Every day, humanity deals with hundreds of thousands of problems. While most of them are devastating and make us feel like we are taking one step forward and ten steps back, there are a few that help us to restore our faith in humanity. Around the world, people, tech giants, and fast food restaurants are taking the necessary steps to help our planet in whatever way possible. For instance, people are building machines that are capable of removing carbon dioxide to provide cleaner air, while others are finding cleaner ways to produce energy. Whatever the case might be, uplifting stories are always good to hear. So, we have made a list of 10 uplifting stories to make your day a little brighter.
1. 80% of toilets in Hong Kong are flushed with seawater in order to conserve the city’s freshwater resources.
In order to conserve the freshwater resources, Hong Kong utilizes seawater to flush their toilets. The seawater system was built separately around the 1950’s, and has been utilized ever since. According to a recent study, not only does this help conserve freshwater, but also protects wildlife in marine ecosystems. This is because during chlorination, standard wastewater treatment can introduce toxic chlorinated disinfection by-products to coastal zones. However, when seawater was treated and released back to the coastal zones, researchers found that the chlorinated saline effluent was generally less acutely toxic to the organisms than its freshwater analog. (source 1, 2)
2. A Swiss company built a commercial plant to extract carbon dioxide at an industrial scale directly from the air. The machine then pipes the gas to a nearby greenhouse to help grow vegetables.
The Swiss firm Climeworks utilizes the so-called ‘Direct Air Capture (DAC)’ plant in Zurich to help the farming village of Hinwil, Switzerland. Not only does the plant remove carbon dioxide directly from air, but also pumps 900 tons of CO2 annually to a nearby greenhouse to help grow vegetables such as tomatoes and cucumbers. According to their official website, the giant machine is located right on top of a waste heat recovery facility that powers the device. During the process, fans push air through a filter system and CO2 is chemically deposited on the surface of a filter. The filter is then saturated and CO2 is then isolated at a temperature of about 100 degrees Celsius.
According to the company, the plant is ‘a historic step for negative emissions technology’. The CO2 captured by the machine can also be used to carbonate beverages or produce climate-neutral fuels and other materials. (source)
3. It took 21 months and thousands of volunteers to clean up Versova Beach in Mumbai, India. The payoff? Hundreds of sea turtles returned to the beach for the first time in over 20 years.
The Versova beach was once known as the filthiest beach in Mumbai, India. It was basically a dumping ground for the residents, along with the flock of tourists, who would leave their trash behind. Afroz Shah, a spirited young lawyer and environmentalist, was the one behind the cleanup process. During his campaign, Shah had to face several challenges including changing the mindset of locals. Although it took more than three years for his efforts to pay off, when people started to see change, they joined the campaign. More than 1,000 volunteers collected a staggering 5.3 million kilograms (11.6 million lbs.) of decomposing trash and plastic from the 2.5 kilometer (1.5 miles) stretch of beach over a period of 21 months.
As a result, Olive Ridley turtle hatchlings were found returning to the beach. Not only was Shah able to cleanup the entire beach, but was also able to educate thousands of people about the importance of maintaining a clean environment. SShah, along with the volunteers, also planted hundreds of coconut trees and hope to plant thousands more in order to convert the beach into a coconut lagoon like it used to be. (source)
4. Sweden is one of the biggest exporters of timber in the world, but is also a country where more trees grow per year than are cut down.
Within the past 100 years, Sweden’s forest assets have doubled. Even though 70% of Sweden is covered by forest, primarily coniferous forest, the country is one of the very few that has a felling rate that is less than the growth rate. According to a Swiss company, Swedish Wood, the volume of forest continues to increase by a net annual increment. This is because Sweden employs a sustainable forestry model where they invest primarily on planting and growing trees, instead of only focusing on chopping them down. The Swedish legislation also makes sure that for every tree that is chopped down, another has to be planted. The legislation also limits the amount of timber that can be harvested. (source)
5. In Indonesia, you can use trash to pay for your bus fare.
In order to encourage recycling, as well as to bring awareness of environmental disasters that plastic materials can cause, Surabaya, Indonesia’s second-largest city, gives free bus rides for those who pay with plastic. Commuters can travel across the city for work and leisure using the program, which allows up to 2 hours of free ride for 10 plastic cups or up to five plastic bottles; depending on the size. According to Reuters, Surabaya is the first city in Indonesia to implement such a program. Recent reports also show that 15 percent, or nearly 400 tonnes, of Surabaya’s daily waste is plastic. So, a single bus will be capable of collecting up to 250 kg (550 lbs) of plastic bottles a day, or roughly 7.5 tonnes in a month. The plastic bottles and materials are then auctioned to recycling companies and the profits are used to keep the buses operational. (source)
6. In Portland, main water pipelines are being replaced by pipes that have turbines within them, capable of producing enough power to run an individual building like a school or a library.
A startup company called Lucid Energy is replacing main water pipelines in Portland with those that contain turbines inside. The special pipelines are capable of producing clean electricity with zero environmental impact. This means that even without much effort, Portland residents are generating electricity from right underneath their feet. According to several reports, the state-of-the art system will be capable of producing more than $2 million worth of energy within the next 20 years. (source)
7. McDonald’s uses recycled deep fryer oil to fuel their delivery vehicles.
For over a decade, McDonald’s has been recycling their cooking oil by turning it into biodiesel, which is then used to fuel around 42% of their delivery fleet. The technique has been used to power delivery trucks in the UK since 2007 and according to Matthew Howe, senior vice president with McDonald’s UK, the fast food restaurant should eventually be able to replace the six million litres of diesel its fleet used last year with cooking oil from its 1,200 restaurants in Britain. In the US, new techniques and more efficient frying vats are used, which reduces the amount of used cooking oil restaurants produce. (source 1)
Bonus: A woman was reunited with her beloved cat that was missing for 11 years.
Tiger was a beloved member of the Welz family… that is, until someone accidentally left the front door open and Tiger took off. His owner, Maggie Welz, searched for weeks but was unable to find him. She eventually thought that someone might have adopted him. The Welz family moved on with their lives but Tiger was always in their minds. 11 years after his disappearance, Carol O’Connell, who works for the SPCA in Dutchess County, New York, found Tiger wandering around the neighborhood. Although O’Connell tried to gain his trust, Tiger avoided everyone. It wasn’t until three years later that Tiger began to trust O’Connell. On a hunch, O’Connell used a scanner on Tiger and discovered that he was chipped and that he belonged to the Welz family. So, O’Connell tracked them down and reunited Tiger with Maggie, who says that Tiger always crawls up to her every night in bed. (source)