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19 Good Things That Happened For The Planet In 2019

Emma Loewe
April 22, 2019
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director
Emma Loewe is the Senior Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us."
April 22, 2019
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2019 wasn't all doom and gloom. Here are 19 pieces of positive environmental news from the year that are worth celebrating. Check out some more recent wins for the planet here.

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1. More companies went regenerative.

By some estimates, our soil can only handle around 60 more years of traditional farming before it’s totally depleted. That’s why regenerative agriculture, which mimics processes in nature to improve soil health and extract carbon from the atmosphere, feels more urgent than ever. In 2019, Applegate released its new line of regeneratively made sausages as momentum continues to grow for establishing a regenerative label to mark food grown using these practices.

2. The EU Government took a stand on plastic pollution.

In an effort to reduce the plastic problem in our oceans (which, sadly, is only getting worse), the European Union voted to ban 10 common categories of single-use plastics—plates, cutlery, straws, etc.—from member states by 2021. Another interesting initiative the EU is testing is a “polluter pays” model, in which tobacco companies will need to fund cleanup crews to pick up cigarette butts in public areas.

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3. New York banned the bag.

Speaking of eco-friendly bans, New York became the second state to ban single-use plastic bags, after California, this year. Counties will also be given the option to sell bags for a 5-cent fee, with proceeds going to the state’s Environmental Protection Fund.

4. The kids spoke up.

Under the leadership of 16-year-old Swedish activist Greta Thunberg (who was recently named one of mbg’s top 10 Women Saving The Planet), more than 1.4 million students across 123 countries skipped school on March 15. Equipped with signs such as Listen to our warning: Stop global warming and Don’t mess with my future, the young protesters implored governments worldwide to slow the use of fossil fuels and keep the planet safe for their generation. If these kids are any indication, our future is in good hands.

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5. Puerto Rico set a new sustainable standard.

In the aftermath of Hurricane Maria, those in Puerto Rico are rebuilding stronger, more-resilient communities. If all goes to plan, by 2050 the island will run on 100 percent renewable energy with the help of a massive solar grid.

6. Brands signed onto the reusable economy.

In the not-so-distant future, you’ll be able to order household staples like cleaning supplies and ice cream in reusable packaging that will be collected from your doorstep once you’re done with it. It’s all thanks to Loop, a new initiative by recycling company TerraCycle that wants to make single-use packaging a thing of the past and already has buy-in from major players like Unilever, P&G, and PepsiCo.

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7. Park prescriptions went mainstream.

Doctors across the country are continuing to dole out a new sort of medication that doesn’t come in a pill. There’s a growing interest in Park Rx programs that prescribe time outdoors in local parks as an antidote to common ailments of today, such as hypertension, diabetes, and anxiety. As science and medicine continue to confirm that time in nature is great for our health, more emphasis could be put on establishing accessible green spaces.

8. For one day, online shopping went carbon neutral.

On February 28, Etsy announced that it would start making all of its shipments from online orders carbon neutral by investing in offset projects that take greenhouse gases out of the environment—and they’d foot the bill for the entire e-commerce industry to do the same for one day. The company estimates that doing this for just one day was the equivalent of taking 11,965 cars off the road for a year.

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9. Our National Parks got the star treatment.

At the 2019 Oscars, the U.S. National Parks took home the award for best documentary. Okay, technically it went to filmmakers Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, climber Alex Hannold, and the crew behind the sweaty-palm-inducing film, Free Solo. But Yosemite National Park, in all its glory, served as the backdrop to Honnold’s record-setting climb and served as a beautiful reminder of all that is possible in nature. As Chin put it in his episode on the mbg podcast, “The idea of wellness should be all-pervasive—yourself, your family, and the environment as well.”

10. Solar and wind became more and more appealing.

It’s official: A third of power around the world comes from renewable sources and 75 percent of coal production is more expensive than solar or wind. How’s that for proof that renewable energy is taking over the world?

11. Companies championed ingredients that give back to the planet.

Kernza is a grain whose deep roots extend 10 feet underground, making it especially effective at pulling carbon from the atmosphere and storing it underground. Now, there’s a movement brewing to bring this environmental superfood to the people, and this year, Patagonia Provisions began brewing a beer using kernza.

12. Burger King did the impossible.

Earlier this month, the fast food chain announced it will be collaborating with Impossible Foods to bring vegetarian whoppers to select stores, starting in St. Louis. Here’s hoping the burger takes off and the food giant continues to make plant-based eating more accessible to people across the country.

13. We all hopped on the secondhand train.

According to a survey by fashion resale platform thredUp, the secondhand clothing market is booming. In fact, their recent report says that it grew 21 times faster than traditional apparel retail over the past three years and is currently worth about $24 billion. Buying less new stuff is one guaranteed way to lessen your environmental impact, so bring on those gently worn jeans.

14. Finland committed to phasing out coal within 10 years.

Finland has long been planning to phase coal out of its economy, and the Finnish Parliament is so confident that it will happen that they voted to push up their timeline by one year. Now, as of May 1, 2029, the country will source all of its energy from alternative sources. (As it stands now, 8 percent of its electricity comes from coal.)

15. NYC schools went meatless.

NYC kids are officially going meatless on Mondays. Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that starting next school year, no city public schools will serve meat in cafeterias on Mondays—a shift that will affect 1.1 million students. NYC will join over 100 school districts taking on similar commitments to expose kids to more environmentally friendly, plant-based eating.

16. Ride-sharing got a little greener.

Earlier this year, ride-sharing app Lyft released its new “Green Mode” in select cities, which gives riders the option to take an electric vehicle as part of the company’s overarching commitment to making all rides carbon neutral. Combine that with an influx of electric scooter and bike offerings, and you have an ever-expanding world of lower-emission transportation.

17. 100 million trees will now be coming our way.

With its newly unveiled Time for Trees campaign, The Arbor Day Foundation has committed to planting 100 million trees in the hopes of removing 578,000 tons of chemical pollution from the air. The organization is getting communities involved by recruiting 5 million tree planters around the world to join them.

18. U.S. National Parks had a big win.

In March, the John D. Dingell Jr. Conservation, Management and Recreation Act passed, which will protect wilderness areas in all 50 states, close off an area outside of Yellowstone National Park to mining, and reinstate an important federal conservation fund. Though we have a long way to go to protect U.S. National Parks, this was a step in the right direction.

19. The world got a beautiful new magazine—focused almost entirely on climate change.

Looking at Atmos’ minimalist, muted cover, you’d think it was just another high fashion or arts magazine. But open it up and you’ll find hundreds of pages filled with stories of how people around the world are coping with and fighting climate change. Inspiration, found.

Emma Loewe
Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability + Health Director

Emma Loewe is the Sustainability and Health Director at mindbodygreen and the author of Return to Nature: The New Science of How Natural Landscapes Restore Us. She is also the co-author of The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care, which she wrote alongside Lindsay Kellner.

Emma received her B.A. in Environmental Science & Policy with a specialty in environmental communications from Duke University. In addition to penning over 1,000 mbg articles on topics from the water crisis in California to the rise of urban beekeeping, her work has appeared on Grist, Bloomberg News, Bustle, and Forbes. She's spoken about the intersection of self-care and sustainability on podcasts and live events alongside environmental thought leaders like Marci Zaroff, Gay Browne, and Summer Rayne Oakes.