Do 1 thing a day in the first week of 2016 to be a better person environmentally.

Resolutions are played out and we all know it.

But a lot of us really would like to get better at human-ing without ruining the environment. Instead of setting lofty ambitions with no real implementation date, just do one of these fairly easy things per day for the first week of the year to make the rest of your year better for the Earth.

Day 1: Turn over a new leaf (of expired spinach).

Have veggie or fruit leftovers from your New Year's Eve party that you had too much champagne to refrigerate before bed?


Image by Colin Henein/Wikimedia Commons.

Use them for your brand-new compost pile. You don't even have to have a yard or a large space to keep a compost bin, and if you follow these tips, there is no stinky smell.

The Environmental Protection Agency says that yard waste and food scraps make up 20-30% of what we throw away, and if they make it to landfills, they give off methane, which has a strong influence on the Earth's greenhouse effect.

That's totally within your power to change!

Day 2: De-junkify your mailbox.

Sign up for the National Do Not Mail List and reduce the amount of junk mail you're receiving. This is the kind of detox fad I could really get behind.

YUCK! Think of all that unnecessary garbage! Image by Alan Levine/Flickr.

Day 3: Have a barrel of fun showing your neighbors a better way to water lawns.

Set up a barrel for rainwater to hydrate your lawn. If you live in a house and the temperatures are still above freezing where you live, this is a great project to get done now. Check your local ordinances to see if they have any regulations around it, though.

Here's how to do it:

1. Install concrete blocks in a garden next to a downspout; make sure they are level.

GIFs from Okanagan WaterWise/YouTube.

2. Set barrel securely on blocks with its spout toward the garden.

Follow the rest of these instructions from This Old House and read about pitfalls to avoid. You won't reduce your water bill by a ton. But because the water you use for your lawn doesn’t need all the public treatment that your other water does, you save the environment in those hidden ways. If more people did it, it’d be substantial for our communities' overall consumption.

Day 4: Don't be a garbage human.

Talk to your family or roommates about trying the Zero Garbage challenge (or just take it on yourself).

One woman was able to get her garbage production for two years down to one 16-ounce mason jar.

Let's think about that for a couple of minutes. Image by FiveRings/Wikimedia Commons.

Even if you don't achieve what she did, you're still likely to drastically reduce your waste!

Day 5: Change the way you veg.

Find a Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) source near you and sign up.

These are organizations that do the growing and harvesting work. You chip in and get to enjoy the fruits of the labor.

You'll always have fresh, interesting vegetables that didn't have to trek across states using refrigeration to reach you. Image by Stacy Spensley/Flickr.

You'll benefit from pickup locations near you and be sourcing produce and/or meats and dairy locally, which will reduce demand and cut down on the amount of cross-country shipping (and emissions) happening with grocery store chains.

Day 6: Smack those car keys right out of your own hand.

Make a list of the types of trips you take in your car each week. Think about the ones that could be eliminated (by walking, biking, carpooling, or taking public transit) or consolidated into the same trip. Every time you eliminate or consolidate a car trip, give yourself a check mark on your calendar. When you get 10, treat yourself to a movie or something delicious!

GIF from "Pee-wee's Big Adventure."

Day 7: Rethink what you're putting in your tires.

It's a secret not enough people know about. Find a nitrogen dealer near you and see about having the air in your tires replaced with nitrogen. Nitrogen is made of larger molecules than oxygen, so it could be less likely to seep through the pores in rubber. It can cost anywhere from $5-$20 per tire to do this.

If checking tire pressure religiously just isn't something you think you're going to do, switching to nitrogen could be a solution. Maintaining proper tire inflation means better gas mileage for you and less emissions in the environment!

FUN FACT: Airlines use nitrogen in aircraft tires because of the increased longevity and savings. Image via Susan Cornell/Wikimedia Commons.


So give the resolutions a rest and just put a little dedication in during the first week of the year. You'll feel smarter and like a better environmental citizen for the rest of the year!

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

This article originally appeared on 12.02.19


Just imagine being an 11-year-old boy who's been shuffled through the foster care system. No forever home. No forever family. No idea where you'll be living or who will take care of you in the near future.

Then, a loving couple takes you under their care and chooses to love you forever.

What could one be more thankful for?

That's why when a fifth grader at Deerfield Elementary School in Cedar Hills, Utah was asked by his substitute teacher what he's thankful for this Thanksgiving, he said finally being adopted by his two dads.

via OD Action / Twitter

To the child's shock, the teacher replied, "that's nothing to be thankful for," and then went on a rant in front of 30 students saying that "two men living together is a sin" and "homosexuality is wrong."

While the boy sat there embarrassed, three girls in the class stood up for him by walking out of the room to tell the principal. Shortly after, the substitute was then escorted out of the building.

While on her way out she scolded the boy, saying it was his fault she was removed.

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One of the boy's parents-to-be is Louis van Amstel, is a former dancer on ABC's "Dancing with the Stars." "It's absolutely ridiculous and horrible what she did," he told The Salt Lake Tribune. "We were livid. It's 2019 and this is a public school."

The boy told his parents-to-be he didn't speak up in the classroom because their final adoption hearing is December 19 and he didn't want to do anything that would interfere.

He had already been through two failed adoptions and didn't want it to happen again.

via Loren Javier / Flickr

A spokesperson for the Alpine School District didn't go into detail about the situation but praised the students who spoke out.

"Fellow students saw a need, and they were able to offer support," David Stephenson said. "It's awesome what happened as far as those girls coming forward."

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He also said that "appropriate action has been taken" with the substitute teacher.

"We are concerned about any reports of inappropriate behavior and take these matters very seriously," Kelly Services, the school the contracts out substitute teachers for the district, said in a statement. "We conduct business based on the highest standards of integrity, quality, and professional excellence. We're looking into this situation."

After the incident made the news, the soon-to-be adoptive parents' home was covered in paper hearts that said, "We love you" and "We support you."

Religion is supposed to make us better people.

But what have here is clearly a situation where a woman's judgement about what is good and right was clouded by bigoted dogma. She was more bothered by the idea of two men loving each other than the act of pure love they committed when choosing to adopt a child.