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Science

Hawaiian eco-entrepreneur unites people to fix the Big Island’s massive cardboard problem

He found a clever way to make use of climate-destroying cardboard.

evan lam, circlepack, hawaii recycling

Evan Lam is working to fix Hawaii's big recycling problem.

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The United States generates an incredible amount of paper and cardboard waste every year. The most recent EPA statistics from 2018 found that Americans throw away 67.4 million tons of paper and paperboard a year. Sixty-eight percent of it is recycled, with the remainder being dumped in landfills.

Cardboard will eventually deteriorate in a landfill but as it degrades it creates methane gas, one of the largest contributors to climate change. While carbon-trapping trees are one of the biggest ways to combat climate change, over a billion of them are chopped down every year to meet the country’s ever-growing cardboard demands.

In Hawaii, cardboard waste is an even greater contributor to climate change because the state lacks adequate recycling facilities. So, all of the country’s recycled cardboard is packaged and shipped five thousand miles to Thailand to be reprocessed.

Twenty-nine-year-old Evan Lam is improving the cardboard problem on Hawaii’s Big Island by upcycling the material into useful products that keep it on the island. He sees his work as part of a larger, global trend.



“One of the biggest responses that I see happening kind of all over the world, and here in Hawaii, is localization,” Lam told Eco Watch. “The more that we can do and process and take care of things at a local or regional level that’s kind of geographically bounded, the further we can get in just eliminating sources of greenhouse gas emissions.”

Lam created CirclePack in 2020 to make better use of the Big Island’s cardboard waste. The company travels to partner organizations throughout the island where people drop off clean cardboard that is shredded on-site by volunteers. The cardboard is repurposed into a flexible, perforated mat or smaller pieces of confetti.

The confetti cardboard can be used as sustainable packing supplies, animal bedding, compostable mailers, and garden or farm mulch.

The mesh cardboard is used by farmers as a mulching to kill invasive plant species. It also works as an organic weed cover and provides a home for worms in a vermicompost. Vermicomposting uses worms to convert biodegradable waste into organic manure.

As of April 2022, CirclePack has shredded 23,534 pounds of cardboard in just over a year of operation.

Lam says that Facebook and Instagram are invaluable tools to help him connect with community groups, volunteers, and environmentally conscious people. “Instagram has connected CirclePack with both community organizations and emerging businesses who prioritize and invest in sustainability. Facebook Groups particularly have helped us connect with community members who volunteer and bring cardboard to our community shred days,” Lam told Upworthy.

Lam’s work is further proof that digital communities can have a tangible impact on local ecosystems. “I post about our community shred days in local Facebook groups and people just show up,” he added.

Lam believes that our ever-growing cardboard use and the supply chain that moves it around the world is unsustainable. “The growth of online shopping will probably increase the use of cardboard. It's a system that needs to change, the global consumption of paper fiber is generally always increasing and we now live in a world where social, political and environmental issues are converging. We can't continue on this pathway and not expect to experience some sort of disaster,” he told Upworthy.

“The fact that my cardboard probably comes to Hawaii from Canada and ends up being recycled in Taiwan and then can be shipped back to Los Angeles to deliver cotton from China and pears from Argentina is surreal,” Lam added. “Who is making these decisions and benefiting from them?”

There’s no end in sight for cardboard consumption, so Lam hopes to share what he’s learned from CirclePack with other like-minded eco-entrepreneurs. “I would like to inspire and inform people how to act in their own communities,” he told Upworthy. “I want people to replicate and use whatever parts of this program to fit their needs where they are. It doesn't have to be complicated, big, or newsworthy to start doing the new, necessary things to benefit people and the places they live.”

Science

Sustainably good news: Recycling is getting better and this family is showing us how

What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these stories as an invitation to do better?

Via Ridwell

Ryan Metzger and son Owen

There is no shortage of dire news about the state of modern recycling. Most recently, this NPR article shared the jaw-dropping statistic that about 5% of all plastics produced get recycled, meaning the rest of it ends up in landfills. While the underlying concerns here are sound, I worry that the public narrative around recycling has gotten so pessimistic that it will make people give up on it entirely instead of seeing the opportunities to improve it. What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these news stories as an invitation to do better?

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The Prince Charles Cinema/Youtube

Brendan Fraser dressed as Rick O'Connell.

Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Doom Patrol” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.

Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?

During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.

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Little boy and his mom get surprised with tickets to Eagles game.

In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in all the negative news we're exposed to, but in reality, most good deeds are done away from a camera—just one person helping another without desire for fanfare. And for mom Bryanne McBride and her young son, Mason, that's exactly what they were doing when they got the surprise of a lifetime.

Bryanne was approached by a man in a parking lot asking for a dollar to catch the bus. The entire time, the mom scrounged around in her purse looking for spare change and revealed she felt bad because she thought she had some. Bryanne's desire to help was a simple act of kindness to another human in need without the expectation of something in return.

During the time it took for the unsuspecting mother to dig for loose change, the "stranded" stranger, Zach, introduced himself and asked if the duo were from Philly. Once they said they were from the area, he then inquired if they were Eagles fans...the football team, not the birds. "You ever been to an Eagles game?" Zach asked.

