This beer’s packaging isn’t hurting turtles, it’s feeding them.

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 water 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 beasts that live down where it’s wetter. According to recent research, sea animals from birds, to turtles, to whales regularly feed upon plasticbecause it smells like food. That’s not good for them.

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

Here’s the issue, though: Brine 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 exposed 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 assured a sea turtle lately? They’re majestic AF and we should be doing everything we can to protect them. If that entails reusing water bottles , not hurling 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.

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How these teens convinced Utah Republicans to accept the impact of climate change.

The adults have had their chance, but once again, it’s the kids who seem to be making real change.

After two years of hard work, teenage activists in Utah scored a major victory after convincing the state’s Republican-controlled legislature and governor to sign a resolution acknowledging the effects of climate change on the state’s citizens.

“Our little high school environmental club get gust of this, and we were really inspired to be more involved politically, ” said Logan High School senior Piper Christian.

The students first gained attention in 2017, when their request to address a country senate committee was rejected .~ ATAGEND

They formed their own unofficial committee and invited lawmakers to attend and listen to them.

“We entirely packed one of the biggest conference rooms in the( country) capitol. It was standing room only, ” Christian said. “Students from all over the country were able to testify about why climate change is important.”

“This solving shows us that climate change is a nonpartisan issue that can no longer be ignored, ” told Rep. Rebecca Edwards.

It’s a resolution , not a law. But it still matters.

There’s nothing legally binding in the resolution, but it does define the tone for future regulations and legislation.

On one hand, it sounds like a business-friendly turn of phrase with segments like “encourages the responsible stewardship of natural resources and reduced to emissions through incentives and support of the growth in technologies and services that will enlarge the economy.”

But on the other hand, it takes a direct approach with the phrase “recognizes the impacts of a changing climate on Utah citizens” — language students like Christian helped craft themselves.

It may sound fairly benign to veteran environmentalists or those from more progressive-leaning nations. But to get such a resolution not only signed but honored in a public rite by the state’s Republican governor is a huge accomplishment.

“The climate change resolution is groundbreaking for our nation, but to successfully tackle the effects that a changing climate has on our economy and health, we need to continue to collaborate across party line, ” Edwards said.

These students are proving that the “Parkland effect” isn’t isolated to one issue.

After the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in February in Parkland, Florida, we’ve been continually inspired to assure the country’s youth take the lead on a divisive issue that adults have been unwilling and unable to make progress on for decades.

But it’s not just about gun control.

Climate change has also divided the country — even when it comes to common sense and middle-ground compromises. It’s hard to avoid falling into “sides” on issues that affect our futures and our very lives.

These student activists in Utah are showing us how it can be done. Through hard work, communication, and cooperation processes, they’ve managed to make inroads in a political climate that seemed near impossible. Adults, take note. This is how you made further progress happen.

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HeLa cells have saved millions of lives, but they were taken without her consent.

When Henrietta Lacks died of cancer in 1951, she and their own families had no idea her tragic occur would change the world.

Shortly before her demise, scientists harvested cells from her body that would immediately lead to breakthroughs in AIDS research, leukemia, influenza treatments, and the polio inoculation.

Then, most cell samples taken from patients quickly degenerated. The samples taken from Lacks, however, proved “surprisingly robust, ” allowing them to be replicated in labs countless of times. Perhaps just as importantly, those unstoppable “HeLa” cells permitted scientists to continue research, but not “re going to have to” experiment on other people.

But Lacks, the granddaughter of slaves, never knew her cells were being harvested because physicians didn’t tell her . Get her consent to use her cells for exams beyond Lacks’ own medical treatment apparently never passed to those who employed them for their later research, and subsequent gains, over the years. Her household also didn’t know about her historic contributions to science for more than two decades until a relative stumbled upon the open secret after the brother-in-law of a family friend spotted the connection to a National Cancer Institute study.

That discovery, and the attention that followed, helped glisten a spotlight on medical consent as well as the often forgotten groundbreaking contributions of black girls.

