Horrified by how much plastic is in the ocean, this girl ramped up her recycling game.
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Garnier Beauty Responsibly

Miranda Legg has always known the recycling basics, but she didn't realize just how harmful plastic can be if not recycled properly until she visited a sea turtle hospital in Florida.

At the time, she was a sophomore in high school, and she recalls seeing helpless sea creatures living with injuries, sometimes permanent ones, that were the result of plastic garbage in the ocean. Miranda has carried the experience with her ever since.

A turtle stuck in the plastic rings that hold soda cans. Photo by Stefan Leijon/Flickr.


It was a closeup view of a worldwide epidemic. According to a study published in Science Magazine, more than 8 trillion tons of garbage makes it into the ocean every year. And, if things don't change soon, that number could increase 10 times over in the next decade.

The harrowing statistics hit Miranda hard. She was determined to do something to try and counteract them.  

Thankfully, she was already in touch with DoSomething.org, a nonprofit that helps people, especially younger generations, make a positive impact on the world. The organization is essentially an online tool that connects people with social good campaigns that speak to them, making it easier than ever to get up and help.

Miranda had already participated in a few of DoSomething's campaigns in the past, so when she received an email from them alerting her to Garnier and TerraCycle's Rinse, Recycle, Repeat College Competition, she immediately applied to take part.

DoSomething is currently partnered with Garnier's Rinse Recycle Repeat campaign, which is educating the younger generations about how to recycle their beauty products the right way. Half of Americans don't recycle them at all which is part of why beauty and personal care products make up approximately one-third of the trash in landfills. This campaign is working to shrink those statistics.

"I really wanted to participate because, one: I love a good competition, and two: I loved the cause," writes Miranda in an email.

Photo by Miranda Legg.

The rules were simple — starting April 1, 2018, the 50 national colleges that had made it into the competition would compete to collect as many empty beauty and personal care plastic containers as they could. Whichever college team had collected the most empties by the end of April would be named the winner, and rewarded with a green garden for their community. The team leader would also receive a $2,000 scholarship.

Motivated by competition and the desire to inspire positive change, Miranda put out rallying cries on social media for friends, students and teachers to bring her their bathroom bottles.

She sent emails around to everyone she knew who either went to Winston Salem State University or lived close to her home. She set up recycling boxes all over campus and at both her parents' places of business. She also encourages people to get rid of old products that were just taking up space.

"One thing that really helped was I asked everyone to go through their space under the bathroom sink and see what is expired," explains Miranda. "For example under my sink I found a sunscreen that had expired in 2007."

We're all guilty of holding onto products for months or even years after their expiration date. So not only was Miranda helping the environment, she was giving tons of people the perfect opportunity to de-clutter.

Thanks to an incredibly supportive network of family, friends, teachers, and classmates, by the end of the competition, Miranda had collected over 5,000 empties.

But was that enough to win her the title of #1 college empties recycler?

DoSomething had a leaderboard going throughout April on their website so people could see how the college teams were doing. While Miranda was often in the lead, there was a point towards the end where she sat firmly in second place. Scared she wasn't going to pull out ahead, she once again implored her recycling troops to bring her anything and everything they had left.

Tomorrow (Sunday) is the last day to turn in recycling for my #rrrsweepstakes campaign! We have a total of 4,213 so far!...

Posted by Miranda Legg on Saturday, April 28, 2018

That final motivating push turned out to be more than enough — by the last week in April, Miranda's final empties count was almost double that of the team in second place.

Now that Miranda's won the competition, she can't wait to help turn empties into a green garden for her school. If all goes according to plan, the garden should open in either September or October with a commemorative ribbon cutting ceremony and volunteer day.

"I am so excited to see how it is going to turn out, but it really wouldn’t be possible without Garnier and Terracycle," writes Miranda. "I’ve seen some of the gardens they have made before and they are amazing."

But don't think for a second that just because the competition's over, Miranda's going to stop working for a cleaner planet. She's got bigger plans.

She's doing a Plastic Free July, which is simply refusing single-use plastic like bags at convenience stores or plastic straws at coffee shops. While these may sound like little, inconsequential things, Miranda knows more than most just how much of an impact these adjustments make on the environment.

Armed with knowledge like this, Miranda's now that person who always takes plastic bottles out of the trash and recycles them. She also advocates for reusing and proper recycling whenever she can.

But most importantly, Miranda wants people to know that large-scale change can and does start with one person. It's just about making small adjustments and incorporating them into your day to day life. If you can do that, you're helping all of us get closer to a cleaner planet.

