This artist is using tons of plastic garbage to make an urgent point about waste.

Over the past several years, artist Benjamin Von Wong has been on an amazing journey inspiring people to reconsider what they throw away.

It started with a trip to Guatemala and an up-close photoshoot of a massive trash heap there, and quickly morphed into a series of projects designed to confront people with various aspects of the world's waste problem.

As an artist, however, he wanted to do it in a way that would get people to look first before he unloaded harrowing facts about waste on them. There's so much alarmist news out there about what we're doing to our planet that, frankly, after a while, many of us end up turning off to the problem. Von Wong's method of turning trash into something beautiful to get our attention is a different, perhaps more productive approach.


"As human beings, we go through so much sh*t," noted the artist in a blog post on Bored Panda. "Every day, we make dozens of small decisions to buy more stuff – at the supermarket, malls, online… For most of my life, I didn’t think it mattered. After all, I was just one person, making a couple of small decisions."

"But one day, I found myself in a landfill surrounded by an endless mountain of other people’s small decisions and realized that maybe those small decisions did matter."

So, with a veritable army of like-minded volunteers, he created a series of waste-based art installations to help wake others up and see the problem that's all around them.

He put a mermaid in a plastic sea of 10,000 bottles — the same amount the average person uses and throws away in a lifetime.

He created "Toxic Laundry Monsters" to bring the chemicals and micro-plastics that are released every time we do a wash to life.

His latest piece, "Strawpocalypse" is meant to showcase the enormity of the plastic straw problem. It took him and his crew 6 months to collect 168,000 straws recovered off the streets of Vietnam to complete the waves.

In partnership with Laura François and her nonprofit, clothingtheloop.org, Von Wong took thousands of garments that were left in an abandoned factory in Cambodia and made several installations to accent how wasteful the fashion industry has become. You can check out how they made them here.

Photo via VonWong/YouTube.

Photo via VonWong/YouTube.

And this plastic cave was made from 18,000 cups that were collected from a food court in just one and a half days. It really puts that "by 2050 there will be more plastic than fish in the ocean" statistic into perspective.

The point of all of this, Von Wong hopes, is that more people will start to change their consumption and waste habits. If nothing else, his art shows that one person can make a difference. A big difference.

We're up against a mounting problem, and that can feel overwhelming, but if you pick one thing today — whether it's plastic straws, bags, bottles or how you buy clothes — and make a decision to be more mindful about it, you'll be taking a significant step in the right direction.

Heroes

On an old episode of "The Oprah Winfrey Show" in July 1992, Oprah put her audience through a social experiment that puts racism in a new light. Despite being nearly two decades old, it's as relevant today as ever.

She split the audience members into two groups based on their eye color. Those with brown eyes were given preferential treatment by getting to cut the line and given refreshments while they waited to be seated. Those with blue eyes were made to put on a green collar and wait in a crowd for two hours.

Staff were instructed to be extra polite to brown-eyed people and to discriminate against blue-eyed people. Her guest for that day's show was diversity expert Jane Elliott, who helped set up the experiment and played along, explaining that brown-eyed people were smarter than blue-eyed people.

Watch the video to see how this experiment plays out.

Oprah's Social Experiment on Her Audience www.youtube.com

Culture
via Cadbury

Cadbury has removed the words from its Dairy Milk chocolate bars in the U.K. to draw attention to a serious issue, senior loneliness.

On September 4, Cadbury released the limited-edition candy bars in supermarkets and for every one sold, the candy giant will donate 30p (37 cents) to Age UK, an organization dedicated to improving the quality of life for the elderly.

Cadbury was prompted to help the organization after it was revealed that 225,000 elderly people in the UK often go an entire week without speaking to another person.

Keep Reading Show less
Well Being

Young people today are facing what seems to be greater exposure to complex issues like mental health, bullying, and youth violence. As a result, teachers are required to be well-versed in far more than school curriculum to ensure students are prepared to face the world inside and outside of the classroom. Acting as more than teachers, but also mentors, counselors, and cheerleaders, they must be equipped with practical and relevant resources to help their students navigate some of the more complicated social issues – though access to such tools isn't always guaranteed.

Take Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, for example, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years, and as a teacher for seven. Entering the profession, she didn't anticipate how much influence a student's home life could affect her classroom, including "students who lived in foster homes" and "lacked parental support."

Dr. Jackie Sanderlin, who's worked in the education system for over 25 years.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience, says it can be difficult to create engaging course work that's applicable to the challenges students face. "I think that sometimes, teachers don't know where to begin. Teachers are always looking for ways to make learning in their classrooms more relevant."

So what resources do teachers turn to in an increasingly fractured world? "Joining a professional learning network that supports and challenges thinking is one of the most impactful things that a teacher can do to support their own learning," Anglemyer says.

Valerie Anglemyer, a middle school teacher with more than 13 years of experience.

A new program for teachers that offers this network along with other resources is the WE Teachers Program, an initiative developed by Walgreens in partnership with ME to WE and Mental Health America. WE Teachers provides tools and resources, at no cost to teachers, looking for guidance around the social issues related to poverty, youth violence, mental health, bullying, and diversity and inclusion. Through online modules and trainings as well as a digital community, these resources help them address the critical issues their students face.

Jessica Mauritzen, a high school Spanish teacher, credits a network of support for providing her with new opportunities to enrich the learning experience for her students. "This past year was a year of awakening for me and through support… I realized that I was able to teach in a way that built up our community, our school, and our students, and supported them to become young leaders," she says.

With the new WE Teachers program, teachers can learn to identify the tough issues affecting their students, secure the tools needed to address them in a supportive manner, and help students become more socially-conscious, compassionate, and engaged citizens.

It's a potentially life-saving experience for students, and in turn, "a great gift for teachers," says Dr. Sanderlin.

"I wish I had the WE Teachers program when I was a teacher because it provides the online training and resources teachers need to begin to grapple with these critical social issues that plague our students every day," she adds.

In addition to the WE Teachers curriculum, the program features a WE Teachers Award to honor educators who go above and beyond in their classrooms. At least 500 teachers will be recognized and each will receive a $500 Walgreens gift card, which is the average amount teachers spend out-of-pocket on supplies annually. Teachers can be nominated or apply themselves. To learn more about the awards and how to nominate an amazing teacher, or sign up for access to the teacher resources available through WE Teachers, visit walgreens.com/metowe.

WE Teachers
True
Walgreens
via KGW-TV / YouTube

One of the major differences between women and men is that women are often judged based on their looks rather than their character or abilities.

"Men as well as women tend to establish the worth of individual women primarily by the way their body looks, research shows. We do not do this when we evaluate men," Naomi Ellemers Ph.D. wrote in Psychology Today.

Dr. Ellers believes that this tendency to judge a woman solely on her looks causes them to be seen as an object rather than a person.

Keep Reading Show less
Culture