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Savers

It's easy to get a little carried away when shopping — after all, so many new clothes are so cheap these days.

Most of us are at least a little guilty of taking advantage. In the United States, we are buying five times more clothing than we did in the 1980s.

And we all know how much the '80s had going on. GIF via Kool-Aid Koolers.


I mean, if you could buy five shirts for the price of one, why wouldn't you? The world of fast fashion gives us more options to mix up our wardrobes whenever we feel like it. And if you're like me, more clothes means not having to do laundry as often.

Cheap new clothes — and more of them — can feel awesome in the moment. But our trend-of-the-moment shopping habits are actually doing damage in a number of ways. One of the problems: We are barely recycling any of our leftover clothes.

The average American throws away about 80 pounds of textile waste every year.

It's no question that number will continue to grow unless we start donating them (hello, thrift stores!) or buy less. As more information comes out about the harm fast fashion is causing to the planet, consumers and companies are starting to think twice.

People are beginning to see through the craze that is fast fashion and into a more thoughtful and eco-friendly approach.

Here are five unique ways products and materials are being reused to make clothing and accessories today:

1. Food ... that you can wear?

As if coffee wasn't already the best, now it can be worn.

I can't even fathom the number of times I've dumped out coffee grounds after making a cup of joe. When you multiply that times the millions and millions of people who make coffee every day, that's a lot of coffee grounds going to waste.

Singtex, a company from Taiwan, is turning those wasted grounds into fabric for clothes. They use an innovative technology named S.Café that incorporates coffee grounds into fibers to help control odors and protect fabrics from ultraviolet rays.

Image via How Can I Recycle This/Flickr.

It's official: Coffee has superpowers.

You know what else does? Coconut. Coconut is known for a lot of uses, such as milk, oil, and suntan lotion. The company Cocona has found another way to use it: by turning coconut shells into yarns and fibers.

The threads they create through activated carbon from coconut shells provide a lightweight and comfortable product that can stand the test of time in a variety of products.

Image via Cocona.

Other foods are being used to create clothes, too, like sour milk and wine. A sour milk dress! Can you imagine? Maybe someday we'll all be wearing food. Can you turn Cheetos into yarn?

2. You can now take your airplane seat everywhere you go.

When Southwest Airlines decided to redesign their cabins in 2014, that meant getting rid of 80,000 leather seats.

Looptworks, a company from Portland, Oregon, knew they could put those seats to good use. They teamed up with Southwest to turn their old leather seat covers into fashionable products like purses and duffle bags. And fashionable they are.

Image via Looptworks, used with permission.

Even better is the process of making them. The Baltimore Sun reports that the company is working with Garten Services, a nonprofit that trains and employs adults with disabilities, to deconstruct and clean the seats before turning them into bags.

3. Dumpster fashion is the new black.

Artist and environmental advocate Nancy Judd is turning heads with her business Recycle Runway. Whether she's creating clothes from old Barack Obama campaign flyers, aluminum cans, crime scene tape, or even the vinyl top of a convertible, Nancy's designs always have one thing in common: They're pure garbage.

This is made of CRUSHED GLASS. Images by Nancy Judd, used with permission.

A cassette and video tape coat, helloooo!

Epic dress made of aluminum cans. I'm obsessed.

She says she got into "dumpster couture" when she realized that art and fashion could be used to raise the public's environmental consciousness. And she's stuck to that idea over the years, using all of her creations to educate about conservation.

She told The Wall Street Journal that she once spent 400 hours unspooling cassettes and crocheting the crinkled tape into a fake-fur coat — taking a very literal approach to the term slow fashion.


4. Your clothes could come from the big blue sea.

A massive project is underway in the Mediterranean, and you may see people wearing it someday.

It's called "Upcycling the Oceans" and is an undertaking by the group Ecoalf. Their goal? To transform the plastic debris found in the Mediterranean into thread to make fabric.

They're seeing a lot of success, having already collected 39 tons of garbage since September 2015.

They hope to show that not only is cleaning the oceans possible, but the materials collected can be recycled into pellets, thread, fabric, and other products.

