Climate Joy Week #27: The Ocean Cleanup’s Device Successfully Collects Plastic, Billionaire Owners of Fiji Water Donate $750 Million to Climate Research

Climate Joy Week #27: The Ocean Cleanup’s Device Successfully Collects Plastic, Billionaire Owners of Fiji Water Donate $750 Million to Climate Research

Welcome to this week’s edition of Climate Joy. As is our custom on this series, we bring you good news as it relates to climate action and the wellbeing of the planet.

From the positive actions taken by private individuals and notable corporations, all the way to the European Union, here’s what we’re celebrating this week:

1. Caltech Receives Millions for Climate and Environment Research

Climate and environmental research is about to get a boost thanks to American billionaire couple Stewart and Lynda Resnick, owners of the Wonderful Company, whose brands include Fiji Water, Pom Wonderful, Wonderful Pistachios and Teleflora, the flower delivery service. They have announced a donation of US$750 million to the California Institute of Technology (aka Caltech).

The donation is the second-largest donation ever to an American university and will be used for environmental study, with most of it focused on technological solutions to combat climate change.

About $100 million of the $750 million donation will go toward construction of a building called the ‘Resnick Sustainability Resource Center’. An additional $250 million will finance research immediately, while $400 million will be placed into the university’s endowment fund for future environmental research. Some of the projects that this generous donation is expected to fund are:

  • attempts to sequester carbon from the atmosphere and store it in the ocean;
  • capture and reuse rainfall;
  • make plants more resistant to drought;
  • and create plastics that are easier to recycle.

In addition, the scholars funded by the Resnicks will retain complete independence over their work.

The couple however face criticisms since their businesses are large consumers of water and plastic, and their donation is being view by some as an attempt to launder their image and solve the problem they have caused. True or not, we consider their generosity a win for the climate; that’s $750 million that can be used for climate research and innovative solutions.

2. European Commission Adopts Eco-Design Package

Last week, the European Commission formally adopted eco-design guidelines for electronics. With the adoption of these guidelines, businesses are now mandated to make electronic products easier to repair. In fact as of 2021, firms will have to make all TV screens and fridges placed on the EU market longer-lasting, and they will have to supply spare parts for machines for up to a decade. These products will also be made easier to recycle thanks to improved design and, in the case of displays, the removal of toxic flame retardants.

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Environmental campaigners applauded the formal adoption of the new rules. The European Commission Vice President Jyrki Katainen relayed that the measures “can save European households on average €150 per year and contribute to energy savings equal to the annual energy consumption of Denmark by 2030.”

This comes as a wonderful development at a time when companies have made the throwaway culture and planned obsolescence practically part of their business model.

3. Portugal’s Oldest University Bans Beef to Fight Climate Change

Portugal’s oldest university, the University of Coimbra has announced that it will no longer serve beef in an effort to fight climate change. This will be the first of its kind in its 729-year history.

The beef production process is a common source of human-induced greenhouse gas emissions, and the university’s rector, Amilcar Falcao, said the decision marks an important step toward becoming Portugal’s first carbon-neutral institution of higher education by the end of the coming decade.

“We are experiencing a climate emergency, and we have to put brakes on this projected environmental catastrophe,” Falcao said in a speech to hundreds of students, according to The Portugal News. Replacing beef with other sources of nutrients will “be a way of reducing the source of the greatest CO2 production that exists in the production of animal meat,” Falcão said.

Goldsmiths University in London announced a similar move a few months ago ago. We applaud these universities and hope more institutions follow their lead and take bold action to combat climate change.

4. Jerusalem to Set Low-Emission Zone and Ban High-Polluting Diesel Vehicles

The ancient city of Jerusalem is about to breathe some fresh air.

Israel’s Environmental Protection Ministry and the Jerusalem municipality have announced a reduced-emissions zone for the capital’s downtown area. This is the first phase of a plan to ban high-polluting diesel vehicles from the city as a whole. A joint statement outlined a “Low Emissions Zone” for downtown Jerusalem, where it said older-model diesel-powered trucks would be banned starting in November. The initial stage will see a ban on diesel vehicles of over 3.5 tons constructed before 2006, unless they are fitted with special pollution-reducing particle filters. People found disobeying the law will be subjected to fines.

The project is expected to cost up to $7 million dollars to implement. The funds will go towards subsidies for pollution filters and the purchase of 10 new electric buses — which are energy efficient, create zero pollution and produce less than half of the greenhouse gas emissions of diesel buses.

5. The Ocean Cleanup Project’s Device Finally Collects Marine Plastic

The oceans are set to get a reprieve from plastic.

A huge floating device designed by Dutch scientists to clean up the Great Pacific Garbage Patch has successfully collected plastic from the high seas for the first time. Boyan Slat, the creator of the The Ocean Cleanup project, tweeted that the 600 meter-long (2,000ft) free-floating boom had captured and retained debris from what is known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

The vast cleaning system is designed to not only collect discarded fishing nets and large visible plastic objects, but also microplastics. The plastic barrier floating on the surface of the sea has a three meter-deep (10ft) screen below it, which is intended to trap some of the 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic without disturbing the marine life below. The device is fitted with transmitters and sensors so it can communicate its position via satellites to a vessel that will collect the gathered rubbish every few months.

During a previous four-month trial the boom broke apart and no plastic was collected. Since then, changes have been made to the design including the addition of a “parachute anchor” to slow down the device’s movement in the ocean, allowing for faster-moving plastic debris to float into the system.

The latest trial began in June when the system was launched into the sea from Vancouver. The project was started in 2013 and its design has undergone several major revisions. It is hoped the final design will be able to clean up half of the debris in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch.

And that’s it for this week’s edition folks, we’ll see you back here same time, same place for another roundup of progressive environmental news. Until then, make sure to spread the positivity and share this post!

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Feature image via The Ocean Cleanup.

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