The cool reason why these green coins are becoming a currency in Amsterdam.

Plastics pretty much made our modern world. But they're also clogging it up.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

Don't get me wrong. I really like having a water bottle that doesn't rust. But we do produce an awful lot of them. One study suggested that 5 to 14 million tons of plastic end up in the ocean every year, for instance.


There have been a lot of programs to try to get people to recycle more, many of which you've probably been part of. But getting people to recycle is hard. Recycling in many areas is inconvenient, and sometimes it's expensive, too.

One neighborhood in Amsterdam is trying an interesting solution, though: combining recycling and supporting local businesses.

Photo by Robert B. Fishman/picture-alliance/dpa/AP Images.

The Noord district sits across the water from the rest of Amsterdam. It used to be pretty industrial — full of wharfs and shipyards — but in the last few decades, it has been revived as a cultural and arts center in the city. As of early 2015, it's also been the center of a cool recycling experiment too.

The neighborhood is turning bags of trash into what are essentially coupons for local shops.

Amsterdam offers recycling centers where people can drop off their stuff, but it doesn't have door-to-door pickup. Wasted, run by the Cities Foundation, helps fill some of that gap.

Households that opt in get special rubbish bags for plastic waste. Once full, the bags go outside and someone comes to pick them up. A few days later, the house gets a package full of special green plastic coins, courtesy of Wasted.

Houses get one coin per bag. Special QR codes on each bag ensure they get to the right people. Image from Wasted/Cities Foundation, used with permission.

The project is subsidized by the city council, which currently manages the weekly collections.

The coins can be used to get freebies or discounts from local businesses. Want a half-price beer? How about some free chocolate? Or discount yoga lessons? Those can all be paid for with green coins.

30 local businesses have signed up so far, and they seem to like it.

At the Al Ponte cafe, overlooking Amsterdam's river IJ, a green coin will get customers a buy-one-get-one-free deal on coffee. Cafe owner Silvia Salani told The Guardian that the program not only boosted her standing but also enticed new customers into her shop.

The project is still small and local — only about 700 households have signed up — but it's had a big effect. Since 2015, Wasted has collected roughly 16.5 tons of plastic rubbish.

Blocks made from the plastic. Image from Wasted/Cities Foundation, used with permission.

The project has also changed hearts and minds. About half of the people in this scheme said they improved their habits. About a quarter said they ended up using less plastic altogether.

This idea might not work in every neighborhood. But it's really awesome to see a community and small businesses team up like this.

That's something worth celebrating.

Courtesy of Verizon
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If someone were to say "video games" to you, what are the first words that come to mind? Whatever words you thought of (fun, exciting, etc.), we're willing to guess "healthy" or "mental health tool" didn't pop into your mind.

And yet… it turns out they are. Especially for Veterans.

How? Well, for one thing, video games — and virtual reality more generally — are also more accessible and less stigmatized to veterans than mental health treatment. In fact, some psychiatrists are using virtual reality systems for this reason to treat PTSD.

Secondly, video games allow people to socialize in new ways with people who share common interests and goals. And for Veterans, many of whom leave the military feeling isolated or lonely after they lose the daily camaraderie of their regiment, that socialization is critical to their mental health. It gives them a virtual group of friends to talk with, connect to, and relate to through shared goals and interests.

In addition, according to a 2018 study, since many video games simulate real-life situations they encountered during their service, it makes socialization easier since they can relate to and find common ground with other gamers while playing.

This can help ease symptoms of depression, anxiety, and even PTSD in Veterans, which affects 20% of the Veterans who have served since 9/11.

Watch here as Verizon dives into the stories of three Veteran gamers to learn how video games helped them build community, deal with trauma and have some fun.

Band of Gamers www.youtube.com

Video games have been especially beneficial to Veterans since the beginning of the pandemic when all of us — Veterans included — have been even more isolated than ever before.

And that's why Verizon launched a challenge last year, which saw $30,000 donated to four military charities.

And this year, they're going even bigger by launching a new World of Warships charity tournament in partnership with Wargaming and Wounded Warrior Project called "Verizon Warrior Series." During the tournament, gamers will be able to interact with the game's iconic ships in new and exciting ways, all while giving back.

Together with these nonprofits, the tournament will welcome teams all across the nation in order to raise money for military charities helping Veterans in need. There will be a $100,000 prize pool donated to these charities, as well as donation drives for injured Veterans at every match during the tournament to raise extra funds.

Verizon is also providing special discounts to Those Who Serve communities, including military and first responders, and they're offering a $75 in-game content military promo for World of Warships.

Tournament finals are scheduled for August 8, so be sure to tune in to the tournament and donate if you can in order to give back to Veterans in need.

Courtesy of Verizon

Ready for the weekend? Of course, you are. Here's our weekly dose of good vibes to help you shed the stresses of the workweek and put yourself in a great frame of mind.

These 10 stories made us happy this week because they feature amazing creativity, generosity, and one super-cute fish.

1. Diver befriends a fish with the cutest smile

Hawaiian underwater photographer Yuki Nakano befriended a friendly porcupine fish and now they hang out regularly.

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