Image via Ecoalf.

5. Using only what large manufactures leave behind.

Advancements in technology have made fast fashion the norm: large scale production at ridiculously fast speeds. That model, while bringing in huge profits, comes with a whole host of problems. One of them that often gets overlooked is all the material wasted in production.

The average garment factory wastes up to 40% of its perfectly usable materials. Cambodia-based company tonlé is holding them accountable — and creating a smart business out of it.

Tonlé takes the scraps that manufactures don't use and turns them into beautiful products. About 90% of their materials come from big garment factories, and 10% are made from local and sustainable suppliers.

By doing what the large manufactures won't, they are helping to offset the huge global impact fast fashion has on the planet while showing what true sustainability means.

Is fast fashion on its way out? Probably not. But it's neat to see people creating — and demanding — fashion that's a little gentler on the planet.

Not everyone can whip up a dress from coffee grounds or turn their old Paula Abdul cassette tapes into an outfit. But these creative approaches to fashion are a great way to get people to think outside of the mass-produced clothing racks, and about how to reuse things they already own.

After all, clothes are way more fun when they're unique — and Earth-friendly.

Courtesy of Elaine Ahn

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The energy in a hospital can sometimes feel overwhelming, whether you’re experiencing it as a patient, visitor or employee. However, there are a few one-of-a-kind individuals like Elaine Ahn, an operating room registered nurse in Diamond Bar, California, who thrive under this type of constant pressure.

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As if the past handful of years weren't challenging enough, the U.S. is currently dealing with a baby formula crisis.

Due to a perfect storm of supply chain issues, product recalls, labor shortages and inflation, manufacturers are struggling to keep up with formula demand and retailers are rationing supplies. As a result, families that rely on formula are scrambling to ensure that their babies get the food they need.

Naturally, people are weighing in on the crisis, with some throwing out simplistic advice like, "Why don't you just do what people did before baby formula was invented and just breastfeed?"

That might seem logical, unless you understand how breastfeeding works and know a bit about infant mortality throughout human history.

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Connections Academy

Wylee Mitchell is a senior at Nevada Connections Academy who started a t-shirt company to raise awareness for mental health.

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Teens of today live in a totally different world than the one their parents grew up in. Not only do young people have access to technologies that previous generations barely dreamed of, but they're also constantly bombarded with information from the news and media.

Today’s youth are also living through a pandemic that has created an extra layer of difficulty to an already challenging age—and it has taken a toll on their mental health.

According to Mental Health America, nearly 14% of youths ages 12 to 17 experienced a major depressive episode in the past year. In a September 2020 survey of high schoolers by Active Minds, nearly 75% of respondents reported an increase in stress, anxiety, sadness and isolation during the first six months of the pandemic. And in a Pearson and Connections Academy survey of US parents, 66% said their child felt anxious or depressed during the pandemic.

However, the pandemic has only exacerbated youth mental health issues that were already happening before COVID-19.

“Many people associate our current mental health crisis with the pandemic,” says Morgan Champion, the head of counseling services for Connections Academy Schools. “In fact, the youth mental health crisis was alarming and on the rise before the pandemic. Today, the alarm continues.”

Mental Health America reports that most people who take the organization’s online mental health screening test are under 18. According to the American Psychiatric Association, about 50% of cases of mental illness begin by age 14, and the tendency to develop depression and bipolar disorder nearly doubles from age 13 to age 18.

Such statistics demand attention and action, which is why experts say destigmatizing mental health and talking about it is so important.

“Today we see more people talking about mental health openly—in a way that is more akin to physical health,” says Champion. She adds that mental health support for young people is being more widely promoted, and kids and teens have greater access to resources, from their school counselors to support organizations.

Parents are encouraging this support too. More than two-thirds of American parents believe children should be introduced to wellness and mental health awareness in primary or middle school, according to a new Global Learner Survey from Pearson. Since early intervention is key to helping young people manage their mental health, these changes are positive developments.

In addition, more and more people in the public eye are sharing their personal mental health experiences as well, which can help inspire young people to open up and seek out the help they need.

