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 March 2023
Richard Hardiman first came up with the idea for a water-cleaning robot after seeing two men struggle to catch rubbish from their boat in his home city of Cape Town, South Africa.
Inspired by a whale shark’s wide mouth – which scoops up whatever is in front of it – his company Ran Marine created the WasteShark.
“I liken it to a Roomba for water. It’s an autonomous machine that scoops up pollution out of water on the surface level,” says Richard.
Solar panels are being rolled out “like carpet” on railway tracks in Switzerland.
Swiss start-up Sun-Ways is installing panels near Buttes train station in the west of the country in May, pending sign-off from the Federal Office of Transport.
As the climate crisis demands that we speed up Europe’s energy transition, developers have been seeing new potential in unusual surfaces.
Roadsides, reservoirs and farms are all finding space for solar systems. And Germany’s Deutsche Bahn is also experimenting with adding solar cells to railway sleepers.
Solar panels will soon be fitted on the roof of York Minster in northern England.
Faced with rising bills and climate concerns, the historic cathedral is turning to renewable energy – and following in the footsteps of other historic sites across Europe including the Vatican and Pompeii.
The 199 photovoltaic (PV) tiles, recently approved by the City of York Council, will generate 75,000 KwH of power annually – or enough electricity for around 25 average UK households.
The USA has proposed placing the first ever federal limits on toxic ‘forever chemicals’ in drinking water.
The chemicals have been found to be dangerous in amounts so small as to be undetectable.
Restricting them will save thousands of lives and prevent serious illnesses, including cancer, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) says.
A year ago four Bengal tigers were rescued from a train carriage on a farm in Argentina.
The cats have adapted well to their new life and are enjoying roaming (and lazing) in their new home.
“Big cats are so resilient. It’s really wonderful to see how they are rehabilitated and they have started blooming and getting into their own personality,” says head caretaker at LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary, Hildegard Pilker.
Three centuries of human settlement on Reunion Island near Mauritius were enough to eradicate baby turtles from the beaches until 2004.
But years of conservation work have once again made the French overseas department a hospitable place for the globally endangered species.
Weighing 150kg, 30-year-old Emma is one of two reproductive turtles in Reunion. She has recently given birth to her sixth round of eggs.
Floating solar panels on reservoirs could produce three times as much electricity as the entire EU, a new study has shown.
According to the study published in the journal Nature, covering 30 per cent of the surface of the world’s 115,000 reservoirs with solar could generate 9,434 terawatt hours of power annually.
That’s more than triple the energy production of the EU, which reached 2,785.44 terawatt hours in 2021.
European Union countries have agreed to push for the global phaseout of fossil fuels at COP28.
It is part of the bloc’s promise to support and accelerate the energy transition ahead of the climate summit in Dubai this November.
Faced with climate change, biodiversity loss, pollution and the fallout of Russia’s attack on Ukraine, the EU says that our dependence on fossil fuels leaves us vulnerable.
A year ago four Bengal tigers were found trapped a train carriage on a farm in Argentina, where they had been living for 15 years.
The two eldest animals had been left behind by a circus who no longer deemed them worthy of performing.
The family of four were rescued and transported to LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa last year and are now on the road to recovery.
Electric ferries and vehicles could soon be charged wirelessly after an exciting technological breakthrough.
Until now, inductive charging – where there’s no contact between the device and conductor – has been unable to deliver the high power that electric vehicle batteries need. The method has only worked for small devices, like electric toothbrushes and some mobile phones.
But new components have enabled scientists at a Swedish university to show that the recharging of urban ferries and city buses is possible without human or robotic hands.
Across Germany, cities are striking deals with climate activists to stop roads from being blocked by protests.
In Hannover, Mayor Belit Onay announced last week that he supports some of environmental protest group Last Generation’s demands. Not long after, the cities of Tübingen and Marburg followed suit.
“You can’t do that – glue yourself to the road. But if I get upset about it, I won’t get an inch further. If I speak to people and find a solution, one that meets the interests of the city in every way, that seems to me a sensible way to go,” says Marburg’s Dr Thomas Spies.
The land-stretched Netherlands is finding innovative places to put new renewable energy capacity.
A 25-metre-tall hill of household and business waste covered in solar panels generates enough electricity for about 2,500 households. Car parks, commercial lakes, sheep grazing fields, strawberry farms, disused churches, train stations and airfields are also lined with panels.
The country now has more than 48 million solar panels installed – an average of two per inhabitant.
Solar panels are key to the clean energy transition. But 90 per cent currently end up in landfill once they have stopped working.
A team of researchers from Australia’s Deakin University are working to change that.
They’ve developed a new thermal and chemical technique to extract silicon from the obsolete panels.
