A surprise from China – Top 5 Happy Eco News – 2020-10-25

This week I am trying something new with the formatting of the top 5 newsletter. I would love to hear feedback on the new format, so please email me.

I have moved the personal blog writing to a separate section on the website. I have included an excerpt of the blog directly below and the Top 5 list is below that.

I hope you enjoy the Happy Eco News Top 5 for this week.

Prince William and the Earthshot Prize – The Happy Eco News Blog

On January 1, 2021, Happy Eco News turns three years old. Last month, we posted our 5,000th post. Five thousandth post. Seems a bit surreal to be honest.

Back in January 2018, I had no idea whether I’d even find enough positive stories for this to actually survive. At the time, I was working remotely from a coffee shop in a small surfing town called Canggu in Bali with my wife Christine and our two teenagers. We were about 1/3 of the way through a life-changing 10-month trip around the world. In Canggu, we were 5 cities in, on a trip that would end up consisting of 35 cities, in 20 countries on 4 continents… [read more]

The Happy Eco News – Weekly Top 5:

1) China’s carbon target moves big economies into radical climate consensus

In a surprise move, China, the world’s largest country by population and second-largest economy by GDP, stunned world leaders with a statement made at the UN General Assembly on September 22. President Xi Jinping announced that his country would transition to carbon neutrality by 2060.

“We aim to have CO2 emissions peak before 2030 and achieve carbon neutrality before 2060.” – President Xi Jinping

The historic announcement places the country in the company of other large economies who have made similar announcements. The full-text announcement is here.

Why it’s important: China is a significant force in the world, second only to the USA by GDP. Their population is already the largest and they are the manufacturing center of the world. Trade with China is inexorably intertwined with the economies of virtually every country, and maybe every business in some way or another. Their GDP growth is expected to pass the USA in the 2060s and with this announcement, it would appear that much of this expected growth will be done with zero carbon or with carbon mitigation in mind. But more importantly, without China aggressively heading toward zero, there is really very little chance that the world will meet the 1.5-degree global warming limit; their emissions are simply too high. They need to be included as an active part of the solution. Lastly, now that China has made this pledge, they keep company with 34 other countries who have either pledged or made law, carbon neutrality by a specific date. This puts increased pressure on countries like the USA and India (who currently have 1st and 5th place in terms of global GDP) to up their games and join the green shift.

Say what you will about China, they have a history of getting things done. After signing the Paris accord in 2015, the country is on track to reach its goals 10 years early. With a similar mindset, they are likely to be the world’s first carbon-neutral economy. [story]

2) IKEA to open first ever second-hand store this year

Would you buy second-hand IKEA products? The privately-owned company is banking on a positive reply with their opening of a first-ever used IKEA store in Sweden. IKEA has already been providing in-house repairing, refurbishing, and re-boxing of its items damaged in shipping, but with this store, things have been brought to a new level. The company buys back used IKEA items and resells them in its used items store in Retuna, a popular shopping mall located in the Swedish city of Eskilstuna. The mall, which is also first of its kind, houses only retailers providing sustainable, organic, or reused items in a clean and modern environment not unlike any other high-end shopping mall.

Why it’s important: The company and its flat-pack products revolutionized vertically integrated manufacturing and retailing of household consumer goods, but it has also long been criticized as contributing to overconsumption and waste. As a part of its overarching sustainability goal, the company intends to provide furniture rental, leasing, refurbishment, and a circular manufacturing model that will allow them to position themselves as a leader in the new, green global economy.

