Big cities have a lot of trash.

Right now you're probably thinking, "Yeah sure, handsome guy, tell me something I don't know."


A trashy city. Photo by Laura Lezza/Getty Images.

But the problem is actually way worse than you think.

In 2012, the world's cities produced about 1.4 billion tons of garbage. Which is really hard to imagine.

Picture a large, fully grown polar bear:

From left: polar bear, lady. Photo by Sebastian Bozon/AFP/Getty Images.

Now picture 1.3 billion of them. In terms of weight, that's about how much we're trash we're talking about.

Again, it's hard to imagine.

Besides being unsightly, smelly, and an obstacle we step over on our way to the subway, the trash problem in our cities is pretty serious.

In general, when we throw something in the garbage, it's either burned or relocated, and both of those processes come with a host of problems for the environment.

A trash incinerator in Amsterdam. Photo by John D. McHugh/AFP/Getty Images.

Burning trash can release toxic fumes into the air, which contributes to air pollution and even acid rain, which is a very harmful chemical reaction in the sky (not a Frank Zappa album).

When we relocate trash to a landfill or dump, it just sits there, festering, which isn't good either. Some of it can take literally millions of years to break down, and the rest can release big clouds of methane gas, which causes a greenhouse effect.

In its current form, our trash situation is a real lose-lose.

Cities around the world have to majorly step up if they want to get their trash problems under control.

Luckily, a few of them have.

San Fransisco is tackling the trash problem through a recently approved ban on Styrofoam.

It's the biggest ban of its kind in the country, stopping all uses of polystyrene foam (which is commonly, albeit incorrectly, referred to as Styrofoam) in the city.

The ban is set to take effect next year and is an extension of the city's already strict bans on plastic shopping bags and nonrecyclable or noncompostable to-go food containers.

San Fransisco also has some of the strictest recycling and composting laws in the country. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Some have spoken out against the foam ban, saying that it will hurt small businesses and even cut jobs, as the alternatives to polystyrene packaging (such as compostable or reusable packaging) tend to be more expensive.

Still, the damaging effects of polystyrene use, especially on a city-wide scale, are too big to ignore. Polystyrene doesn't decompose, animals can die from ingesting it, it can leach chemicals into food, and it makes that annoying squeaky sound when you you rub it.

Meanwhile, in New York City, the mayor challenged businesses to cut their waste in half — and, incredibly, they did.

That's right. In just five months, 31 major businesses around New York, including Whole Foods, Viacom, and Anheuser-Busch, managed to keep 35,000 tons of trash off the streets.

This is great news because if you've ever been to New York and opened your eyes, you've probably seen firsthand how bad the trash problem can be.

Photo by Timothy A. Clary/AFP/Getty Images.

New York City produces way more trash than any other city in the world — twice as much garbage as Tokyo, a city with 12 million more people.

In early 2016, New York Mayor Bill de Blasio challenged New York's businesses to cut their waste in half by June as part of an ongoing effort to eventually become a zero-waste city. So far, it's been successful.

Businesses have switched to reusable materials, cut packaging, and donated leftover food to rescue organizations like City Harvest, which donated hundreds of tons of leftover food to pantries and homeless shelters.

Finally, Londoners are pushing their city to handle food waste in a more environmentally friendly way, in a facility separate from the trash system.

You probably don't have a separate garbage can just for food, right? Even if you do, are you sending that waste to a facility that's specifically outfitted to treat biodegradable compost instead of regular garbage? Probably not.

Bio Collectors, a food recycling organization, says that only 18 of London's 33 boroughs have facilities specifically for handling food waste, and many of them aren't operating at full capacity. About 980,000 tons of food goes into the regular garbage system, where it contributes to those harmful environmental effects I mentioned earlier.

Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images.

Bio Collectors thinks London can do better. It launched a campaign to put pressure on London councils to use the plants more effectively and address food waste from the ground up (pun very intended).

Responsibly handling food waste is all part of what Bio Collectors' managing director Paul Killoughery calls the "circular economy."

“The focus of shopping locally and eating locally sourced food should extend to how we deal with our food waste," Killoughery says. "This would then feed into the circular economy of food that travels from farm to fork, then back to farm."

Let's face it: You probably don't spend a lot time thinking about garbage.

If you do, you're either a weirdo or a garbage collector! In which case, have fun hanging onto the back of that truck! It looks super cool.


Photo by Ilvy Njiokiktjien/AFP/Getty Images.

Most of us just throw our trash into the bin and don't think about where it goes or how it all adds up. Those of us who live in big cities probably see the piles of bags on the street every week but don't necessarily think of them in a broader context.

That's understandable. But you do need to know that this waste problem is huge and needs to be addressed. In cities, especially, there is a massive amount of work that needs to be done to cut down on trash.

It's awesome to see that some of our biggest cities are having success through programs like these — but this is just the start.

Responsibly handling trash and waste is the big, smelly, disgusting key to our future on Earth.

