A brewery designed a genius new six-pack that solves a big environmental problem.

Chris Gove loves the ocean so much, he named his brewery after it.

Saltwater Brewery in Delray Beach, Florida. Photo via Saltwater Brewery, used with permission.


Gove, who opened Saltwater Brewing in 2013 with four childhood friends, is an avid surfer and devotee of all things aquatic, including marine life.

The problem? Selling six-packs of beer meant producing a lot of plastic waste...

These things. Photo by Staecker/Wikimedia Commons.

...which all too frequently finds its way into the sea.

That didn't sit right with Gove and his cofounders, who decided to make ocean conservation part of Saltwater Brewing's mission from the very beginning.

"The jewel of Florida is the ocean, so we all grew up seeing tar and different plastic on the beach and when we’re surfing and fishing we’ll catch plastic bags, and it’s horrible," Gove told Upworthy.

Enter the edible six-pack ring.

A mock-up of the prototype. Photo via Saltwater Brewing, used with permission.

The rings, which Saltwater codeveloped with a New York-based ad agency, are made of spent grain leftover from the brewing process, much of which would otherwise go to waste.

The company is still perfecting the design but were encouraged by the successful production and testing of 500 prototypes last month. The rings are designed to be disposed of, but should they find their way into the ocean, they can be eaten safely by marine life.

Wait a sec, you might be thinking, "I haven't heard squat about plastic six-pack rings in forever. Didn't we solve this problem in, like, the '80s?"

Only sort of. In 1988, alarmed by reports of fish, sea birds, and turtles becoming ensnared by the rings, Congress passed a law requiring all plastic ring carriers (the industry term for those six-pack thingies) to be naturally degradable. Most are now manufactured to be photodegradable (meaning they split into tiny pieces when exposed to prolonged sunlight).

It's not a perfect solution. According to one major manufacturer, their plastic carriers take — at best — between three and four weeks to break down. But it does mostly solve the problem of animals getting trapped.

The problem now is, even after the rings break apart, the pieces can still be ingested by sea life — and wreak some major havoc.

Stuff that used to be inside a fish. Photo via Saltwater Brewery, used with permission.

A 2014 study, published in the journal Science, found that 99% percent of the plastic waste that should be in the ocean based on the most accurate available estimates — including those little tiny six-pack ring pieces — is missing, most likely because marine animals have eaten it.

"Turtles and certain fish eat jellyfish, and a lot of times balloons or pieces of plastic or plastic bags in the ocean can look like jellyfish," Neil Hammerschlag, a marine ecologist at the University of Miami, told Upworthy.

According to Hammerschlag, consuming discarded plastic can lead to serious injury — or even be a death sentence — for the animals that do so. Worse yet, discarded plastic often leeches toxic chemicals like mercury and DDT from the ocean, which then filter up the food chain, causing health problems for the larger sea creatures — and, ultimately, humans — that eat them.

Saltwater's prototype rings could be far better than the alternative.

A watermark on an illustration of the saltwater prototype rings. Photo by Saltwater Brewery, used with permission.

"I think it could be very beneficial," Hammerschlag said.

He believes that the less plastic that makes its way into the stomachs of fish, sea turtles, and sharks, the better — even if the material doesn't represent an ideal diet for those creatures.

"It’s kind of like having a Sour Patch Kid," Gove said. "You’d rather have your kid eat a Sour Patch Kid than a Lego. That’s kind of how I see it."

Gove hopes that, should the project succeed, other breweries — even major ones — will eventually follow Saltwater's lead.

Once the design is perfected, the brewery plans to run off thousands more of the rings in the next stage of development.

"We really want to inspire the whole industry and all beverage, all styles of packaging too," Gove said. "This is just the beginning."

It's a move that could earn Saltwater the gratitude of thousands of happy, unexpectedly satiated sea creatures.

Photo by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service/Flickr.

"The best thing is when your garbage gets thrown into a garbage can," Hammerschlag said. "But not everyone throws their garbage in the garbage can, and sometimes when it gets thrown in a garbage can, it gets blown out, or it goes straight to the ocean. So I think this could be a great thing."

Heroes

Andy Grammer, the pop singer and songwriter behind feel-good tunes like "Keep Your Head Up," "Back Home," and "Don't Give Up on Me," has a new album out—and it is seriously fabulous. Titled simply "Naive," Grammer says it's "all about how seeing the good in todays world can feel like a rebellious act."

"I wrote this album for the light bringers," Grammer shared on Facebook. "The people who choose to see the good even in the overwhelming chaos of the bad. The smilers who fight brick by brick to build an authentic smile everyday, even when it seems like an impossible thing to do. For those who have been marginalized as 'sweet' or 'cute' or 'less powerful' for being overly positive. To me optimism is a war to be fought, possibly the most important one. If I am speaking to you and you are relating to it then know I made this album for you. You are my tribe. I love you and I hope it serves you. Don't let the world turn down your shine, we all so badly need it."

Reading that, it's easy to think maybe he really is naive, but Grammer's positivity isn't due to nothing difficult ever happening in his life. His mom, Kathy, died of breast cancer when Grammer was 25. He and his mother were very close, and her life and death had a huge impact on him.

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Culture
via Stratford Festival / Twitter

Service dogs are invaluable to their owners because they are able to help in so many different ways.

They're trained to retrieve dropped Items, open and close doors, help their owners remove their clothes, transport medications, navigate busy areas such as airports, provide visual assistance, and even give psychological help.

The service dog trainers at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs in Canada want those who require service dogs to live the fullest life possible, so they're training dogs on how to attend a theatrical performance.

The adorable photos of the dogs made their way to social media where they quickly went viral.

On August 15, a dozen dogs from Golden Retrievers to poodles, were treated to a performance of "Billy Elliott" at the Stratford Festival in Ontario, Canada. This was a special "relaxed performance" featuring quieter sound effects and lighting, designed for those with sensory issues.

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"It's important to prepare the dogs for any activity the handler may like to attend," Laura Mackenzie, owner and head trainer at K-9 Country Inn Working Service Dogs, told CBC.

"The theater gives us the opportunity to expose the dogs to different stimuli such as lights, loud noises, and movement of varying degrees," she continued. "The dogs must remain relaxed in tight quarters for an extended period of time."

The dogs got to enjoy the show from their own seats and took a break with everyone else during intermission. They were able to familiarize themselves with the theater experience so they know how to navigate through crowds and fit into tight bathroom stalls.

via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter


via Stratford Festival / Twitter

"About a dozen dogs came to our relaxed performance, and they were all extremely well-behaved," says Stratford Festival spokesperson Ann Swerdfager. "I was in the lobby when they came in, then they took their seats, then got out of their seats at intermission and went back — all of the things we learn as humans when we start going to the theater."

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The dogs' great performance at the trial run means that people who require service animals can have the freedom to enjoy special experiences like going to the theater.

"It's wonderful that going to the theater is considered one of the things that you want to train a service dog for, rather than thinking that theater is out of reach for people who require a service animal, because it isn't," Swerdfager said.

The Stratford Festival runs through Nov. 10 and features productions of "The Merry Wives of Windsor," "The Neverending Story," "Othello," "Billy Elliot," "Little Shop of Horrors," "The Crucible" and more.

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