“Many celebrities and influencers have come forward with their mental health stories, which can normalize the conversation, and is helpful for younger generations to understand that they are not alone,” says Champion.

That’s one reason Connections Academy is hosting a series of virtual Emotional Fitness talks with Olympic athletes who are alums of the virtual school during Mental Health Awareness Month. These talks are free, open to the public and include relatable topics such as success and failure, leadership, empowerment and authenticity. For instance, on May 18, Olympic women’s ice hockey player Lyndsey Fry will speak on finding your own style of confidence, and on May 25, Olympic figure skater Karen Chen will share advice for keeping calm under pressure.

Family support plays a huge role as well. While the pandemic has been challenging in and of itself, it has actually helped families identify mental health struggles as they’ve spent more time together.

“Parents gained greater insight into their child’s behavior and moods, how they interact with peers and teachers,” says Champion. “For many parents this was eye-opening and revealed the need to focus on mental health.”

It’s not always easy to tell if a teen is dealing with normal emotional ups and downs or if they need extra help, but there are some warning signs caregivers can watch for.

“Being attuned to your child’s mood, affect, school performance, and relationships with friends or significant others can help you gauge whether you are dealing with teenage normalcy or something bigger,” Champion says. Depending on a child’s age, parents should be looking for the following signs, which may be co-occurring:

  • Perpetual depressed mood
  • Rocky friend relationships
  • Spending a lot of time alone and refusing to participate in daily activities
  • Too much or not enough sleep
  • Not eating a regular diet
  • Intense fear or anxiety
  • Drug or alcohol use
  • Suicidal ideation (talking about being a burden or giving away possessions) or plans

“You know your child best. If you are unsure if your child is having a rough time or if there is something more serious going on, it is best to reach out to a counselor or doctor to be sure,” says Champion. “Always err on the side of caution.”

If it appears a student does need help, what next? Talking to a school counselor can be a good first step, since they are easily accessible and free to visit.

“Just getting students to talk about their struggles with a trusted adult is huge,” says Champion. “When I meet with students and/or their families, I work with them to help identify the issues they are facing. I listen and recommend next steps, such as referring families to mental health resources in their local areas.”

Just as parents would take their child to a doctor for a sprained ankle, they shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help if a child is struggling mentally or emotionally. Parents also need to realize that they may not be able to help them on their own, no matter how much love and support they have to offer.

“That is a hard concept to accept when parents can feel solely responsible for their child’s welfare and well-being,” says Champion. “The adage still stands—it takes a village to raise a child. Be sure you are surrounding yourself and your child with a great support system to help tackle life’s many challenges.”

That village can include everyone from close family to local community members to public figures. Helping young people learn to manage their mental health is a gift we can all contribute to, one that will serve them for a lifetime.

Join athletes, Connections Academy and Upworthy for candid discussions on mental health during Mental Health Awareness Month. Learn more and find resources here.

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Your cat knows you better than you think.

Cats are often seen as being aloof or standoffish, even with their owners. Of course, that differs based on who that cat lives with and their lifetime of experience with humans. But when compared to man’s best friend, cats usually seem less interested in those around them, regardless of species.

However, a new study out of Japan has found that cats may be paying more attention to their fellow felines and human friends than most people thought. In fact, they could be listening to human conversations.

"What we discovered is astonishing," Saho Takagi, a research fellow specializing in animal science at Azabu University in Kanagawa Prefecture, told The Asahi Shimbun. "I want people to know the truth. Felines do not appear to listen to people's conversations, but as a matter of fact, they do."

How do we know they’re listening? Because the study shows that household cats often know the names of their human and feline friends.

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There are a lot of reasons to feel a twinge of nostalgia for the final days of the 20th century. Rampant inflation, a global pandemic and political unrest have created a sense of uneasiness about the future that has everyone feeling a bit down.

There’s also a feeling that the current state of pop culture is lacking as well. Nobody listens to new music anymore and unless you’re into superheroes, it seems like creativity is seriously missing from the silver screen.

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