The pope's version of 'Shark Tank' just picked 9 awesome green tech ideas.

The next great tech breakthough might not come out of Silicon Valley. It might be from the Vatican.

Since 2016, the Vatican has been working with a couple of Silicon Valley venture capitalists to develop the Laudato Si' Challenge, an international tech startup challenge. The goal? Help humanity better take care of each other, the Earth, and fight climate change.

The challenge has seen more than 300 entrants since it opened up.


This month, the Vatican finally announced their nine selections:

  1. A filter that lets people drink from polluted water
  2. A solar-powered lightbulb
  3. An app that reduces the amount of paper used in offices
  4. Tech that turns waste from breweries into flour
  5. A ride-sharing service for motor scooters
  6. A cash card that gives communities money in exchange for recyclables
  7. An idea to turn agricultural waste into cooking fuel
  8. Tech that could help farmers plan for climate change
  9. Tech that turns toxic manufacturing sludge into energy and clean water

More detailed descriptions can be found on the challenges' website.

While the Catholic Church might not be the first thing that pops to mind when you think about green tech, Pope Francis has been an outspoken supporter of it.

Pope Francis visits Congress in September 2015 to give a speech about the importance of fighting climate change, helping war refugees, and the U.S.'s role in world politics. Photo from Jim Watson/AFP/Getty Images.

The challenge's name comes from Pope Francis's famous 2015 pro-environment encyclical letter, which called upon people to act as stewards of God's creation.

Like on "Shark Tank," the companies will receive both mentorship and funding — each of the nine startups that proposed the top ideas have received $100,000 in equity investments from Silicon Valley investors.  The Vatican isn't putting up any money for the challenge, but they've used their influence to bring together an amazing team of mentors and advisors for the startups, including Twitter co-founder Biz Stone, and the Pope's personal environmental advisor, Cardinal Peter Turkson.

(Not to mention, you know, giving these companies probably the most impressive name-drop opportunity ever.)

It's hard out there for start-ups, especially ones with a mission. They're new and the world doesn't always treat the new very kindly. But this challenge is a heartening reminder that when it comes to protecting people and the environment, we're all in this together.

And that, sometimes, you can find allies in unexpected places.

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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