'Little Miss Flint' is preparing to make Christmas dinner without running water. Again.

It's Christmastime in Flint, Michigan, and all that Mari "Little Miss Flint" Copeny wants is a Hatchimal. Oh, and to finally have clean water again.

You remember her, right? The adorable 9-year-old beauty queen who wrote a letter to President Obama about her hometown's ongoing water crisis and later got caught in an unfortunate campaign trail photo with Donald Trump?

Mari hasn't had a bath at home under an actual running faucet since April 2014. And it's not looking like that's going to change anytime soon, either.

Seven people live in Mari's house in Flint. They twist open dozens of small water bottles every day just so they can all shower and eat.

According to Mari's mother, Loui Brezzell, the family goes through about four cases of 16-ounce water bottles every day, not counting their drinking water, which they get from a five-gallon dispenser in the kitchen. "Most people use that every day," she says, "but they don’t have to measure it. They’re just turning on their tap."

And when the family needs more? Brezzell has to drive down to one of the city's water pods, expending her own time and gasoline to collect it herself, since the state won't expend the resources to deliver water to every home. At least they put the cases into her car for her — although she still has to unload it herself at home and has to deal with all that plastic waste.

Mari is not amused. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Mari and her family still have to manually twist open and pour out each bottle, one at a time, to use it. Boiling water for pasta? Open six or seven bottles. Cleaning produce so your kids will actually their veggies? Open more bottles. Brushing your teeth? Open another bottle. Washing your hands after using the bathroom? Open a bottle. Bath time? Lots of bottles.

"It’s a lot of water. It’s a lot of time. But if that’s what it takes to ensure my kids are safe and healthy, then we’ll take the extra steps," Brezzell says.

The family used 144 bottles of water just to prep their Thanksgiving dinner this year — and Christmas isn't looking much different.

Brezzell can't even be certain of how many people she needs to prep for. "You never know how many will come through over the holidays," she says. "It’s a pretty open-door policy. Our house tends to be the spot where kids in the neighborhood and friends and family that comes through." But she believes in being a part of the community like that — especially since no one else is taking care of their city.

Mari and her siblings. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

This year's holiday menu will likely include a Christmas ham (more bottles for thawing) and some prime rib, plus fresh veggies ("My kids eat like rabbits. They could probably clear 10 pounds of raw vegetables in one day") and mashed potatoes (bottles for cleaning and bottles for boiling).

"In the beginning [of the water crisis], using the bottles was a pain in the butt," Brezzell says. "It’s still a pain, but we’ve been putting up with this for so long that it’s second nature."

Water pickup in the spring. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Even joyful traditions like holiday cookies have turned into painful chores.

Every year before Christmas, family and friends gather at the Brezzell-Copeny house for a big ol' baking party. They make everything from oatmeal raisin to snickerdoodles to sugar cookies and snowballs and beyond.

But even that process involves bottled water to clean the mixing bowls and baking sheets, or to add into the powders and doughs to make the cookies moist. "That’s where you have the kids come in. Like, 'Hey, you wanna play a game? Come open bottles of water!'" Brezzell says with a laugh.

Inevitably, the kids' hands start to hurt from all that repetitive twisting, and it falls back to the adults to keep up the holiday spirits in the kitchen.

Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Yet, despite their own troubles, Mari and Loui also spend the holiday season giving back to Flint residents who are even less fortunate than they are.

"People don’t realize that there are kids here that are still in need," Brezzell says, referring to the more than 40% of Flint residents who live in poverty. "If anything, they’re so focused on donating bottled water that they don’t realize that there are kids here who would just love to have a Christmas but they can’t afford dolls."

As much as Mari wants an elusive Hatchimal for herself (mom's working on it), she also serves as the youth ambassador for Pretty Brown Girl's Doll Drive, raising money for toys and empowerment programs for underprivileged girls.

Mari posing with her Pretty Brown Girl doll (and some of her beauty pageant awards). Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

Meanwhile, Brezzell has been speaking up on behalf of the hundreds of Flint residents who are facing eviction. "Christmas is coming, it’s freezing cold, and you want to put people on the streets because their landlord isn't paying the water bill?" Brezzell says. "Kind of hard when you can’t use the water, right?"

