You might not know it from reading the news (or, I admit, my posts), but there are some good things happening for the environment. If we and all our fellow inhabitants of Earth are lucky, good news will become the trend — but we have to make it happen.
1. Switzerland Moving Towards Banning Plastic Bags
In December the Swiss Parliament voted to ban single-use plastic shopping bags. “The next step is for the government to implement the ban,” reports the Environmental News Service.
The member of Parliament who introduced this measure, Dominique de Buman, wrote that single-use plastic bags are used for less than an hour, but take hundreds of years to disappear. “The average duration of use of such a bag is 25 minutes. Its manufacture requires a lot of oil and energy,” he writes. “Incinerated, it releases dioxin.”
Petroleum, a non-renewable resource, is necessary to produce plastic bags, further reducing the supply of a substance we rely on heavily for energy.
Plastic bags also harm wildlife. They kill “about 100,000 animals such as dolphins, turtles whales, penguins…. Many animals ingest plastic bags, mistaking them for food, and therefore die” of starvation. They lose their appetite because they feel full, and what they do eat can’t pass through their digestive system because the bag is blocking it.
Other locales that have banned plastic bags include France, Hawaii and Los Angeles.
2. Colorado Schools Install Solar Panels
14 Colorado schools recently installed 5,000 solar panels on their roofs. The Boulder Valley School District already had 16 buildings with solar panels. Now half of the District’s 60 buildings host solar arrays, which reduce its energy costs.
The Examiner reports that this project will eliminate over 110 million pounds of annual carbon dioxide emissions, equivalent to taking 300 cars off the roads each year.
The project is also educational. Displays will allow students to see “how much power their solar system is generating and how much electricity their school is using,” bringing home “the relationship between production and consumption.” Students will also learn how solar works.
3. England to Preserve Forests in Public Trust
The British government had planned to sell 15 percent of its publicly-held forests, but happily it reversed course. Instead of selling the forests, it will instead protect them for future generations with a trust. The trust will be more independent from the government than in the previous arrangement.
4. Paper Company to Stop Clearing Rain Forests
Asia Pulp and Paper Company, which produces 18 million tons of paper every year, has announced that “it halted all its suppliers from clearing natural forests as of February.” Bloomberg reports that the company will sell products harvested only from farmed trees from now on.
In May Greenpeace International accused AP&P of cutting down natural rainforests and other areas “considered to be among the last habitat of the Sumatran tiger, which is protected under international conservation programs.” Preserving rain forests will help protect that habitat.
5. The Super Bowl Saves Electricity
Compared to the average Sunday, American households used 5 percent less energy on Super Bowl Sunday. OPower issued a report that the 2012 match-up was the most widely watched television broadcast in history, and you might think that with all those TVs sucking power out of the grid it would be a high-consumption day. In fact, electricity use dropped when the game started — energy consumption before kick-off was comparable to the average winter Sunday morning.
OPower proposes two explanations: one, that while people are watching the Superbowl they are not using other appliances, and two, many people watch the game at someone else’s home or a bar, meaning their own TVs are turned off.
Maybe professional sports has more social utility than I ever gave it credit for. Super Bowl organizers also made quite an effort to make sure the event was relatively environmentally conscious.
Maybe the environmental destruction we are relentlessly causing can be arrested.