What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these stories as an invitation to do better?
There is no shortage of dire news about the state of modern recycling. Most recently, this NPR article shared the jaw-dropping statistic that about 5% of all plastics produced get recycled, meaning the rest of it ends up in landfills. While the underlying concerns here are sound, I worry that the public narrative around recycling has gotten so pessimistic that it will make people give up on it entirely instead of seeing the opportunities to improve it. What if instead of focusing on what isn’t working, we looked at these news stories as an invitation to do better?
This question isn’t rhetorical for me; it’s been the motivation behind how I’ve spent the past five years of my life. It started when my son Owen asked me how we could recycle our dead batteries where we live in Seattle. After making a few phone calls and realizing how complicated it was, we made it a weekend project to pick up our neighbor’s batteries along with other hard-to-recycle items.This novel approach of having your hard-to-recycle stuff “carpool” with your neighbors quickly caught on in Seattle. Our rapidly growing community was looking at their junk drawers with new eyes, felt inspired to be part of something bigger, and kept asking what else we could pick up.
This enthusiasm turned my family’s passion project into Ridwell, a company whose mission it is to make it easy to deal with hard-to-recycle materials like plastics, light bulbs, batteries, & more. We pick up where curbside recyclers leave off, providing our members in six states with a way to recycle and reuse materials right from their doorsteps. In 2022 alone, our community kept more than one million pounds of hard-to-recycle plastic film out of landfills. To date, we’ve kept more than ten million pounds of hard-to-recycle materials from going to waste. All of this impact started with a simple, optimistic reframe. Instead of dwelling on what our curbside service couldn’t take, we instead asked ourselves how we could help.
Ryan Metzger, Founder and CEO of Ridwell
It’s been a lot of work to be sure, but what’s kept me motivated on this journey has been learning about all of the exceptional efforts happening elsewhere to make recycling work better for everyone. Our elected officials are creating new policies that powerfully shift market incentives, like Maine’s law that makes companies pay for their own recycling or California’s law that creates more demand for recycled plastic. Engineers are developing new ways to recycle tricky plastics, while citizens across the country are raising awareness about the need for government and corporations to do more.
The longer I’ve worked in the recycling space, the more I’ve found allies and collaborators who are finding surprising uses for materials that used to be dismissed as trash. Trex has pioneered a method of turning soft plastics like grocery bags into high-performance decking for homes. Companies like ByFusion and Arqlite are turning multilayer plastic packaging once considered unrecyclable into building materials and hydroponics gravel. The types of innovations we’ll need to solve our recycling crisis are all around us; we just need to keep connecting these pockets of innovation into a more holistic system of reuse and recycling.
So while the news cycle around recycling can often feel overwhelming, I always encourage people to use these grim statistics as motivation to lean into the challenge and look for solutions. For some people, that’s calling their legislators, and for others, it’s coming up with new packaging that has a smaller environmental footprint. For those of us at Ridwell, it’s about how we can help make it easy for households to keep hard-to-recycle materials out of the landfill. As the past decade has shown us, the overwhelming “Pacman-shaped” chunk of the pie chart often shows us where the most impactful innovations must come from and where the next wave of businesses must focus. Yes, we are at an inflection point when it comes to addressing the problems posed by excessive waste in this country. To be honest, I’ve never felt more optimistic that we have what it takes to address this problem, together.
Ryan Metzger is a guest contributor to Upworthy and founder and CEO of Ridwell
The audience went wild.
Brendan Fraser might be making the greatest career comeback ever, racking up accolades and award nominations for his dramatic, transformative role in “The Whale." But the OG Fraser fans (the ones who watch “Doom Patrol” solely to hear his voice and proudly pronounce his last name as Fray-zure, for this is the proper pronunciation) have known of his remarkable talent since the 90s, when he embodied the ultimate charming, dashing—and slightly goofball—Hollywood action lead.
Let us not forget his arguably most well known and beloved 90s character—Rick O’Connell from the “Mummy” franchise. Between his quippy one-liners, Indiana Jones-like adventuring skills and fabulous hair, what’s not to like?
During a double feature of “The Mummy” and “The Mummy Returns” in London, moviegoers got the ultimate surprise when who should walk in but Brendan Fraser himself, completely decked out in Rick O’Connell attire. The brown leather jacket. The scarf. Everything.
