It’s easy to get overwhelmed with the state of the planet—but we have to remember that even though we read a lot of bad news, it's not the whole story. There are plenty of good things happening too

Activists are working towards environmental equality; organizations are repairing soils by reforesting and re-wilding our fields; and many individuals have stepped up to make small positive changes to help fight climate change.

Let’s dive into the good environmental news from 2021 so that we can head into 2022 motivated to continue the work...

1. Commitments to ban single-use plastics

plastic wastePhoto by Brian Yurasits on UnsplashFollowing a law passed in 2019, a ban on single-use plastics has come into effect in Mexico City. The even better news? Many countries around the world are moving towards banning these harmful products in the coming years, including Canada.

2. Fighting food security together

urban gardenPhoto by Priscilla Du Preez on UnsplashCommunities around the world have helped fight food insecurity throughout the pandemic by empowering youth to grow their own food, even in the middle of food deserts. This is a huge win for local communities and for our environment as we begin to see a more localized food system.

3. Monarch population soars 4,900%

monarch butterfliesPhoto by Joshua J. Cotten on UnsplashMonarch butterflies, an important pollinator species in our ecosystem, are nearly on the endangered species list—but 2021 helped change the trajectory for these important creatures. With gardening and planting efforts in support of monarchs, we saw an estimated 100,000 butterflies this past year.

4. More sustainable and closed-loop practices

donationsPhoto by Joel Muniz on UnsplashBusinesses and organizations have taken on more sustainable practices, including Santa Monica’s Salvation Army’s Adult Rehabilitation Centres. Not only do they help individuals through addiction but the centre also repurposes, recycles and reuses items which has helped divert over a million pounds of clothing out of the landfill.

5. Environmental rights amendment passes in New York

human rightsPhoto by Joel Muniz on UnsplashIncluding environmental rights in the Constitution will “provide the same fundamental protections that we provide to our rights to free speech, freedom of religion, due process and property,” and sends a message that environmental health is of equal importance. This will help citizens fight back when the environment is under attack, and encourages the government to consider human and environmental health when making decisions.

6. Reddit investors adopted 3,500 endangered gorillasgorillaPhoto by Dušan veverkolog on Unsplash

Reddit investors kicked off a mass gorilla adoption campaign and donated money to the conservation organization Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund International. Their donations supported gorilla conservation efforts across the world while also inspiring others to donate funds and support animal welfare.

7. Court rejects Bylong Valley coal mine

coalPhoto by Bence Balla-Schottner on UnsplashAfter a ruling in the New South Wales land and environment court, Kepco’s proposal for a mine that would extract up to 120 metric tonnes of coal over 25 years was rejected in 2021. The Bylong Valley Protection Alliance has fought for five years to protect this beautiful valley from this mine, and it’s a historic win for everyone working to limit global carbon emissions.

8. Trading cars for bikesbike francePhoto by Clément Falize on Unsplash

In 2021, France became the first country in the world to begin offering the owners of old, carbon-heavy cars the option to trade in their vehicles for a grant to buy an electric bicycle. By reducing the amount of cars on the road, the country is aiming to reduce greenhouse emissions by 40 percent in 2030.

9. New Zealand puts pressure on corporations

Auckland, New ZealandPhoto by Dan Freeman on UnsplashThe country realized that if they want to be carbon neutral by 2050, the financial sector has to do its part. New Zealand became the world’s first country to bring in a law forcing its financial firms to know and report on the environmental effects of their investments and are urging banks to invest in nature to help fight global climate change.

10. Belgium bans soy and palm soil in biofuelssoyPhoto by Kelly Sikkema on Unsplash

As part of an initiative to eliminate deforestation, the Federal Minister for Environment and Climate announced the ban of soy and palm oil in biofuels as of 2022. Belgium has followed the examples of Denmark, France and the Netherlands with this initiative, which is the first step to stop the negative environmental impact of the federal biofuels policy.

11. Bee population has steadied in Dutch citiesbeesPhoto by Damien TUPINIER on Unsplash

The native wild bee population in the Netherlands has been in decline since the 1940s. Thanks to the pollinator-saving strategy of bee hotels or bee stops, there has been no strong decline in urban bee population this past yearAs of April, more than 200,000 bees and hoverflies had been counted.

The better news? This is only a fraction of the good that happened in 2021. There is so much forward movement in the environmental sector, and it’s all thanks to the individuals who care enough to push corporations, governments and others to do their part.