Here are all the positive environmental stories from 2022 so far

Eco-anxiety, climate doom, environmental existential dread – as green journalists, we see these terms used a lot – and often feel them ourselves.

There’s a lot to be worried about when it comes to the climate and nature crises, but when a sense of hopelessness becomes the overarching emotion, apathy begins to creep in too. Last year three environmental educators, all part of EcoTok, penned this excellent piece for us about dealing with eco-anxiety and the need to remain hopeful – or “stubbornly optimistic”, as Christiana Figueres puts it.

The media has a huge part to play in combatting climate doom. It’s our job to be truthful and accurate in our reporting, not trying to downplay the severity of the situation or greenwash reality. But it’s also our job to show that there is hope!

So, for 2022, as part of our ongoing effort to tackle eco-anxiety (both that of our readers and our own), we are going to be keeping track of all the positive environmental stories from this year.

This article will be regularly updated with the latest good news. It may be something small and local, something silly that made us smile, or something enormous and potentially world-changing.

If you come across a great, positive story that we haven’t covered here – please do reach out to us on social media, either on Instagram or Twitter to share your ideas.

Positive environmental stories from July 2022

UK energy bills to drop next year thanks to record-breaking investment in renewables

Rising energy costs are plaguing homes across Europe but in the UK, there could be some good news. 

In July, the government invested record-breaking amounts into renewables with the capacity to generate up to 11 gigawatts of energy. That’s enough to power 12 million homes at once. 

It could help generate electricity at prices around four times less than the current cost of gas. 

Conservationist Jane Goodall honoured with recycled plastic Barbie doll

World famous toy company Mattel has launched a doll of renowned conservationist Jane Goodall. 

It comes with all the accessories any aspiring naturalist could need including a model of David Greybeard, the first chimp to trust Jane when she was carrying out her groundbreaking research on these animals. It is also made from 75 per cent recycled plastic.

The primatologist said that she hopes it will provide a positive female role model for young girls. 

‘Sand batteries’ could be key breakthrough in storing solar and wind energy year-round

Solar energy stored in ‘sand batteries’ could help get Finns through the long cold winter, which is set to be even tougher after Russia stopped its gas and electricity supplies.

The new technology has been devised by young Finnish engineers Tommi Eronen and Markku Ylönen, founders of Polar Night Energy, but could be used worldwide.

Though a number of other research groups are testing the limits of sand as green energy storage, the pair are the first ones to successfully rig it to a commercial power station.

Dolphin poo plays ‘significant role’ in helping coral reefs survive, says new study

Dolphin poo could be the key to saving the world’s coral reefs, according to a new study.

Spinner dolphins, famous for their acrobatic marina displays, have some very special excrement. Their poo has “reef-enhancing nutrients” which are not to be underestimated, a report by Zoological Society London (ZSL) finds.

The dolphins are giving threatened coral reefs in the Maldives and Chagos Archipelago a helping hand by pooing in the shallow lagoons. Published this week, the study shows that the amount of nitrogen absorbed by spinner dolphins during their daily commute can improve coral reef productivity and resilience.

This tiny bacteria could change air travel forever

Forget fossil fuel travel – airplanes could one day run on sugar-munching bacteria.

Conventional jet fuel is created by burning fossil fuels like oil and gas, generating a mammoth carbon footprint. But a tiny common soil bacteria could change all this.

The ‘streptomyces’ bacteria creates an ‘explosive’ molecule when it eats sugar and researchers claim it could be used as alternative plane fuel.

“If we can make this fuel with biology there’s no excuses to make it with oil,” says Pablo Cruz-Morales, a microbiologist at the Technical University of Denmark.

Scientists develop heat resilient plants to survive climate change

A research team at US and Chinese universities say they have discovered a way to help plants survive extreme heat.

With agricultural crops around the world threatened by rising temperatures, this research could help plants resist climate change.

If the findings can be applied to commonly grown crops, it could be vital for protecting food supplies during heatwaves.

Sunflowers and dried mangoes are the key to surviving climate change in rural Zimbabwe

One afternoon in Mupindi Village, Gokwe South, more than 400 kilometres from Zimbabwe’s capital Harare, a smallholder farmer called Bernard Mupindi is pruning the rough, hairy triangular leaves that grow around the stem of a sunflower.

The blooming yellow sunflowers in this 3.5-hectare piece of land are less than a month away from harvest. Mupindi still recalls growing sunflowers for his family to eat around a decade ago, but he had no idea how quickly that would change.

