There’s been a lot of talk about whether climate change has caused natural disasters such as Hurricanes Harvey and Irma. The consensus seems to be that climate change is making storms more severe. I tend to think that there must be some reason why the summers seem hotter, the storms seem worse, and the glaciers are disappearing. It can pretty disheartening to think about, so I decided instead to see if there’s anything, environment-wise, that we are doing right.
The good news is that there is good news. Our collective environmental efforts have helped reduce waste, decrease pollution, and have even saved species from endangerment. If you’re feeling a bit depressed from the bleak reports about our planet’s future, read on to learn about some of the positive environmental news.
1. Certain fish species are no longer in danger. The hard work that fishing organizations have put into protecting our oceans has paid off. Nearly two-thirds of fish stocks that were once considered overfished, are now back, or nearly back, to sustainable levels. Once at the top of the Seafood Watch list from the Monterey Bay Aquarium, fish such as bluefish, flounder, and black sea bass are now okay to order on restaurant menus because they have once again reached healthy populations. Consumers can keep the momentum going by choosing the fish they eat according to the Seafood Watch list, and patronizing only fishmongers and restaurants that also serve sustainable seafood.
2. The recycling rate has increased. Since 1990, Americans now recycle more than twice as much waste — 34.5 percent in 2012 compared to only 16 percent in 1990, according to a study by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The benefits of recovering these materials can be compared to taking energy-guzzling, emission-belching cars off the highway. For instance, the amount of paper and paperboard that was recycled in 2012 represents an equivalent savings of taking 27 million cars off the road. Impressive!
3. Municipal solid waste has decreased. Perhaps because we are recycling more, we’re generating less waste. That same report from the EPA showed that in 2000, Americans on average generated 4.74 pounds of trash per person, per day. In 2012, that decreased to 4.38 pounds. That’s a step in the right direction!
4. We’re driving more hybrid cars. In 2015, more than 384,000 hybrid cars were sold in the United States, which is over 100,000 more than were sold in 2011. That’s good news, because hybrid cars use less gasoline and create fewer emissions that contribute to greenhouse gases, and these savings more than offset the resources and energy used to produce them.
5. The plastic-bag bans are working. California and other states have implemented laws banning single-use plastic bags, and it seems to be having an effect. More people are using reusable shopping bags, which helps reduce the pollution caused by these plastics in our oceans and other habitats. In England, plastic bag use dropped a whopping 85 percent after a plastic bag fee was implemented. To do your part, keep remembering to use your shopping totes, and only invest in as many as you need.
So give yourself a pat on the back — our collective efforts are truly making a difference in protecting the environment. If we continue making little changes to conserve resources and reduce waste, it can and does add up to big impact. Imagine what we can accomplish!