Eco-Anxiety? Here Are 7 Good Things That Happened To The Planet This Week

mbg Sustainability Editor By Emma Loewe
mbg Sustainability Editor
Emma Loewe is the Sustainability Editor at mindbodygreen and the author of "The Spirit Almanac: A Modern Guide To Ancient Self Care."
Eco-Anxiety? 7 Good Things that Happened to the Planet This Week

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As a sustainability editor, I'm often asked how I stay hopeful while reading climate news for a living. The easy answer is that overwhelm doesn't get things done, and for every setback there's also a step forward. I wholeheartedly believe in the smart and dedicated people out there pushing us toward solutions. So, yes, this week President Trump called for a censoring of environmental science, tons of microplastic were found in fish nurseries, and we realized that carbon-emitting bacteria is conspiring against us—but there were some bright spots, too. Here are seven, in particular, that are helping ease my eco-anxiety. I hope they do the same for you.

1. There's a smart new service that lets you rent chic clothes from the laundromat. 

In lieu of going to a store to buy new clothes, a just-launched rental service called Wardrobe lets you shop other people's closets. Founded by artist and social impact entrepreneur Adarsh Alphons, it connects renters and lenders over an easy-to-navigate app. Lenders can post some of their clothes that aren't getting much use for some cash (which they can pocket or opt to donate straight to charity), and renters can snag high-quality pieces for cheap with just a few clicks. What's really unique about the service is the fact that pickups and drop-offs happen at participating laundromats, where each piece is then professionally cleaned after rental instead of being shipped to a laundering facility. Smart, huh?

"Wardrobe is the literal embodiment of circular fashion," Alphons tells mbg of the environmental benefits of the service. "We invite users to a circular fashion lifestyle by letting them borrow from or add their less used items to our collective closet in the cloud." His company is a rebuttal of the fast fashion mentality, and one that trains us to put our clothes to better use. 

Wardrobe is kicking off in 40 laundromat hubs around NYC, and Alphons hopes to expand into more-dense cities like Miami, D.C., L.A., London, and Paris in 2020. Ultimately, the goal is to have hubs everywhere there are dry cleaners and eager shoppers.

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2. ...and give the gift of secondhand ones.

This week, ThredUP, the world's largest online consignment shop, released its first gift card just in time for the holidays. The idea is that instead of giving someone yet another knit sweater they may or may not wear, you can present them with the thrifted gift of their choosing. ThredUP is betting that younger folks, in particular, will sign onto this "something old, nothing new" gifting mentality: A new survey by the company found that 8 in 10 Gen-Z'ers who have bought secondhand in the past plan on giving thrifted gifts this holiday season, which is merry and bright news for the planet.

3. The U.S. moved closer to important legislation to protect endangered whales.

This week in political news, bipartisan legislation that would protect North Atlantic right whales from extinction passed in the Senate. There are only 400 of these whales left on Earth, and 2% of the population has died within the past few months alone—largely at the hands of fishing gear and nets. If passed, this bill would put $5 million toward reducing the rate of entanglement and recovering this important species. 

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4. A new single-waste plastic alternative emerges ... from fish waste and algae.

Watch out, mushrooms, seaweed, and palm leaves—there's a new single-use plastic alternative in town: fish skin and algae. Product design student Lucy Hughes created the translucent, flexible material called MarinaTex after witnessing the amount of waste left over from fishery processing. When she realized that fish skins and scales could be strong enough to give a second life, she combined them with sustainably sourced algae to make a completely compostable alternative to plastic films and baggies. While many bioplastics you'll find these days still require the growth of raw resources, the fact that this one is made from a waste stream makes it a standout. This week, her innovation was named the winner of the annual James Dyson Foundation design competition, so it'll have the backing to hopefully go into production someday soon.

5. The vision for the supermarket of the future is ultra-low-waste.

Today, there are lots of creative solutions to food and packaging waste, but they're disparate: a bulk bin here, a snack food made from veggie scraps there. Greenpeace's new rendering of the grocery market of the future gathers some of the best and brightest ideas into one innovative and low-waste place. The advocacy group's "smart supermarket" features hubs where shoppers can return packaging to be reused, dispensing systems for liquid shampoos and cleaners, and edible food wrapping.

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6. Prada signed a huge loan contingent on sustainability metrics.

In a push toward a greener economy, Prada has signed a $55 million loan with French banking group Crédit Agricole with interest rates tied to the fashion house's progress on sustainability. So if Prada makes good on its goals to open LEED-certified stores and phase certain virgin materials out of its clothes, the rate will lower. I can only imagine what would happen if such clear financial incentives for more sustainable growth existed in every industry. 

7. "Climate strike" became the word of the year.

OK, technically it's two words, but Collins English Dictionary just used it to define 2019. Every year, the dictionary monitors the most-used words and phrases and lands on one that seems to epitomize the time. This year, "rewilding," "nonbinary," and "influencer" were also up for consideration, but "climate strike" took the prize. It's interesting to consider that last year, "single-use" won the distinction. I want to think this year's winner signals that as the climate crisis grows in magnitude, our individual actions are also scaling up into larger institutional demands. How funny and amazing it is that the shift toward activism is in large part thanks to 16-year-old Greta Thunberg, who is currently on a sailboat back to Europe after her whirlwind tour of the U.S. that culminated in September's Global Climate Strike—where a record 7.6 million gathered to demand climate action. 

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