Downtown Sydney is Now Powered By 100% Renewable Energy Thanks to Historic Deal

In the middle of Australia’s largest city the downtown business borough is now officially powered by 100% green energy thanks to the “largest standalone renewables agreement for an Australian council to date.”

The City of Sydney, which is home to a quarter-million people, has begun sourcing all of its energy from two solar farms and the largest wind farm in all of New South Wales.

The transition was facilitated through a power purchase agreement (PPA) with electricity retailer Flow Power. Although the historic deal costs AU$60 million, the initiative is expected to save AU$500,000 every year, according to Euronews.

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The initiative is also expected to purge roughly 20,000 tons of CO2 from the city’s carbon footprint—roughly 70% of its total output—before 2024, which is several years earlier than its original goal.

“Cities are responsible for 70% of greenhouse gas emissions worldwide, so it is critical that we take effective and evidence-based climate actions,” said Sydney Mayor Clover Moore.

“The City of Sydney became carbon neutral in 2007, and were the first government in Australia to be certified carbon neutral in 2011,” she added. “This ground-breaking $60 million renewable electricity deal will also save our ratepayers money and support regional jobs in wind and solar farms in Glen Innes, Wagga Wagga, and the Shoalhaven.”

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How an Indian Architect is Sucking Carbon Emissions Out of the Air and Turning it into Stylish Tiles

An Indian architect has developed a revolutionary new way to serve the housing needs of a population, while also fighting air pollution.

Tejas Sidnal is the mastermind behind Carbon Craft Design: a Mumbai-based startup that specializes in capturing carbon emissions from the air and turning it into stylish tile.

Using a device called the AIR-INK, the company is able to draw CO2 out of the polluted city air, combine it with a mixture of marble chips and powder, and then press it into elegantly-designed tiles.

Since Sidnal says that India is in need of maintaining the world’s third largest housing industry, his sustainable tile recipe can help meet the industry demand for building materials in an eco-friendly way.

(WATCH the Great Big Story video below)

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India’s Annual Carbon Emissions Fall for the First Time in Four Decades

With a population of 1.2 billion people, any news of renewable energy success in India is a cause for celebration. One would undoubtedly expect to see decreasing carbon emissions due to widespread travel reductions due to COVID-19 prevention measures, but a further analysis shows us that coronavirus doesn’t get to take all the credit, and the unholy trinity of oil, coal and gas seems to be on the downward slide.

In a report from carbonbrief.org, daily statistics on energy consumption and power plant activities demonstrate that India’s total year–over–year emissions has, for the first time in 4 decades, fallen.

The country’s CO2 emissions fell by 15% in March, and 30% in April, in what could primarily be attributed to COVID-19 measures. However for 12 months, the rate at which Indians were demanding more power slowed drastically, and it was the March shutdowns that capped the new growth of power generation from oil, coal and gas below zero for the first 12-month period in 30 years (falling 1%).

Moreover, in March, when coal-fired power generation fell by 15% it was married with a 6.7% increase in use of renewable energy. These were also joined by a year-by-year fall in total coal deliveries, both imported and domestic—the first of such demand drops in 20 years.

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This was despite the fact that more coal was mined in India this fiscal year than last year, indicating that the slowdown is not due to limited supply but a milder demand for coal as an energy source.

Production for other fossil fuel energy sources is also falling, with fiscal year 2019-20 seeing a drop in crude oil production of 5.9% and natural gas of 5.2%.

Twilight of Indian Coal?

Good News Network has reported extensively already this year about such market forces pushing coal use, and in some cases oil use, to the point of complete and total unprofitability—not just in countries like Sweden, but in the U.S. India, and China.

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Coal is becoming less and less profitable in India, and a recent energy contract auction—used by public sector planners to encourage private energy development, investment, and production—secured 2,000 megawatts per hour of solar energy at a price of $34 per hour. In contrast, oil over the same time period, when the contract was awarded, was costing $45 per hour.

