This incredible mural was made from car exhaust. Yes, really.

Anirudh Sharma remembers the air pollution growing up in India — he just didn't remember it being so bad.

When he took a trip home in 2013, while on break as a student at MIT's Media Lab, the difference in air quality between India and Boston couldn't have been starker.

A street in New Delhi in 2013. Photo by Prakash Singh/AFP/Getty Images.


“It was a very simple observation — I feel like anybody can see it," Sharma says of the pollution's effects in his home country. "Your clothes get dirtier much faster, you can see this pigmentation happening [on] buildings, to your clothes, to everywhere around you."

Sharma found himself wondering: Is there any way to put this awful black gunk to good use? He realized how similar the soot was to the black ink in your standard ballpoint pen, and the comparison prompted him to begin digging deeper.

Inspired by what he saw on his trip, Sharma and fellow co-founder Nikhil Kaushik launched Graviky Labs.

Sharma (far left), Kaushik (middle left), and the rest of the Graviky Labs team. Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

The team is the mastermind behind Air-Ink — an ink that's made from the dirty black pollution emitted from vehicles.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

As you can imagine, it takes a few steps to go from air pollution to black ink that's safe for anyone to use.

First, Sharma and his team came up with what they dubbed a "Kaalink" — a device that connects with a vehicle's exhaust pipe to collect soot and pollutants that would otherwise be jetting out into the open air while the engine is running.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

Graviky Labs then takes the soot and pollutants and removes harmful or unnecessary materials — like metals and carcinogens — so all that's left is a carbon rich pigment that can be made into various inks and paints.

As of now, Air-Ink is available in various sizes of markers, as well as a printing ink set — and the process of making them is smart for a few reasons.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

The obvious positive aspect to Air-Ink is that it prevents pollutants from getting into the atmosphere, keeping our air healthier to breathe. But it also curbs our reliance on conventional ink-making methods that rely on the deliberate burning of fossil fuels to get the job done, Graviky Labs notes.

“We are trying to not only capture pollution and recycle pollution," Kaushik explains, but they're also ensuring less carbon is being emitted from other ink-making sources.

In other words, it's a win-win.

Of course, it also helps that the ink can produce some pretty incredible works of art.

Photo courtesy of Graviky Labs.

Right now, Air-Ink is only available through a Kickstarter campaign, which is aiming to expand Graviky Labs' operations.

Through funds raised online, Sharma's team is planning to also create oil-based, fabric, and outdoor paints. And from the looks of it, Air-Ink is on the right track to success.

With three weeks still left to go of the campaign, Graviky Labs' Kickstarter has already surpassed its initial fundraising goal of nearly $10,000.

"It feels great,” co-founder Kaushik says of the campaign's success thus far. “We have heard from a lot of people that they want to use it."

Air-Ink won't solve the world's air pollution problems in the long-term. But it's the right type of idea the world needs now.

Most eco-friendly innovations combating climate change and curbing pollution are expensive "replacement" technologies — such as electric cars replacing gas-powered ones — and other things that take longer to go mainstream economically, according to Kaushik. Over the next few years, however, it'll be crucial that we develop less expensive adaptations that can be applied to current technologies (even those as basic as ink production) that will help make the planet greener in the meantime. That's where innovations like Air-Ink come in.

“This is something that can help," Kaushik says. "But it has to be part of a bigger system where other technologies and other innovations pitch in."

Learn more about Air-Ink by watching the video below:

True

When Sue Hoppin was in college, she met the man she was going to marry. "I was attending the University of Denver, and he was at the Air Force Academy," she says. "My dad had also attended the University of Denver and warned me not to date those flyboys from the Springs."

"He didn't say anything about marrying one of them," she says. And so began her life as a military spouse.

The life brings some real advantages, like opportunities to live abroad — her family got to live all around the US, Japan, and Germany — but it also comes with some downsides, like having to put your spouse's career over your own goals.

"Though we choose to marry someone in the military, we had career goals before we got married, and those didn't just disappear."

Career aspirations become more difficult to achieve, and progress comes with lots of starts and stops. After experiencing these unique challenges firsthand, Sue founded an organization to help other military spouses in similar situations.

Sue had gotten a degree in international relations because she wanted to pursue a career in diplomacy, but for fourteen years she wasn't able to make any headway — not until they moved back to the DC area. "Eighteen months later, many rejections later, it became apparent that this was going to be more challenging than I could ever imagine," she says.