As Ikea Sweden’s sustainability director Jonas Carlehed said, “If we are going to reach our sustainability goals, we need to challenge ourselves and test our ideas in practice.” The company plans to reduce its overall climate impact by 70 percent on average per product by 2030. [story]

3) How Sweden Is Transforming Homes Into Power Stations

Not consumer, prosumer. A prosumer, when used in the context of energy infrastructure, is a building or community that produces as much energy as it uses. This is a growing trend around the world, but nowhere more than in Sweden. In Sweden, the use of alternative forms of home heating is not new. In 1948, a power plant with a surplus of waste energy from its steam generation operations diverted spent steam through pipes to homes in the area. Today, in the Scandinavian country are 500 or more similar distributed heating systems from power plants. These heating systems are being powered by thermal energy that would typically just be wasted. In Sweden 54% of its energy is sustainable, coming from hydroelectricity and biomass, making this a green alternative to coal or oil. When combined with rooftop solar energy and highly efficient systems, the result is a building that while it may still be connected to the grid, produces more energy than it consumes, feeding the excess into the local grid, dispatching it to neighboring buildings as required, or storing it for later use.

Why it’s important: In order to meet the needs of humans, especially in Northern climates, a large amount of the energy “spend” must be allocated to heating their homes. There is no reason why these homes cannot be heated by renewable means. The adoption of a high standard of efficiency further reduces the demand for traditional utilities and soon, due to the falling cost of installed solar, the idea of transmitting power long distances from a central, coal-fired power plant will be obsolete. The idea of storing and burning oil to heat a residence will also become obsolete as geothermal and waste heat distributed systems increase in popularity. [story]

4) New Jersey Legislature Passes ‘Most Comprehensive’ Plastics Ban in the Nation

Eighty percent of litter found in New Jersey waterways and wild areas is plastic. The plastic industry has been running wild lately, increasing the production of single-use products almost everywhere in the world, especially targeting developing nations and regions. Some say the single-use plastic industry is being pressured by big oil as a last gasp market for their product, to them a necessary evil as demand for fossil fuels wanes and their market shrinks. The plastics industry says they are needed by business and to meet consumer demand, and that most, if not all of the products “could be” recycled. The truth is most of these single-use products are never recycled and end up in waterways and landfills. In fact, only 10% of all the plastic ever produced in the world has been recycled.

But not in New Jersey, not anymore at least. Last month, New Jersey enacted one of the strongest single-use plastic and packaging bans on the planet, a ban that will remove bags and other excess plastics from grocery stores, restaurants, and other retail-based operations. Interestingly, the ban also includes paper grocery bags – a move that forces consumers to bring reusable bags with them when they go shopping.

Why it’s important: By banning both plastic and paper bags, the new law effectively settles any debate about which is worse for the environment. Plastic bags alone make up 12 percent of U.S. plastic pollution, but paper bags require more energy to make and as a result create more climate pollution, to make. “The ban on paper bags is critically important to the success of this legislation,” New Jersey Food Council President Linda Doherty said ahead of the vote. “Without a ban, consumers will simply move to paper single-use bags and we will not address the underlying goal of reducing our reliance on single-use products.” [story]

5) Infographic: Top Green Behaviors To Reduce CO2 Emissions

People who are passionate about the environment and really want to see improvement are willing to make a personal change to get it. It is an underlying theme I see every day with Happy Eco News – the people who see hope and optimism for the future are those who also take action.

There is something deeply satisfying about taking a step in the right direction, even if it is small; success builds upon success, and it allows you to change your identity in small but meaningful ways. A person who recycles can see the impact they make in the sheer quantity of items spared from the landfill. The person who buys their first electric car will one day realize that it has been years since they filled with fuel. The student who participates in a climate strike knows that they are just getting started and a lifetime of positive action awaits. All of these outwardly small successes combined may lead to bigger social change and ultimately a green movement. But what about the actual metrics? What effect do these small actions make in a larger context? The infographic in this story shows how a few small (or large) changes positively affect carbon output as it relates to volumes of coal.

Why it’s important: Most people want to do good but often don’t know what effect their actions actually have. This infographic helps people to fully understand the value of certain simple daily actions – that any of us can do. These actions are simple, easy, and they do make a difference. Climate science is very complex and the problems facing us can be overwhelming, so much so that there is a risk that some people don’t know where to start. For some of us, this is a place to start and once you do, you will look for more. And more, and more. [story]

A journey of 1000 miles starts with one footstep.

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