"I am proud to stand before you tonight," he told the audience. "This is a film that was made in Britain. You should know that! Even the second one, too. Be proud. Thank you for being here."
He continued, "We didn’t know if it was a drama or a comedy or a straight-ahead action or romance, a horror picture, more action, all of the above. No idea until it tested in front of British audiences. Thank you for that.”
Fraser then asked the crowd if anyone hadn’t actually seen the movie yet, before shouting, “Outstanding!” when somebody raised their hand. He then quickly made a polite plug encouraging people to go see “The Whale” before whisking himself away, saying, “I won’t take up any more of your time.”
Uh, yeah…I don’t think any time spent with Brendan Fraser is a waste. Do you?
Watch the adorable clip below:
As to whether or not "Mummy" fans will ever see a new Rick O'Connell story up on the big screen—only time will tell. In the meantime, we'll keep watching this video on repeat.
"I hate telling people no, especially when I can help."
In today's world, it's easy to get caught up in all the negative news we're exposed to, but in reality, most good deeds are done away from a camera—just one person helping another without desire for fanfare. And for mom Bryanne McBride and her young son, Mason, that's exactly what they were doing when they got the surprise of a lifetime.
Bryanne was approached by a man in a parking lot asking for a dollar to catch the bus. The entire time, the mom scrounged around in her purse looking for spare change and revealed she felt bad because she thought she had some. Bryanne's desire to help was a simple act of kindness to another human in need without the expectation of something in return.
During the time it took for the unsuspecting mother to dig for loose change, the "stranded" stranger, Zach, introduced himself and asked if the duo were from Philly. Once they said they were from the area, he then inquired if they were Eagles fans...the football team, not the birds. "You ever been to an Eagles game?" Zach asked.
The two quickly said no but the mom was focused on retrieving some quarters for this stranger. Zach continued to question them about the Eagles game, asking, "Would you want to go one day?" The answer was an enthusiastic yes, though Bryanne never broke her gaze from the purse as she looked for change. When she finally relented that she had no money in her purse and would need to check her car, she came back to a surprise.
Zach asked why Bryanne was so willing to help him and her response was just more evidence that she's simply a kind person. "I hate telling people no, especially when I can help," she said. After she handed him the money, he gave it to Mason and said he didn't actually need it before handing the generous mom $500 in cash. But Zach wasn't done—he had tickets to the Eagles game that night and gave the mother and son the tickets.
Watch their sweet exchange:
“She's broken my mind. I don't even understand what I'm not understanding."
The notion of living without an internal monologue is a fairly new one. Until psychologist Russell Hurlburt’s studies started coming out in the late 90s, it was widely accepted that everyone had a little voice narrating in their head. Now Hurlburt, who has been studying people's "inner experience" for 40 years, estimates that only 30-50% of the population frequently think this way.
So what about the other 50-70%? What exactly goes on inside their heads from day to day?In a video interview originally posted in 2020, a woman named Kirsten Carlson gave some insight into this question, sharing how not having an inner dialogue affected her reading and writing, her interactions with others and how she navigates mental challenges like anxiety and depression. It was eye-opening and mind-blowing.
Reading isn’t a particularly enjoyable activity, Carlson admitted, explaining that rather than seeing images of characters and landscapes, she only sees words.
“In my head, every sentence has a shape so you can see the shape of a sentence. Keywords will pop out and I can file those away into my concept map, so at the end of reading something I can have a concept map of the main topics that I read about. It's not images, it's just the words."
That said, she is apparently a “very fast” reader.This concept alone was hard for viewers to grasp. As one person wrote, “She's broken my mind. I don't even understand what I'm not understanding. I've never visualized a sentence in my life.”
While she “never daydreams," Carlson does dream at night. However, she doesn’t recall any dialogue in those dreams. Carlson also shared that her alone time is always spent doing stuff like cleaning, cooking, watching Netflix and studying. I can only imagine the things I’d accomplish if I didn’t get sidetracked with existential questions like “Is a hotdog a sandwich?” If only.
