04/22/2014 08:02 am ET Updated Apr 22, 2014

11 Wins For The Environment Since Last Year's Earth Day

It often seems that environmental news is overwhelmingly negative -- think the recent North Carolina coal ash spill, the West Virginia chemical leak and the proposed dumping of dredged mining waste into the Greater Barrier Reef. That all sounds highly depressing, right?

On this Earth Day, let's take a second to celebrate the progress that's been made for the planet since Earth Day in 2013, and remember that there are environmental victories.

There are dozens of international and national non-profits working to conserve the environment, and there are even more local conservation groups, government entities and countless individuals that risk arrest for the betterment of the planet, too. So, the next time you find your passion for the environment to be isolating or grim, remember that we're all in this fight together.

Without further adieu, here's a sampling of the victories for the planet that have been made since April 22, 2013.

  • Plastic Bag And Styrofoam Bans
    Multiple cities around the world enacted plastic bag bans since last year's Earth Day, or placed fees on plastic bags. This includes the Ivory Coast, the city of Sunset Valley, Texas and Santa Fe, New Mexico, for example. A revised bill introduced in January would make California the first state to enact a state-wide plastic bag ban while also introducing fees on the use of other bags, according to the New York Times.
    In January, the New York City Council passed a ban on polystyrene foam food containers and polystyrene "peanuts" used in packaging, which will go into effect in 2015, says USA Today. New York City will join over 100 other cities with polystyrene bans.
    (Photo by Enrique Algarra via Getty Images)
  • Mining Groups Pull Out Of Alaska's Pebble Mine Project
    Anglo American and Rio Tinto, two global mining groups, pulled out of the Pebble Mine Project in Alaska's Bristol Bay region. This biodiverse area is home to the world's largest sockeye salmon run and other wildlife, including grizzly bears, caribou and waterfowl, according to the National Wildlife Federation.
    In January, the EPA released a report noting that Pebble Mine could destroy up to 94 miles of streams and 5,350 acres of wetlands, ponds, and lakes in Bristol Bay. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy announced that the EPA will review whether they can use authority under the Clean Water Act to stop the mine, according to OnEarth.
    (Photo by Anchorage Daily News via Getty Images)
  • Shell Halts Arctic Drilling Operations For 2014
    In January, Shell announced that it won't pursue exploratory drilling in the Arctic Ocean in 2014. Shell experienced a high rate of mishaps in the Arctic in 2012, including a drilling rig that ran aground.
    (Photo by MICHAL CIZEK via Getty Images)
  • Obama Adds 1,660 Acres To The California Coastal National Monument
    In March, President Obama expanded the California Coastal National Monument to include the Point Arena-Stornetta Public Lands in Northern California, which will protect more than 1,660 acres of beach, bluffs and the Garcia River estuary, according to Climate Progress. This coastal region houses a diverse array of wildlife like great blue herons, marine mammals and salmon.
    “The rugged coastline of Point Arena-Stornetta is simply breathtaking and a deserving addition to the California Coastal National Monument,” said Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell. “President Obama is supporting the community's vision to conserve this landscape and, in doing so, strengthening the local economy through increased tourism and outdoor recreation.”
    (Photo by Tom Hilton/Flickr Creative Commons)
  • Solar Power Boom
    Associated Press
    Solar power had a tremendous year last year, growing by 35 percent worldwide in 2013, according to Clean Technica. China led the world on solar power growth, installing at least 12 gigawatts of solar capacity -- more than any country has built in a single year.
    (AP Photo/David Zalubowski)
  • Court Upholds EPA Emissions Standards
    Earlier this month, a federal appeals court favored the EPA over industry and several states. The court upheld the agency's first emissions standards for mercury and other air pollutants, according to the Associated Press. Industry groups and several states contested that the EPA did not consider associated costs when creating this ruling.
    Here's some more good news: Just a week before Earth Day, the EPA's 19 annual emissions tallies revealed that U.S. greenhouse gas emissions fell by nearly 10 percent from 2005 to 2012, which is more than halfway to its 17 percent target cut in 2020.
    (Photo by PETER PARKS/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Congress Approves First Wilderness Bill Since 2009
    Associated Press
    Congress approved its first wilderness bill since 2009, which will protect 32,500 acres of the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore in Michigan. This lakefront strip on Michigan's Lower Peninsula has been a national park since 1973, but now gets extra protection, according to The Wall Street Journal.
    Since the Wilderness Act became law in 1964, every Congress has designated a wilderness area as a national park or monument until 2009. (AP Photo/John Flesher)
  • Wind Power Surged In China
    China surged as the wind power leader in 2013, adding nearly half of the worldwide capacity at 16,100 MW worth of new wind turbines, according to Clean Technica. Though 2013 was not a great year for wind capacity worldwide, China's wind energy market grew by 24.2 percent.
    (Photo by STR/AFP/Getty Images)
  • Obama's Big Climate Speech
    Environmentalists hailed Obama's June 2013 speech at Georgetown University as a success, as he outlined climate change impacts and sent a two-page plan for reducing emissions to journalists titled, "Taking Action for Our Kids," reported Mother Jones.
    "The question is not whether we need to act," he said during the speech. "The question is whether we will have the courage to act before it's too late." (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)
  • Palau Commercial Fishing
    In February, Palau President Tommy Remengesau Jr. announced at a U.N. oceans conference that he was banning commercial fishing and that Palau's 200 nautical mile Exclusive Economic Zone will become a marine sanctuary -- a protected zone about the size of France, according to Tree Hugger. "We have no choice -- the ocean is our way of life," he said.
    (Photo by Richard W. Brooks/AFP/Getty Images)
  • NOAA Upholds Shark Fin Bans
    Several states and territories have laws that prohibit the possession, sale and trade of shark fins, but last year, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration issued a proposed rule saying that state fin bans may interfere with federal law, according to the Natural Resources Defense Council. Earlier this year, however, NOAA decided against challenging bans in California, Maryland and Washington -- a win for shark conservation.
    In 2013, China banned shark fin soup from government receptions and banquets, and one international hotel chain recently stopped serving shark fin soup at Asian locations. (Photo by GIFF JOHNSON/AFP/Getty Images)