A hurricane forced her to get creative to feed her kids. Now she's feeding her neighbors.
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Garnier Beauty Responsibly

When Dera Duplessis fled New Orleans during Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she had one priority: making sure her family was fed.

It wasn’t going to be easy. While her family had managed to safely evacuate to a hotel in Texas, they couldn’t exactly bring their kitchen with them — and with five children, there were a lot of mouths to feed.

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It didn’t take Dera long to realize that eating out wasn’t an option. “Breakfast was like $80,” she explains. “That’s not cutting it on a daily basis, three [meals] a day.”

She knew she would have to get creative. So to stock up on food that could last through the hurricane season, she tried something she’d never done before: pickling and preserving.

“I had pickled vegetables, my jams and soups … anything that I could make,” she says.

Dera's system worked so well that she continued pickling vegetables and making jams well after Katrina, in part so that her family was prepared for future emergencies. But she enjoyed it and kept at it as a way to pass the time.

What Dera didn’t know was that more than a decade later, this survival-strategy-turned-hobby would become an important way for her to give back.

Once Dera’s children were grown and she had retired from her job as a hospice nurse, she was left wondering what was next. “I just needed something else,” she says. “I was missing something.”

That’s when her sister told her about Sprout NOLA, a community garden in her neighborhood made possible by the Green Garden Giveaway by Garnier and TerraCycle. The giveaway includes picnic tables and garden boxes made from recycled personal care products — like shampoo bottles and makeup containers — as well as a cash grant to build a green garden for a deserving community.

Since Sprout NOLA was established with the help of Garnier and TerraCycle, the garden has become something of an oasis, offering free veggies and garden plots to the community, as well as a gathering place where neighbors could connect with one another.

At first, though, she wasn’t totally convinced.

“I don’t have the green thumb,” she laughs. In fact, she was pretty sure she would kill anything she tried to grow; as a self-described “tomboy,” she was more of the mechanic type than a gardener. But with curiosity and a little nagging from her sister, she decided to sign up anyway.

That’s how Dera tried her hand at gardening for the first time. And to her surprise, she really enjoyed it (and her plants, miraculously, didn’t die after all). With fresh food from the garden, she had found a creative outlet, cooking up her own jams, salad dressings, soups, and pickled veggies and even selling them at local farmers markets.

She also learned about different herbs and plants she’d never used before, like hibiscus, which made her foods even more interesting.

“[I] actually tasted the flower and all,” she says. “I did not realize it tasted so good.” She never imagined eating a flower — but then again, she hadn't pictured herself as a gardener, either.

Most importantly, the garden led Dera to discover a way to give back to her community through fresh, healthy food.

For her community, it’s more than a nice gesture — it’s desperately needed.

“The life expectancy in the Treme, which is a neighborhood that’s close to us here, is currently 55 years old,” explains Emily MickLey-Doyle, the community garden coordinator at Sprout NOLA. Compare that with the 75-year-old life expectancy in other New Orleans neighborhoods, and you’ll quickly understand just how critical fresh, healthy food can be for Dera’s community.

“The majority of the people [here] believe in fast foods,” Dera says. She knows this better than anyone, having struggled with diet-related health challenges herself and having seen it in her family, too. For conditions like high blood pressure, which she’s now better able to manage, Dera’s seeing firsthand the impact that a healthy diet can have.

Dera says that cooking with fresh foods is often assumed to be too challenging or time-consuming, particularly in her community. But she’s excited to show them that it doesn’t have to be and that when neighbors support each other, they can lead healthier lives.

Since starting her gardening journey, Dera’s relationships with her neighbors and the planet have changed.

Whether it’s the rich soil that came from veggies that she composted last season or the oxygen she breathes thanks to the plants that she’s growing, Dera finds herself amazed by the earth in ways she hadn’t been before.

“You can see how the earth gives back,” she says.

In fact, everything in the garden has been recycled in some way. The garden boxes and picnic tables are actually made out of recycled shampoo bottles and created by Garnier and TerraCycle.

The recycled lumber used for these garden boxes have an infinite shelf life, too, which means they’ll last well into the future. And that’s good news for Dera, who hopes to see the garden thrive well into the future.

Not everyone has a green thumb. Thankfully, you don’t need one to make a neighborhood better.

Four years into the project, Sprout NOLA has become a central part of the community, bringing neighbors together for fresh food, good conversation, and an important lesson in what’s possible when everyone works together.

“We want the community to know that you are able to do this if you just put your mind to it,” Dera says. “If you want to, you can achieve it.”

And for residents like Dera, it’s become so much more than a hobby or a place to go. “It’s like family away from home for me.”

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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.

Even as millions of Americans celebrated the inauguration of President Joe Biden this week, the nation also mourned the fact that, for the first time in modern history, the United States did not have a peaceful transition of power.

With the violent attack on the U.S. Capitol on January 6, when pro-Trump insurrectionists attempted to stop the constitutional process of counting electoral votes and where terrorists threatened to kill lawmakers and the vice president for not keeping Trump in power, our long and proud tradition was broken. And although presidential power was ultimately transferred without incident on January 20, the presence of 20,000 National Guard troops around the Capitol reminded us of the threat that still lingers.

First Lady Jill Biden showed up today with cookies in hand for a group of National Guard troops at the Capitol to thank them for keeping her family safe. The homemade chocolate chip cookies were a small token of appreciation, but one that came from the heart of a mother whose son had served as well.

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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.