Points of Progress: Recycled Olympic medals, and more

Koji Sasahara/AP
The Tokyo 2020 Olympic medal designs were revealed on July 29, 2019. They will be made completely from recycled electronics.


Medals for Tokyo’s 2020 Olympic Games will be made from 100% recycled materials. Over two years, 80,000 tons of phones and other electronic devices were donated to source all the necessary bronze, silver, and gold. Olympic hosts have a reputation for hasty construction projects and environmental degradation. But event organizers say the electronic recycling initiative and other sustainable practices, such as powering the Games with 100% renewable energy, are an attempt to change that legacy. (Tokyo 2020)


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.

The government has launched a multibillion-dollar plan to save the Niger River. The Niger is the main river of West Africa, beginning in the highlands of Guinea and ending in Nigeria, but it has become polluted from oil spills and plastic waste. The first step of the cleanup process will be clearing invasive species that inhibit natural water flow and cause sediments to build up. Mali is one of six countries that share the Niger River. According to Afrik 21, an environmental website, the deputy director general of the Niger River Basin Agency is calling on others to mobilize and do their part to “save this jewel.” (Afrik 21)


The country is on track to use more renewable energy than coal and nuclear power in 2019. European market policies are leading to steadily increasing costs for carbon emissions for energy-intensive industries – some coal plants paused operations during the first six months from a lack of demand. So far this year, Germany has produced 47% of its energy from renewable sources and 43% from coal and nuclear sources; the country has set a goal to reach 65% renewable energy by 2030. (Deutsche Welle)


Markets in ancient Aleppo are on the road to recovery after years of damage from a long-running civil war. The Old City of Aleppo is a UNESCO World Heritage Site, and its bazaar was left in ruins. Certain sections of the markets are now being rebuilt. Shop owners welcome the renovations, but have voiced concerns about regaining customers, since the city’s inhabitants grew accustomed to shopping elsewhere and tourism stopped altogether. An architect interviewed by The Associated Press says that Western sanctions are delaying the work, but shop owners are hopeful that the renovations will lead to an economic revival. (The Associated Press)

Hassan Ammar/AP
Workers are putting final touches on renovations at al-Saqatiyah Market in the Old City of Aleppo, Syria, on July 27, 2019.

United States

A team of scientists in Arizona developed a way to overcome obstacles that have slowed coral reef restoration. Home to more than one-quarter of the ocean’s species, coral reefs are a dwindling and rare resource that cover only 1% of the ocean floor. Finding these precious reefs has been difficult for researchers because satellites have trouble capturing images below the reflective surface of the ocean. But this airborne mapping system can identify reefs from light-measuring sensors. Conservationists hope this innovation will accelerate their work in habitat restoration. Collaboration with The Nature Conservancy has already led to the Dominican Republic’s largest designated marine protected area. (The New York Times)

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