Little did he know, growing sunflowers would soon serve to counter the effects of climate change.

Switzerland has spent 14 years and €2 billion building this ‘water battery’

A water battery capable of storing electricity equivalent to 400,000 electric car batteries will begin operating in Switzerland next week.

The pumped storage power plant was built into a subterranean cavern in the Swiss canton of Valais.

With the ability to store and generate vast quantities of hydroelectric energy, the battery will play an important role in stabilising power supplies in Switzerland and Europe.

Positive environmental stories from June 2022

I planted a giant sequoia tree and offset the carbon footprint of my entire life

Our very own Green deputy editor, Maeve Campbell, meets Henry Emson from ‘One Life, One Tree’ to plant a giant sequoia in the British countryside.

So why are sequoias so special? Watch the video to see what happened.

‘Stop suffocating your vagina’: Reusable period pad launches to help women have plastic-free periods

A Danish startup is pioneering reusable menstrual products to help women go plastic-free on their period.

The company’s latest product, LastPad, launched this week – after a successful Kickstarter campaign raised more than 20 times its initial fundraising goal back in 2021.

LastPad is a reusable menstrual pad for planet-friendly periods that “doesn’t compromise on comfort and protection.” It comes in three sizes (from pantyliners to overnight pads) and is made with three layers. 

Local branch of UK’s biggest church is first to pledge climate action

Christians in the Oxford district of England are being asked to take a very specific pledge to protect the environment.

From now on, those who undertake confirmation or baptism ceremonies at the large Church of England diocese – which spans the counties of Berkshire, Buckinghamshire and Oxfordshire – will also have to commit to climate action.

The Bishop of Oxford, Rt Revd Dr Steven Croft, recently approved a revision to the formal liturgy which includes the following lines,

‘Will you strive to safeguard the integrity of creation, and sustain and renew the life of the earth? With the help of God I will.’

These plastic-gobbling inventions keep rubbish out of the ocean

Millions of tonnes of plastic wind up in the ocean every year, killing plants and animals. That’s why companies around the world have developed novel devices to help reduce the ocean plastic problem.

Dutch company RanMarine has deployed several 157-centimetre wide aquatic drones called WasteSharks that capture rubbish and bring it back to land.

The drones can hold 160 litres of trash, floating plants and algae, according to RanMarine Technology.

Extinct ‘fantastic giant tortoise’ found alive on the Galápagos Islands

This species was thought to have been extinct for more than a century, the only known specimen discovered in 1906.  A lone female tortoise was discovered in 2019 on Fernandina island in the Galápagos, providing a hint that the species may still be alive. 

Now scientists have proved that the two individuals are in fact related, opening up further mysteries about the species’ survival. 

Leuven: This forward-thinking city has banned cars from its centre

In 2020, Leuven in Belgium was named the European Capital of Innovation. It invested its €1 million prize money wisely, striving to become carbon neutral by 2050. 

Leuven has become a cycling paradise with cars taking a back seat on its roads.  It is now the only city in Belgium where bikes are actually the preferred mode of transport. Thanks to a strong green mobility plan, cycling has increased by an astounding 40 per cent. 

These Scottish villagers bought a nature reserve – now they are fundraising to double its size

In Langholm, near Gretna Green on the English border, the community raised €4.5 million last year. They wanted to buy 2,100 hectares of land from the Duke of Buccleuch, one of the UK’s most powerful landowners.

The villagers were successful and have already seen results from their protection of this land. Now they are fundraising again to double the size of this community takeover. 

World’s largest vertical farm is being built in the UK and it’s the size of 96 tennis courts

The UK is heavily dependent on imported foods – especially when it comes to fruit and veg. Nearly half of all food eaten in the country comes from overseas. 

But one company is hoping to solve this problem by building what will be the world’s largest vertical farm in Lincolnshire, England. It is set to open in autumn this year. 

With a lower environmental impact than traditional agriculture, they hope that this innovative solution will produce certain crops 365 days a year without increasing our air miles. We could see British-grown strawberries at Christmas before we know it. 

Back from the brink of extinction: The Spix’s Macaws are returning to the wild

It has been 20 years since this small blue parrot has been seen in the wild. Illegal trade, hunting, and destruction of its habitat led to its disappearance. 

But one of the rarest birds in the world could soon be set for a comeback. A German NGO is working hard to breed a new population of Spix’s Macaws, bringing their number up to 180 healthy individuals. 

