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."

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Amazon

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.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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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.