Today, it seems almost imaginable that someone would take your medical history, let alone your actual cells, without permission. That they were taken from a woman of color only compounded a massive ethical hole in medical science that forced researchers to not only think about the potential of test subjects, but also the ethics of how that vital material is procured.

We may never know precisely why doctors didn’t feel obligated to tell Lacks or their own families about her contributions. Whatever those reasons may be, even if it was just a general absence of consideration, sadly aligned with a history of not recognise the huge role of black women in American history.

But since, there has been a sustained great efforts to right this historical incorrect and give Lacks’ the credit she deserves.

Her family first became aware of Lack’s ever-growing legacy back in the 1970 ‘s, but there has been a steady effort to tell her incredibly important tale to the world. There’s a best-selling book, “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, ” and a 2017 HBO film of the same name starring Oprah Winfrey.

And now, the National Portrait Gallery honored her with a beautiful life-sized portrait.

We’re proud to share this Kadir Nelson portrait of Henrietta Lacks with our friends at @NMAAHC. The striking posthumous portrait was inspired by two surviving photographs that are now in the arrests of her family. Commissioned by HBO on the occasion of the HBO movie premiere of “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Oprah Winfrey and Alan Ball, Nelson wrote of the portrait, “I elected to paint a prideful and glowing portrait of Henrietta Lacks, who is often referred to as,’ The Mother of Modern Medicine, ’ visually juxtaposing arts and science. She stands with her beautifully manicured hands intersected, encompassing her womb( the birthplace of the immortal cell line) while cradling her beloved Bible( a emblem of her strong religion ). Her deep red dress is covered with a vibrant floral pattern that remembers images of cell structure and division.” Other symbolism includes her bright yellow hat, which functions as a halo, her pearl as a emblem of the cancer that took their own lives, and the repeated hexagonal wallpaper pattern, a design containing the “Flower of Life, ” an ancient emblem of afterlife and exponential growth. The buttons missing from her dress reference the cells that were taken from her body without her permission #myNPG

A post shared by National Portrait Gallery (@ smithsoniannpg) on

“This is amazing! ” Lacks’ granddaughter told at the portrait’s unveiling . “Soon as you walk through the doors, there she is! ”

The portrait by artist Kadir Nelson will be displayed at both the National Portrait Gallery and The National Museum of African American History and Culture, which many are saying is a fitting tribute to both her contributions to science, and the style science and American culture have so often benefited from women of coloring, often without consent or proper honors.

The painting itself is profoundly embedded with entailing including the cellular design that framed the background of the portrait, and the pearl necklace that’s reportedly a reference scientists made to the cancer destroying her cells.

“It will spark a conversation, ” National Portrait Gallery painting and statue curator Dorothy Moss said, “about people who have made a significant impact on science yet have been left out of history.”

Scientists and doctors have constructed immense medical advancements thanks to Lacks’ contributions. Now, the next frontier for all of us is in elevating the many black girls, like Lacks, who are serving humanity in incredible ways.

No one can change how Lacks and so many others like her were taken for granted in the past, but honoring her monumental legacy is a big step toward moving us all into a brighter tomorrow.

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Your empty beauty products can do a lot more than sit in a landfill.

You know that feeling when you step into a hot shower after a long, hard day?

Between the blast of steam, the sensation of suds on your scalp, and the unbelievable acoustics that virtually persuade you to fell everything and audition for The Voice, it’s undoubtedly one of the best routines out there.

The thing about routines is — you don’t have to think that much about them.( I mean, when’s the last day you really CONSIDERED your toothbrush ?) But what if we zoomed out for a second and dedicated some thought to the everyday items we reach for that keep us appearing and feeling our best?

Like, did you know that something as basic as your shampoo bottle could attain greatness? No gag .

And no, we’re not just talking about its impact on your luscious locks.

We’re talking about the bottles themselves.

After the last lather, your colorful bottle may then get repurposed into something awesome. But many bottles never get the opportunity and, instead, end up in the landfill.

