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Here at Planet Experts, we report on a lot of foul, fetid and foolish events and entities messing with our planet, but that’s not the whole story. There are some truly inspiring articles that emerge week to week, and to prove it, we’ve rounded up eight of our favorite headlines from January 2015.

8) The UK Debuted Its Battery-Powered Passenger Train

This month, the UK tested a battery-powered passenger train – its first in 50 years! If the initial trial run is successful, National Rail will deploy a fleet of such trains that will be “cleaner, quieter and [won’t] have the need for electrification,” improving the company’s sustainability and reducing costs 20 percent over the next five years. Read More…

gaslogo#7 California Became the First State to Pass a Carbon Tax

Critics warned that California’s carbon emissions tax “could slam drivers” by hiking up gas prices as much as 76 cents when it took effect in 2015. Well, that turned out to be a bit of an exaggeration. The tax actually bumped prices up about $0.02 – at a time when gas prices are the lowest they’ve been in the last six years. The tax is intended to incentivize the fossil fuel industry to use lower-carbon fuel stocks and reduce emissions’ overall impact on atmospheric pollution. Whether it works remains to be seen, but the Golden State proved a carbon tax can be passed in America without initiating an economic apocalypse. Read More…

#6 Seattle Banned Food Waste

Following three decades of progressive waste management practices, Seattle is now requiring food waste to be separated from trash and recyclables. This new law took effect on January 1 and will divert an estimated 38,000 tons of food and yard waste away from landfills and into composting processors. Read More…

#5 New York City Banned Styrofoam

styrofoam2Technically, the city is banning expanded polystyrene (EPS), but everybody calls it styrofoam. On January 8, NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that EPS foam articles will be banned from sale in food service establishments and stores effective this summer. Following a ruling by the Department of Sanitation, the city determined that EPS foam cannot be recycled in an environmentally effective and economically feasible manner – therefore, all EPS cups, plates, trays, containers and packing peanuts have to go. Read More…

solar#4 The U.S. Solar Industry Grew Almost 22 Percent

Solar is booming in the U.S.A. Higher demand, lower costs and federal and state tax credits have all played a part in growing the country’s solar industry 21.8 percent since 2013. That’s just about 10 times the rate of job growth for the entire U.S. economy! And this wasn’t the only good solar news. This week, a new report sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy announced that rooftop solar is now cheaper than buying electricity from the grid in 42 of the country’s 50 biggest cities. Read More…

#3 The UK Broke Multiple Wind Power Records

This is an achievement that belongs to 2014, but we didn’t have the numbers until early this month. It seems that last year, wind power supplied 28.1 terawatt hours of electricity to the United Kingdom – enough to power 6.7 million households, or 25 percent of homes in the country. This 15 percent increase over 2013 is just the tip of the iceberg, too. Read More…

tigers#2 India’s Tiger Population Increased by 30 Percent

Tiger populations worldwide have shrunk by about 96 percent since the early twentieth century. However, thanks to earnest conservation measures by the Indian government and the National Tiger Conservation Authority, India’s tigers are making a tentative comeback. On January 20th, Prakash Javadekar, the country’s Minister for Environment and Forest, announced that India’s tiger population has grown 30 percent since 2010. Read More…

#1 Bill Gates Turned Human Waste Into Drinkable Water

Alright, so maybe Bill Gates didn’t actually do it, but his money sure did. The OmniProcessor, built by Janicki Industries and funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, is a low-cost sewage treatment machine that can turn human waste into drinkable water in five minutes.

Seriously. It turns poop into clean water – and not just clean water, but also electricity and biofuel. Here’s Jimmy Fallon taking a sip:

This invention earns the number one spot because it could literally revolutionize the sanitation in the developing world and be deployed in even the remotest of places. Next month, the OmniProcessor’s S100 prototype will head to Dakar, Senegal to test its viability in the field. Read More…

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