How you can help save the planet using the KonMari method this Earth Day.

Unless you live under a massive rock, you're probably well aware of Japanese organizer Marie Kondo's decluttering revolution that has swept the globe.

But did you know that the “tidying up" method that promises to improve your life by ditching the things that don't bring you joy can also help you make the world a better, greener place?

According to Caitlin Roberts, a Master KonMari Consultant and founder of Los Angeles-based Minimize with Purpose, home organization can contribute to sustainability by exposing our subconscious shopping habits and introducing more purposeful decision making.


“By confronting all of the items within our homes utilizing the KonMari method, we are given the unique opportunity to learn about how and why we have consumed in the past," she explains. “Learning to identify exactly what items support your lifestyle (and how many of them you actually need) encourages you to shop more consciously moving forward."

Roberts also says that gratitude is another big part of the KonMari method of home organization and sustainability. “When we show gratitude to the items we have selected to discard, we spend time locating the best possible way to recycle, reuse or repurpose," she adds. “When we respect the items that have supported us, we are more committed to finding them a new home and a new purpose."

With that in mind, there are some items you should NEVER throw in the trash, as they can be super harmful to the environment.

These include lights, batteries and electronics, mercury-containing items, household and garden chemicals. Instead, go online and look for local resources that will help you dispose of or donate them safely and properly.

For other less toxic items, however, there are a variety of eco-friendly, sustainable options for donating or reusing — which could, in turn, bring you a lot more joy.

Reusing household items

While there are national organizations like Goodwill that have locations where you can take items like clothes, furniture, electronic and even toiletries to rehome and repurpose them, starting with local groups in your community can be easier. See if groups like Buy Nothing, Freecycle and Facebook groups like Moms Helping Moms cater to your area. There will usually be takers for pretty much anything — opened bags of flour, mismatched dishes, old socks even half-used face creams.

West Midlands Police/Flickr.

Building scraps and materials

Did you do some renovating recently? Don't toss your scraps in the trash! They can actually be transformed into works of art. “You can turn your scraps, overstock and other materials into art and education by donating to a tinkering school such as Los Angeles based reDiscover," says Roberts. These schools help children cultivate their creativity by upycling sustainable materials — aka your junk.

Most of these types of schools have their own donation policies, but some of the items they often look for include large lumber, full or ½ sheets of plywood, (no paint or varnish), bamboo, pipe, rope, casters, pulleys, hooks, wood screws, corks, bottle caps, lids, large or appliance cardboard boxes, cardboard tubes, berry baskets, reusable shopping bags, pipe cleaners, wire, buttons, wooden toys of any kind, balls of any size or material, tape, glue, hot glue sticks, paper clips, rubber bands, crayons, markers and pens that work.

Costumes, Prom Dresses and Gowns

Do you have any old costumes hanging in your closet, perhaps from an ambitious Halloween party long since past? Don't worry, we all do. If you donate them to your local community or school theater group, they'll get a second (and hopefully third, fourth and fifth) showing. There are also groups like Ween Dream that take costume donations so they can give free Halloween costumes to children in need. You can donate from anywhere in America by shipping them to the Ween Dream headquarters in New Orleans.

The same goes for old wedding gowns, bridesmaid and prom dresses. There are a number of resources that will recycle those glam gowns you are never going to wear again by donating them to people in need. A few of these include the Angel Gown Program, which will turn your beautiful wedding gown into a burial gown for infants that pass away in the NICU, and Becca's Closet, a program that provides prom gowns for girls who can't afford them.

Arts & Crafts Supplies

If you envisioned yourself a painter on weekend, bought a bunch of supplies, then let them sit and collect dust in the closet, don't just toss them. “So many schools and community centers are desperate for art supplies, and the teachers can use all the support they can get!" notes Roberts.

You can even donate used markers thanks to Crayola. The color-friendly company has banded together with schools across North America as part of the Crayola ColorCycle program. Through this initiative, students in K-12 schools across the continental United States and parts of Canada collect and repurpose used Crayola markers, and are taught about sustainable practices in the process.

Denim

Every one of us has a pair of jeans they've held onto for way too long that is far too holey to wear out in public. That's where Cotton Incorporated comes in. They recently launched their Blue Jeans Go Green denim recycling program, an innovative way to give your jeans a new life. This program transforms your donated denim into housing insulation. And as an added bonus, when you make a donation at your favorite retailers — including Bloomingdales Madewell, American Eagle Outfitters and Rag & Bone — you can get a discount on your next pair!

However you decide to handle your spring cleaning, we hope that you consider doing it with the planet in mind.

The environment is in a precarious position no matter how you slice it — it is more important than ever to practice mindfulness when it comes to getting rid of things. So, instead of tossing those items that no longer bring you joy into the trash, take a little bit of time to find them a better home. It will help you feel better, bring joy to others, and help keep this planet we call home a more habitable place.