The media cycle may have moved on, but Flint's water crisis is far from over.

"I just want people to see what we deal with, how life is, and try to keep attention on the people here," Brezzell says. "We literally have a third-world problem in America that’s not being addressed."

Yup. Photo by Loui Brezzell, used with permission.

But here's perhaps the most frustrating thing about this water crisis. It started because the state was hoping to save $200 million over 25 years. But they could have avoided the problem entirely if they'd just spent $100 a day to add anti-corrosive agents to the water.

In other words, Flint is what happens when you run a city like a business — based on money — instead of treating people like humans.

Photo by Anna Shvets from Pexels
True

Increasingly customers are looking for more conscious shopping options. According to a Nielsen survey in 2018, nearly half (48%) of U.S. consumers say they would definitely or probably change their consumption habits to reduce their impact on the environment.

But while many consumers are interested in spending their money on products that are more sustainable, few actually follow through. An article in the 2019 issue of Harvard Business Review revealed that 65% of consumers said they want to buy purpose-driven brands that advocate sustainability, but only about 26% actually do so. It's unclear where this intention gap comes from, but thankfully it's getting more convenient to shop sustainably from many of the retailers you already support.

Amazon recently introduced Climate Pledge Friendly, "a new program to help make it easy for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products." When you're browsing Amazon, a Climate Pledge Friendly label will appear on more than 45,000 products to signify they have one or more different sustainability certifications which "help preserve the natural world, reducing the carbon footprint of shipments to customers," according to the online retailer.

Amazon

In order to distinguish more sustainable products, the program partnered with a wide range of external certifications, including governmental agencies, non-profits, and independent laboratories, all of which have a focus on preserving the natural world.

Keep Reading Show less
Images via Canva and Unsplash

If there's one thing that everyone can agree on, it's that being in a pandemic sucks.

However, we seem to be on different pages as to what sucks most about it. Many of us are struggling with being separated from our friends and loved ones for so long. Some of us have lost friends and family to the virus, while others are dealing with ongoing health effects of their own illness. Millions are struggling with job loss and financial stress due to businesses being closed. Parents are drowning, dealing with their kids' online schooling and lack of in-person social interactions on top of their own work logistics. Most of us hate wearing masks (even if we do so diligently), and the vast majority of us are just tired of having to think about and deal with everything the pandemic entails.

Much has been made of the mental health impact of the pandemic, which is a good thing. We need to have more open conversations about mental health in general, and with everything so upside down, it's more important now than ever. However, it feels like pandemic mental health conversations have been dominated by people who want to justify anti-lockdown arguments. "We can't let the cure be worse than the disease," people say. Kids' mental health is cited as a reason to open schools, the mental health challenges of financial despair as a reason to keep businesses open, and the mental health impact of social isolation as a reason to ditch social distancing measures.

It's not that those mental health challenges aren't real. They most definitely are. But when we focus exclusively on the mental health impact of lockdowns, we miss the fact that there are also significant mental health struggles on the other side of those arguments.

Keep Reading Show less
True

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.

Keep Reading Show less
True
Gates Foundation

Once upon a time, a scientist named Dr. Andrew Wakefield published in the medical journal The Lancet that he had discovered a link between autism and vaccines.

After years of controversy and making parents mistrust vaccines, along with collecting $674,000 from lawyers who would benefit from suing vaccine makers, it was discovered he had made the whole thing up. The Lancet publicly apologized and reported that further investigation led to the discovery that he had fabricated everything.

Keep Reading Show less
via Budweiser

Budweiser beer, and its low-calorie counterpart, Bud Light, have created some of the most memorable Super Bowl commercials of the past 37 years.

There were the Clydesdales playing football and the poor lost puppy who found its way home because of the helpful horses. Then there were the funny frogs who repeated the brand name, "Bud," "Weis," "Er."

We can't forget the "Wassup?!" ad that premiered in December 1999, spawning the most obnoxious catchphrase of the new millennium.

Keep Reading Show less