5 positive environmental stories from 2022
You know what everyone could use a bit more of? Good news! And that's what we're here to deliver.
In 2022, leaders, scientists, and ordinary people worked together to preserve precious resources, rehabilitate ecosystems, and fight against climate change. Energy and water conservation are at the heart of our mission at hai, so we wanted to take a moment to reflect on some of their inspiring achievements.
Here are five stories from the past year that show what we can achieve when we all work together for a greener future. These are the moments that made our planet a better place—and left us happy and hopeful.
1. Nations began writing a treaty to curb plastic pollution.
In March, 175 countries agreed to begin writing a new legally binding treaty to address the explosive growth in plastic pollution around the world. The treaty will be the most significant environmental legislation since the 2015 Paris Agreement on climate change.
The new accord will target plastic recycling, clean-up, and production. It will also address microplastics, the tiny plastic particles created by the breakdown of plastics over time, that end up in the ocean, drinking water, and even rain. Stringent measures like global bans on single-use plastics and strict limits on all new plastic will be on the table.
Plastics, which are manufactured from fossil fuels, cause significant harm to the planet throughout their life cycle. They release toxic and planet-warming gasses during production and incineration. A global commitment to curbing plastic use and production, and improving disposal methods, is undeniably good news for the planet.
2. The Great Barrier Reef showed record coral levels.
Australia's Great Barrier Reef recorded the highest amount of coral cover since monitoring by the Australian Institute of Marine Science (AIMS) began 36 years ago. While the amount of coral in the southern part of the reef decreased, increases in the northern and central parts of the reef offer a reason for cautious optimism.
Between 2016 and 2022, extra warm waters drove four mass bleaching events. These events caused overheated corals to eject the colorful algae living in their branches. While bleaching doesn't kill coral, it does leave vital marine life vulnerable to starvation, disease, and death. "These latest results demonstrate the reef can still recover in periods free of intense disturbances," AIMS CEO Paul Hardisty said in a press statement.
But there's still lots of work to do. The reef remains vulnerable to increased ocean temperatures, tropical cyclones, and infestations of harmful species. Ultimately, governments, scientists, and individuals will need to work together to slow and stop the warming of the oceans and develop creative approaches to reef rehabilitation.
3. Renewable energy sources made up most new power production last year.
A report from the International Renewable Energy Agency in October of 2022 showed that renewable energy is dominating new power sources worldwide. More wind and solar energy (and less coal and fossil fuel) is definitely a good thing for the planet.
According to the report, in 2021, renewables made up 81% of new power sources. While fossil fuels continue to provide the majority of power we use, the steady rise of renewable energy sources is a step in the right direction when it comes to combating climate change.
Faster wind and solar farm development will be necessary for renewables to overtake more harmful energy sources, but there's a reason for hope. Solar energy, in particular, made significant gains last year, accounting for more than half of all new renewable energy capacity. And according to the Solar Energy Industries Association, solar installations will nearly triple by 2027.
4. The rarest sea turtle on the planet hatched in Louisiana for the first time in 75 years.
Everybody loves a comeback. After decades of being dismissed as unlivable for sea turtles, the Chandeleur Islands off the coast of New Orleans saw the return of sea turtle hatchlings for the first time in 75 years.
Local restoration workers spotted turtle tracks during a routine patrol of the island in May. Those tracks belonged to a group of Kemp's ridley sea turtles, the smallest, most endangered sea turtle on the planet.
The Chandeleur Islands were hit particularly hard by the 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Since then, Louisiana state agencies have undertaken intensive restoration and conservation efforts to return the once-pristine barrier islands to their former glory. The discovery of sea turtle hatchlings shows that hard work is paying off—and the importance of restoring the islands for threatened wildlife.
5. Vertical farmers grew wheat indoors for the first time.
Vertical farmers were able to grow wheat in a controlled environment for the first time, which could have significant implications for fighting food insecurity in the future.
An Amsterdam-based startup called Infarm was able to grow wheat without using soil or chemical pesticides—and with far less water than conventional farming. While vertical farmers have been able to produce plenty of herbs and leafy greens, this is the first time they've been able to grow a staple crop.
As the climate heats up and droughts become more common, innovative agriculture practices will be needed to feed the planet's growing population. Vertical farming could allow six wheat growing cycles per year—versus just one for traditional agriculture. Significantly higher yields mean more food for people who need it, a promising sign for the future of farming. This milestone is a reminder that we can all tackle climate challenges and water shortages with innovative solutions.
This year, we've seen some amazing examples of resilience and innovation for the world. We hope these stories brought you some joy, and maybe a bit of inspiration.
hai remains committed to creating a more sustainable future through personalized water and energy conservation. Our goal is to make it easier for you to reduce your environmental impact every time you shower. As we head into the new year, let's keep working together to make 2023 a year of real progress for the planet.