Norway’s Bergen is gearing up to open the world’s longest purpose-built pedestrian and bicycle tunnel.
On 15 April 2023, the 2.9km tunnel will open to the public with running and cycling events. It takes around 10 minutes to cycle through and 30 to 45 minutes to walk through.
Known as the Fyllingsdalstunnelen, the tunnel cuts through the Løvstakken mountain in the southwest Norwegian city, linking the residential areas of Fyllingsdalen and Mindemyren. Cyclists can continue on to the centre of Bergen using existing routes.
Carbon-free sources supplied over 40 per cent of the US’s total energy output in 2022, a new report reveals. This is an all-time high.
The figure combines renewable generation – such as solar, wind and hydro – and nuclear power. Nuclear and hydropower remained at similar levels to previous years, so the majority of this increase comes from wind and solar.
Scotland has banned the inhaled anaesthetic desflurane due to its devastating impact on the climate. It is the first country in the world to do so.
The gas, which is used to put patients to sleep safely during surgery, has a global warming potential 2,500 times greater than carbon dioxide, according to the UK’s National Health Service (NHS).
Various hospitals in other parts of the UK have already begun phasing out the anaesthetic. NHS England plans to stop using desflurane completely by early 2024, except in exceptional
Poachers are the long-standing enemy of wildlife conservation.
In national parks across Africa it can be almost impossible to catch them red-handed. That’s where Dutch tech company Hack the Planet comes in.
“We developed a smart camera system that can, in real time, track down people or animals in huge remote areas,” explains Hack the Planet’s engineer, Thijs Suijten.
Positive environmental stories from February 2023
A Chinese pangolin has been born at a European zoo for the first time.
Welcomed into the world at Prague Zoo, the pangolin baby is the first of her critically endangered species to be born in captivity in Europe.
The tiny scaly-skinned mammal – nicknamed ‘Little Cone’ because she resembles a spruce cone – is doing well after some initial troubles, the park in February.
In a bid to tackle climate change, British farmers are trying to breed low-methane emitting sheep.
When sheep fart and belch, they release methane gas. Over a 20 year period, this powerful substance is about 80 times worse powerful than carbon dioxide for trapping heat in the atmosphere, thereby causing global warming.
But farmers are turning to genetic engineering to bring these emissions down.
How do we support our trees, while at the same time tightening up the offset schemes that rely on them?
The answer lies in a “galaxy below our feet”, according to the enterprising ecologists behind Funga, the world’s first company using the fungal microbiome to create commercial carbon offsetting credits.
Research has shown that the reintroduction of wild soil microbial biodiversity can accelerate plant growth by an average of 64 per cent.
The world’s oldest European hedgehog has been found at a Danish volunteer project.
The posthumous discovery was the result of the Danish Hedgehog Project, a citizen science initiative that asked volunteers to collect dead hedgehogs in the name of conservation research.
They were shocked to discover that one of the hogs was 16 years old, making it the oldest scientifically documented European hedgehog ever found.
“If a hedgehog can reach an age of 16 years, there is still hope for the population,” says Dr Sophie Lund Rasmussen, who led the University of Oxford research project.
A record number of heat pumps were sold last year in Europe.
Data from Europe shows that 3 million units replaced around 4 billion cubic metres of natural gas in 2022 – the equivalent of avoiding 8 million tonnes of CO2 emissions.
It means that heat pumps are now helping Europe to avoid 54 megatonnes of CO2 or roughly the equivalent annual emissions of Greece.
A housing block in Wales has been fitted with a ‘world-first’ solar system that connects all the flats to the same rooftop panels.
The residents of Odet Court in Cardiff are set to save 50 per cent off their energy bills thanks to the new technology, which can meet up to 75 per cent of each flat’s electricity demand.
Australian manufacturer Allume Energy claims that its ‘SolShare’ model is the only technology that enables solar energy from a single rooftop system to be shared by multiple homes in the same building.
Kangaroo poo could be a surprising ally in the fight against methane-spewing cow farts.
It may sound like science fiction from the brain of a 10 year old, but scientists at Washington State University are putting the roo poo to the test.
The researchers added a microbial culture made from baby kangaroo faeces plus a known methane inhibitor to a cow stomach simulator. The result? It produced acetic acid instead of methane.
Unlike the greenhouse gas, acetic acid isn’t emitted as flatulence and actually benefits cows by aiding muscle growth. So it’s something of a win-win situation.
London’s night-time skyline might soon look very different, as city authorities draft rules requiring skyscrapers to dim their lights overnight.
The initiative will “cut light pollution and save energy”, promised the City of London Corporation, the financial district governing body.
If the new plans are adopted, buildings in the Square Mile – the London area where most of its high rise buildings are clustered – will be asked to switch off unnecessary building lights after dark.
