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How Amy Poehler's Smart Girls is empowering teens through gaming.

A glimpse into Amy Poehler's Smart Girls' empowering new series.

How Amy Poehler's Smart Girls is empowering teens through gaming.

Have you heard of Amy Poehler's Smart Girls? Because if you haven't, you really should.

Poehler is a lot of things — an improviser, a Red Sox fan, a mom, a Hillary Clinton impersonator. But she's also a trailblazer. And there's no better proof of that than Amy Poehler's Smart Girls, a group committed to empowering girls to be ... well, whatever the heck they want to be (and to feel great being it).

Rock climber? Astronaut? CEO? Poehler says go for it, girl.


Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for TNT LA.

Smart Girls has done a lot of neat things and started many important conversations since it originally launched as a web series, Smart Girls at the Party, back in 2008. But one of its latest endeavors, Smart Girls Build, is particularly notable as being freakin' sweet, as it's using a video game rooted in the virtual world to inspire actual girls living in the real one.

In the Smart Girls Build series, Poehler's Smart Girls teamed up with The Sims to let girls create their virtual selves.

Take, for instance, 13-year-old Californian Celeste Javier, who is the focus of the series' first episode. Among her many interests are dancing and playing with her (adorable) corgi pup.

All GIFs via Amy Poehler's Smart Girls/YouTube.

Javier got to visit the hub where the video game is created by publisher Electronic Arts (EA). In The Sims, users can create virtual versions of themselves and live out their dreams and aspirations (digitally, of course). And that's exactly what Javier got to do.

Yes, creating your digital self is fun. But to Smart Girls, the new series gets at a bigger issue: inspiring girls to live out their creative pursuits, and finding the role models to help.

The Sims might only be a virtual reality to gamers, but the positive effects of playing it can seep into the girls' real lives, according to Maggie Lyons, director of development at Smart Girls.

“Our motto is ‘Change the world by being yourself,'" Lyons explained to Upworthy. "These girls really do that in The Sims, and hopefully are inspired to do the same in their real lives.”

Just 26% of jobs in computing fields are held by women.

The series focuses on opening doors for girls who might be interested in merging their passions with technology, as well.

In another episode, 17-year-old guitarist Tcarla collaborated with a producer to create music in the game. Every EA producer in the series is a woman, and while that may seem inconsequential, it certainly isn't.

"We also wanted to highlight female gamers and game producers," Lyons said. "If girls see more women creating and participating in fields like gaming, they’re more likely to say to themselves, 'Oh, cool! I can do that too!'”

Javier created a Sim that not only looked like her, but had the same qualities and passions as well.

Javier made sure her virtual self, or Sim, had the same traits and talents as she does. In her Sim's world, there was a dance studio, which was perfect for Javier; she's been dancing for nine years and is now in a competitive hip-hop dance group.


Letting girls know they do have a place in tech is vital, and we've got a (very) long way to go.

According to a study released last year by the American Association of University Women, a mere 26% of jobs in computing fields are held by women. When you look at engineering jobs, it's an even more cringeworthy 12%. (And by the way, these figures get more dismal when you consider how women of color, specifically, are represented.)

Looking at the gender makeup at top tech companies confirms this sad reality, as The Huffington Post reported in March 2015.

"At Google, women make up 30% of the company's overall workforce, but hold only 17% of the company’s tech jobs. At Facebook, 15% of tech roles are staffed by women. At Twitter, it’s a laughable 10%. For non-technical jobs at Twitter (think marketing, HR, sales), the gender split is 50-50."

Yes, The Sims is just one video game, and it won't solve this problem overnight. But it's one smart step forward.

"People really seem to be responding to the positive message, how inspiring these incredibly bright girls are, and our encouragement of female gamers," Lyons said of feedback from the Build series. "One girl even told us that Tcarla inspired her to start playing the guitar, which is awesome!"

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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.

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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.