Eco-anxiety, climate doom, environmental existential dread – as green journalists, we see these terms used a lot – and often feel them ourselves.
While there’s a lot to be worried about when it comes to the climate and nature crises, we must not lose hope – because hopelessness breeds apathy.
The media has an important role to play in combatting climate doom. It’s our job to be truthful and accurate in our reporting, not trying to downplay or greenwash the situation. But it’s also our job to show that there is hope.
In 2022, as part of our ongoing effort to tackle eco-anxiety (both that of our readers and our own), we kept track of all the positive environmental news throughout the year – racking up over 100 stories of eco-innovation, green breakthroughs and climate wins.
If you come across a great, positive story that we haven’t covered here – please reach out to us on Instagram or Twitter to share your ideas.
Positive environmental stories from January 2023
New Eurostat data shows that solar, wind and other ‘green’ sources contributed 21.8 per cent to the EU’s total energy consumption.
Although this was a 0.3 per cent drop on 2020, the report shows that Europe’s energy infrastructure is still heading in the right direction, spurred on by recent global events.
Last month, the International Energy Agency revealed that the world is set to add as much renewable power in the next five years as it did in the last 20.
New research has named three small interventions that could trigger a cascade of decarbonisation and may be the fastest way to drive global action.
These positive tipping points could have a snowball effect in a good way, drastically cutting carbon emissions in some of the world’s most polluting sectors and giving us “plausible grounds” for hope.
Paris commuters took advantage of the capital’s newly expanded network of bicycle lanes to bypass public transport disruptions resulting from a nationwide strike.
Bike lane traffic has often surged during recent strikes. The last Paris metro strike on 10 November boosted bike lane usage by 80 per cent from average daily use that month.
In a bid to make Paris a ‘cycling city’ and move towards carbon neutrality, Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo has invested more than €150 million into new bike infrastructure in recent years.
The French Parliament has voted in favour of banning deep-sea mining in its waters, in an emphatic move against the controversial practice.
Deep-sea mining would see heavy machinery being used on the ocean floor to suck up small rocks containing rare metals. Though it’s still at an exploratory stage, companies are very interested in the cobalt, nickel and manganese which could be extracted for car batteries.
But scientists are concerned about the potentially devastating impact on marine ecosystems. As well as the climate, given the vast amounts of CO2 stored at these depths.
Nicholas Thierry, the Green MP who tabled the motion, welcomed the vote as a “victory for the seabed and environmentalists.”
Edinburgh has become the first European capital to endorse a plant-based diet to tackle the climate emergency.
The city council has signed on to the Plant Based Treaty, an initiative which aims to reduce greenhouse gas emissions from animal agriculture.
The treaty could eventually see the council introduce some carbon labelling on menus and transition to more plant based meals in schools and council buildings.
Visiting green spaces can dramatically lower mental health drug use, research has found.
Dropping into a park, community garden or other urban green space between three and four times a week can cut people’s chances of taking medication for anxiety or depression by a third.
The positive impact – documented by researchers at the Finnish Institute for Health and Welfare – also extends to physical health. Visiting green spaces reduces the chances of a city resident having to take asthma or high blood pressure medication by a third and a quarter, respectively.
A draft European Union law will require companies to back up green claims with evidence.
The proposal will clamp down on companies promoting their products as ‘climate neutral’ or ‘containing recycled materials’ if such labels are not substantiated. It aims to fight misleading environmental advertisements.
“By fighting greenwashing, the proposal will ensure a level playing field for businesses when marketing their greenness,” the draft document states.
Soaring demand for home solar power systems in Germany could boost revenues at Solarwatt by more than 50 per cent this year to €500 million.
By installing solar panels, batteries and heat pumps, homeowners are seeking to cut their energy bills after huge price hikes last year when Russia cut fossil fuel exports to the West.
“We are a life-long supplier to people who want to become self-reliant on renewable energy,” says solarwatt chief executive Detlef Neuhaus. The company should reach profitability this year.
Finland’s wind power capacity increased by 75 per cent last year, according to the Finnish Wind Energy Association (FWPA).
With almost half of Finland’s wind power domestically owned, the renewable energy source is providing a significant lifeline during the current energy crisis.
The growth in renewables is also helping Finland achieve its ambitious climate goals. The country hopes to be one of the first in Europe to reach net zero, setting a 2035 target – well ahead of the EU’s 2050 goal.
Hit UK reality TV show ‘Love Island’ is back on 16 January – and pre-loved fashion is set to steal the show once again.
In 2022, the series ditched its fast fashion image by partnering with eBay – the first ever pre-loved fashion partnership on a TV show. Clothing from eBay’s online second hand marketplace was worn by contestants as they descended on an exotic location to find love.
Searches for ‘pre-loved clothing’ soared by 1,600 per cent on eBay after the show aired.
Scientists have developed a way of transforming plastic waste and greenhouse gases into sustainable fuels using solar power.
The system, developed by researchers at the University of Cambridge, could address plastic pollution and become a “game-changer” in the development of a circular economy.
Human emissions of certain chemicals cause a hole to open up in the ozone layer each year over the Antarctic. This affects the ability of the ozone to protect life on Earth from the sun’s harmful radiation.
Now, the 1987 Montreal Protocol, under which 197 countries pledged to phase out ozone depleting chemicals, is paying off.
A UN-backed panel of experts, presenting at the American Meteorological Society’s annual meeting yesterday, said the ozone would heal by around 2066 over the Antarctic, by 2045 over the Arctic and by 2040 for the rest of the world.
A large solar power plant has been built in Dağbeli, on the outskirts of Antalya, Turkey, to provide free energy to local farmers.
Local growers in the fruit and vegetable farming hub say they once refrained from irrigating their crops properly because of the high energy prices. Some 60,000 people now benefit from the support scheme, which gives farmers the means to run irrigation systems and increase crop production.
Spain has ruled that tobacco companies will have to pay to clean up cigarette butts.
Millions of cigarette ends are tossed onto Spain’s streets and beaches by smokers each year.
The new environmental regulations also include bans on single-use plastic cutlery and plastic straws. The rulings are part of an EU-wide drive to reduce waste and promote recycling.
Single-use plastic items including cutlery and plates will soon be banned in England, the government has announced.
Each year, the country uses around 1.1 billion single-use plates and 4.25 billion items of cutlery, according to government estimates. Only 10 per cent of these are recycled.
Now, environment secretary Thérèse Coffey has confirmed that such items will be outlawed in England.
A Belgian NGO is using human hair clippings to absorb environmental pollutants.
Clippings are collected from hairdressers across the country then turned into matted squares. These can be used to absorb oil and other hydrocarbons polluting the environment.
The mats can be placed in drains to soak up pollution in water before it reaches a river. They can also be used to deal with pollution problems due to flooding and to clean up oil spills.
Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva was sworn in as Brazil’s president in January marking a new era for the country’s environmental policies.
Lula’s plans for government provide a stark contrast to far-right former leader Jair Bolsonaro, whose four years in office were characterised by backsliding on environmental protections.
The new president says he wants to turn Brazil, one of the world’s top food producers, into a green superpower.
Our favourite positive environmental story from 2022
In the wild, a two-headed tortoise would not ordinarily survive long since it can’t retract its heads into its shell to shelter from predators. But this month, Janus – named after the two-faced Roman God – became the world’s oldest two-headed tortoise at 25.
Lovingly cared for at Geneva Natural History Museum, he is treated to a personalised care regime – including daily massages and green tea baths – that keeps him in good health.
For more good news on the environment from last year, check out all of Euronews Green’s positive environmental stories from 2022.