An elusive snow leopard is the winning subject of the latest Wildlife Photographer of the Year’s People’s Choice Award.
It’s not easy to capture a ‘ghost of the mountain’ as they’re known in the Indian Himalayas.
German photographer Sascha Fonseca embarked on a three-year bait-free camera trap project in order to pose the big cat so perfectly against the pink and purple sunset.
According to the International Energy Agency’s Electricity Market Report 2023, 90 per cent of new electricity demand between now and 2025 will be covered by clean energy sources like wind and solar, along with nuclear energy.
This growth in output means that renewables will become the world’s largest electricity source within three years – providing 35 per cent of the world’s electricity and overtaking coal.
Australia has blocked a proposal for a new coal mine near the Great Barrier Reef.
In February, the Australian government declined to grant permission for a new thermal coal project just off the coast of central Queensland.
The news comes after public outcry over potential risks to the UNCECO World Heritage-listed reef.
Beavers will return to London for the first time in 400 years – and they could stop flooding at a local train station.
Widely hunted for their fur and meat, beavers went extinct in England during the 16th century. But after a decade of successful breeding programs, the semi-aquatic mammal is back. Now, they are being reintroduced to London.
A snaking wall of solar panels has been attached to Switzerland’s Lake Muttsee dam, helping the landlocked nation maximise its green energy production in the winter months.
Over 7,800 feet (2,400 metres) above sea level and surrounded by snow-capped peaks, the dam’s almost 5,000 solar panels produce 3.3 million kilowatt hours of energy per year, enough to supply around 700 houses.
Back in 2014, seven households of UK social housing tenants were surprised to be offered PV panels by their local authority.
Despite their initial scepticism, the families took ownership of the opportunity to become prosumers – both producing and consuming rooftop solar energy – gaining cheaper access to electricity and sharing it with their communities.
The European grey wolf was once widespread across the French countryside. By the 19th century, it only occupied half of its historical territory. Humans reduced their habitat and hunted the species almost to extinction. Then it disappeared entirely in 1937.
But now the number of wolves is growing again in France with its population on the verge of exceeding 1,000 individuals.
A Portuguese pup has smashed the record for the oldest dog ever.
30-year-old Bobi has lived his entire life in the rural village of Conqueiros, in Leiria, western Portugal, according to Guinness World Records.
Owner Leonel Costa has revealed Bobi’s rocky start to life and his secret to longevity.
Agriculture is a major source of greenhouse gas emissions. To help UK consumers in their search for climate and animal-friendly foods, rights group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) has launched its first ever Farming Awards.
Focusing on ethical, animal-free farming, the awards spotlight producers for their eco-friendly practices and products, from a seaweed farm in Scotland to a beef farmer who recently moved all his cows to a sanctuary.
Electricity bills rose across France on 1 February and steadily over the past year. But in tiny Muttersholtz – a French village with just 2,200 inhabitants – the price-hike was greeted with some nonchalance.
Their municipal bills were already near zero thanks to pioneering use of solar power and hydropower.
Positive environmental stories from January 2023
Wind and solar power produced more of the EU’s electricity than fossil gas for the first time last year.
The renewable energies were responsible for a record fifth (22 per cent) of the bloc’s electricity, a new report from clean energy think tank Ember shows.
Portugal has signed an agreement to swap Cape Verde’s debt for environmental investments.
Such ‘debt-for-nature’ deals are emerging in other countries as a way to reduce the impact of climate change. They also touch on the dilemma of who should foot the bill for climate change mitigation.
Cape Verde owes around €140 million to the Portuguese state and over €400 million to its banks and other entities. Ultimately, this will now end up in an environmental and climate fund established by Cape Verde.
Creating a network of ecological corridors is one of a number of measures in the European Commission’s ‘New Deal for Pollinators’.
One in three bee, butterfly and hoverfly species are currently disappearing in the EU, so we urgently need to reverse their decline by 2030.
The deal aims to do that by targeting their key adversaries: pesticides, pollution, invasive alien species, changing land use and climate change.
Bill Gates is funding an Australian start-up that hopes to combat methane-emitting cow burps.
Agriculture is the main culprit for human-caused methane emissions, one of the biggest drivers of global warming.
Australian climate technology start-up Rumin8 wants to tackle this issue by feeding cows seaweed.
The breeding of designer pets was banned in the Netherlands in 2014. Now the government is looking to close a loophole to stop the import and trade of these breeds.
“Today we are taking the big step towards a Netherlands where no pet has to suffer from his or her appearance,” the country’s Minister of Culture, Nature and Food Quality, Piet Adema, said in a statement.
The Minister said he is looking to ban the ownership of designer breeds as well as photos of them in advertising and on social media.
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.