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less

Everyone can all use a little lift at the end of the week, and we've collected some of this week's best stories to provide just such a pick-me-up. Here are 10 things we want to share, just because they made us so darn happy.

1. Introducing Lila, the U.S. Capitol Police's first emotional support dog.

After the traumatic experiences of January 6th, Capitol Police officers could definitely use some extra support. Lila, a two-year-old black lab, will now serve as the department's first full-time emotional support dog. Look at that sweet face!

2. Speaking of the Capitol, take a look at this week's gorgeous solar eclipse behind the dome.

NASA Administrator Bill Nelson shared the stunning "ring of fire" image on Twitter. Always a treat when nature gives us a great show.


3. Colorado sees its first wild wolf pups in six decades.

In the 1940s, the gray wolf was eradicated in Colorado by trappers and hunters, with the support of the federal government. Whoops. This week, Colorado Parks and Wildlife has announced the first evidence of wild wolf breeding in the state, a sign of hope for the endangered species. Read more about the discovery here.

Photo by M L on Unsplash


4. 30-year-old singer with terminal cancer amazed and inspired with her performance on America's Got Talent.

Keep Reading Show less
True

Each year, an estimated 1.8 million people in the United States are affected by cancer — most commonly cancers of the breast, lung, prostate, and blood cancers such as leukemia. While not everyone overcomes the disease, thanks to science, more people are surviving — and for longer — than ever before in history.

We asked three people whose lives have been impacted by cancer to share their stories – how their lives were changed by the disease, and how they're using that experience to change the future of cancer treatments with the hope that ultimately, in the fight against cancer, science will win. Here's what they had to say.

Celine Ryan, 55, engineer database programmer and mother of five from Detroit, MI

Photo courtesy of Celine Ryan

In September 2013, Celine Ryan woke up from a colonoscopy to some traumatic news. Her gastroenterologist showed her a picture of the cancerous mass they found during the procedure.

Ryan and her husband, Patrick, had scheduled a colonoscopy after discovering some unusual bleeding, so the suspicion she could have cancer was already there. Neither of them, however, were quite prepared for the results to be positive -- or for the treatment to begin so soon. Just two days after learning the news, Ryan had surgery to remove the tumor, part of her bladder, and 17 cancerous lymph nodes. Chemotherapy and radiation soon followed.

Ryan's treatment was rigorous – but in December 2014, she got the devastating news that the cancer, once confined to her colon, had spread to her lungs. Her prognosis, they said, was likely terminal.

But rather than give up hope, Ryan sought support from online research, fellow cancer patients and survivors, and her medical team. When she brought up immunotherapy to her oncologist, he quickly agreed it was the best course of action. Ryan's cancer, like a majority of colon and pancreatic cancers, had been caused by a defect on the gene KRAS, which can result in a very aggressive cancer that is virtually "undruggable." According to the medical literature, the relatively smooth protein structure of the KRAS gene meant that designing inhibitors to bind to surface grooves and treat the cancer has been historically difficult. Through her support systems, Ryan discovered an experimental immunotherapy trial at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) in Bethesda, MD., and called them immediately to see if she was eligible. After months of trying to determine whether she was a suitable candidate for the experimental treatment, Ryan was finally accepted.

The treatment, known as tumor-infiltrating lymphocyte therapy, or TIL, is a testament to how far modern science has evolved. With this therapy, doctors remove a tumor and harvest special immune cells that are found naturally in the tumor. Doctors then grow the cells in a lab over the next several weeks with a protein that promotes rapid TIL growth – and once the cells number into the billions, they are infused back into the patient's body to fight the cancer. On April 1, 2015, Ryan had her tumor removed at the NIH. Two months later, she went inpatient for four weeks to have the team "wash out" her immune system with chemotherapy and infuse the cells – all 148 billion of them – back into her body.

Six weeks after the infusion, Ryan and Patrick went back for a follow-up appointment – and the news they got was stunning: Not only had no new tumors developed, but the six existing tumors in her lungs had shrunk significantly. Less than a year after her cell infusion, in April 2016, the doctors told Ryan news that would have been impossible just a decade earlier: Thanks to the cell infusion, Ryan was now considered NED – no evaluable disease. Her body was cancer-free.

Ryan is still NED today and continuing annual follow-up appointments at the NIH, experiencing things she never dreamed she'd be able to live to see, such as her children's high school and college graduations. She's also donating her blood and cells to the NIH to help them research other potential cancer treatments. "It was an honor to do so," Ryan said of her experience. "I'm just thrilled, and I hope my experience can help a lot more people."

