British bees, frack off, coffee cups – highlights from 2016

Phil Byrne

15 December 2016

Important wins for British bees and keeping fossil fuels in the ground. Friends of the Earth's successes in 2016, thanks to your support.

2016 has been a turbulent year for people and the environment. Politics has been dominated by self-interest and hate. But thanks to your passion and support we can still celebrate some great successes.

Here's a taste of what we've achieved together – in numbers.

No fracking UK

democracy versus fracking

5 years: that's how long the UK has been frack free thanks to the amazing teamwork of our local groups, local communities, donors, experts and all of our supporters who took action online.

Fracking continues to be blocked by legal challenge and local opposition. We’re doing all we can to help communities that are resisting fracking.

Coffee cup waste out in the open

coffee cups

2.5 billion coffee cups: the number thrown away every year in the UK. Only 1 in 400 is recycled. 

Relax, this wasn’t the prelude to putting a cap on your 'ccino. But we did launch a campaign. Thousands of you signed our petition to ban non-recyclable coffee cups and reward people for bringing reusable ones. And there was an early sign of success as Costa announced it will recycle cups across its UK stores.

We’re continuing our push to make sure other coffee chains follow suit.

Support us in 2017

Vital nature laws saved

The nature laws have led to the recovery of bitterns
The nature laws have led to the recovery of bitterns

Over half a million people: the number who saved vital laws protecting some of the UK’s best-loved wildlife and nature sites.

Thanks to record-breaking public support the EU won’t be weakening these laws and will instead look to implement them better – exactly what we’ve been calling for. It’s a great decision for nature and shows the power of campaigning – thank you. 

As the UK leaves the EU, we now need to make sure that our government maintains and uses the opportunity to strengthen these safeguards.

Protecting British bees and other pollinators from pesticides

Rapeseed grown without neonicotinoid pesticides at Hill Farm, Suffolk.
Rapeseed grown without neonicotinoid pesticides at Hill Farm, Suffolk.

2 banned bee-harming neonicotinoid pesticides: the National Farmers' Union (NFU) and pesticide firms wanted permission to use them on oilseed rape crops in England last autumn. They failed.

We argued our case to the government’s Expert Committee on Pesticides – and published a report on growing crops without neonicotinoids. With help from bee lovers like you, we can win the war on bee-harming pesticides for good.

Air pollution – taking the fight to the streets

air pollution

40,000: early deaths in the UK each year as a result of air pollution.

As part of our campaign to address air pollution in the UK, we launched an investigation into garages that promised to boost car performance – by removing a filter designed to reduce fine particles of air pollution. 

The garages were using a loophole that allowed them to advertise and carry out the modification – even though driving on UK roads without the filter is illegal.

We put in an official complaint. And now all garages have been banned from advertising this dodgy service.

Money to stop flooding

Flooded village store
Village store wrecked by the floods of winter 2015, by Luke Santilli

£15 million: pledged by the government for flood control, after an investigation by Friends of the Earth revealed that ministers had broken promises to support natural flood management, such as planting trees.

Keeping coal in the ground


3 million tonnes: that's how much coal could yet stay in the ground following an excellent ongoing local campaign in Northumberland, which you’ve helped us get behind.

The government has granted our request to call in plans for an opencast mine at Druridge Bay. It will make the final decision on climate change grounds. We raised over 10,000 objections, provided independent legal advice and even teamed up with TV conservationist Bill Oddie.

Food for bees – more wildflower habitats

Gravesham Friends of the Earth's Bee World in bloom

205 Bee Worlds: that's how many got the green light this year, lifting the total number to 561. That’s roughly 6,226 square metres of bee-friendly habitat – and plenty of local communities helping wildlife thrive, greening their neighbourhood and having fun outdoors.

Cutting funding for fossil fuels


£220 million: that’s how much of its pension fund Haringey Council moved out of fossil fuels this year. Churches, universities, pension funds and other institutions are increasingly moving their investments away from coal, oil and gas. You’ve been helping us support local campaigns to encourage councils to take their cash out of fossil fuels and invest it in clean energy projects.

More people eating better

Vegetarian curry
Vegetarian curry by GracinhaMarco Abundo – CC 2.0

1,150+ people: the number who signed up to Meat Free May – our annual challenge to show how easy, tasty and healthy plant-based foods can be, and encourage more people to take up a low-meat lifestyle.

More people learning about British bees


383,759 bees: that's how many bees were spotted during our Great British Bee Count. Well done to everyone who took part. We surveyed 2,000 participants in the Great British Bee Count – 97% had been inspired to help bees by taking practical action like growing bee-friendly plants.

Gustavo Castro returns home safely

berta caceres
A vigil held at the doors of the OAS for Berta Caceres by Daniel Cima – CC 2.0

7,948 people: the number of our supporters who demanded the safe release of Friends of the Earth Mexico’s Director, Gustavo Castro.

Gustavo was shot in Honduras during the murder of fellow campaigner Berta Caceres. As the sole witness his life was in danger, and officials were illegally preventing him from leaving the country. Thanks to our collective efforts, Gustavo returned home safely – and key investors pulled their money out of the dam project that Berta had been campaigning against.

Hole in the ozone layer is healing

Hovering on the Horizon
Hovering on the Horizon by NASA's Earth Observatory – CC 2.0

2 million cases of skin cancer: the number avoided each year – according to the UN – as the ozone layer shows signs of recovery. The hole, which lets in harmful UV light, has shrunk since the millennium by an area roughly the size of the Indian subcontinent.

It’s a proud moment for Friends of the Earth supporters. In the 1980s we ran a hugely influential campaign to ban ozone-destroying human-made CFCs. Back then, industry was using these chemicals in aerosols and refrigeration. The message is clear: don’t give up.

We really couldn’t do any of this without you. Thank you from everyone at Friends of the Earth.

Support us in 2017


bees spotted in the Great British Bee Count