Other cities should learn from what New York, San Francisco, and London are doing — and do what they can to get ahead of the game too.

Images courtesy of Letters of Love
True

When Grace Berbig was 7 years old, her mom was diagnosed with leukemia, a cancer of the body’s blood-forming tissues. Being so young, Grace didn’t know what cancer was or why her mother was suddenly living in the hospital. But she did know this: that while her mom was in the hospital, she would always be assured that her family was thinking of her, supporting her and loving her every step of her journey.

Nearly every day, Grace and her two younger sisters would hand-make cards and fill them with drawings and messages of love, which their mother would hang all over the walls of her hospital room. These cherished letters brought immeasurable peace and joy to their mom during her sickness. Sadly, when Grace was just 10 years old, her mother lost her battle with cancer.“

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Losing my mom put the world in a completely different perspective for me,” Grace says. “I realized that you never know when someone could leave you, so you have to love the people you love with your whole heart, every day.”

Grace’s father was instrumental in helping in the healing process of his daughters. “I distinctly remember my dad constantly reminding my two little sisters, Bella and Sophie, and I that happiness is a choice, and it was now our job to turn this heartbreaking event in our life into something positive.”

When she got to high school, Grace became involved in the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society and a handful of other organizations. But she never felt like she was doing enough.

“I wanted to create an opportunity for people to help beyond donating money, and one that anyone could be a part of, no matter their financial status.”

In October 2018, Grace started Letters of Love, a club at her high school in Long Lake, Minnesota, to emotionally support children battling cancer and other serious illnesses through letter-writing and craft-making.


Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Much to her surprise, more than 100 students showed up for the first club meeting. From then on, Letters of Love grew so fast that during her senior year in high school, Grace had to start a GoFundMe to help cover the cost of card-making materials.

Speaking about her nonprofit today, Grace says, “I can’t find enough words to explain how blessed I feel to have this organization. Beyond the amount of kids and families we are able to support, it allows me to feel so much closer and more connected to my mom.”

Since its inception, Letters of Love has grown to more than 25 clubs with more than 1,000 members providing emotional support to more than 60,000 patients in children’s hospitals around the world. And in the process it has become a full-time job for Grace.

“I do everything from training volunteers and club ambassadors, paying bills, designing merchandise, preparing financial predictions and overviews, applying for grants, to going through each and every card ensuring they are appropriate to send out to hospitals.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

In addition to running Letters of Love, Grace and her small team must also contend with the emotions inherent in their line of work.

“There have been many, many tears cried,” she says. “Working to support children who are battling cancer and other serious and sometimes chronic illnesses can absolutely be extremely difficult mentally. I feel so blessed to be an organization that focuses solely on bringing joy to these children, though. We do everything we can to simply put a smile on their face, and ensure they know that they are so loved, so strong, and so supported by people all around the world.”

Image courtesy of Letters of Love

Letters of Love has been particularly instrumental in offering emotional support to children who have been unable to see friends and family due to COVID-19. A video campaign in the summer of 2021 even saw members of the NFL’s Minnesota Vikings and the NHL’s Minnesota Wild offer short videos of hope and encouragement to affected children.

Grace is currently taking a gap year before she starts college so she can focus on growing Letters of Love as well as to work on various related projects, including the publication of a children’s book.

“The goal of the book is to teach children the immense impact that small acts of kindness can have, how to treat their peers who may be diagnosed with disabilities or illness, and how they are never too young to change the world,” she says.

Since she was 10, Grace has kept memories of her mother close to her, as a source of love and inspiration in her life and in the work she does with Letters of Love.

Image courtesy of Grace Berbig

“When I lost my mom, I felt like a section of my heart went with her, so ever since, I have been filling that piece with love and compassion towards others. Her smile and joy were infectious, and I try to mirror that in myself and touch people’s hearts as she did.”

For more information visit Letters of Love.

Please donate to Grace’s GoFundMe and help Letters of Love to expand, publish a children’s book and continue to reach more children in hospitals around the world.

What you look like in a selfie camera isn't really what you look like in real life.

We've all done it: You snap a selfie, look at it, say, "OMG is my nose swollen?" then try again from a different angle. "Wait, now my forehead looks weird. And what's up with my chin?" You keep trying various angles and distances, trying to get a picture that looks like how you remember yourself looking. Whether you finally land on one or not, you walk away from the experience wondering which photo actually looks like the "real" you.

I do this, even as a 40-something-year-old who is quite comfortable with the face I see in the mirror. So, it makes me cringe imagining a tween or teen, who likely take a lot more selfies than I do, questioning their facial features based on those snapshots. When I'm wondering why my facial features look weird in selfies it's because I know my face well enough to know that's not what it looks like. However, when a young person whose face is changing rapidly sees their facial features distorted in a photo, they may come to all kinds of wrong conclusions about what they actually look like.

