It’s easy to be depressed about the environment these days, especially with the devastating effects of climate change all around us, continued inaction to reduce fossil fuel consumption, and constant attacks on environmental regulations by far-right-wing politicians.
Despite some low points, though, 2012 wasn’t a bad year for the environment. Not only did we survive the end of the world, we emerged from a roller coaster year of real hurricanes and political ones with a few trends that are worth smiling over.
So, to kick of 2013, here are just a few trends that actually show some positive change:
1. Organic food continues to grow its market share. The sale of organic food started to recover from the great recession in 2011, showing a 9% increase in sales overall. This rose again in 2012, and is expected to continue to grow in 2013. Organic practices reduce the use of synthetic fertilizers and pesticides, relying on techniques such as crop rotation and composting to ensure crop yield. What’s the best part about this trend? Most experts are saying that it’s a demand-driven trend, which means more and more people around the country are looking for natural or organic options.
2. Hybrid car sales also rose in 2012, and are expected to continue in 2013. While hybrid car sales still only represent 3.4% of the total market, this figure has experienced enormous growth and continues to rise. The Chevy Volt, Nissan Leaf, Tesla’s line of high-performance electric cars, and the now-classic-and-growing family of Toyota Prii (seriously, that’s what they’re calling it?) all experienced growth and have set ambitious goals for 2013. What’s even better, many of these cars (especially the Tesla, which if you haven’t seen one, is a seriously hot car) are breaking stereotypes right and left about the performance capacity of nontraditional vehicles. Sweet.
3. And building on that, while haters are busy hating on the Chevy Volt and some of its problems, there’s one car that is busting all stereotypes about electric cars. In case you missed it, the seriously sexy Tesla Model S was just named Motor Trend’s Car of the Year for 2013. The electric Model S is not like any electric car you’ve seen before- she’ll go zero to 60.0 mph in 3.9 seconds, boasting a 416 horsepower engine in the high performance model and a top speed of 133.0 mph. The Tesla Model S exceeds all prior range ratings, too, making trips around 280 miles with a single charge. Also, did I mention that it’s sexy? (I totally have a crush on this car. YOU SHOULD TOO.) By the way, Tesla is an American company, headquartered in Palo Alto, CA.
4. The demise of coal: In 2012, coal consumption in the U.S. hit its lowest level since 1992, which is impressive when you consider how much our population has grown in that 20-year time period. Of course, much of this is due to the natural gas boom – which comes with its own problems – but given the enormous concerns about the negative impact of coal energy on air quality and the health problems it causes (anyone else have asthma?), we’ll take it. Coal is expected to continue to decline in 2013.
5. The continued growth of wind energy: according to some predictions, wind energy could account for 20% of U.S. energy production by 2030. The decision by Congress and the President to continue subsidies for renewable energy sources in their fiscal cliff deal is a huge boon for the wind industry, and will certainly keep these figures moving in the right direction.
6. On the eastern seaboard, Virginia residents rallied and defeated a measure to lift VA’s longstanding ban on uranium mining. The mining would threaten water supplies in many of Virginia’s southern counties, including the popular Virginia Beach area. Uranium mining has traditionally occurred in the in arid regions in the western United States, and many experts are doubtful that practices to ensure safety would be effective in the eastern climate with higher rainfall and significant groundwater resources. Although the bill will be reintroduced in 2013, strong opposition still exists among Virginia residents.
7. Finally, a majority of Americans polled believe that climate change is happening. That only took 40 years. Now if only we could get some of our politicians on board….
8. After the enormous success enjoyed by plastic bag taxes in places like D.C., Seattle, and Montgomery County, MD; the state of Virginia is considering a plastic bag tax of their own. It’s unlikely to go through given the demographic of the Virginia legislature, but hey, at least they’re floating the idea.
9. The continued growth of solar energy – even Warren Buffet is buying in these days. Awesome.
10. Starbucks ushered in the new year by offering its customers reusable cups for $1 each. The coffee giant is seeking to reduce the number of cups that they create – and send quickly to landfills – every year. In case you didn’t know, the chain already offers a discount for customers who bring in their own reusable cup. Coupled with the Concord, Mass. ban on plastic water bottles, let’s hope this means that more and more people will continue to move away from disposables in their daily patterns. It’s not everything – but it’s a start.