Image for What went right this week: a bold work experiment, plus more positive news

What went right this week: a bold work experiment, plus more positive news

The world’s largest four-day week trial began, solar-powered bikes arrived, and Finland set a climate benchmark, plus more

The world’s largest four-day week trial began, solar-powered bikes arrived, and Finland set a climate benchmark, plus more

Positive news
The world’s largest four-day week trial began

The notion of working less for the same pay might sound utopian. But for thousands of UK employees it became a reality on Monday with the launch of the world’s largest four-day week trial. 

Some 3,300 staff from 70 UK businesses are taking part in the six-month pilot. Banks, automotive firms, and even a fish and chip shop signed up. Participants are expected to maintain pre-trial productivity levels while working 80 per cent of their regular hours. 

The pilot was launched by campaign group 4 Day Week Global in partnership with Autonomy, a thinktank, and the 4 Day Week UK Campaign. Researchers from the University of Cambridge, University of Oxford and Boston College will study its impact.

“The 20th-century concept of a five-day working week is no longer the best fit for 21st-century business,” said Ed Siegel, CEO of Charity Bank, which is taking part. “We firmly believe that a four-day week with no change to salary or benefits will create a happier workforce, and will have an equally positive impact on business productivity, customer experience and our social mission.”

Read more: 10 arguments for a shorter working week

Image: Marten Bjork

Solar-powered cargo bikes arrived

Cargo bikes were already the quickest way to transport goods across a city, according to a study published last year. Little wonder they are being touted as the future of urban transport. 

Now they have even more of a competitive advantage thanks to two German companies, which have developed lightweight solar panels for electric cargo bikes.  

OPES Solutions and Urban Mobility reckon their 3mm-thick PV panels will extend the range of electric cargo bikes by up to 20 per cent. 

“This extra distance can make a critical difference in operations as it increases the number of deliveries per day before the bike needs to be recharged,” said Tilman Rosch, Urban Mobility’s CEO. 

Recent estimates suggest that up to 51 per cent of all freight journeys in cities could be replaced by zero-emissions cargo bikes.

Image: Urban Mobility

Positive news
Finland pledged to be carbon neutral by 2035

It is the most ambitious climate target of any developed nation: carbon neutral by 2035 and carbon negative thereafter.

Finland doesn’t have a plan to get there yet. And news that the country’s forests are emitting more carbon than they are absorbing presents one big obstacle. 

Nevertheless, environment minister Emma Kari said the new target was “ambitious but achievable”, and called on other developed nations to bring forward their net zero target dates. 

The EU, UK and US have pledged to be net zero by 2050. 

Image: Tapio Haaja

Positive news
An app helped Gaza women report domestic abuse

A phone app has launched in the Gaza Strip to help Palestinian women anonymously report domestic abuse. 

The Masahatuna (or ‘Our Spaces’) app was developed by computer engineer Alaa Huthut, who wanted to help women seek assistance safely in a society where family pressures keep much domestic violence out of sight.

The app allows women to register with support centres without having to give their names. No traces of contact are left on the phone. “Privacy was very important as fear is usually the main cause women don’t contact or visit centres,” Huthut told Reuters.

A 2018 study by the University of Sussex found that 51 per cent of  women in the Gaza Strip experienced some form of domestic violence. 

Image: Priscilla du Preez

Positive news
The EU mandated single charging ports for phones

We’ve all been there. “Can I borrow your charger?” “Sure, it’s Samsung.” “Drat, I’m Apple.”

However, such exchanges will soon be history in the EU, after the bloc pushed ahead with plans to introduce a single charging port for phones, tablets and cameras.

The EU said it would reduce e-waste and save people money as they will no longer need to change chargers every time they switch phones.

Apple, which will be forced to adopt the USB-C charging port,  said the move would stifle innovation.

Image: Steve Johnson

Positive news
A community land buyout in Scotland got a boost

Last year, a small but determined community in Scotland “achieved the impossible” by completing one of the country’s largest ever land buyouts. The 5,200-acre moor has since been turned into Tarras Valley nature reserve and is the subject of rewilding efforts. 

Now the community wants to double the size of the reserve by buying another 5,3000 acres. It needs £2.2m to do this, and this week got a major boost after it was awarded £1m by the Scottish Land Fund. 

“This is a gamechanger,” said Jenny Barlow, Tarras Valley’s estate manager. “It has really turned the tide in our favour. Thanks to other generous donations, including from thousands of people from all over the world to our public crowdfunder, we are now just £450,000 shy of reaching our overall target.”

Image: Tarras Valley

Positive news
Beetroot juice helps people with heart disease – study

A daily glass of beetroot juice could reduce harmful inflammation in people with coronary heart disease, according to researchers at Queen Mary University of London. 

In a trial of 114 volunteers, they found that a glass of beetroot juice a day reduced inflammation in participants. People with coronary heart disease typically have low levels of nitric oxide, which helps reduce inflammation. Beetroot juice is rich in nitrate. 

“In people with coronary heart disease, persistent inflammation can exacerbate the furring of the arteries, making their condition worse and increasing their risk of a heart attack,” said Dr Asad Shabbir, clinical research fellow at the university. “Our research suggests that a daily glass of beetroot juice could be one way to get inorganic nitrate into our diet to help to interrupt harmful inflammation.”

Coronary heart disease is the lead killer of men and women worldwide. Further trials are planned. 

Image: Joanna Kosinska

Low-traffic neighbourhoods were deemed effective

They have become a bone of contention in London, but low-traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) reduce car use, boost active travel and make the streets safer. 

That’s according to a report by the Centre For London thinktank, which analysed traffic data to assess the impact of 10 LTNs across the capital. 

Its findings? Cycle trips within LTNs rose by up to 172 per cent, while car traffic fell by as much as 76 per cent. There was also evidence that they reduced road casualties, and no evidence that they disproportionately benefit rich neighbourhoods, which is one criticism that has been levelled at them. 

However, the report acknowledged that many LTNs were introduced without adequate consultation or support for residents. “To increase their effectiveness, we call for increased consultation between residents and boroughs, alongside supporting measures that further encourage the switch to greener active travel,” said the report. 

Image: Matt Seymour

Positive news
Speaking of cars…

Sales of internal combustion vehicles peaked in 2017 and are now in terminal decline, according to analysts at Bloomberg New Energy Finance. 

The rollout of electric vehicles (EVs) is driving the decline of petrol and diesel cars, which is positive news for the climate (although EVs do come with their own set of ecological problems). 

“Most importantly, the market is shifting from being driven primarily by policy, to one where organic consumer demand is the most important factor,” wrote lead authors Colin McKerracher and Aleksandra O’Donovan. 

In other words, EVs simply make more economic sense than their internal combustion counterparts. With the price of petrol hitting a record high in the UK this week, expect this trend to accelerate. 

Image: Matt Henry

And finally…

The news made the news this week, when CNN dropped the ‘breaking news’ banner on its bulletins.

The network said it would only use it for genuinely urgent events, saying it wanted to “inform not alarm”.

It’s a welcome shift from one of the world’s leading broadcasters. Such banners can exacerbate feelings of overwhelm at a time when many people are struggling with negative news. 

Find out how you can break the bad news cycle here. 

Image: CNN
Main image: Alevision

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What went right previously