2019 in silver numbers composed with a green planet Earth, sun shining behind

Well, readers, let me start out by saying I was wrong. Last year, I attempted to identify the biggest green trend of 2018, and wasn’t even close.

My prediction was that Americans would spend more time reading the nutritional labels on foods, because the FDA and retailers were set to enforce strict labeling requirements in June. But manufacturers were given a two-year extension in May to implement the new labels, meaning this trend is tabled until 2020. That’s a tragedy because you deserve to know what’s in your food.

My backup predictions last year, a rise in telecommuting and the start of the solar revolution, did not perform much better. Solar panel prices rose with tariffs on China, and even low unemployment did little to incentivize companies to let employees work from home.

Instead, 2018 will be remembered as the year of the dockless scooter. The scooters are viewed as green because they are electric and produce fewer emissions than cars. And companies like Bird and Lime have billion-dollar valuations by providing scooters for rent in most American cities. However, this trend may be short-lived as cities pass legislation to address their safety.

Candidates for Biggest 2019 Green Trend

As we look toward 2019, what can we expect as the biggest trend in sustainability? Keep in mind, most of the significant green fads over the last 12 years have been fueled by legislation, price decreases, or scientific studies. Here are a few possibilities:

  1. The Decline of Plastic: Plastic had a rough year in 2018, between cities banning disposable straws, the recycling market drying up after the China ban, and continued concern over plastic in the oceans. Could 2019 be the year that Americans opt for alternatives in packaging at a mainstream level?
  2. The Self-Driving Car Revolution: Expect to see more driverless cars on the road in 2019. Waymo has logged 10 million miles through its pilot program in Arizona, and the company is launching in 25 cities next year. General Motors will debut its own line of cars in San Francisco in 2019. Even Uber’s self-driving cars are returning this month after a nine-month hiatus due to a fatal crash and a lawsuit with Waymo over proprietary technology. How are driverless cars green? Well, Waymo is putting 62,000 hybrid cars on the road, and self-driving cars always follow the speed limit, which means they consume up to 40 percent less fuel.
  3. The Green Investing Wave: Already, one out of every four dollars invested through a professional firm in America goes toward socially responsible funds. And 86 percent of the newest group of investors, millennials, are interested in sustainable investing. Might 2019 be the year you ask your broker about companies performing well in the environment, social, and governance (ESG) arena?

2019’s Biggest Sustainability Trend Will Be …

The Self-Driving Car Revolution

Call it a hunch, but I see self-driving cars growing hugely in popularity in 2019. I may be biased, living in Arizona and seeing how popular and buzzworthy they have become locally since Waymo’s pilot program began in 2017.

These cars are coming on quickly, and just imagine what will happen when people start streaming their rides on social media.


By Trey Granger

Trey Granger is a former senior waste stream analyst for Earth911.