5 Green Movements That Make Us Hopeful For the Future

Halley Sutton

The news can be a depressing place. The World Meteorological Organization reports that more than 2 million people were displaced by weather and climate-linked disasters in 2018. A video posted to Reddit shows a Dominican Republic coastline so flooded with garbage it seems the ocean is moving trash. In countries like Guatemala, news reports show residents and farmers fleeing their homes to avoid the lasting droughts brought on by drastic weather changes.

But all around the world, we’re also making strides to take lasting, effective change to combat the effects of climate change. And these five green movements show what we can all accomplish when we work together.

Kids cutting down on meat

There’s no denying that mass agricultural production—in particular, red meat—is a cause of climate change. But even knowing that doesn’t seem to be enough to change most habits: A recent Gallup poll found only 5 percent of Americans are strict vegetarians. And frankly, we get it—meat is delicious, and habits are hard to change.

Enter: the New York City public school system. Starting this fall, public school lunchrooms in the area will adopt “Meatless Mondays,” offering students vegetarian and vegan options. And while the NYC public school system, with more than 1 million students enrolled, is one of the most recent high-profile entries to moving students to eat more greens, it’s certainly not the only school district to do so: 95 school districts in the Northeast and select school districts in Los Angeles and Sarasota County, Florida already offer a Meatless Monday program.

…And protesting climate change

Two of the items on this list are taken up by the faces of the future, and that’s no accident. In March 2019, thousands of students in the United States (and more than a million students from nearly 100 countries worldwide) walked out of their classrooms to protest the global inaction on climate change.

The climate march was inspired by Greta Thunberg, a 16-year-old Swedish climate activist, who protested inaction surrounding climate change outside the Swedish Parliament last year. That strike was part of the youth-driven Fridays For Future started by Thunberg, where she protested climate change by sitting out lessons on Fridays. Thunberg has been nominated for a Nobel Peace prize.

Civically engaged kids tend to have brighter futures, including higher pay rates as adults and better mental health, but here’s hoping their passion and forward-thinking can help craft a brighter future for us all.

Employees demanding better

In early April 2019, Amazon employees—more than 6,700 at the time of this posting—signed their name to a public letter, urging the company to be more impactful on climate change. The letter critiques Amazon’s current policies and urges taking measures to encourage transparency around the company’s carbon footprint, transitioning away from fossil fuels rather than relying on carbon credit offsets, and pledging harm reduction measures to vulnerable communities.

While Amazon recently pledged to go 50 percent carbon neutral in its shipping process by 2030, the letter critiques that plan (called Shipment Zero) by arguing it only commits to net carbon productions—allowing the company to continue contributing to global pollution. In 2018, Amazon was listed by Forbes as the third most valuable company in the world. And as The New York Times reports, the open letter is the largest employee-driven movement on climate change to take place in the tech sector.

According to the letter, “Amazon has the resources and scale to spark the world’s imagination and redefine what is possible and necessary to address the climate crisis.”

The territory forging its own green future

One corner of the United States has already pledged to go green: Puerto Rico passed its own Green New Deal in March 2019 to make the island territory reliant on 100 percent clean energy by 2050. Other benchmarks from the legislation include committing to the use of 40 percent renewable energy island-wide by 2025, and a ban on coal by 2028. Currently, Puerto Rico uses only 2 percent clean energy.

Not only will the changes make the island greener, but in the wake of the devastating Hurricane Maria that killed thousands and left households without power for more than 80 days, the territory should be better protected in the face of another natural disaster. And the move will help Puerto Rico save money on fuel—50 percent of the territory’s energy costs are spent on importing consumer fuel. The bill passed with bipartisan support, showing that it really is possible for two opposing sides to work together for the greater good. Now that’s inspiring.

The rideshare of the future

There’s no doubt that the convenience (and lower cost) of for-hire rideshare companies like Uber and Lyft have added to our global mileage. A 2017 study from urban transportation consultants, Schaller Consulting, found that between 2013-2016, ride hailing apps added 600 million miles of vehicle traffic in New York City alone. But one company is working to at least offset the damage.

In 2018, Lyft co-founders John Zimmer and Logan Green pledged that the company would start investing in carbon offsetting measures to make each ride with the service carbon neutral. While carbon offsetting projects have a checkered history, Lyft has made a point of investing in projects vetted by the American Carbon Registry, Climate Action Reserve, or Verified Carbon Standard. So, while ridesharing is still not a greener option than walking or public transit, the future is looking a little greener for ride hailing.