If you want to join Miranda in being a better recycler, start collecting empty beauty containers. Once you've accumulated 10 pounds, mail them to TerraCycle. So far, Garnier's Rinse Recycle Repeat campaign has kept over 10 million empties out of landfills.

Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves
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It can be expensive to have a pet. It's possible to spend between $250 to $700 a year on food for a dog and around $120-$500 on food for a cat. But of course, most of us don't think twice about the expense: having a pet is worth it because of the company animals provide.

But for some, this expense is hard to keep up, no matter how much you adore your fur baby. And that's why Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves decided to help.

Kenneth had seen a man scraping together change in a store to buy pet food, so he offered to buy the man some extra pet food. Still, later that night he couldn't stop thinking about the experience — he worried the man wasn't just struggling to pay for pet food, but food for himself, too.

So he went home and told his wife — and immediately, they both knew they needed to do something. So, in December 2020, they converted a farm stand into a take-what-you-need, leave-what-you-can Pet Food pantry.

"A lot of people would have watched that man count out change to buy pet food. Some may have helped him out like my husband did," Jill says. "A few may have thought about it afterward. But, only someone like Kenny would turn that experience into what we have today."

"If it weren't for his generous spirit and his penchant for a plan, the pantry would never have been born," she adds.

A man with sunglasses hands a box of cat food to a woman smiling Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

At first, the couple started the pet food pantry with a couple hundred dollars of pet food they bought themselves. And to make sure people knew about the pantry, they set up a Facebook page for the pantry, then went to other Facebook groups, such as a "Buy Nothing group," and shared what they were doing.

"When we started, we weren't even sure people would use us," Jill says. "At best, we were hoping to be able to provide enough to help people get through the holidays."

But, thanks to their page and word of mouth, news spread about what they were doing, and the donations of more pet food started flooding in, too. Before long, they were coming home to stacks of food — and within a couple of months, the pantry was full.

Yellow post-it note with handwritten note that reads: "Hi, I read your story on Facebook. Here is a small donation to help. I have a 3-year-old yellow lab who I adore. I hope this helps someone in need. Merry Christmas. Meredith" Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"The pounds of food we have gone through is well, well, well into the thousands," Jill says. "The orders from our Amazon Wish List alone include several hundred pounds of dry food, a couple of hundred cases of canned food, and thousands of treats and toys. But, that does not even take into account the hundreds of drop-offs, online orders, and monetary donations we have received."

They also got many 'Thank you notes' from the people they helped.

"I would like to thank you for helping us feed our fur babies," one note read. "My husband and I recently lost our jobs, and my husband [will] hopefully [find] a new one. We are just waiting for a call."

Another read: "I just need to say thank you from the bottom of my heart. I haven't worked in over a month with a two-year-old at home. Dad brings in about $300/week. From the pandemic to Christmas, it has been tough. But with the help of beautiful people like you, my fur baby can now eat a little bit longer, and my heart is happy."

Jill says that she thinks the fact that the pet pantry is a farm stand helps people feel better.

A woman holding a small black dog and looking at the camera is greeted by Jill Gonsalves Photo courtesy of Kenneth and Jill Gonsalves

"When we first started this, someone who visited us mentioned how it made them feel good to be able to browse without feeling like they were being watched," she says. "So, it's been important to us to maintain that integrity."

Jill and Kenneth aren't sure how many people they've helped so far, but they know that their pet food pantry is doing what they hoped it would. "The pet owners who visit us, much like donations, come in ebbs and flows," Jill says. "We have some regulars who have been with us since the beginning. We also have some people that come a few times, and we never see again."

"Our hope is that they used us while they were in a tough spot, but they don't need us anymore. In a funny way, the greatest thing would be if no one needed us anymore."


Today, the Acushnet Pet Pantry is still going strong, but its stock is running low. If you want to help out, visit their Facebook page for updates and to find ways to donate.

Over the past 30-plus years, there has been a sea change when it comes to public attitudes about LGBT issues in America. In 1988, only 11% of Americans supported same-sex marriage, while in 2020, that number jumped to 70%

Even though there is a lot more work to do for full LGBTQ equality in the U.S. the country is far ahead of most of the world. According to Human Dignity Trust, 71 jurisdictions around the world "criminalize private, consensual, same-sex sexual activity," many of these specifically calling out sexual practices between men.

In 11 jurisdictions, people who engage in consensual same-sex sexual activity face the possibility of the death penalty for their behavior. "At least 6 of these implement the death penalty – Iran, Northern Nigeria, Saudi Arabia, Somalia and Yemen – and the death penalty is a legal possibility in Afghanistan, Brunei, Mauritania, Pakistan, Qatar, and UAE," Human Dignity Trust says.

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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!