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Women are looking for love at Home Depot.

Even though people have endless options to find love these days, whether in real life or online, finding the perfect person still isn’t easy. In fact, according to Pew Research, 55% of women believe dating is harder today than it was 10 years ago. So it’s understandable that some are considering ditching the apps to meet people in real life.

Studies show that for people looking for a serious relationship, real life may be the better option.

According to Newsweek, a study by Illinois State University sociology professor Susan Sprecher found that young people who first met face to face were 25% more likely to report feelings of closeness than those who initially met online. Aditi Paul, a communications professor at Pace University in New York, found that people who first met in real life lasted four times longer than those who met online.

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Family

Two couples move in together with their kids to create one big, loving 'polyfamory'

They are using their unique family arrangement to help people better understand polyamory.

The Hartless and Rodgers families post together


Polyamory, a lifestyle where people have multiple romantic or sexual partners, is more prevalent in America than most people think. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, one in nine Americans have been in a polyamorous relationship, and one in six say they would like to try one.

However popular the idea is, polyamory is misunderstood by a large swath of the public and is often seen as deviant. However, those who practice it view polyamory as a healthy lifestyle with several benefits.

Taya Hartless, 28, and Alysia Rogers, 34, along with their husbands Sean, 46, and Tyler, 35, are in a polyamorous relationship and have no problem sharing their lifestyle with the public on social media. Even though they risk stigmatization for being open about their non-traditional relationships, they are sharing it with the world to make it a safer place for “poly” folks like themselves.

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Education

Woman without an internal monologue explains what it's like inside her head

“She's broken my mind. I don't even understand what I'm not understanding."

PA Struggles/Youtube

An estimated 50-70% of the population doesn't have an internal monologue.

The notion of living without an internal monologue is a fairly new one. Until psychologist Russell Hurlburt’s studies started coming out in the late 90s, it was widely accepted that everyone had a little voice narrating in their head. Now Hurlburt, who has been studying people's "inner experience" for 40 years, estimates that only 30-50% of the population frequently think this way.

So what about the other 50-70%? What exactly goes on inside their heads from day to day?

In a video interview originally posted in 2020, a woman named Kirsten Carlson gave some insight into this question, sharing how not having an inner dialogue affected her reading and writing, her interactions with others and how she navigates mental challenges like anxiety and depression. It was eye-opening and mind-blowing.
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Community

Native Siberian shares what daily life entails in the coldest village on Earth

See how the people of Yakutia, Siberia take showers, do laundry, go to school and more in minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit.

A man in the Yakutia region of Siberia takes an ice bath in minus 50 degrees Celsius.

For most of us, waking up to a temperature of minus 50 degrees would spell catastrophe. Normal life would come to a screeching halt, we'd be scrambling to deal with frozen pipes and power outages, school and work would be canceled and weather warnings would tell us not to venture outside due to frostbite risk.

But in the Yakutia region of Siberia, that's just an average winter day where life goes on as usual.

When you live in the coldest inhabited area on Earth, your entire life is arranged around dealing with ridiculously cold temperatures. Villages don't have running water because freezing pipes wouldn't allow for water treatment. Kids go to school unless the temp drops below minus 55 degrees Celsius (which is then considered dangerous). Showering involves spending hours stoking a fire in the bathhouse to create a steamy, warm room.

Native Siberian Kiun B. has created a series of documentary short films detailing what daily life is like in Yakutia's frigid winters. She was born and raised in Yakutsk, Siberia, widely recognized as the coldest city on Earth, where average winter temperatures hover around minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. As seen in her videos, smaller villages in the Yakutia region regularly dip down into the negative 50s, with the lowest recorded temp in the Yakut village of Oymayakon reaching a mindblowing minus 96 degrees Fahrenheit.

The popularity of Kiun's YouTube channel demonstrates how curious people are about life in such harsh conditions, as her videos have been viewed by tens of millions of people in the past year alone.

Check out this video detailing a day in the life of a family in a Yakutia village.

Can you imagine going out to use an outhouse in minus 40 degrees? Oof.

Another of Kiun's videos goes into more detail about how people shower and do laundry in the region. You might assume they wouldn't line-dry their laundry outdoors, but they do.

Watch:

What do people wear to protect themselves from the negative temperatures? Frostbite is a real risk, so it's important to have the right kinds of clothing and outdoor gear to stay safe and relatively comfortable.

Kiun shared some frigid fashion norms from Yakutsk, which include traditional fur hats and boots as well as lots of layers and down jackets.

However, there are some Yakut folks who see the cold as something to embrace. For instance, this man takes an ice bath out in the elements as a morning ritual. It's something he has worked up to—definitely not something to try on your own during a cold snap—but it still has to be painful.

(Seriously, please don't try this at home.)

The way humans have learned to adapt to drastically different environments, from the sweltering tropics to the Arctic tundra, is incredible, and it's fascinating to get a close-up look at how people make life work in those extremes. Thank you, Kiun B., for giving us a glimpse of what it's like to experience life in the dead of winter in the world's coldest inhabited places.