Good as news: positive environmental stories you may have missed this week

Media Contacts
Ian Corbet

Josh Chetwynd

Environment America

The Public Interest Network’s Environment America and U.S. PIRG are working on multiple campaigns to help America get through the coronavirus pandemic as quickly and safely as possible. But we’re also working to ensure that when the outbreak ends, the United States’ policies and practices ensure a cleaner, safer, better world for all of us. 

This weekly newsletter will highlight recent good news on the environmental front. If you have suggestions or comments, please email Ian Corbet ([email protected]) or Josh Chetwynd ([email protected]). 

California makes historic clean cars commitment 

Gov. Gavin Newsom announced on Wednesday morning an executive order requiring all new cars and passenger trucks sold in California be zero-emission vehicles by 2035. With this executive order, California becomes the first state in the country to set a sales ban on gas-powered cars. The transportation sector in California accounts for more than 50 percent of the state’s greenhouse gas emissions. According to Gov. Newsom, this action will result in a “35 percent reduction in greenhouse gas emissions and an 80 percent improvement in oxides of nitrogen emissions from cars statewide.”

“Once again, California has taken the driver’s seat when it comes to cleaning up our cars and trucks and is paving the way for other states to follow,” says Dan Jacobson, Environment California state director. “Californians have long embraced climate action, but with this year’s record-breaking wildfires, hazardous air quality and some of the hottest temperatures on record, it’s become increasingly clear we need to do more. This executive order shows the governor gets this. We applaud Gov. Newsom’s actions today, but we urge him to keep his foot on the accelerator on the road to comprehensive clean energy.”

New Jersey passes strongest ban on single-use plastics in nation

The New Jersey Assembly on Thursday passed A1978, the strongest single-use plastics ban in the nation. The bill bans single-use plastics bags and polystyrene, restricts straws to on-demand only, and phases out paper bags at larger grocery stores. The bill now goes to the desk of Gov. Phil Murphy, and he has 45 days to act on the legislation. The legislation, if signed into law, will go into effect in early spring 2022.

“New Jersey Assembly voted to pass the strongest single-use ban on plastics in the country to prioritize our wildlife and our communities over endless plastic waste polluting our waterways,” said Doug O’Malley, director of Environment New Jersey. “Plastic and polystyrene items we use for 15 minutes should not end up in our environment and communities for endless generations. Polystyrene cannot be cost-effectively recycled on a mass scale, and we need to transition to reusable bags. We urge Gov. Murphy to sign this legislation as quickly as possible.”

Michigan governor commits to net zero emissions by 2050

Another U.S. governor took strong action this week to thwart climate change: Gov. Gretchen Whitmer committed Michigan on Wednesday to net zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050. Her executive action directs the Department of Environment, Great Lakes and Energy to develop a plan to reach the goal. The order also forms a council to shape and review the plan and progress, and pushes the state government to lead by example with sweeping reductions in energy use at state facilities.

“We’re so glad to see Gov. Whitmer take the initiative to get us to zero greenhouse gas emissions,” said Environment Michigan state director Nathan Murphy. “Gov. Whitmer joins a growing number of other bold state leaders across the United States who are leading the charge for zero emissions. This new goal will not only drive Michigan toward a cleaner, healthier future, but we also hope it will encourage governors and legislators in neighboring states to jump on the bandwagon.”

What else we’re celebrating:

  • China commits to carbon neutrality by 2060: China’s president, Xi Jinping, announced plans for his country to be carbon neutral by 2060. This is a strong and surprising commitment from a country that is one of the largest sources of greenhouse gas pollution. In order to meet this commitment, China will have to phase out much of their coal power in the coming years.

  • Giant panda turns one month old at National Zoo: The Smithsonian National Zoo’s giant panda cub  turned one month old this week. The cub, which hasn’t been named yet, received its first veterinary exam and is in good health. However, it has yet to open its eyes, which isn’t uncommon, and is still weeks away from being on display to the public.

  • North Carolina added to offshore drilling moratorium: Sen. Thom Tillis of North Carolina announced Monday that the Trump administration has added his state to an offshore drilling moratorium. The moratorium, which bans oil and gas drilling until 2032, now includes Florida, Georgia and both of the Carolinas.

  • Maine approves renewable energy projects: The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved 17 renewable energy projects for long-term contracts. The total is a record amount for the state and a significant step for Maine’s clean energy efforts. The various projects are expected to produce 500 megawatts of electricity and could reduce 500,000 tons of greenhouse gas emissions annually. 


Looking for even more uplifting environmental content?

Environment America recently launched our Greener Together project. As people are practicing social distancing, the project aims to help us all foster a stronger connection with the natural world and with each other. The initiative includes engaging events, fun activities and helpful guides for both adults and children. 



Environment America is a national network with affiliates in 29 states. Our staff and members work to protect the places we love, advance the environmental values we share, and win real results for our environment. 

U.S. PIRG, the federation of state Public Interest Research Groups, is a consumer group that stands up to powerful interests whenever they threaten our health and safety, our financial security, or our right to fully participate in our democratic society.

U.S. PIRG and Environment America are part of The Public Interest Network, which operates and supports organizations committed to a shared vision of a better world and a strategic approach to getting things done.