In today’s Electrek Green Energy Brief (EGEB):

  • Clean electricity has exceeded coal in OECD countries.
  • What’s wishcycling? It’s a bad habit we all have.
  • UK’s chief environment scientist: Everyone needs to make big changes to cut harmful emissions.
  • 10 ways to achieve Zero Waste.

EGEB: A daily technical, financial, and political review/analysis of important green energy news.

Some good news to start your weekend: The International Energy Agency (IEA) says that “clean electricity has exceeded the amount produced by coal across the countries belonging to the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD),” according to Country Life.

The OECD is a 36-country intergovernmental economic organization founded to stimulate trade and economic advancement. So who’s the green energy leader?

The greenest country in the OECD … is Iceland (pictured above), where virtually all electricity came from renewable sources — primarily hydro power and geothermal — both in 2018 and in the first five months of 2019.

The World Economic Forum calls the IEA’s news a green energy production milestone. The WEF sums up the current situation nicely:

Coal is in rapid decline across the OECD, while renewable sources of energy are surging. Gas is now the most common source of fuel for energy production across the OECD. It’s cleaner than coal but still a fossil fuel that contributes to global warming.

But there’s still plenty of room for improvement: Coal increased by 3% in 2018, mainly in China and India. “Coal is still the largest fuel source for generating electricity, accounting for 38% of total global production,” says the WEF. But India and China are canceling and delaying plans for new coal facilities. And “investment in coal-fired power plants declined by nearly 3%, however, to the lowest level since 2004.”

Our terrible recycling habit

The perpetual waste question: Is this or is this not recyclable? You look at the guide sticker on your recycling bin, and the thing you’re holding isn’t on the list. So you take your chances and put it in the recycling bin anyway.

As Mother Jones explains, the waste management industry calls this wishcycling.

According to Marian Chertow, director of the Solid Waste Policy program at Yale University, ‘a wishcycler wants to do the right thing and feels that the more that he or she can recycle, the better.’

Currently, 25% of the items Americans put into their recycling bins aren’t supposed to be in there, like dirty items or things that just can’t be recycled. The result of this is rising costs and reduced productivity at recycling facilities.

So what to do? Mother Jones suggests we reduce and reuse, in addition to recycling. And here’s their guide (maybe copy and paste it somewhere that’s easily accessible) to what can and cannot be recycled:

When you do recycle, you should know what belongs in the bin: Rinsed plastic containers and glass bottles, cardboard, and beverage and food cans are almost always acceptable. Plastic bags, electronics, and paper covered with food generally are not. Neither are insulated coffee cups and toothpaste tubes, in most cases. And if you’ve checked your local guidelines to see if an item is recyclable and you still aren’t sure, it’s best to ignore your wishful instincts and throw it in the trash.

(I didn’t know about toothpaste tubes not being able to go in the recycling bin. Huh. We learn something new every day.)

It’s everyone’s responsibility to cut emissions

The UK’s chief environment scientist, Professor Sir Ian Boyd, told the BBC in an interview that in order to halt greenhouse gas emissions, everyone is going to have to do their part. He also said that strong political leadership is needed to get the message through to the general public.

Boyd says we all have to do these three things: use less transportation, eat less red meat, and buy fewer clothes.

In other words, walk or bike more (or take public transport, buy an electric vehicle, or carpool), go vegetarian, and keep wearing your 10-year-old favorite sweater  — or hit the thrift stores if you really need to replace a clothing item.

10 ways to go Zero Waste

Waste is a big problem in the US. We sent 137.7 million tons of it to landfill in 2015, according to the EPA. It needs to be dealt with effectively, alongside implementing green energy, so we don’t end up looking like the Earth in WALL-E.

We need to keep the momentum going on big action on a global level, but just as importantly, it starts with every single one of us. If we all change our habits, we’ll make a difference.

Real Simple spoke to experts and compiled a list of 10 ways to achieve Zero Waste. Their list is below, and check out their article for further details.

  1. Use what you already have: If you’ve got a plastic item that works, don’t replace it with something more eco-friendly. Because then you have two of the same thing.
  2. Refuse first: Don’t take samples and flyers.
  3. Rearrange the trash: Make it harder to automatically throw things away. It forces you to think.
  4. Pack reusable necessities: You know — coffee cups, straws. Keep them in your car.
  5. Borrow before buying: Share things with your neighbors. It keeps down on all the consumption of stuff.
  6. Do a trash audit: Check to see what you throw away the most, and make a change to reduce that waste.
  7. Don’t feel like you have to make everything yourself: Only make it yourself if you enjoy it. You don’t have to be Martha Stewart.
  8. Green your period: Reusable menstrual cups not only save money, they cut down on some serious waste.
  9. Raise tiny tree huggers: Teach your kids about green energy and how to take care of the planet. Help them set good habits early. Then they’ll nag you. In a good way.
  10. Invest in a TerraCycle bin: “The company TerraCycle accepts many items that can’t always be recycled locally, like coffee capsules, toothpaste tubes, and potato chip bags. It partners with brands … to offer free recycling of their products. Or you can buy a bin or pouch for a specific need.” (Oh, so that’s what I do with my toothpaste tube!)


Subscribe to Electrek on YouTube for exclusive videos and subscribe to the podcast.

About the Author