Visitors are paying it forward at this adorable science and culture museum.

When a grandmother couldn’t afford to pay the entrance fees at Roberson Museum and Science Center for her and her grandson, the museum leadership team got creative.  

All photos courtesy of Roberson Museum and Science Center.

Instead of turning the woman and her grandson away, a staff member found an older coupon to get her in for free. But the museum didn’t stop there. The executive director, Michael Grasso, decided to make accessibility for all a program called “Pay it Forward.”


The Roberson Museum and Science Center serves the Binghamton, New York, community by providing events, exhibits, and educational programming in art, history, and science education.

“I have the opportunity to come into a cultural institution and just sort of enjoy the day,” said Grasso. “That's the thing that a lot of people don't even realize is an option for them. As nominal as the fee may be for many of us, it can really be a barrier to people. And I don't think that should stop people from coming in and learning something on their own if they would like to. I think that's awesome.”  

Michael Grasso is the museum's executive director.

Pay it forward programs have been showing up in lots of places — museums is just one of the latest.

Restaurants, coffee shops, and other places that serve large and diverse crowds have started creating space for or implementing similar programs in their own way. Citizens have also started to do pay it forward movements on their own.  

The growing humanitarian act is awesome, but still has a ways to go in the art world, particularly in museums.

“Museums aren't ivory towers, they are places where everyone should feel welcome to learn and explore,” said Natalie Shoemaker, museum marketing and events coordinator at Roberson.

Museums play a valuable role in making art, science, and history accessible for communities around the world.

One of the few public spaces that can serve any age, gender, race, or other demographic, museums play a special role in making art and culture from around the world available in communities across the country. Unfortunately, this concept has sometimes been more surface-level. Museums have been criticized for not being accessible to all communities and demographics, and instead, catering to the wealthy and privileged.  

To break down the social barriers that impede folks from enjoying museums, Roberson's Pay It Forward program went into effect this year.

Here’s how it works: Visitors can purchase a pre-paid admission option or choose to pay it forward by purchasing an admission for someone else who may not be able to afford it. Visitors are able to grab an admissions pass from the museum’s Pay it Forward wall and bring it to the front desk — no questions asked.  

“Some organizations save lives, and we improve lives,” said Grasso. “We help to improve lives for our friends and neighbors and community members when we make places like museums and other cultural institutions accessible for many different groups. It’s a program that’s easily replicable in other museums.”    

Since the program started, the museum has already seen more visitors from various demographics.

Grasso hopes that the museum outreach will extend beyond where it is now too. Now, the museum is thinking about reaching out to organizations like the Boys & Girls Club of America, Young Adult Borough Centers, and veterans’ groups to attract diverse audiences — particularly those that are underrepresented — to the museum space without having to worry about ticket prices.

“It’s heartwarming,” said Grasso. “People had said that they loved the program. The intent of the program is really to bring more people in, and we’re doing that.”    

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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.

Amazon

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.


Amazon

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.


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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.

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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.

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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.