While Carlson’s way of thinking might seem vastly different from the norm, there are several commonalities. Like most people, she has stores of information that she can pull up at any time. Thoughts still can keep her up at night, even if she does picture her endless to-do lists rather than hear them. And not having an inner monologue offers no protection against things like anxiety or depression, which Carlson explains manifest physically for her. Rather than feeling mental overload, her hands will start shaking, her stomach might get nauseated, and she’ll feel physically fatigued or disinterested in life.
Watch the video below:
As our understanding (and appreciation) of neurodiversity becomes more evolved, it’s likely that we’ll have even more fascinating conversations to absorb. No two people interpret the world that same way. Celebrating these differences reminds us that there is no one “right” way of thinking.
They are using their unique family arrangement to help people better understand polyamory.
Polyamory, a lifestyle where people have multiple romantic or sexual partners, is more prevalent in America than most people think. According to a study published in Frontiers in Psychology, one in nine Americans have been in a polyamorous relationship, and one in six say they would like to try one.
However popular the idea is, polyamory is misunderstood by a large swath of the public and is often seen as deviant. However, those who practice it view polyamory as a healthy lifestyle with several benefits.
Taya Hartless, 28, and Alysia Rogers, 34, along with their husbands Sean, 46, and Tyler, 35, are in a polyamorous relationship and have no problem sharing their lifestyle with the public on social media. Even though they risk stigmatization for being open about their non-traditional relationships, they are sharing it with the world to make it a safer place for “poly” folks like themselves.
It all began in 2019 when the Oregon couples met in an attempt to add some spice to their sex lives. "None of us had been polyamorous before, but we all just met and fell in love,” Taya said, according to the Mirror. "We didn't even know what polyamory was, until we started getting feelings for each other," Alysia told Today.
"From the first night we met, we all wanted to just see more of each other. It wasn't easy—there was a lot of hesitations around having feelings,” Taya said. "Sean was the first to point it out—he said 'we can't deny this is happening'. We agreed to talk it out to see what the future would look like.
The couple lived two hours from each other, so in February 2020, right before the whole world changed, they moved in together along with Tyler And Alysia’s two children, 7 and 8. “The Quad” as they call themselves came together to create what they call a “polyfamory.”
Although neither Sean and Tyler nor Alysia and Taya are dating one another, they see each other as close partners. The women have their own rooms which the men rotate in and out of each night.
The couples had a direct way of explaining their relationship to their kids. "We told them: 'You know mom has a boyfriend and dad had a girlfriend and we're going to move in together, and we're all going to be a big family and they're going to help parent you, so we're going to need you to treat them like you treat us— like parents,’” Tyler explained.
Since moving in together, both women have had a baby but no one knows for sure who the fathers are. "We did not regulate the biology,” Alysia said. But it doesn’t matter because all four adults share parenting responsibilities.
"At the end of the day, we're just like any other monogamous family—there's just four of us," Tyler says. "Being a parent is so much more than just biology, and that's what we're about."
See how the people of Yakutia, Siberia take showers, do laundry, go to school and more in minus 58 degrees Fahrenheit.
For most of us, waking up to a temperature of minus 50 degrees would spell catastrophe. Normal life would come to a screeching halt, we'd be scrambling to deal with frozen pipes and power outages, school and work would be canceled and weather warnings would tell us not to venture outside due to frostbite risk.
But in the Yakutia region of Siberia, that's just an average winter day where life goes on as usual.
When you live in the coldest inhabited area on Earth, your entire life is arranged around dealing with ridiculously cold temperatures. Villages don't have running water because freezing pipes wouldn't allow for water treatment. Kids go to school unless the temp drops below minus 55 degrees Celsius (which is then considered dangerous). Showering involves spending hours stoking a fire in the bathhouse to create a steamy, warm room.
Native Siberian Kiun B. has created a series of documentary short films detailing what daily life is like in Yakutia's frigid winters. She was born and raised in Yakutsk, Siberia, widely recognized as the coldest city on Earth, where average winter temperatures hover around minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit. As seen in her videos, smaller villages in the Yakutia region regularly dip down into the negative 50s, with the lowest recorded temp in the Yakut village of Oymayakon reaching a mindblowing minus 96 degrees Fahrenheit.
