NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

Portugal Ran on Only Renewable Energy for Four Days

NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images
NICOLAS ASFOURI/AFP/Getty Images

Portugal just passed a major milestone toward carbon neutrality. Between May 7 and May 11, the country ran its electric grid entirely on renewable energy, as reported by The Guardian and picked up by Gizmodo. Using just hydro, wind, and solar power, the country kept its grid up and running. 

Portugal has invested heavily in wind power over the last few years, with turbines providing 22 percent of the country’s electricity in 2015. Renewables on the whole provided 48 percent of the country’s power last year.

Previously, Portugal reported that it had used renewable energy for 70 percent of its energy needs in the first three months of 2013. Portugal isn’t the only country making major strides toward replacing its gas, oil, and coal use with renewables (though the most ambitious carbon-neutral plans have come from individual cities such as Copenhagen, which has plans to be carbon neutral by 2025). Countries like the UK and Sweden have already pledged to go carbon neutral by 2050 or sooner, and the Netherlands recently introduced a plan to make all roads emissions-free by 2025. Germany ran its grid for a day using almost entirely renewable energy just a few days ago

However, some reports of carbon-neutrality progress have been overblown. Most recently, Costa Rica was lauded for running on 99 percent renewable energy in 2015. But that figure actually only applied to electricity generation, which makes up only 18 percent of the country’s energy use. Without getting rid of gas-guzzling vehicles and coal, it’s hard to really call a country carbon neutral. 

[h/t Gizmodo]

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India's Supreme Court Demands That the Taj Mahal Be Restored or Demolished
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The Taj Mahal is one of the most recognizable monuments on Earth, but over the years it's started to look less like its old self. Smog and insect droppings are staining the once pure-white marble exterior an unseemly shade of yellow. Now, The Art Newspaper reports that India's Supreme Court has set an ultimatum: It's threatening to shut down or demolish the building if it's not restored to its former glory.

Agra, the town where the Taj Mahal is located, has a notorious pollution problem. Automobile traffic, factory smoke, and the open burning of municipal waste have all contributed to the landmark's increasing discoloration. Insects and acid rain also pose a threat to the facade, which is already crumbling away in some parts.

India's highest court now says the country's central government must seek foreign assistance to restore the UNESCO World Heritage Site if it's to remain open. Agra's state of Uttar Pradesh has taken some steps to reduce pollution in recent years, such us banning the burning of cow dung, which produces heavy brown carbon. In 2015, India's Supreme Court ordered all wood-burning crematoriums near the Taj Mahal to be swapped for electric ones.

But the measures haven't done enough to preserve the building. A committee led by the Indian Institute of Technology in Kanpu reportedly plans to investigate the exact sources of pollution in the area, a process that will take about four months. The Supreme Court plans check in on the status of site every day from July 31.

Air pollution isn't the only factor damaging the Taj Mahal. It was constructed near the Yamuna River in the 17th century, and as the water gradual dries up, the ground beneath the structure is shifting. If the trend continues it could lead to the building's total collapse.

[h/t The Art Newspaper]

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Are You Eco-Conscious? You Could Win a Trip to the Dominican Republic
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Do you love lounging on the beach but also want to take action to save the planet? You'll be able to do both if you're chosen to serve as a "sustainability advisor" for a luxury resort in the Dominican Republic, Lonely Planet reports.

The worldwide contest is sponsored by Eden Roc at Cap Cana in Punta Cana. The winner and one friend will receive a five-night stay at the Relais & Châteaux hotel, where they'll partake in specially curated activities like a food-sourcing trip with the hotel's chef. (One caveat, though: Airfare isn't included.)

You don't need a degree in conservation to enter, but you will need an Instagram account. Give the resort's Instagram page (@edenroccapcana) a follow and post a photo of you carrying out an eco-friendly activity on your own page. Be sure to tag the resort and use the official hashtag, #EcoEdenRoc.

The only requirement is that the winner meet with hotel staff at the end of his or her trip to suggest some steps that the hotel can take to reduce its environmental impact. The hotel has already banned plastic straws and reduced its usage of plastic bottles, and the sole mode of transport used on site is the electric golf cart.

Beyond the resort, though, the Dominican Republic struggles with deforestation and soil erosion, and the nation scored poorly on the 2018 Environmental Performance Index for the agricultural category.

Entries to the contest will be accepted until August 31, and you can read the full terms and conditions here.

[h/t Lonely Planet]

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