As September ends, Planet Experts looks back on the stories we ran this month and decides which were the most important to the environment and the planet as a whole. In this list, we present the six stories we were happiest to report.

6) Pope Francis Was Just Awesome

It’s always a good month when we see Pope Francis on this list, but the fact that he’s only the top item means that this month saw some pretty great news indeed. Last week, the Pope visited the USA for the first time in his life – and also became the first-ever Pope to address a joint-session of Congress. At both appearances, Francis discussed the need to protect the planet and oppose environmental degradation. In this article, we cover his remarks at the White House. In this article, we touch on the highlights of his Congressional address.

5) Leonardo DiCaprio Kicked Coal to the Curb

On September 22, actor Leonardo DiCaprio announced that he is joining the global movement to divest from fossil fuels. DiCaprio pledged that he, as well as his Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation, will be selling off all oil, coal and natural gas investments. Read More

4) Shell Got the Hell Out of the Arctic

Shell's Polar Pioneer drilling rig in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. (Photo Credit: Shell Oil Company)

Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. (Photo Credit: Shell Oil Company)

For the better part of a decade, Royal Dutch Shell has been trying to stick its drills in the Alaskan Arctic. The oil giant set off a storm of protests after it finally won the right to drill in Alaska’s Chukchi and Beaufort Seas from the US government. Yet Shell surprised everyone – its critics most of all – when it announced that it has not uncovered enough oil to merit further exploration. Greenpeace is already hailing this as a victory, but we’re considering it more of a promising hiatus. Read More

3) China & the US Are Putting a Stop to the Commercial Ivory Trade

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo: REUTERS / © Jason Reed

President Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping. (Photo: REUTERS / © Jason Reed

The international community banned the commercial ivory trade decades ago, yet China still retains the right to trade it domestically. This has led to a surge in the price of ivory and a subsequent surge in elephant poaching across Africa. For years Planet Experts has reported that China must put an end to its ivory trade if any significant progress is to be made in stopping elephants from going extinct. Now, it appears that US President Barack Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping are finally ready to take that step. Read More

2) Aspen Went 100 Percent Renewable

Early this month, Aspen, Colorado, announced that it is now generating 100 percent of its electricity from clean, renewable energy sources. Running on a mix of solar, wind, hydro and geothermal, “Fat City” has made us all proud to be American. Read More

1) California Banned Plastic Microbeads

The team responsible for carrying California's microbead ban from hope to reality. (Photo: 5 Gyres)

The team responsible for carrying California’s microbead ban from hope to reality. (Photo: 5 Gyres)

We’ll be totally honest – we weren’t sure this was really going to happen. A plastic microbead ban nearly passed the state legislature last year before failing by just one vote. And after the debacle that was the statewide plastic bag ban, we were afraid to get our hopes up. Yet it really happened. Thanks to the passage of AB 888, California will soon prohibit all products that contain plastic microbeads, a significant hazard to marine life and a major contributor to ocean pollution. Read More

For more of the top stories of September 2015, check out these lists:

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