Is trying to be eco-friendly stressing you out? These tips may help.
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Savers

Taking care of the planet can feel like a monumental task.

For those of us who want to reduce our footprint, it can be hard to know where to start. Does recycling need to be separated? Should you get a hybrid? How do you get rid of old clothes? What to do with all of those odds and ends that you know shouldn't be trashed but aren't sure are recyclable?


Image by woodleywonderworks/Flickr.

Honestly, if you're even thinking about these things and asking yourself these questions, you're well on your way.

Don't feel overwhelmed!

Becoming an eco-friendly superhero won't happen overnight, but you can make a few improvements that'll help you to feel better and help the planet to thrive longer. Baby steps.

Image by Bill G./Flickr.

If taking care of the planet were easy and intuitive to our lifestyles, it wouldn't be an issue in the first place. Start small and once those things become routine, feel free to build from there!

Here are five ways to be eco-friendly that won't leave you feeling overwhelmed or inconvenienced.

1. Heading somewhere? Carpool!

According to the United States Census Bureau, as of 2013, "about 86% of all workers commuted to work by private vehicle." That's a lot of cars.

Cars are major contributors to air pollution, but for so many people, there simply aren't other viable options for getting around daily. But there's one small and easy way to help out: carpooling.

Image by Prayitno/Flickr.

Carpooling is the best of both worlds. You're helping the environment, and there are many incentives that make carpooling an attractive option for commuters. From special lanes to splitting gas and city programs that offer cash rewards, it's a wonder that more people aren't doing it.

2. Textile recycling: Savers and their nonprofit partners can pick up your old clothes; you just need to place them outside.

On their Facebook page, Savers reminds us that "clothing and textile recycling has a greater impact on reducing greenhouse gases than the recycling of yard waste, glass, and plastic." So how can you try to be a part of the solution?

The Savers family of thrift stores and their partners make it pretty easy. All you have to do is set an appointment and place your clothes outside your door. They'll show up, grab the bag, and make sure your best items find a new home and any remaining items get recycled. Easy.

Image by Andy Lyon/Flickr.

Is home-pickup not offered in your town? No worries! There are many clothing donation bins dispersed throughout neighborhoods. If there aren't any bins in your area, you can throw the bag in the back of your car and take your donation to a store. No fuss, minimal hassle, and nothing goes to waste.

3. Is this recyclable? Here's how to tell.

Have you noticed the little recycling arrows on some of your containers and bags? You may be sad to know that the symbol doesn't automatically mean that an item is recyclable. The materials used to package so many of our everyday items are not made equally. Some of them have been too chemically altered during their manufacturing process and simply can't be recycled.

Image by Alan Levine/Flickr.

So how do you know which items can be recycled and which can't? Greenopedia offers cheat codes. Plastic items with the numbers 1 or 2 in the little triangles are safe. 4 and 5 are maybes. 3, 6, and 7 are a no. All of that a little overwhelming? Try focusing on the items you know can be recycled. When you get used to identifying them, graduate to the maybes. There are those baby steps mentioned earlier. Don't beat yourself up if you can't become a master recycler immediately.

4. Composting: What is it and how should we do it?

Home Composting Made Easy shares that it's estimated "about one-half of all food that is produced or consumed in the U.S. is discarded." World Food Day USA reminds us that "in the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds of food per person per month." That's a lot of food getting thrown out.

Here's the thing: A lot of that excess food could be composted! So the next time you're about to toss out a spotted banana, think about composting it instead.

There are a few different options for creating your own compost, from a sealed pail that you empty into a compost bin to a worm bin. If you're feeling crafty, you can even build your own! Some cities let you put food waste right into the yard waste bin to be picked up for composting (but make sure your city is one of them before giving it a try).

Image by Lindsay/Flickr.

What's good to compost? All of the below, according to Home Composting Made Easy.

  • All your vegetable and fruit wastes, (including rinds and cores) even if they are moldy and ugly
  • Old bread, donuts, cookies, crackers, pizza crust, noodles: anything made out of flour!
  • Grains (cooked or uncooked): rice, barley, etc.
  • Coffee grounds, tea bags, filters
  • Fruit or vegetable pulp from juicing
  • Old spices
  • Outdated boxed foods from the pantry
  • Egg shells (crush well)
  • Corn cobs and husks (cobs breakdown very slowly)

5. Crafty? Try DIY recycling projects.

If you're the sort of person who loves making new things, then your used wine bottles, water bottles, cans, and more can become your new project. The options are limitless. From paintings to sculptures to horticultural endeavors, where there's a will, there's a way. These pictures can speak for themselves.

Image by John Lambert Pearson/Flickr.

Image by Erika G./Flickr.

Image by Giles Williams/Flickr.

Up for trying one or two or all of these tips? The planet and future generations will thank you for making an effort to keep this planet that we call home safe from the waste we've created.

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Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

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via Pixabay

Talking about politics at work can be a really touchy situation. It's good for people to be able to express themselves in the office. But it can lead to serious tension when people don't see eye-to-eye. It can be especially difficult when a company takes a hard line on a controversial issue that employees are forced to stand behind.

So Basecamp, a project management software company based in Chicago, has just decided to ban talking about politics at work altogether. It seems the company tried to foster an open atmosphere but it backfired.

"Sensitivities are at 11, and every discussion remotely related to politics, advocacy, or society at large quickly spins away from pleasant," co-founder Jason Fried wrote in a post on the company website.

Keep Reading Show less
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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."