The fact is, nearly 50% of Americans don’t recycle their used beauty products. That’s a huge onu on our environment, and it has to stop.

Fortunately, some major beauty product companies are taking significant steps towards change. For example, Garnier is implementing some severely impressive sustainability practices to help provide a comprehensive solution to beauty packaging garbage.

So, instead of ending up in a landfill, shampoo bottles like yours can take on a whole other life.

All images via Upworthy/ Garnier.

So, before it observed its way into your shower stall, your shampoo bottle could’ve already lived another life. Just believe — it may have been part of the tennis ball are applied to win Roger Federer his eighth straight men’s singles title at Wimbledon.

And its journey doesn’t have to end just yet — as long as you know where to send it.

A lot of people don’t know how to recycle their shampoo bottles. Many of these bottles are actually unable to be grouped with regular recycling, so more often than not, they just get hurled in the litter.

That’s where Garnier is stepping in. In an effort to educate customers on better recycling practises, they’ve partnered with TerraCycle — a company focused on recycling usually non-recyclable materials.

They’re calling it their Personal Care and Beauty Recycling Program, which they hope will provide an easy solution for consumers to make a real impact.

Here’s how it runs:

When it’s time to throw out your personal care products, spare them from the landfill and send them to TerraCycle instead. It’s totally free and entirely possible to do from your own home. It’s a small endeavor, but trust us, these bottles can add up to make a big difference.

Once you’ve collected 10 pounds or more, mail them in, and Garnier will donate two cents for every personal care product to the charity of your selection. There’s never been a better reason to shower twice a day.( Unless maybe if you’re a long-distance runner in Death valley … Then, you do you .)

However, if you’re not literally planting a tree and watching it grow or picking up trash on your street — both awesome things you should totally do, by the way — it can be hard to see the positive impact your actions have on the environment.

So, when you mail in a box full of your used bottles, it might leave you wondering what exactly they will be used for.

Rest easy: Those bottles could end up doing amazing things for their home communities in need.

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This plant might be the answer to water pollution we’ve been searching for.

Arsenic, once being implemented in pesticides, has been a worry across the U.S. for many years. Food production pollution and natural contamination( arsenic is found in certain rock) has contaminated water and food across the country, from Maine to California’s Central Valley.

But one recent scientific breakthrough could help clean up water for good.

Image via iStock.

Meet the arsenic-eating power of warnstarfia fluitans , better known to the outdoorsy as floating hooking moss.

Aquatic moss in Stockholm University greenhouse. Photo by Arifin Sandhi, used in conjunction with permission.

It’s largely found in the Great Lakes region, but floating hook moss also has a home in northern Sweden. That part of Sweden has been the home of iron mining for years, and a type of iron pyrite called arsenopyrites piles up and leachings arsenic out into water supplies. Research at Stockholm University find the floating hooking moss living in the contaminated water, in water no plant should be able to survive in.

“We thought that this plant could be used as an arsenic phytofilter plant species in a constructed wetland system, ” says Arifin Sandhi, a doctoral candidate at the university.

Could this moss clean up the water ?

In general, plants are extremely effective at cleaning up heavy metal and poisons, which they evolve as a defense mechanism. They take it out of their surrounding, bind it up in their tissues, and essentially bury it inside themselves. As long as we don’t eat it for a snack, and as long as the plant stays alive, it’s effectively gone.

The researchers discovered that the floating hook moss not only sucks up arsenic, it sucks it up faster than you can watch your favorite Tv show.

When introduced into a container of water with dangerous high levels of arsenic, the moss filtered 80% of the chemical out of the water in less than an hour.

Even more surprising was that the moss seemed to thrive in the arsenic . It continued to live and grow with as much as double the arsenic it takes to kill other types of moss.

Why does it suck up so much arsenic so fast? Hypothesis abound, and we’ll have to wait for molecular biologists to weigh in for any clear answers. The most likely hypothesi, at the moment, is that the moss does it as a sort of immunization. By taking in the arsenic and incorporating it into its tissues, it both reduces the chances of the arsenic damaging it externally and gives every branch of the moss a better chance to survive.