Patrice Lee, PhD, VP of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Exploratory Development at Pfizer

Photo courtesy of Patrice Lee

Patrice Lee got into scientific research in an unconventional way – through the late ocean explorer Jacques Cousteau.

Lee never met Cousteau but her dreams of working with him one day led her to pursue a career in science. Initially, Lee completed an undergraduate degree in marine biology; eventually, her interests changed and she decided to get a dual doctoral degree in physiology and toxicology at Duke University. She now works at Pfizer's R&D site in Boulder, CO (formerly Array BioPharma), leading a group of scientists who determine the safety and efficacy of new oncology drugs.

"Scientists focused on drug discovery and development in the pharmaceutical industry are deeply committed to inventing new therapies to meet unmet needs," Lee says, describing her field of work. "We're driven to achieve new medicines and vaccines as quickly as possible without sacrificing safety."

Among the drugs Lee has helped develop during her career, including cancer therapies, she says around a dozen are currently in development, while nine have received FDA approval — an incredible accomplishment as many scientists spend their careers without seeing their drug make it to market. Lee's team is particularly interested in therapies for brain metastases — something that Lee says is a largely unmet need in cancer research, and something her team is working on from a variety of angles. "Now that we've had rapid success with mRNA vaccine technology, we hope to explore what the future holds when applying this technology to cancers," Lee says.

But while evaluating potential cancer therapies is a professional passion of Lee's, it's also a mission that's deeply personal. "I'm also a breast cancer survivor," she says. "So I've been on the other side of things and have participated in a clinical trial."

However, seeing how melanoma therapies that she helped develop have affected other real-life cancer patients, she says, has been a highlight of her career. "We had one therapy that was approved for patients with BRAF-mutant metastatic melanoma," Lee recalls. "Our team in Boulder was graced by a visit from a patient that had benefited from these drugs that we developed. It was a very special moment for the entire team."

None of these therapies would be available, Lee says without rigorous science behind it: "Facts come from good science. Facts will drive the development of new drugs, and that's what will help patients."

Chiuying "Cynthia" Kuk (they/them) MS, 34, third-year medical student at Michigan State University College of Human Medicine

Photo courtesy of Cynthia Kuk

Cynthia Kuk was just 10 years old when they had a conversation that would change their life forever.

"My mother, who worked as a translator for the government at the time, had been diagnosed with breast cancer, and after her chemotherapy treatments she would get really sick," Kuk, who uses they/them pronouns, recalls. "When I asked my dad why mom was puking so much, he said it was because of the medicine she was taking that would help her get better."

Kuk's response was immediate: "That's so stupid! Why would a medicine make you feel worse instead of better? When I'm older, I want to create medicine that won't make people sick like that."

Nine years later, Kuk traveled from their native Hong Kong to the United States to do exactly that. Kuk enrolled in a small, liberal arts college for their Bachelor's degree, and then four years later started a PhD program in cancer research. Although Kuk's mother was in remission from her cancer at the time, Kuk's goal was the same as it had been as a 10-year-old watching her suffer through chemotherapy: to design a better cancer treatment, and change the landscape of cancer research forever.

Since then, Kuk's mission has changed slightly.

"My mom's cancer relapsed in 2008, and she ended up passing away about five years after that," Kuk says. "After my mom died, I started having this sense of urgency. Cancer research is such that you work for twenty years, and at the end of it you might have a fancy medication that could help people, but I wanted to help people now." With their mother still at the forefront of their mind, Kuk decided to quit their PhD program and enter medical school.

Now, Kuk plans to pursue a career in emergency medicine – not only because they are drawn to the excitement of the emergency room, but because the ER is a place where the most marginalized people tend to seek care.

"I have a special interest in the LGBTQ+ population, as I identify as queer and nonbinary," says Kuk. "A lot of people in this community and other marginalized communities access care through the ER and also tend to avoid medical care since there is a history of mistreatment and judgement from healthcare workers. How you carry yourself as a doctor, your compassion, that can make a huge difference in someone's care."

In addition to making a difference in the lives of LGBTQ+ patients, Kuk wants to make a difference in the lives of patients with cancer as well, like their mother had.

"We've diagnosed patients in the Emergency Department with cancer before," Kuk says. "I can't make cancer good news but how you deliver bad news and the compassion you show could make a world of difference to that patient and their family."

During their training, Kuk advocates for patients by delivering compassionate and inclusive care, whether they happen to have cancer or not. In addition to emphasizing their patient's pronouns and chosen names, they ask for inclusive social and sexual histories as well as using gender neutral language. In doing this, they hope to make medicine as a whole more accessible for people who have been historically pushed aside.

"I'm just one person, and I can't force everyone to respect you, if you're marginalized," Kuk says. "But I do want to push for a culture where people appreciate others who are different from them."