The ocean is in crisis.

I don't mean to start this on a down note, but let's be real for a second: There are real problems swirling underneath the waves. Not only are the waters getting warmer and the Great Barrier Reef losing coral, but nearly 8 million tons of plastic are dumped in the water on an annual basis. And that's hurting the creatures that live down where it's wetter. According to recent research, sea animals from birds, to turtles, to whales regularly feed on plastic because it smells like food. That's not good for them.

Here's what it would feel like for a human:


Of course, there are some exciting developments that are working to restore order to King Triton's kingdom.

Have you heard about the plastic-eating mutant that's recently been created by an international team of scientists? What about the Ocean Cleanup Foundation, which plans to reduce half the plastic in the Great Pacific Garbage Patch — it's the largest accumulation of ocean plastic in the world; and yes, that's its real name — in the next five years.

And there's something cool for the rest of us, too. While scientists work on the large-scale solutions, one Florida brewing company has created eco-friendly six-packs for its craft beers, ensuring that your summer trip to the beach will both create awesome memories and prevent the endangerment of sea life.

SaltWater Brewery has been working to bring eco-safe six-pack rings to consumers since it launched in 2013.

At the time, the brewery was working on perfecting the prototypes for the eco-friendly packaging. Now, in a partnership with environmental startup E6PR, the brewery has unleashed the product upon the world.

The company's commitment to the ocean is right in its name.

"The jewel of Florida is the ocean, so we all grew up seeing tar and different plastic on the beach and when we’re surfing and fishing we’ll catch plastic bags, and it’s horrible," Chris Gove, one of the company's co-founders told Upworthy in 2016.

While the plastic rings on your six-packs have been naturally degradable since the late '80s, they can still hurt animals.

These rings can take weeks to break down. In 2017, volunteers at a beach cleanup on Elmer's Island in Louisiana picked up more than 170 plastic rings as they combed the shore for trash. That plastic could have trapped animals and caused problems if it had been ingested. The eco-rings solve that problem.

These rings are still meant to be thrown in the trash. If they don't end up there, though, sea animals have nothing to fear. The packaging is "completely biodegradable, compostable, and edible."

Here's the issue, though: SaltWater is the first company to utilize these rings. And while they're popping up in stores all over Florida —  Publix, Total Wine & More, ABC Fine Wine and Spirits — they've still got a long way to go. According to a news release, E6PR is working to bring the packaging to other breweries across the country, though it hasn't revealed which ones yet. But the eco rings are sure to grow in popularity (and drop in price?) as it becomes more apparent how important it is for us to save our oceans.

And I'm sorry, but have you seen a sea turtle lately? They're majestic AF and we should be doing everything we can to protect them. If that means reusing water bottles, not throwing garbage on the beach, and being more conscious of how much plastic we buy in general, it's worth it.

Image by Tarik Tinazay /AFP/Getty Images.

Photo from Dole
True

As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

For example, thousands of kids live in food deserts and areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Around the world, one in three children suffer from some form of malnutrition, and yet, up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Nathan Dumlao on Unsplash

When people think of the Deep South, especially in states like Mississippi, most people don't imagine a diverse and accepting way of life. People always look at me as if I've suddenly sprouted a unicorn horn when I reminisce on my time living in Biloxi and the eclectic people I've met there, many of whom I call friends. I often find myself explaining that there are two distinct Mississippis—the closer you get to the water, the more liberal it gets. If you were to look at an election map, you'd see that the coast is pretty deeply purple while the rest of the state is fire engine red.

It's also important to note that in a way, I remember my time in Biloxi from a place of privilege that some of my friends do not possess. It may be strange to think of privilege when it comes from a Black woman in an interracial marriage, but being cisgendered is a privilege that I am afforded through no doing of my own. I became acutely aware of this privilege when my friend who happens to be a transgender man announced that he was expecting a child with his partner. I immediately felt a duty to protect, which in a perfect world would not have been my first reaction.

It was in that moment that I realized that I was viewing the world through my lens as a cisgendered woman who is outwardly in a heteronormative relationship. I have discovered that through writing, you can change the narrative people perceive, so I thought it would be a good idea to sit down with my friend—not only to check in with his feelings, but to aid in dissolving the "otherness" that people place upon transgender people.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo from Dole
True

As you sit down to eat your breakfast in the morning or grab an afternoon snack, take a minute to consider your food, how it was made, and how it got to your plate.

The fruit on your plate were grown and picked on farms, then processed, packaged and sent to the grocery store where you bought them.

Sounds simple, right?

The truth is, that process is anything but simple and at every step in the journey to your plate, harm can be caused to the people who grow it, the communities that need it, and the planet we all call home.

For example, thousands of kids live in food deserts and areas where access to affordable and nutritious food is limited. Around the world, one in three children suffer from some form of malnutrition, and yet, up to 40% of food in the United States is never eaten.

Keep Reading Show less

I saw this poster today and I was going to just let it go, but then I kept feeling tugged to say something.

Melanie Cholish/Facebook

While this poster is great to bring attention to the issue of child trafficking, it is a "shocking" picture of a young girl tied up. It has that dark gritty feeling. I picture her in a basement tied to a dripping pipe.

While that sounds awful, it's important to know that trafficking children in the US is not all of that. I can't say it never is—I don't know. What I do know is most young trafficked children aren't sitting in a basement tied up. They have families, and someone—usually in their family—is trafficking them.

Keep Reading Show less
Photo by Mahir Uysal on Unsplash

Two years ago, I got off the phone after an interview and cried my eyes out. I'd just spent an hour talking to Tim Ballard, the founder of Operation Underground Railroad, an organization that helps fight child sex trafficking, and I just couldn't take it.

Ballard told me about how the training to go undercover as a child predator nearly broke him. He told me an eerie story of a trafficker who could totally compartmentalize, showing Ballard photos of kids he had for sale, then switching gears to proudly show him a photo of his own daughter on her bicycle, just as any parent would. He told me about how lucrative child trafficking is—how a child can bring in three or four times as much as a female prostitute—and how Americans are the industry's biggest consumers.

Keep Reading Show less