Eighteen months is halfway through a typical assignment, and by then, most spouses are looking for their next assignment. "If I couldn't find a job in my own 'hometown' with multiple degrees and a great network, this didn't bode well for other military spouses," she says.

She's not wrong. Military spouses spend most of their lives moving with their partners, which means they're often far from family and other support networks. When they do find a job, they often make less than their civilian counterparts — and they're more likely to experience underemployment or unemployment. In fact, on some deployments, spouses are not even allowed to work.

Before the pandemic, military spouse unemployment was 22%. Since the pandemic, it's expected to rise to 35%.

Sue eventually found a job working at a military-focused nonprofit, and it helped her get the experience she needed to create her own dedicated military spouse program. She wrote a book and started saving up enough money to start the National Military Spouse Network (NMSN), which she founded in 2010 as the first organization of its kind.

"I founded the NMSN to help professional military spouses develop flexible careers they could perform from any location."

"Over the years, the program has expanded to include a free digital magazine, professional development events, drafting annual White Papers and organizing national and local advocacy to address the issues of most concern to the professional military spouse community," she says.

Not only was NMSN's mission important to Sue on a personal level she also saw it as part of something bigger than herself.

"Gone are the days when families can thrive on one salary. Like everyone else, most military families rely on two salaries to make ends meet. If a military spouse wants or needs to work, they should be able to," she says.

"When less than one percent of our population serves in the military," she continues, "we need to be able to not only recruit the best and the brightest but also retain them."

"We lose out as a nation when service members leave the force because their spouse is unable to find employment. We see it as a national security issue."

"The NMSN team has worked tirelessly to jumpstart the discussion and keep the challenges affecting military spouses top of mind. We have elevated the conversation to Congress and the White House," she continues. "I'm so proud of the fact that corporations, the government, and the general public are increasingly interested in the issues affecting military spouses and recognizing the employment roadblocks they unfairly have faced."

"We have collectively made other people care, and in doing so, we elevated the issues of military spouse unemployment to a national and global level," she adds. "In the process, we've also empowered military spouses to advocate for themselves and our community so that military spouse employment issues can continue to remain at the forefront."

Not only has NMSN become a sought-after leader in the military spouse employment space, but Sue has also seen the career she dreamed of materializing for herself. She was recently invited to participate in the public re-launch of Joining Forces, a White House initiative supporting military and veteran families, with First Lady Dr. Jill Biden.

She has also had two of her recommendations for practical solutions introduced into legislation just this year. She was the first in the Air Force community to show leadership the power of social media to reach both their airmen and their military families.

That is why Sue is one of Tory Burch's "Empowered Women" this year. The $5,000 donation will be going to The Madeira School, a school that Sue herself attended when she was in high school because, she says, "the lessons I learned there as a student pretty much set the tone for my personal and professional life. It's so meaningful to know that the donation will go towards making a Madeira education more accessible to those who may not otherwise be able to afford it and providing them with a life-changing opportunity."

Most military children will move one to three times during high school so having a continuous four-year experience at one high school can be an important gift. After traveling for much of her formative years, Sue attended Madeira and found herself "in an environment that fostered confidence and empowerment. As young women, we were expected to have a voice and advocate not just for ourselves, but for those around us."

To learn more about Tory Burch and Upworthy's Empowered Women program visit https://www.toryburch.com/empoweredwomen/. Nominate an inspiring woman in your community today!

Vanna White appeared on "The Price Is Right" in 1980.

Vanna White has been a household name in the United States for decades, which is kind of hilarious when you consider how she gained her fame and fortune. Since 1982, the former model and actress has made millions walking back and forth turning letters (and later simply touching them—yay technology) on the game show "Wheel of Fortune."

That's it. Walking back and forth in a pretty evening gown, flipping letters and clapping for contestants. More on that job in a minute…

As a member of Gen X, television game shows like "Wheel of Fortune" and "The Price is Right" send me straight back to my childhood. Watching this clip from 1980 of Vanna White competing on "The Price is Right" two years before she started turning letters on "Wheel of Fortune" is like stepping into a time machine. Bob Barker's voice, the theme music, the sound effects—I swear I'm home from school sick, lying on the ugly flowered couch with my mom checking my forehead and bringing me Tang.

This video has it all: the early '80s hairstyles, a fresh-faced Vanna White and Bob Barker's casual sexism that would never in a million years fly today.

Keep Reading Show less