These 4 breathtaking islands have found amazing ways to make their own natural energy.
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The Wilderness Society

Located off the grid? How about making your own?

Islands are their own little worlds. It's part of their awesomeness. But being cut off from the mainland can also be a serious challenge. Larger land mass means more space and more people ... and that usually means more support for roads, electricity, cable lines, and all the other technological amenities of modern living.

But just because you're surrounded by water doesn't mean you have to be stuck in the Stone Age. In fact, the inconvenience of connecting back to a mainland-based power grid might just provide the motivation to find an alternative solution — like it did for these four islands that found sustainable ways to make their own independent energy.


1. Samsø, Denmark

The island of Samsø is located off the central-east coast of Denmark in the Kattegat sea. It's about 44 square miles in area with a population of around 4,000 people and has been functioning on 100% self-sustainable wind- and biomass-generated electricity since about 2007. In fact, they've reached the point where they're producing so much clean electricity that they're able to export their surplus.

They also have a cool interactive map that shows how their renewable energy system works.

Samsø photo by David Huang/Flickr.

2. El Hierro

Samso used to have support from the Danish government and was connected to the mainland power grid. But the remote island nation of El Hierro wasn't so lucky. An autonomous community of Spain located in the Canary Islands off the coast of Africa, El Hierro used to ship in diesel fuel from the mainland to power their electric grid.

But in the summer of 2014, they started to break away by constructing a new wind- and water-turbine farm. The $110 million plant is on track to provide 100% of the island's electricity by the end of 2015.

El Hierro photo by Jose Mesa/Flickr.

3. Tokelau

In addition to being the free domain host for my very first personal website back in 2003, the tiny Pacific island of Tokelau (population: 1,400!) also has the distinction of being the first almost-nation to run entirely on solar power.

If we're being technical, Tokelau is still designated as a non-self-governing territory of New Zealand, according to the United Nations. But the installation of this solar grid was actually part of the long-term plan to end Tokelau's dependence on New Zealand and establish themselves as a fully independent and self-governing entity.

Tokelau photo by Cloud Surfer / Wikimedia Commons.

4. Kodiak Island, Alaska

The residential electricity rate in Alaska in June 2015 was nearly the highest in the U.S. and 63% higher than the national average, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration. Even though places like Kodiak Island were already relying on hydropower for 80% of their electricity, they were still burning millions of gallons of diesel fuel each year.

But with a little help from the Alaska Energy Authority, the second largest island in the United States now gets 99.7% of its energy from wind and hydro. Which, sure, might not be exactly 100%. But considering the fact that their goal was to reach 95% renewable energy by 2020, I'd say 99.7% by 2015 is pretty good. (Alaska as a whole aims to reach 50% renewable energy by 2025.)

Kodiak Island photo by Wanetta Ayers / Wikimedia Commons.

And while these other islands aren't quite there yet, they have plans to become self-sufficient and sustainable by 2050:

Hawaii

In June 2015 — just ahead of President Obama's announcement of the Clean Power Plan — Gov. David Ige of Hawaii committed his island-that's-a-state to achieving the goal of 100% renewable power by 2045. Two months later, they opened the first fully closed-cycle Ocean Thermal Energy Conversion plant in the U.S.

This is a particularly good idea for Hawaii, which couldn't even harvest its own fossil fuels if it wanted to.

Hawaii photo by Xklaim/Wikimedia Commons.

Marshall Islands

A Pacific island nation in free association with the United States, the Republic of Marshall Islands also released a new plan for an eco-friendly future, starting in the summer of 2015. This tiered plan aims for them to reduce carbon emissions 45% by 2030 with the ultimate goal of achieving zero emissions by 2050.

Marshall Islands photo by Stefan Lins/Flickr.

The country's minister of foreign affairs, Tony de Drum, said it best in the press release announcing this initiative: "Our message is simple: If one of the world's smallest, poorest and most geographically isolated countries can do it, so can you."

Sometimes a little competition is all it takes. Let's hope the rest of the world accepts the challenge.

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

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Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


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Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

In the hours before he was sworn in as the 46th president of the United States, then-President-elect Biden was sent a letter signed by 17 freshmen GOP members of the House of Representatives.

In sharp contrast to the 121 Republican House members who voted against the certification of Biden's electoral votes—a constitutional procedure merely check-marking the state certifications that had already taken place—this letter expresses a desire to "rise above the partisan fray" and work together with Biden as he takes over the presidency.

The letter reads:

Dear President-elect Biden,

Congratulations on the beginning of your administration and presidency. As members of this freshman class, we trust that the next four years will present your administration and the 117thCongress with numerous challenges and successes, and we are hopeful that – despite our ideological differences – we may work together on behalf of the American people we are each so fortunate to serve.

After two impeachments, lengthy inter-branch investigations, and, most recently, the horrific attack on our nation's capital, it is clear that the partisan divide between Democrats and Republicans does not serve a single American.

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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.