World’s largest plant: Scientists ‘blown away’ by 180km long seagrass discovered off Australia

This seagrass covers an area roughly three times the size of Manhattan. It was discovered by scientists at the University of Western Australia and Flinders University. 

Initially, they thought it was a meadow of different grasses but have discovered that the incredibly long plant is just one seagrass. They believe it has survived the impact of climate change thanks to one special trait – it has been reproducing asexually. 

Finland is aiming to go carbon negative by 2040 – here’s how

Finland will become the first European country to reach net zero if it meets ambitious climate targets passed into law by the government. But it wants to go one step further than that by becoming carbon negative by 2040. 

The country is still having issues with deforestation but is currently working on a plan to improve the carbon emissions of the land-use sector. It also has a wealth of natural resources it can rely on to help reach its carbon negative target.

Positive environmental stories from May 2022

Last 10 vaquitas are not ‘doomed’ to extinction

The plight of vaquitas has only worsened in recent years, but scientists have some relatively good news about the little porpoise.

Despite only around 10 individuals still existing in Mexico, a team of biologists have found that the species remains healthy and can survive – so long as illegal fishing in their waters stops.

Vaquitas, which belong to the cetacean family of dolphins and whales, are the world’s rarest marine mammals. With large dark rings around their eyes and dark patches on their lips resembling smiles, they’ve long been a poster child of conservation groups.

But despite their endearing appearance to humans, there’s a sad probability they’ll disappear in our lifetime unless quick action is taken.

Solar panels could be on all Europe’s public buildings by 2025

The European Commission is hoping to jumpstart a large-scale rollout of solar energy and rebuild Europe’s solar manufacturing industry.

The plan is part of its bid to wean countries off Russian fossil fuels.

“Solar electricity and heat are key for phasing out EU’s dependence on Russian natural gas,” the Commission said in the draft, due to be published next week in a package of proposals to end the European Union’s reliance on Russian oil and gas.

Spanish diver rescues 12-metre long whale who was trapped in an illegal fishing net

In a gripping underwater rescue, Spanish divers have freed a 12-metre long humpback whale entangled in an illegal drift net off the Balearic island of Mallorca.

One of the divers was 32-year-old marine biologist Gigi Torras.

Torras said last Friday that the rescue was a great birthday present for her – the ‘best ever’ in her words. She also felt that she received a little gesture of appreciation from the giant mammal itself.

“It was like out of this world, it was incredible, just incredible,” she said.

These surgeons have performed the first ‘net-zero’ cancer operation

The world’s first ‘net-zero’ operation has been performed in the UK, paving the way for more sustainable practices in healthcare.

Doctors at Solihull Hospital in the West Midlands carried out a five-hour bowel cancer surgery that was completely carbon neutral.

Though patients’ health is of course the priority, hospitals have a surprisingly large carbon footprint. The UK’s National Health Service (NHS) accounts for around 6 per cent of the country’s total CO2 emissions.

Which makes last month’s operation all the more significant. Consultant colorectal surgeon Aneel Bhangu says that – as a high emitter – the NHS will have an impact on people’s health in the medium and longer term.

Human urine could be an effective and less polluting crop fertiliser

It might sound disgusting, but scientists are pretty confident this unique natural solution could be a good alternative to chemical fertilisers. 

Urine is not normally a major carrier of disease and doesn’t have to be heavily processed before it can be used on crops. 

It would mean completely rethinking toilets to capture the urine before it ends up in the sewers. Prototypes were first tested in Swedish ecovillages in the 1990s but now experiments are being carried out around the world. 

Positive environmental stories from April 2022

This man won the lottery and is using his €200m winnings to create an environmental charity

We love this story simply because it shows how brilliant people can be. 

The winner wrote an open letter, while keeping his anonymity, to explain why he has made the excellent decision.

Can’t recommend reading this piece enough, especially if you’re feeling down about the world.

Meet the sloth cubs ‘learning to be wild again’ at this orphanage

Did you know that sloths are one of the most endangered mammals on the planet?

The issues begin young in Costa Rica, with many cubs found orphaned. 

But this rehabilitation centre is doing amazing work with these mammals and helping the population survive.

Solar energy can now be stored for up to 18 years

This was one of our top-performing articles this month – it seems our readers just can’t get enough content about solar power!

And this was some particularly good news to receive.