The popularity of Kiun's YouTube channel demonstrates how curious people are about life in such harsh conditions, as her videos have been viewed by tens of millions of people in the past year alone.
Check out this video detailing a day in the life of a family in a Yakutia village.
Can you imagine going out to use an outhouse in minus 40 degrees? Oof.
Another of Kiun's videos goes into more detail about how people shower and do laundry in the region. You might assume they wouldn't line-dry their laundry outdoors, but they do.
What do people wear to protect themselves from the negative temperatures? Frostbite is a real risk, so it's important to have the right kinds of clothing and outdoor gear to stay safe and relatively comfortable.
Kiun shared some frigid fashion norms from Yakutsk, which include traditional fur hats and boots as well as lots of layers and down jackets.
However, there are some Yakut folks who see the cold as something to embrace. For instance, this man takes an ice bath out in the elements as a morning ritual. It's something he has worked up to—definitely not something to try on your own during a cold snap—but it still has to be painful.
(Seriously, please don't try this at home.)
The way humans have learned to adapt to drastically different environments, from the sweltering tropics to the Arctic tundra, is incredible, and it's fascinating to get a close-up look at how people make life work in those extremes. Thank you, Kiun B., for giving us a glimpse of what it's like to experience life in the dead of winter in the world's coldest inhabited places.
It's a major win for inclusivity.
Facebook has been a great place for people to bare all when it comes to their emotions. But when it comes to baring all with regards to bodies, Facebook has always seemed as if they’d rather people bare none of it. Facebook has received criticism for over-sexualizing breasts, but a new recommendation from Meta’s advisory board says the nipples can come out for nonbinary users.
Recently, Facebook censored two posts from a transgender and nonbinary couple that featured the couple appearing topless. Even though their nipples were covered, an AI system took the photos down for "violating the Sexual Solicitation Community Standard" after they were flagged by a human user. The couple appealed to Meta, and the photos were reinstated, but it was enough to catch the attention of Meta’s oversight board, which advises Meta on content moderation policies and is made up of academics, politicians and journalists.
After looking at the issue, the oversight board suggested Meta change their Adult Nudity and Sexual Activity Community Standards "so that it is governed by clear criteria that respect international human rights standards."
According to the board, Meta’s policy was "based on a binary view of gender and a distinction between male and female bodies," making it "unclear" in how it deals with intersex, nonbinary and transgender users.
"We are constantly evolving our policies to help make our platforms safer for everyone," a spokesperson from Meta told The Guardian. "We know more can be done to support the LGBTQ+ community, and that means working with experts and LGBTQ+ advocacy organizations on a range of issues and product improvements."
How free the nipples should be on the social media platform has been a source of contention for more than a decade. Breastfeeding moms have been leading the battle of the boob, duking it out with Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg over their ability to share nursing photos on social media. They’ve gone so far as holding a "nurse in" at Facebook headquarters to protest the ban on breasts.
Woman holding her hand over her breast.Photo by Giorgio Trovato on Unsplash
In 2020, Instagram loosened up its nudity policy thanks to a campaign started by Nyome Nicholas-Williams. While nipples are still a no-no, Instagram now allows breast cupping, hugging, and holding. And in 2021, the oversight board gave the okay for "health related nudity," allowing for photos of nips if they’re related to things like breastfeeding, birth-giving, breast cancer awareness, or gender-confirming surgery. Acts of protest are allowed as well.
Facebook has received criticism for the platform being lax on hate speech but tough on boobs. Meta CEO Mark Zuckerburg has said this is because it's "easier to build an AI system to detect a nipple than what is hate speech," which might explain why Meta is going to use "human reviewers" to "quickly assess both a user’s sex, as this policy applies to 'female nipples,' and their gender identity," according to the board.
Topless man with black background.Photo by Дмитрий Хрусталев-Григорьев on Unsplash
The new nipple rules are only applicable to transgender and nonbinary users. "The same image of female-presenting nipples would be prohibited if posted by a cisgender woman but permitted if posted by an individual self-identifying as nonbinary," the board noted in its decision.
While the nipple might not fully be free on Facebook, it has taken one large step forward out of its cage. However, Facebook’s over-sexualization of breasts might just be a reflection of society, and in order for the nipple to run wild and out in the open, we might need to change the way people think about breasts in general.