Mulched Christmas trees, discounted EVs, and rebounding seagrass

Round out the first week of 2024 by keeping your holiday cheer out of the landfill


Hey team, and welcome back to one5c! I like to think of the first week of the new year as a kind of shoulder season, a time when we look at both where we’ve been and where we’re going. In 2024, we’re turning a page into a new era of EV affordability, pedestrian and cyclist safety (🤞), and very likely another scorcher (😰). 

Here at one5c, we’re also diving back into climate success stories that explore burgeoning solutions with the potential to swell into big change. This week, Glorie’s taking a peek at efforts to revive Florida’s dwindling seagrass. I won’t spoil it, but there are very cute manatees involved. —Corinne

The IRA just made this lineup for Ford EVs instantly cheaper. woodsnorthphoto/Shutterstock

It’s time to buy an EV

The time is nigh to get your hands on a set of planet-friendly wheels. As of Jan. 1, EV buyers are eligible for an at-the-dealer $7,500 credit thanks to the Inflation Reduction Act. Here’s the gist: If you buy a brand-new EV that was manufactured in the U.S. (think Ford or Tesla) and it meets certain price and battery criteria, your sticker can sink on the spot. Check out our guide for all the deets, including what you need to know about income requirements and eligible models.

Another scorcher?

A lot of things drove 2023 to record highs, and the El Niño cycle is at the top of the list. The periodic push of warm air off the Pacific began bathing the globe in heat starting in June 2023, and it’ll likely continue through this coming June. What comes next is “uncharted territory.” Typically El Niño is followed by a neutral season, but there’s always potential for a fresh El Niño to spin itself up—or for a cooling La Niña season to take its place. Regardless, after eight years of record heat, climate scientists are certain we’re in for another hot one.

The new rules of the road

As nationwide rates of pedestrian and cyclist deaths spike sharply, advocates for safer streets and non-car forms of transportation have turned their attention to a dusty federal manual that sets the rules of the road. The Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is the guidebook for signage and road design, and the Department of Transportation rolled out the first update to it since 2009 in late December. The revision includes updates to federal guidance on bike lane design and tweaks to the math guiding speed limits. NPR’s Morning Edition explores what the changes mean for safety and the future of alternative means of transportation.

New life for old blades

A sustainable future needs wind power, but even the toughest structures and blades don’t last forever. And while the steel tower and copper wires can be reused, around 15% of the materials involved can wind up bound for the landfill. The biggest issue: fiberglass blades. Luckily, people are finding creative reuses for the behemoth castoffs, including a park for the eco-minded kids of Rotterdam, and a chunky bridge outside of Cork City in Ireland. All of these ideas are a reminder of just how essential the oft-overlooked middle child of the three R’s (that’s reuse) is.

Mic-drop climate stat

Save the seagrass, save the world? 

Restoring native flora like eel grass is remaking Florida waterways from the seafloor up. divedog/Shutterstock

Seagrass is remarkable stuff. The marine meadows cover less than 1% of the ocean surface but take on about 10% of the carbon that the ocean sequesters, making them remarkably efficient carbon sinks. One square kilometer of seagrass can store up to 83,000 metric tons of carbon—twice as much as most forests.

Yet a variety of human activities have put these greens at risk. Pollution from wastewater and agricultural runoff fuels toxic algal blooms that impede growth, while props from fishing and recreational boats tear up the plants. Globally, seagrass meadows currently face a 7% annual loss rate. That’s equivalent to two football fields every hour. 

The effects are especially potent in Florida, which lost nearly 60% of its seagrass between 2011 and 2019. Like in other coastal states—including North Carolina and Virginia—academics and environmental officials in the Sunshine State are working to find the best methods to bring it back. One promising effort in Crystal River, which sits about 80 miles north of Tampa on the Gulf coast, centers on a simple idea: Plant more grass.

How it works

Seagrasses blanket 2 million acres along Florida’s coastlines and estuaries. They support marine life—including threatened manatees—prevent coastal erosion, and trap carbon in their roots and sediments. Starting in the late 1990s, however, noxious algae began to overwhelm the Crystal River and its surrounding waterways. 

It wasn’t until 2015 that restoration work began in an inland area called Kings Bay. With a $1.6 million grant from the state, nonprofit group Save Crystal River initiated a painstaking replanting process: carefully vacuuming algae to avoid disturbing sediment, planting new seagrass, and protecting the young flora with temporary cages. The effort seeded 92 acres of seagrass in total, which has since spread to more than 300 acres of the bay. 

The road ahead

Replanting initiatives are gaining traction elsewhere in the state, but maintaining any level of success also requires tackling the root cause of seagrass loss. According to a 2021 study in the journal PLOS One, 88% of seagrass meadows worldwide are exposed to toxic wastewater. Though bans on sewage dumping and mandated wastewater treatment have spurred rebounding seagrass in Tampa Bay, environmental advocates are continuing to call for tighter standards to protect the plant life. The EPA is also keeping a close eye on Florida’s seagrass as it refines water guidelines to support growth in other areas across the country where seagrasses are abundant.