According to a report from Carbon Tracker entitled “How to Waste Half a Trillion Dollars” economists warn that half a trillion in coal-plant investments around the world are at risk of becoming so unprofitable in the future as to totally impair the repayment of any investment dollars, as it is already 50% more expensive to operate an Indian coal-fired power plant than renewable sources. This number will rise to 100% by 2030.

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India recently began setting records for cleaner air, and now it seems the country is leaping on the opportunity to keep it going.

This is just one of many inspiring stories and updates that are coming out of the COVID-19 news coverage this week. For more uplifting coverage on the outbreaks, click here.

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Newly-Developed Enzyme That Breaks Down Plastic Bottles in Hours is On Track to Change the Recycling Game

Utilizing an enzyme found within composted leaves, scientists are now breaking down plastic all the way into a recyclable form in a matter of hours.

Carbios, the French company responsible for the breakthrough, is already collaborating with Pepsi and L’Oréal to unleash industrial market-scale production of the new substance within five years.

“We are the first company to bring this technology on the market,” the deputy chief executive at Carbios, Martin Stephan, told The Guardian. “Our goal is to be up and running by 2024–2025, at large industrial scale.”

Their discovery, which sources described as a major advance, joins an arsenal of solutions for plastic pollution control that have appeared over the last decade.

Just like Boyan Slat who took on the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, or the bracelet folks at 4Ocean who took on the problem of ocean pollution in rivers, the scientists from the University of Toulouse are applying their breakthrough to another part of the problem—the recycling of plastic.

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Plastic isn’t straightforward to recycle. There are common varieties of plastic made from multiple layers of different esters, each one requiring different equipment or temperature to breakdown. And, there are a lot of plastic esters that could be recycled but aren’t because the market value for the recycled material is so low it can’t financially sustain the operation.

In the scientist’s paper published in Nature, they detail how poly(ethylene terephthalate) PET, the most common polyester plastic, loses much of its mechanical utility when heated for recycling. Therefore, creating new material is preferred, and PET waste continues to accumulate.

Their new enzyme achieves a minimum of 90% de-polymerization in just 10 hours, meaning that the polymers—large complex particles, become monomers—small single particles in less than a day, and perhaps even more amazing, end up as biologically depolymerized plastic that can actually be reused to create things like plastic bottles.

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While manufacturing plastic bottles from recycled PET made by this enzyme would cost about 4% of the amount needed to make new bottles from fresh petroleum, the recycling infrastructure, including the grounding up and heating of the plastic bottles before the enzyme is added would still make it more expensive in the end.

Nevertheless, the future is bright for this technology. Co-enzymes could be synthesized, companies could produce more inexpensive recycling infrastructure—both of which could finally bring down the cost of producing recycled plastic goods.

Carbios has also begun tackling the normally unrecyclable plastic film problem. In an alliance with several other European companies under the name Carbiolice, they demonstrated a plastic film last year that can be compostable in home or municipal compost piles. Their objective will be to address the markets of plastic films and single-use bags—and later on, rigid packaging and disposable tableware.

“These milestones reinforce our ambition to offer the market circular economy solutions that are both competitive and eco-friendly, and which will revolutionize the end of life for plastics and textiles.”

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Free Market Forces Will Obliterate Global Coal Reliance Within 10 Years, Says Study

Contrary to the image of greedy fossil fuel billionaires lobbying politicians for favors, it is now the free market, not world governments, that are doing the most to advance the use of clean renewable energy.

In the most basic sense, it is no longer a lucrative business path to invest in carbon emission-heavy sources. Today, investing in coal projects is more expensive—across all world energy markets—than renewables. In as little as 10 years, it will be cheaper to build renewables than to run coal power resources, much less build new ones.

How much more expensive? Right now, the report estimates that the cost of operating and investing in coal—not in Europe, but in the U.S., India, and China—is about 50% more expensive than renewables. By 2030, that number doubles to 100% assuming market forces remain constant rather than intensify, which they are likely to do.

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“The market is driving the low-carbon energy transition, but governments aren’t listening,” writes Matt Gray, co-head of power and utilities for Carbon Tracker, and co-author of a new global economic report about coal investments entitled “How to Waste Half a Trillion Dollars.”