This mighty moss has the potential to quickly clean up water sources far beyond northern Sweden.

With it’s poison-sucking abilities, the floating hooking moss could be used in special gardens planted and grown near sources of pollution. In several townships in France, for example, these handpicked gardens are so good at their jobs that when you reach the final outlet for their sewage treatment plants, you can take a nice dip in the water and never even know where it came from.

The moss is detected across the planet, so there’s not a huge risk of introducing an invasive species to natural waterways. That told, care will have to be taken that the moss doesn’t run out of control, but its speed means that it can be introduced and removed far faster than machine-based solutions.

We don’t have to accept the pollution of the past( or present) as the route of the future.

We can do our proportion by petitioning to build pollution-guzzling gardens and, in places where we can grow aquatic gardens and where we know they won’t be invasive, growing them ourselves.

We can make changes, often faster and more powerfully than we believed possible with a little assistance from the Earth itself.

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Every decision impacts the Earth, especially when it comes to personal products.

Did you know that every time you buy something, you can make a big difference to the planet ?

It’s true. Just ask Brad Kahn.

He is the director of communications at the Forest Stewardship Council( FSC ), a nonprofit that works tirelessly to promote responsible management of the world’s woods, so he knows quite a bit about protecting the Earth. And part of it, he says, is making good selections in the store.

Any time you make a purchase, he says, “you’re actually making a decision about the environment.”

“I think people don’t really realize how pervasive wood products are. Virtually every business on Earth uses forest products in one way or the other, ” he continues.

The good news is, it isn’t hard to induce smart selections for the environment.

It merely starts by choosing products from companies that are working to do good .

L’Oreal, for example, has aglobal program dedicated to incorporating sustainability into all areas of their business.

For example, all of L’Oreal’s U.S. facilities incorporate 100% renewable energy — and they will be carbon neutral by 2019.

Solar panels in use for Garnier manufacturing. Image via L’Oreal USA.

And that’s not all.

Danielle Azoulay, head of corporate social responsibility and sustainability for L’Oreal USA, says that the company’s size is an example of what induces their environmental attempts so important.

“At L’Oreal, we take a holistic approach to sustainability. From carbon emissions reductions to water stewardship in our factories, we’re working to improve our environmental footprint across the company, every day, ” she writes.

“We’ve been focusing on light-weighting and incorporating recycled materials into our packaging, ” she continues, “and[ we] continue to encourage our consumers to recycle products once they’re done using them.”

“As the largest beauty company in the U.S. and the world, when we apply these changes across our brand portfolio, we have the opportunity to make an enormous positive impact on our communities, translating to big wins for countries around the world, ” she explains.

Image by Steven Rowe, used in conjunction with permission.

It also helps that organizations like the FSC help shoppers easily identify these sustainably packaged products from brands — like Garnier — that are committed to reducing their harmful impact on countries around the world. All you have to do is glance at a product’s packaging, and if you ensure an FSC logo — which usually shows up on the back — you’ll know it’s certified as forest-friendly.

When it comes to the beauty industry including with regard to, doing the right thing is important.

Industry organizations and media point to data briefings from market researcher Euromonitor that indicate the global cosmetics industry makes more than 120 billion units of packaging every year.

That’s why, for their boxes of hair color and skin-care products, Garnier , a brand in L’Oreal’s portfolio , employs all FSC-certified newspaper . It’s one of many strategies — along with similar gues given to plastics, glass, and energy use — that the brand uses to reach their sustainability objectives.

Image by Steven Rowe, used in conjunction with permission.

That means, for example, that someone looking for a bright new look could buy shampoo that comes in recycled plastic and hair color in sustainably-sourced cardboard.

You’re also keeping those bottles out of landfills. In 2014, Americans disposed about 33. 6 million tons of plastic — a number that we can all impact by making smart choices, backing the brands that are committed to doing better. For example, all of Garnier’s shampoo and conditioner bottles are made of recyclable PET plastic.

Photo via L’Oreal USA.

