicker than plastic, which can take up to 1,000 years to disappear while posing a significant risk to wildlife and the environment.
Supermarkets cut down on plastic
The issue of plastic packaging in supermarkets has been a hot topic this year, with many calling for big retailers to reduce or eliminate the material from their aisles. Amazingly, some supermarkets now seem to be listening.
Waitrose have led the way with their packaging-free trials, which allow the public to bring their own reusable containers and fill them with food as an alternative to environmentally-destructive single-use plastic.
Tesco is also making moves to become more sustainable by removing plastic packaging from much of its fresh produce, while Aldi is extending its plastic-free trial to England after cutting more than three tonnes of plastic during a pilot programme in Scotland (a full rollout could eliminate the need for around 100 tonnes of plastic per year).
Elsewhere, Sainsburys is taking a different approach by providing reusable bags made from recycled plastic bottles. The move will help to save 498 tonnes of plastic per year.
Waste-to-energy power plant in Denmark doubles as a ski slope
For a long time, Denmark has been leading the way in terms of innovative solutions to climate change. One of the country’s latest projects is CopenHill: a waste-to-energy power plant in Copenhagen, which produces heat and electricity by burning rubbish that would otherwise end up in landfill.
Steam from the power plant is filtered for pollutants before being released into the atmosphere, and a garden on the roof of the structure also helps to absorb any lingering particles. The power plant is so clean that people are able to ski on top of it – the building incorporates a slope covered neveplast, a slippery material that makes an ideal substitute for snow.
This ski slope (which includes a rooftop bar, walking trail, education centre and 280-foot climbing wall) will help CopenHill to attract around 300,000 visitors per year, providing fun activities that demonstrate Denmark’s vision for a sustainable future.
Reforestation schemes could capture two-thirds of all emissions
Widely hailed as the most effective solution to carbon change, reforestation is seeing an upsurge in support, with large areas of the planet being devoted to the planting of new trees.
A recent assessment suggests that continuing with current reforestation plans could help to store 250 gigatonnes of carbon – around two thirds of what’s lingering in our atmosphere as a result of human activity.
Scientists have been quoted saying that the potential of reforestation is ‘mindblowing’, with analysis showing that there is potential for more than a trillion tree saplings to grow naturally on land across the globe.
So if you want to make a difference in fighting against the climate crisis, it seems that supporting reforestation schemes is a great way to go. For a simple (and free) way to make a difference, consider changing your usual search engine to Ecosia, which uses its profits to plant trees.
Dutch bus stops transformed to attract bees and boost biodiversity
Bus stops in the city of Utrecht in the Netherlands have recently been given a green makeover. Their roofs have been covered with plants to support the survival of insects such as bees.
As well as looking beautiful and doing their bit for nature, these miniature urban gardens will help to improve air quality in the city, store excess rainwater and provide a cooling effect during the warm summer months.
The bus stops are looked after by workers who roam around the city in electric vehicles, keeping emissions to a minimum. The roofs themselves need very little maintenance – they’re made up mostly from sedum plants, which don’t require much water to survive but are still incredibly popular with pollinators like bees.
The Netherlands takes care of the environment in other ways too – it uses iconic Dutch windmills to generate electric power for buses, and runs schemes that encourage residents to turn the roofs of their homes into miniature wildlife sanctuaries.
Inga trees keep soil fertile and slow deforestation in Brazil
A species of tree which helps to improve soil quality and increase the productivity of farmers’ land is being hailed as a miracle solution to deforestation in Brazil.
The inga tree, also known as the ice-cream bean tree, grows quickly on poor quality land, such as where rainforests have been cut down. Its presence also helps to introduce more nitrogen into the soil where it’s planted.
Inga trees produce edible fruit and can be coppiced for wood. This provides a commercially viable business opportunity for farmers who might otherwise sell their land to industrial cattle and soy producers, thereby slowing the rate of deforestation. By using the shade from inga trees, farmers can also grow profitable crops like coffee, cacao and tea.
The Inga Tree Foundation helps to restore land through inga cropping, and is a key organisation in helping South America’s rainforests to recover using these incredible trees. Its founder, Mike Hands, was named one of the top 100 green campaigners of all time by the Guardian, alongside famous names like Sir David Attenborough, Al Gore and George Monbiot.
The UK government has called for a halt on fracking
Following a report confirming that it isn’t possible to predict the size or probability of tremors caused by the extraction of shale gas (also known as fracking), the UK government has prevented the practice from continuing in England.
As well as potentially causing earthquakes, fracking can lead to air and water pollution alongside oil spills. A permanent ban is likely to help the UK to meet its net-zero carbon emission targets.
This is a major U-turn from the UK government, which previously supported the idea of drilling for shale gas as a lucrative way to make money from fossil fuels.
Without lobbying from environmental activists and supporters of sustainability, it’s unlikely that such a monumental political change could have taken place – proof that supporting causes and fighting for what you believe in really can make a difference.