There were a number of significant events in the last year. Some of these brought us closer together, some divided our world apart. While the mass media chose events that would be great click-bait and capitalized on fear, they left out a number of events that truly mattered. Many things happened over the past year that may seem almost minuscule on first glance but may be prove to be otherwise for our planet and our health. It’s important to acknowledge these achievements, so other people and organizations can follow and take initiative as well.
1. Plastic Bag Were Banned
Less than 5% of plastic bags from grocery stores are recycled. They end up buried in the ground or simple float of into our oceans. Several states like California took initiative in banning plastic bags from grocery stores in order to reduce waste and force people to use re-usable bags. With over 500 millions to 1 trillion bags being consumed world wide per year, this is a huge step in the right direction. With what started as San Francisco originally banning plastic bags in 2007, has spread to many different cities and states. Urge your city and state leaders to do the same.
2. Major Cities Became Bike-Friendlier
While certain cities in the US always embraced alternative means of transportation, cities like New York were considered to be one of the more dangerous cities to ride your bike in. However, Citi Bike program started paving the way and making place for the bicycle to be riden once again. There’s around 6,000 bicycles currently, and Citi has entered into an agreement to double it’s fleet by 2017. More infrastructure is being built to enable safe riding within the city.
3. Solar Energy Was Put to Use
As with the other years in the past, since the development of solar panels, the market has grown exponentially. Solar energy has powered everything from homes to universities. California has opened the world’s largest solar plant this year that will be able to power over 160,000 homes with renewable solar energy. California has set a requirement to major utilities to use 33% or more renewable energy by 2020. Massive scale products like these reassure us that renewable energy is the only type that makes sense for the future. The more renewable energy is put to use the less nuclear disasters, oil spills and damage to our environment.
4. Home Gardens Were Planted
While this is hardly news, since people have been planting gardens for centuries, there was a rapid growth of gardens in the last year or so. People ditched their lawns and turned them into beautiful gardens. Creative architectural ingenuity has allowed us to plant gardens in more places than ever. People grew them on the ground, vertically, on walls and rooftops. Maybe it was the overwhelming production of junk foods, the spread of GMOs or just the willingness to control your own food supply, but one thing is for certain, home gardens are here to stay.
5. GMOs Were Banned
While the GMO market is still rapidly expanding, certain countries chose to ban GMOs all together. There were 26 countries in total that banned GMOs including, Austria, Switzerland, China, Australia, India, France, Greece, Germany, Hungary, Luxembourg, Poland, Bulgaria, Italy, Mexico and Russia. While we were assured that GMOs were completely safe, people fear that the long term effects are unknown and practices of corporate giants like Monsanto are simply unacceptable. While US hasn’t followed these countries (as most of companies like Monsanto are US based) in banning GMOs, nearly half the states in US have proposed laws for GMO labeling. Maine, Vermont and Connecticut have successfully passed these laws in effect.
6. Social Funding Gave Us New Possibilities
For the longest time, inventors have relied on large corporations and angel investors to give them a chance for their dreams. The power of the internet changed all that. People believing in one another allowed some incredible products to be made with crowdfunding. Crowdfunding is where individuals donate money to projects that they believe in, in return for the product being made and also receiving some small incentives along the way. Anything from 3D printers, to revolutionary gadgets like Oculus Rift which allowed us to delve into new dimensions were realized thanks to individual efforts. The best part of crowd funding is that the inventors don’t have to give up a part of their company to investors who may not share their vision and take away their unique approach in order to maximize profit. This leaves opportunity for companies to grow naturally and let them be eco-friendly, even if that doesn’t mean they are making the most they can make.
7. Bigger Selection of Greener Vehicles
Nearly every car manufacturer started producing at least one hybrid or electric vehicle. Although electric cars have been around for decades, they were continuously shut down in fears that they will kill the oil industry. In the last year or so the sales and production of hybrid and electric vehicles increased, thanks to companies like Tesla. Tesla Motors went even so far as releasing its patents to competitors in order to expand this market. Tesla also offers its drivers free car charging for life. In 2014, there were an estimated 10,000 car charging stations in the US. Norway leads the way in electric vehicles, with over 13% of cars sold being PEV (plug-in electric vehicles).
