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5 random things we spend our money on that make global aid look like pocket change.

$2 billion actually isn't that much when you put it in perspective.

5 random things we spend our money on that make global aid look like pocket change.
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Gates Foundation: The Story of Food

The amount we all spent on airline baggage fees last year is more than the amount needed to save the lives of 2 million little kids.

Isn't that pretty wild to think about?  

Together we spent $3.1 billion on baggage fees in 2016 — on top of our actual tickets — so that U.S.-based airlines could transport our crap (what an industry!). That's a billion more dollars than what's needed to stay on track with our global nutrition targets.  


If governments, organizations, and donors around the world spent an additional $2 billion annually over the next 10 years, we could save 2.2 million lives — and reduce stunting in 50 million children. 50 MILLION children!

Image via iStock.

Right now, malnutrition is killing 3 million children a year, contributing to 45% of all deaths of kids under 5, and costing our world billions of dollars in lost productivity.

Did I mention it's completely preventable?

In 2012, the World Health Assembly (WHA), composed of 194 member states, endorsed its first-ever plan to drastically improve nutrition in children in developing countries by 2025. They are focusing on six main targets: stunting, exclusive breastfeeding, wasting, anemia, low birthweight, and overweight. It's smart and awesome.

What's not awesome, though, is that they're not on track to hit any of those nutrition goals. Country governments and donors are spending $3.9 billion total on nutrition-specific programs, according to the World Bank. But that's not enough to close the gap and stay on track. If they were to come together and spend an additional $2.2 billion, they could get back on it.

Now, $2 billion a year sounds like quite a bit of money — until you put some things into perspective.

Here are five random expenditures that show why investing $2.2 billion in our future generations should be a no-brainer:

1. Americans spent close to a billion dollars on UNUSED gift cards in 2015.

Image via iStock.

More specifically, that's $973 million that's just sort-of ... THERE. It's just hanging out in a digital retail cloud somewhere, waiting to be used on apparel or appliances that, ironically, may actually remain unused.

2. Even more staggering: Americans spent $119 billion on gambling losses in 2013.

Image via iStock.

Not wins. Not even break-evens. LOSSES. I mean, if we could somehow pool just a fraction of that to create the most charitable pot the world has ever seen, wouldn't that be a win-win for everyone?

3. We're apparently a thirsty country — Americans spend $105.9 billion a year on beer.

Image via iStock.

Granted, there's no denying that people love their beer. But what if, like, instead of buying the usual "one for the road," we turned the equivalent into "one for a good cause"?

4. Americans spend over $10 billion on credit card late fees.

Image via iStock.

Yes, it can be cool to be fashionably late. But it's probably not $10 billion cool.

5. Americans spend over $42 billion at dollar stores.

Image via iStock.

If anything, this puts the whole "What if everyone just gave a dollar to help out?" argument in perspective.

Obviously, it's not the same to compare what Americans spent at dollar stores to what governments spend on nutrition programs in developing countries.

But it does help paint a clear picture of how much progress we can make in the world with relatively small amounts of funding.

Image via iStock.

Americans think we spend an average of 26% of our U.S. budget on foreign assistance. But that number is actually less than 1%.

People have varying thoughts on the United States' role in foreign aid, but many times it's because they overestimate what we're actually contributing. When you think about it, investments in nutrition are so minimal, it's almost mind-boggling. Only about 1% percent of the U.S. budget goes to global programs that save lives (and the same is true for many countries). And these programs eventually actually save money because of increased global productivity and fewer health care costs.

Even spending less than 1% of our nearly $4 trillion federal budget, we've done so much good.

We've helped over 8 million people receive life-saving HIV treatment, reached 1 billion people with agricultural programs in the past 20 years, reduced death caused by malaria in children by 51% and reduced maternal mortality by over 50% worldwide. That all helps to keep the world healthier and our country safer. And those figures barely even scrape the surface of our progress.

Imagine if the U.S. stepped up to prioritize nutrition and invested just a little bit more. Our future could look a whole lot different.

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Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.