Looking out for packaging with sustainable materials is a simple transformation that doesn’t force you to compromise your beauty and personal care needs.

You still get to stick with the routine that’s best for your hair and skin — and feel even better by making smarter selections for countries around the world, too.

To set it in view, Kahn says 😛 TAGEND

“There is no chance of life on Earth without healthy woodland ecosystems. I don’t think that’s an exaggeration because forests provide much of the air we inhale, something like two-thirds of the water that we drink, the carbon storage to have a stable atmosphere . … We actually rely on woodlands every day.”

Image via iStock.

So when you’ve find the FSC logo on your packaging, and you know your shampoo bottle is made from recycled plastics, feel free to sing your heart out with that shampoo bottle in the shower — as one of our planet’s heroes, you’ve earned that exhilaration.

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These New Yorkers have had it with plastic. So they’re getting very creative.

What happens when you blend politics and activism with bodega proprietors and artists? An environmental motion to stop plastic purse utilize.

Vote With Your Tote was launched by a pro bono team of creatives and environmental experts in New York City.

Their goal is to combat the city’s growing toxic waste problem by reducing the use of plastic bags. Each year, NYC residents use and discard approximately 10 billion single-use plastic grocery pouch, a whopping $12.5 million disposal expense .

“Plastic bags are just a terrible kind of garbage … it becomes litter on our streets and an eyesore, ” said Brad Lander, NYC council member and deputy leader for policy. ” People across racial and economic lines care about their neighborhood, and reducing toxic waste is meaningful to them . People who live in public housing love and care about their neighborhood, and that’s important for people to see.”

All images politenes of Vote With Your Tote.

The program is part of a bigger movement encouraging people to support a statewide Bring Your Own Bag law.

In New York, residents and lawmakers, including the founder of Jennie Romer, joined forces to persuade the city to adopts a statute that would encourage customers to rely on reusable cloth containers instead of plastic. The statute would implement a charge of five pennies for every plastic container at a grocery store — but it’s not about the money. It’s about the fee encouraging more eco-friendly practices.

“It genuinely helps when there are conversations about what the suitcase fee is and what it genuinely means to change behaviour, ” Romer told. “Initially, a lot of people we talked to were like, ‘no.’ They didn’t genuinely didn’t like the idea of a fee because no one likes the idea of paying money for something. So when they talked a lot about ‘the why’ and a lot of people truly came around. And that was powerful.”

The law passed in NYC but then was blocked by the country government in early 2017.

Given the success of these pouch fee programs in other cities and states and multiple examines presenting a state-level purse fee can create a 45% reduce in plastic pouch utilization, this block was a frustrating step back for the movement.

In spite of the government’s inaction, community members, politicians, and lawyers have persisted. Romer is still working to get laws passed and implemented, and she continues to focus on the often unheard voices among community members to push the movement forward.

“I’ve worked on this for six years, and a lot of what we assure on the videos is that — we don’t ensure a lot of interest groups that are in Park Slope and the Upper West Side, ” Romer told. “So I wanted to talk to adults and I wanted to talk with people that were in communities that are often overlooked in these kinds of conversations. We were trying to think of, ‘Who is an unexpected ally? ‘

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These gorgeous wildlife photos were retouched to show the effects of climate change.

On Earth Day we’re reminded how precious our planet is and what will happen without meaningful change.

You probably don’t spend much period thinking about your computer’s screensaver. But what if something so simple could help make a difference for endangered wildlife around the globe?

Graduate student Lauren Race and three creative partners( Carl Jannerfeldt, Beth Kushner, and Nancy Black) retouched some of the most common screensaver images to reflect what they might more accurately look like due to the effects of climate change.

“There had been a discussion about how the present Mac screensaver images virtually looked too perfect, too pristine, ” Race tells. “They were beginning to feel obsolete due to climate change.”

Images via Earthsaver.

The updated images are a harrowing reminder of what’s happening to the planet and everyone who occupies it.