8. Plastic Bottles Were Banned
Once again, San Francisco lead the way in fighting plastic waste and officially became the first city to ban the sale of plastic bottles. San Francisco, ultimately hopes to eliminate all waste by 2020. Certainly an ambitious goal, but the way they have paved the way for eco friendly changes, they can undoubtedly succeed. Americans used 50 billion plastic bottles last year and only a fifth of them were recycled. As plastic takes thousands of years to decompose it is filling up our grounds and oceans. Plastic bottles also release toxins in the water when exposed to heat and water companies use simple filtration systems to convert tap water to fresh “spring” water.
9. Companies Shifted to Paperless Billing
With ink at $13 per ounce and more, it is topping the prices of fancy champagne and even human blood. It’s no wonder that companies were no longer able to afford the luxury of wasting this much cash. Canada estimates that it wastes about 82 million pounds on paper bills each year. US totals would be much higher. While companies have claimed that they are switching their customers to paperless billing to be greener, their true motives are obvious. But if they reduce pollution and save a couple of bucks, so be it. This tiny change can have a huge impact on the millions of trees that are being cut down every second to meet our demand for paper.
10. Organic Industry Expanded Exponentially
Organic products are now available in 3 out of 4 grocery stores. Organic food sales totalled at $35 billion in 2014, which is double than those in 2007. While all food was organic at some point, it was quickly taken over by low-quality processed foods. This shift to organic products shows the rising demand to eat healthier and know what’s in our food. The end goal for the organic industry, should be to eliminate the term “organic” and rather label foods that cause harm to your health, instead of the other way around. Nevertheless, as long as people demand real food and vote with their money, they will get it.
11. Organizations Helped People Continents Away
Social media and the internet has allowed us to connect in the last decade as never seen before. While it wastes hours of our day, it also allows us to connect with people continents away. For example, water.org was able to raise millions of dollars to help those in need and provide clean and accessible water to areas in need. Following the Nepal earthquake disaster, organizations and people were able to come together to raise funds to help the relief. Time and time again you proved that we can care about and help strangers a world away.
12. Money Shifted to Social Markets
Although with extreme opposition and lawsuits, money has been shifting to companies which embrace the social markets. For example, Uber and Lyft apps revolutionized the transportation industry by letting regular individuals to use their own vehicles to provide rides. AirBNB took the hotel industry by storm allowing its users to rent out their living space and make some extra cash. These companies are worth well over a billion dollars now, but it was not without resistance, as both companies are continuously facing lawsuits. All in all, these companies brought people closer together, took advantage of untapped markets and made the markets more transparent.
13. Small Countries Proved Fossil Fuels Aren’t Necessary
Inspiration often times come from the smallest sources. Costa Rica, a country of just 4.8 million people started out 2015 powering itself only with clean energy for 75 days in a row. While the country is very small, and its nature makes it super convenient to generate energy, it gives everyone else hope. It means that that taking care of our environment, can return the favor for us in the future.
14. Companies Listened
Thanks to incredible organizations like Change.org, people are able to voice their opinions without having to be in the same location or even the same country. Anything from Styrofoam cups being rid off in United airlines to NFL dropping its non-profit status (despite having a 10 bn+ income and not paying corporate taxes in the past), all these victories were made possible by individuals like you taking action. Vote with your money, spread information and companies will have no choice but to listen.
15. You Spoke Up
Whether it was standing up to corporate giants like Monsanto, corrupt bankers in Wall Street, civil rights in our own country or injustices across the world, you were there and you spoke up. This new generation is not one of bystanders, it is one who stands together. While individuals like Gandhi and MLK were seemingly able to move mountains by themselves, they didn’t do it without any help and with violence. This new generation has embraced these ideals and is bound to reform our planet into a better place. All the events throughout the last few years should serve you as a reminder that your voice counts and that it is not corporations or political figures but YOU who can make a difference.
Let’s share some good news, inspire change and positivity! Share this with your friends and be a part of the change that you want to see.