“Renewables are outcompeting coal around the world and proposed coal investments risk becoming stranded assets which could lock in high-cost coal power for decades.”

Indeed, the number of countries in which it is cheaper in invest and operate renewable energy assets could make someone optimistic about the future since most underdeveloped Asian energy markets, as well as the three biggest coal consumers on earth, would all save money switching to renewables, according to this helpful infographic from the report.

However, many of these countries still have nationally-planned coal power projects either in early investment stages, or already in production.

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As repeatedly demonstrated by the national debt of the US government, a stranded asset is manageable for most nations, but insufferable for a private firm that is unable to borrow more dollars every year than they invest.

It is an economic term for an asset—like a coal plant—which will cease to generate returns even before the end of its economic life. These carbon-heavy facilities not only have a slow rate of return and open the door for market competition from renewables, they also are becoming more expensive to invest in, build, and operate, than they are to make returns for those investors.

That is partially why free market economic forces are working where many governments are failing; it costs a lot of money to build electricity-generating resources, and since banks and financial institutions are the largest funders of energy projects, they simply aren’t willing to finance coal power projects, choosing instead to invest in solar and wind resources.

Vietnam: a Greenhouse Government

The government of Vietnam is currently considering backing away from 15 gigawatts of proposed coal power as financial constraints make it a harder to build new plants, which it wants to do in order to increase economic development.

The proposed projects would allocate 50% of energy production to coal-fired plants, but an end to the deal would see it drop to 37%, with others like hydroelectric and gas remaining stable, and renewable energy swooping in to cheaply meet the demand and fill the gap in supply.

Much of the nation’s energy projects are funded by investors in other coal-fired East Asian nations like Japan and South Korea, as well as powerhouse lender Singapore. After a recent aligning of principles with EU nations to restrict coal financing, however, many coal projects in Vietnam will be left stagnating with the government’s only options being to either finish the projects with taxpayer money or listen to market forces and move into cleaner energy production.

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On the other hand, private sector giants like Sir Christopher Hohn, who is the billionaire hedge fund manager and co-founder of the Children’s Investment Fund Foundation (CIFF), threatened to sue British banks Barclays, Standard Chartered, and HSBC over the financing of new coal projects.

“Coal is the single largest source of greenhouse gas emissions globally and the risks of its continued use in the power sector are not being adequately addressed by regulators and the financial system,” he said in a statement on the CIFF website.

Irresistible Market Forces

A high price of carbon and significant investment in renewable energy has created a very unfriendly market for coal in the EU, while “How to Waste Half a Trillion Dollars” finds that today, even big coal consumers like China, India, and the U.S. are on the right path and “not far behind” the EU in terms of renewable energy investments.

“The report finds that market forces will drive coal power out of existence in deregulated markets, where renewable energy developers will take advantage of the growing price gap,” reads the report summary on Carbon Tracker’s website. Across the world, 6,700 coal plants produce 2,045 gigawatts of energy, and another 1,000 or so accounting for another 500gw are in early stages of production or investment.

As the cost of investment, production, and operation of coal plants continues to increase as market forces push investors further and further towards renewables, hundreds of billions of dollars in energy markets the world over will become available at a lower cost, and coal could become twice as expensive, and begin to rapidly vanish—even in large coal-consuming countries like China and India, within just 20 years.

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A report from Reuters found that coal power generation fell worldwide by 3% in 2019, while wind and solar power contributed 270 more terawatts, or an additional 15%, to grids. The research went on to illustrate how this growth would be needed every year for 15 years in order to meet the Paris Agreement targets. The power generation would have to continue to fall from 3% to 11% to prevent 1.5 degrees celsius of warming—the rough estimate of wiggle room needed to avoid the worst effects of global climate change.

Money talks—and if coal production will rise from from 50% to 100% in the U.S., India, and 60% to 100% in China, in just ten years, it means that far from unlimited growth targets being met for investors, coal barons will have to cope with a 5% yearly rise in capital requirements, as well as any future blows coal might be forced to absorb such as carbon taxes, coal embargoes, and other brutish legislative measures.