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Images courtesy of AFutureSuperhero and Friends and Balance Dance Project
True

The day was scorching hot, but the weather wasn’t going to stop a Star Wars Stormtrooper from handing out school supplies to a long line of eager children. “You guys don’t have anything illegal back there - any droids or anything?” the Stormtrooper asks, making sure he was safe from enemies before handing over a colorful backpack to a smiling boy.

The man inside the costume is Yuri Williams, founder of AFutureSuperhero And Friends, a Los Angeles nonprofit that uplifts and inspires marginalized people with small acts of kindness.

Yuri’s organization is one of four inaugural grant winners from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, a joint initiative between Upworthy and GoFundMe that celebrates kindness and everyday actions inspired by the best of humanity. This year, the Upworthy Kindness Fund is giving $100,000 to grassroots changemakers across the world.

To apply, campaign organizers simply tell Upworthy how their kindness project is making a difference. Between now and the end of 2021, each accepted individual or organization will receive $500 towards an existing GoFundMe and a shout-out on Upworthy.

Meet the first four winners:

1: Balance Dance Project: This studio aims to bring accessible dance to all in the Sacramento, CA area. Lead fundraiser Miranda Macias says many dancers spend hours a day at Balance practicing contemporary, lyrical, hip-hop, and ballet. Balance started a GoFundMe to raise money to cover tuition for dancers from low-income communities, buy dance team uniforms, and update its facility. The $500 contribution from the Kindness Fund nudged Balance closer to its $5,000 goal.

2: Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team: In Los Angeles, middle school teacher James Pike is introducing his students to the field of robotics via a Lego-building team dedicated to solving real-world problems.

James started a GoFundMe to crowdfund supplies for his students’ team ahead of the First Lego League, a school-against-school matchup that includes robotics competitions. The team, James explained, needed help to cover half the cost of the pricey $4,000 robotics kit. Thanks to help from the Upworthy Kindness Fund and the generosity of the Citizens of the World Middle School community, the team exceeded its initial fundraising goal.

Citizens of the World Mar Vista Robotics Team video update youtu.be

3: Black Fluidity Tattoo Club: Kiara Mills and Tann Parker want to fix a big problem in the tattoo industry: there are too few Black tattoo artists. To tackle the issue, the duo founded the Black Fluidity Tattoo Club to inspire and support Black tattooers. While the Brooklyn organization is open to any Black person, Kiara and Tann specifically want to encourage dark-skinned artists to train in an affirming space among people with similar identities.

To make room for newcomers, the club recently moved into a larger studio with a third station for apprentices or guest artists. Unlike a traditional fundraiser that supports the organization exclusively, Black Fluidity Tattoo Club will distribute proceeds from GoFundMe directly to emerging Black tattoo artists who are starting their own businesses. The small grants, supported in part with a $500 contribution from the Upworthy Kindness Fund, will go towards artists’ equipment, supplies, furnishings, and other start-up costs.

4: AFutureSuperhero And Friends’ “Hope For The Holidays”: Founder Yuri Williams is fundraising for a holiday trip to spread cheer to people in need across all fifty states.

Along with collaborator Rodney Smith Jr., Yuri will be handing out gifts to children, adults, and animals dressed as a Star Wars’ Stormtrooper, Spiderman, Deadpool, and other movie or comic book characters. Starting this month, the crew will be visiting children with disabilities or serious illnesses, bringing leashes and toys to animal shelters for people taking home a new pet, and spreading blessings to unhoused people—all while in superhero costume. This will be the third time Yuri and his nonprofit have taken this journey.

AFutureSuperhero started a GoFundMe in July to cover the cost of gifts as well as travel expenses like hotels and rental cars. To help the nonprofit reach its $15,000 goal, the Upworthy Kindness Fund contributed $500 towards this good cause.

Think you qualify for the fund? Tell us how you’re bringing kindness to your community. Grants will be awarded on a rolling basis from now through the end of 2021. For questions and more information, please check out our FAQ's and the Kindness Toolkit for resources on how to start your own kindness fundraiser.

Here at Upworthy, we cherish our loved ones and although Valentine's is not all about gifts, if you are looking to buy a special gift for a special someone, then you came to the right place! We have curated a list of our personal favorites from our store, Upworthy Market, where you can feel good about your shopping because every dollar you spend directly supports local artisans who craft their own products. In this gift guide, you'll find all products have special thought, hand-made with love and they are all under $30 to help you stay within a budget.


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The airplane graveyard that 3 families call home is the subject of a stunning photo series.

From the skies to the ground, these airplanes continue to serve a purpose.

This article originally appeared on 09.18.15


What happens to airplanes after they're no longer fit to roam the skies?


An abandoned 747 rests in a Bangkok lot. Photo by Taylor Weidman/Getty Images.

Decommissioned planes are often stripped and sold for parts, with the remains finding a new home in what is sometimes referred to as an "airplane boneyard" or "graveyard." Around the world, these graveyards exist; they're made up of large, empty lots and tons of scrap metal.

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