Points of Progress: Apps reduce food waste, inmates start businesses, and more

Why We Wrote This

This is more than feel-good news – it's where the world is making concrete progress. A roundup of positive stories to inspire you.

Markus Schreiber/AP
Franziska Lienert represents Too Good To Go, a food-sharing app that’s taking off in Europe and reducing food waste.

Germany

In Berlin, apps are reducing food waste. Food-sharing apps help connect people with restaurants that will sell their leftover, unsold food at a discount. Too Good To Go, one of the most popular apps, is used all over Europe. The main motivation for its users: climate change. A Too Good To Go spokesperson told The Associated Press that since the app launched in 2015, it has prevented 14 million meals from being thrown away, a savings of 35,000 tons of carbon released in the production of that food. (The Associated Press)

United States

For the first time, Americans used more energy derived from renewable sources than from coal. The Energy Information Administration reported last month that in April, solar, wind, and hydroelectric energy surpassed that of coal. Renewable energy costs continue to decrease, and solar and wind are now consistently cheaper than fossil fuels in many parts of the world. One caveat: Some coal plants were out of commission for routine maintenance in April and coal will again be the second-largest source of electricity this summer; natural gas is No. 1. But proponents say the fall in the cost of renewable energy is a promising trend. (Energy Information Administration)

Tanzania

Elephant and rhinoceros populations are rebounding here. Since 2015, the government has cracked down on criminal networks involved in poaching. In the six years before 2015, Tanzania’s elephant population declined by 60% because of an uptick in ivory demand on the black market. A special anti-poaching task force operating since 2016 has seen elephant numbers increase from 43,330 in 2014 to more than 60,000 today. Rhinos, a severely endangered species, have also seen modest population gains. (Reuters)

Afghanistan

A school in the remote Yakawlang district, 170 miles west of Kabul, has opened its doors wide to girls’ education. In Afghanistan, only one-third of girls go to school, but at Rustam School, girls make up two-thirds of the 500 students there. Since the fall of the Taliban, which opposed education for girls and women, a passion for learning, especially among girls, has grown in Yakawlang. The school’s principal says he believes boys and girls are equal and should be treated as such. He taught his own wife how to read and write under the Taliban regime, and has four daughters. Although boys and girls are traditionally taught separately, in Rustam they are taught together in order to prepare them for coeducational classrooms in college. Despite the school having no electricity or computers, more than 90% of graduating classes have gone on to college in recent years. (The New York Times)

Uruguay

Punta de Rieles prison helps inmates become entrepreneurs, and the project is showing signs of promise for their reentry into society. Luis Parodi, the prison’s director, says the model is a product of 30 years of trial and error. It serves as an alternative to conventional confinement, aiming to encourage character reformation. One inmate told a reporter that Punta de Rieles is an oasis from the world of violence that is often seen in prisons. From candy stores to carpentry shops, inmates can employ peers and sell their goods inside and outside the prison. The inmates keep 70% of the profits and gain full access to the funds after release. Two former inmates continue to operate a bakery in Punta de Rieles and employ 50 to 70 people. (The Associated Press)

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