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Scientists and Refugees Are Growing Crops in the Desert Using Discarded Mattresses Bound for the Landfill

Photo by University of Sheffield / Desert Gardens

British scientists have succeeded in cultivating tomatoes, peppers, aubergines and herbs in the desert using discarded mattresses bound for landfill.

The innovative system, which was tested in a refugee camp in Jordan, could be rolled out to every shelter in the world, helping millions of people to thrive in barren landscapes.

Since aid workers often discard thousands of used foam mattresses in refugee camps across the globe, University of Sheffield scientists began developing foam “soils” in their labs in hopes of using old bed materials as a growing medium for crops.

The research team, led by Professor Tony Ryan, is made up of experts in hydroponics: a technique in which plants are grown with their roots resting in a solution of water and essential nutrients instead of soil. The method uses 70-80% less water than planting straight into the soil and eliminates the need for pesticides.

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In the first trial of its kind, his researchers worked with a group of Syrian refugees at the Zaatari camp, which serves as a shelter to many who are already experienced farmers themselves.

They showed the study participants how to fill waste containers from around the camp with mattress foam and a carefully balanced nutrient solution. Seedlings were then planted straight into the foam so it could support the roots as the plant grew.

Working closely with the refugees, the team successfully created “desert gardens” that provide people in the camp with fresh herbs and vegetables, training opportunities, and longed-for greenery in a challenging desert.

Photo by University of Sheffield / Desert Gardens

“The refugees we have worked with have taken our training and made the project their own, growing things we never thought would be possible in the desert environment using recycled materials,” said Ryan.

“We are only at the start of what might be possible, in terms of what refugees and their situation has to teach us about all of our potential futures.”

Nearly 1,000 refugees have been taught how to manage the hydroponic system thus far—and the team believes it could benefit even more people around the world.

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The project gives people the tools and techniques they need to grow their own food and gain future employment as well as boosting mental health and greening the camp.

In turn, the scientists have learned from the refugees whose use of the foam in real-world conditions has demonstrated its potential to grow crops more sustainably—and in places with degraded soils.

Desert Garden Project Manager Dr. Moaed Al Meselmani said: “I’m a researcher and a Syrian refugee myself—and now I’m helping others like me to learn new skills and feed their families with fresh herbs and vegetables in the desert.

Photo by University of Sheffield / Desert Gardens

“When you’re forced to flee your home, it’s the simple things you miss—like a cup of fresh mint tea or showing your children how to plant a seed. This project connects people with home and gives them hope for the future.”

The Sheffield researchers now hope to raise £250,000 with their Desert Garden appeal to make the project sustainable. The money will be used to supply seeds, nutrients, and training for another 3,000 refugees.

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), which runs Zaatari camp, provides Syrian refugees with enough money to buy staples like bread and chickpeas. Nutritious fruit and vegetables, however, are often out of reach—and traditional fresh mint tea is considered a luxury.

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Professor Ryan, director of the university’s Grantham Centre for Sustainable Futures, said: “UNHCR see this as something that can work in nearly every refugee camp to improve mental health and well-being.

“If we can make desert gardens economically and culturally sustainable in Jordan, we can ultimately roll this out around the world and help millions of refugees to thrive.”

Professor Duncan Cameron, director of the Institute for Sustainable Food at Sheffield, said: “It’s astonishing what happens to the collective human imagination when it meets and is ignited by urgent reality.

WATCH: Man Succeeds Where Government Fails: He Planted a Forest in the Middle of a Cold Desert

“Our research on synthetic soils meant we could re-imagine the UNHCR’s waste disposal problem—where aid workers saw used mattresses, we saw an alternative growth substrate.

“This project is about co-creation, not ‘smart ideas’ parachuted in. As scientists, we’ve learned an enormous amount from the refugees about how our research can be applied in the real world, and they’ve gained valuable skills for the future.”