Switzerland’s biggest city is turning off gas for good

As the IPCC report calls for us to completely leave fossil fuels behind, it’s always nice when we see that put in action.

With the tragic war in Ukraine as a catalyst behind this decision, it’s hard to feel entirely positive about this news – but it’s undoubtedly a step in the right direction from a climate perspective.

These chimpanzees were tested on for years and then abandoned to die on an island

Okay, hear us out. This doesn’t sound like a positive story…and it’s not – for the most part.

But there is some hope at the end, and it’s a portion of environmental history everyone should know more about.

‘Night solar panels’ are able to generate enough energy to charge a phone. But how do they work?

Specially designed panels could help solve the current problems with solar energy, by generating power once the sun has gone down.

The panels were discovered in 2020, when scientists at the University of California Davis, US, hit the mainstream.

Created by Professor Jeremy Munday and coined ‘anti-solar cells’, the solution allows us to harvest electricity from the night sky. Research conducted this year now confirms these nighttime solar panels produce enough energy to charge a mobile phone.

Positive environmental stories from March 2022

A US billionaire has turned Chile’s Patagonia region into a national treasure

This is an extra brilliant story, because it also is helping save an endangered species too – the Andean huemul deer.

There are only 1,500 of them left in the world, and the Cerro Castillo National Park in Patagonia, Chile is home to many of these remaining deer.

This region has been protected by US billionaire Douglas Tompkins, also the founder of The North Face, who dedicated his fortune to conservation.

Wind and solar power growth finally on track to meet climate targets

Solar and wind power can grow enough to limit global warming to 1.5C if the 10-year average growth rate of 20 per cent can be maintained to 2030, according to a new report.

Solar generation rose 23 per cent globally in 2021, while wind supply gained 14 per cent over the same period. Together, both renewable sources accounted for 10.3 per cent of total global electricity generation, up 1 per cent from 2020.

The Netherlands, Australia and Vietnam had the fastest growth rates for renewable sources.

“If these trends can be replicated globally, and sustained, the power sector would be on track for 1.5 degree goal,” thinktank Ember said in its report.

Sweden’s innovative wooden skyscraper captures as much carbon as 10,000 forests

With the largest percentage of forestland in Europe, Sweden is looking at new ways to incorporate trees into its architecture.

This wooden skyscraper in the city of Skelleftea is constructed from over 12,000 cubic metres of wood – and is capable of sequestering nine million kilograms of carbon dioxide throughout its lifetime.

Could this be 2022’s greenest innovation yet?

Italian fisherman sinks illegal trawlers with ‘other worldly’ underwater sculptures

Paulo Fanciulli has been fishing on the wild expanses of the Maremma coastline for over 40 years. In the late 1980s, he started to notice the signs of illegal trawling and decided to act.

So, the ‘House of Fish’ sculpture park was born with 39 sculptures made of local Carrera marble currently sunk to the bottom of the sea. They snag on the heavy nets used by illegal fishermen and encourage marine life back into the waters.

This tiger family is starting a new life after 15 years living in a train carriage

Abandoned by the circus, a family of four tigers spent years living in a cramped train carriage in Argentina. They’d never felt grass under their paws or walked on the earth.

After being discovered by authorities in 2021, a team of veterinarians and wildlife experts from Four Paws International spent months working to relocate them.

Now, after a 70 hour journey, they have arrived at their new home, LIONSROCK Big Cat Sanctuary in South Africa. Here they’ll be the closest to their natural habitat they have been in years – maybe even for the first time.

Panama brings in new law granting nature the ‘right to exist’

Groundbreaking new legislation in Panama has granted nature the “right to exist, persist and regenerate its life cycles. It means parliament will now have to consider the impact of its laws and policies on the natural world.

The country now joins Colombia, New Zealand, Chile and Mexico which have granted nature legal protection, either through their constitutions or the court system.

This billionaire wants to buy up Australia’s coal plants – just to shut them down

Billionaires often have quite a bad reputation when it comes to climate change. But Mike Cannon-Brookes, the third richest person in Australia is trying to change that.

Frustrated with the Australian government’s disregard for the climate, he is trying to buy three of the country’s coal power plants. The aim is to do what the government won’t by shutting them down for good and replacing them with renewable energy.

‘Most significant environmental deal since Paris’: UN agree on landmark plastic pollution treaty

In what the UN Environment Agency has called “the most significant environmental deal since the Paris accord,” government officials punched the air after they agreed to create the first global plastic pollution treaty.

