2019 was a big year for the environment. There is a lot of work to be done as we enter the new decade but, before we enter 2020, let’s take a look at the positive strides we’ve made toward a more sustainable future. Let’s countdown to 2020 with 10 great things that happened to the environment in 2019 and keep the positive momentum going into 2020 and the new decade!
10. Animals That Are Bouncing Back
Thanks to efforts from legislation like the Endangered Species Act, government agencies across the world, nonprofits and local communities, several animal species across the world started bouncing back in 2019! Some highlights include the number of Bengal Tigers increased as poaching decreased and in Zambia, poaching has decreased 50% which is great news for the Zambian elephant populations. The Southwest Atlantic Humpback Whales have recovered from near extinction from the commercial whaling industry and the California Condor Recover Project saw its 1000th chick hatch this year!
9. Company Commitments
In 2019, over 100 companies pledged to reduce their carbon footprints across all sectors. Notably, Amazon pledged to be carbon net-neutral by 2040 and use only renewable energy sources by 2030. Fashion companies also pledged improvements, with 32 fashion groups including Adidas and Nordstrom banning together to create the Fashion Pact, led by the Kering group which owns many fashion brands including Gucci. The Fashion Pact plans to use 100% renewable energy by 2030 and work toward using more sustainable packaging.
8. Renewable Energy Strides Globally
In the last 10 years, the capacity for renewable energy sources has quadrupled and in 2019, 12.9% of the world’s energy came from renewable energy sources. That means, we are relying less on energy from non-renewable sources like coal and more on solar, wind and hydropower!
7. Renewable Energy Strides In The U.S.
In the U.S., over 90 cities have committed to using 100% clean energy by 2050, with some cities making the commitment as early as 2030. A few cities, like Aspen, Colorado and Burlington, Vermont have already hit their targets!
Planting trees to capture some of the CO2 in the environment could be a key component of reaching the commitments of the Paris Climate Agreement. In 2019, countries, nonprofits and private companies took this challenge very seriously. Ethiopia planted 350 million trees in one day. Other countries pledged to plant trees in the next decade, including New Zealand pledging to plant one billion trees by 2028 and Pakistan pledging to plant 10 million trees in the next five years. In addition, Timberland, the shoe and clothing company, pledged to plant 50 million trees over the next five years. That’s a big win for reforestation!
5. Sustainable Food Trends
The plant-based diet became all the rage in 2019, and for good reason. Turning to plant-based diets could be the key to food sustainability. Big companies met the demand for more sustainable food options with Burger King leading the charge. In 2019, Burger King partnered with Impossible Foods to offer the Impossible Whopper, a plant-based alternative to the classic burger. This is a trend we want to see continue in 2020!
4. Successful Cleanup Of The Great Pacific Garbage Patch
In October of 2019, The Ocean Cleanup completed its first successful attempt to collect garbage from the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. With its System 001/B, The Ocean Cleanup successfully collected garbage and microplastics as small as 1mm! With this success under their belt, they plan to keep working and build their next system that will hold collected plastic for long periods of time.
3. Divest Movements
In 2019, movements to divest from fossil fuels continued across the world. Over 11 trillion U.S. dollars are committed to divest from fossil fuels. That means, companies and individuals who have investments (in the form of stocks or bonds) in the fossil fuel industry have pledged to get rid of over 11 trillion U.S. dollars worth of those investments. That leaves plenty of room to invest in sustainable energy!
2. Youth Climate Strike
Some of the most encouraging events in 2019 were the Youth Climate Strikes that took place across the world. On September 20th, 2019 the Youth Climate Strike took to streets all over the world. With over four million participants, the climate strike made big headlines and a big impact. Led by teenager Greta Thunberg, the Climate Strike pushed everyone to think critically about what it really means to protect our environment and make sure the earth can be a home for future generations.
1. Bans On Single-Use Plastics
Single-use plastics took a big hit in 2019, with governments across the U.S. and the world taking steps to ban certain single-use plastics. The European Union and Canada will phase out certain single-use plastics, including plastic straws and plastic cutlery by 2021 and India will phase out certain single-use plastics by 2022. In the U.S., over 200 bills related to single-use plastics were brought to state legislatures and plastic bag bans went into effect in New York state. In addition, the UN led the charge and cut out all single-use plastics from the UN facilities.
As we head into 2020, let’s keep up the good work and make more strides toward a sustainable future! What strides will we make in the next 10 years? Let’s make this the decade of sustainability and see how far we can go!