(WATCH the University of Sheffield video below)

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Revolutionary New Recycling Method for Plastic and Waste is Killing Two Birds With One Stone

Carbon capturing and carbon sequestering, meaning the uptake and storage of CO2 molecules in a solid object, like a building or a tree which it can’t escape from, is one of the many tools for entrepreneurs, manufacturers, and businessmen, who want to do their part to combat the climate crisis.

Similarly, a startup working in Israel is eradicating one environmental toxin by placing it inside of another. UBQ Materials is taking household waste that would normally end up in landfills, and embedding it in liquefied recycled plastic to create “a thermoplastic, composite, bio-based, sustainable, climate-positive material”.

The trash is sorted, passed over a magnet to remove metals, before being dried and shredded into a kind of trash-confetti. It’s then added to plastic that’s ready for recycling and melted together before finally being dried and chopped into little pellets.

The resulting pellets can be easily shipped out and used in various manufacturing processes like injection molding and composite brick-making. Dye can be added at any point along the way to ensure the customer can have plastic of any color he desires.

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The company’s founders were so confidant that the science behind their revolutionary recycling process would prove successful they commissioned Swiss environmental consulting firm Quantis to perform an analysis on just how green their operation was.

Quantis found that substituting a ton of UBQ’s pellets for the same amount of polypropylene saves the equivalent of about 15 tons of carbon dioxide emissions, making it the most sustainable thermoplastic material on earth.

The concept of taking landfill-bound trash, which would generate harmful greenhouse-methane gas, and encasing it inside recycled plastic can be traced back, according to The Post, to an Israeli military man who thought that by mixing mud from the polluted Kishon River with plastic he might help the river recover. This idea never worked, but encasing environmentally-damaging substances in plastic that would then be used to make other materials and products and thereby ensuring it doesn’t have a chance to pollute (or further complicate the climate of) our planet, was a core concept which wasn’t abandoned.

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Generating a $50 million dollar fortune as a hummus food mogul, Rabbi Yehuda Pearl has helped the company go from a bankrupt idea to the brink of international acclaim and wealth through $3.5 million in slow savvy investing and R&D. UBQ, short for Ubiquitous. is already selling its thermoplastic composite plastic granule to Plasgad, an Israeli company that manufactures pallets, crates, and recycling bins—2,000 of which are on their way to the Central Virginia Waste Management Authority.

The UBQ facility on the Tze’elim Kibbutz can produce about one ton of their special material in an hour, resulting in between 5,000 and 7,000 tons produced annually. The company’s success is leading to a new facility that will produce 100,000 tons annually.

Share The Exciting News With Your Friends On Social Media – File photo by Michael Manas, CC license

Island Nation Becomes First Country in the World to Ban Sunscreens With Reef-Harming Chemicals

This week, the nation of Palau has officially banned ecologically harmful sunscreens, making it the first country in the world to ban the chemical-laden lotions.

The ban specifically targets sunscreens that contain oxybenzone and octinoxate, two chemicals that are found in common sunscreens. Studies have found the ingredients cause coral DNA to mutate while its still in its larval stage, which prevents it from growing properly and makes it more susceptible to bleaching.

Palau is a diving hotspot for tourists located in the western Pacific Ocean between Australia and Japan. The country maintains a population of about 20,000 people spread across 340 islands, and its reefs are notoriously beautiful—one of its lagoons has even been named an official Unesco World Heritage Site.

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The nation approved the ban back in 2018 after they identified ten different chemicals that have been linked to coral bleaching and marine pollution. As of Wednesday, common sunscreens containing any of the chemicals are now prohibited from being used or sold within the country.

“We have to live and respect the environment because the environment is the nest of life,” Palau’s President Tommy Remengesau told the AFP news agency. “When science tells us that a practice is damaging to coral reefs, to fish populations, or to the ocean itself, our people take note and our visitors do too.

“We don’t mind being the first nation to ban these chemicals, and we will do our part to spread the word,” he added.

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Although Hawaii became the first region in the world to introduce legislation against toxic sunscreens back in May 2018, their ban will not go into full effect until 2021.

Thankfully, BBC reports that the number of sunscreens containing the toxins has been steadily declining since their environmental dangers became so widely publicized in 2018.

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