We know sometimes it can seem like environmental wins are few and far between, but some pretty amazing and positive things happened for the Earth this year! Read on to learn more.
New Zealand announced plastic bag ban
In a press conference, New Zealand’s Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced a ban on single-use plastic bags that will take effect next year.
“We’re taking meaningful steps to reduce plastic pollution so we don’t pass this problem to future generations,” she said. It is estimated that New Zealand uses 750 million plastic bags every year, roughly 150 per New Zealander.
2018 was a record year for renewables
Although some in office are still working hard to stifle the implementation of renewable energy, 2018 was a record year for renewables In the European Union, renewable energy has surpassed coal is a source of power, and both Facebook and Apple continued their rigorous investments into renewable power. China also continued expanding their renewable energy grid at a rapid pace.
The ozone has been healing
We first became aware of CFCs damaging the ozone layer back in the 1980s. It was alarming to many that a vital layer of protection was being destroyed. But nearly 40 years later, the United Nation announced this year that the ozone is healing and could be fully restored during our lifetime.
The supreme court rejected a challenge to the Endangered Species Act
In January of 2018, the US Supreme Court upheld a ruling that supported protections for the Utah prairie dog, an animal considered to be “threatened” under the Endangered Species Act. The act was challenged by petitioners who tried to argue that it could not enforce regulations for a species that was found exclusively in one state.
By upholding this ruling, the Supreme Court maintained the authority of the US Fish and Wildlife Service to carry out the protection of threatened and endangered animals that are given protections by the ESA.
Hawaii lawmakers banned toxic sunscreens
Lawmakers in Hawaii have approved a bill that would prohibit the sale of sunscreens that contain oxybenzone, a coral reef-damaging chemical agent. The measure was introduced to the Hawaii legislature by Senator Mike Gabbard, with an exception being made for medically prescribed sunscreens.
Evidence has mounted that some commercially available sunscreens containing oxybenzone, a chemical that filters harmful rays from the sun, may be causing damage to coral reefs.
Healthy coral reefs have a symbiotic relationship with microscopic algae called zooxanthellae. This algae lives in the coral’s tissues, absorbing necessary nutrients from the coral while also providing a food source in return. Exposure to oxybenzone causes the coral to become stressed, which results in the algae leaving the coral.
Palau also banned toxic sunscreen
On October 25th, Palau president Tommy Remengesau Jr. signed into law the Responsible Tourism Education Act of 2018 that would see oxybenzone-containing sunscreens banned by 2020. The ban also includes sunscreens that contain methyl paraben and ethyl paraben.
Businesses and vendors caught selling these sunscreens after the ban goes into effect could face penalties of up to $1,000 per violation. Tourists entering Palau will have these sunscreens confiscated as well.
A federal court upheld protections for national monuments and the oceans
In October of 2018, a federal court in the United States dismissed a petition by an industrial fishing group to challenge the first ever marine monument in US waters of the Atlantic Ocean. A coalition of more than 300,000 scientists, fishing groups, conservation groups, and oceanic recreational groups came together to argue for the protection of the Northeast Canyons and Seamounts Marine National Monument, and they were successful.
California went all in on renewable power
In September, California Governor Jerry Brown signed Senate Bill 100, which commits California to receiving all of its electricity from renewable sources by 2045. California is currently the world’s largest economy to commit to a zero-carbon electric footprint. It is the second state to commit to 100% renewable power. Hawaii was the first.
The EU banned single-use plastics
In November, the European parliament overwhelmingly voted to approve a comprehensive ban on single-use plastics by 2021. The proposal passed with 571 in favor and 53 in opposition. The ban sought to stop production of the top 10 plastic products that end up in the ocean and would eliminate items like cotton swabs, plastic cutlery, and plastic straws.