The details of the final, legally binding pact are still being worked out but it could have big ripple effects on businesses and economies around the world. It is due to be finalised by 2024.

Positive environmental stories from February 2022

China opens its first vertical forest city to residents

We’re huge fans of Italian architect Stefano Boeri, and his latest project in China is yet another example of biophilic design at work.

The forest city will absorb around 20 tonnes of carbon dioxide every year, while emitting approximately 10 tonnes of oxygen.

And the buildings are just stunning.

Blasting bananas with light could pave the way for more eco-friendly biomass

It’s a lengthy headline, but bear with us. It turns out that if we zap banana peels with a powerful lamp, renewable energy is instantly generated.

This is a weird and wonderful discovery – our favourite kind at Euronews Green – and it can also be done with corn cobs, coffee beans and coconut shells.

Arnold Schwarzenegger wants to ‘teminate pollution’

The actor, former Republican politician and environmentalist has pledged to “terminate pollution.”

While the green movement isn’t short of celebrity backers, it’s good to see support from both sides of the American political spectrum.

Positive environmental stories from January 2022

Bleached coral reefs can still provide nutrition

Although coral reefs all over the world have been damaged by rising sea temperatures, leading to wide-scale bleaching – it turns out these ghostly white tropical reefs seem to still remain rich sources of micronutrients.

This doesn’t mean we should stop trying to prevent coral bleaching events, but it does mean that where the damage has been done, there is still some hope. This is particularly good news for the many coastal communities that rely on reefs for food.

Europe’s greenest city has free public transport and highways for bees

There’s a lot we can learn from Tallinn it turns out. The Estonian capital is set to be the European Green Capital for 2023, due to its innovative and modern approach to sustainability.

What’s particularly impressive about Tallinn is that it used to be home to a number of heavily polluting industries. It’s a shining example of how change is always possible, and hopefully a blueprint for other cities in Europe and beyond.

Students have designed a ‘floating house’ to save people from floods

This is a good example of crisis leading to innovation. While the reason for the invention is still deeply troubling, the students behind this project have created something truly brilliant.

Their design is able to provide shelter for at least six weeks, and could be used as storage for food, water, medicine and sanitation products as part of resilience programmes.

This tiny Mexican fish has been saved from extinction

There’s something really compelling about any story to do with a species returning from the brink of extinction. While it’s of course terrible that things reached a tipping point like this, it also goes to show that there is always hope – even when the worst possible outcome seems inevitable.

This particular case is fascinating. The tiny tequila splitfin disappeared from the wild in 2003 due to human activity, but thanks to the efforts of conservation centres, colonies of this little freshwater species are thriving once again.

The Australian start-up fighting deforestation with an army of drones

While the climate crisis gets the most attention, the biodiversity crisis is something we should all be paying a lot more attention to. That’s why this company’s project, combining AI with drones, is so fantastic. It’s a faster, cheaper way to tackle deforestation.

At the same time, however, it doesn’t cause the issues often found with tree-planting schemes. The method is designed to boost the health of the surrounding ecosystem, while being careful to avoid monocrops and non-native species.

Making conferences virtual or hybrid could significantly mitigate climate change

We were shocked to learn that (pre-pandemic) the global conference industry produced as much greenhouse gas emissions as the entirety of the United States. It’s a seriously polluting sector, but a recent study has found that moving to more online-only and hybrid events could majorly benefit the planet.

According to the 2021 IPCC report, we have 8.3-9.7 years before we exceed the 1.5℃ global warming limit. But researchers say that moving conferences online could extend that deadline by around 1.5 years.

Oceanographers rejoice after pristine coral reef discovery in Tahiti

Diving in the waters off of Tahiti’s tropical coastline, marine researchers uncovered one of the largest coral reefs ever found. And, unlike many of its counterparts, it appears to be completely unaffected by human activity.

Although they occupy just 0.1 per cent of the ocean floor, coral reefs are home to a quarter of all marine life.

So it’s easy to see why this is such excellent news.

Solar-powered bikers are busting illegal wildlife poachers in South Africa

This fantastic story fuses together two areas of interest for many of us in the climate movement: protecting nature and clean energy.

Our journalist Rosie Frost spoke with the amazing Swedish company behind the initiative to find out more.

We will be updating this article regularly, with the latest positive environmental stories and breakthroughs from around the world. If you spot a great idea we haven’t covered, please let us know on Twitter or Instagram.


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