The ensuing project became Earthsaver , which uses the images to raise awareness and funds for the World Wildlife Fund. Those who download the images for their computer are taken to a direct donation page, where they can support the WWF, which is currently creating funds aimed at adding 3,000 new members to its roster of supporters before April 22.

Race and her partners worked with 17 creative retouchers to update each image in such a way that accurately reflects how the artist insures the original composition being affected by climate change. Images in the Earthsaver collection include 😛 TAGEND

A whale and other fish dwarfed by a loom decide of plastic beverage rings:

A polar bear shall be substituted for a plastic bag:

Tourists visit the last of the dwindle ice caps:

A mother lion and her cub started to starve from absence of available food:

Nonetheless, even stark messages can carry a light of hope.

It can be difficult to look at these images, even knowing the objective is photo illustrations. However, the impact they show is a real potential, and may soon become reality if more isn’t done to stop the increasing effects of global climate change.

These images are also an opportunity for hope .

Organizations like the WWF are working every day to change the narrative of our wildlife and environment. And we can help that change — even by something as simple as updating the backdrop images on our computers.

“We know that downloading a screensaver that displays extremely depressing nature images floating across your computer screens every day is a tall order, ” Race says. “For us, get a dialogue started and donating to the WWF is more important than downloads.”

You can view and download all 17 of the Earthsaver images here and donate immediately to the WWF here.

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He plays music to roaring crowds, but his best shows are for a much different audience.

All photos courtesy of Swan Songs. Used with permission.

Freddie Fuller is a country and folk music singer-songwriter who has entertained audiences at venues in and around Austin, Texas. He has recorded two albums, made a one-man reveal on the history of the Texas cowboy, and even performed for troops overseas. But some of the most profound performances of his life have also been some of the smallest, quietest shows.

Freddie performs personalized, acoustic concerts for people who are dying.

For the last four years, Freddie has worked with a small nonprofit called Swan Songs to bring the gift of music to people facing terminal diagnosis. Freddie and other Swan song musicians have played over 500 intimate concerts as a festivity of life for people nearing death, as well as their loved ones.

Why music? The answer is simple for Freddie: “Music is one of the few things that we as humen will allow to touch us in the deepest places in our hearts.”

In the United States, demise is usually something that remains out of sight, out of mind.

Our dialogues about the end of life are immersed in euphemism, and the actual process of dying seems to happen behind a veil — usually in a hospital or nursing home facility, rarely at home .~ ATAGEND

But treating death as taboo isn’t a recipe for having a “good death.” Informed, nuanced dialogues about the end of life can be helpful for both demystifying death and helping families navigate their sorrow. And a growing chorus led by health care professionals and social workers is calling for change in how we deal with death.

Swan Songs and its musicians are quite literally part of that chorus.

Since 2005, the nonprofit has fielded requests from the loved ones and custodians of people with terminal maladies and cultivated their home communities of local musicians who can help fulfill the recipient’s musical wishes.

When Freddie joined Swan Songs, he had already had the unique experience of playing music for his mother, who had cancer, as she approached the end of her life.

“I recollect get in bed with her in her hospital bed with a guitar, and I started singing to her, ” Freddie told. Years subsequently, before his father passed away, he did the same thing — this time, with his five children in the room to share the experience.

The sense of hearing, Freddie noted, is usually the last sense to deteriorate at the end of life. So even if the recipient of his performance seems unable to respond or connect, they may still be hearing the music.

A recent Swan Songs experience reaffirmed Freddie’s believe that music has connecting power.

Another Swan Songs musician, Pam, had asked Freddie to perform a particularly special concert — one for her own dying father. When Freddie arrived at the hospital, about an hour outside of Austin, he found that Pam’s father was comatose and close to demise. He gathered at his bedside with Pam and her sister and began to play.

“I played for 45 minutes or so, ” he tells. “I played the last ballad, sang the last note, and reached the last guitar chord, and he took his last breath. We sat there very reverently and drank up the power of that moment.”

That moment spoke to the essence of Swan Songs, Freddie tells. Surrounded by music and love, his recipient pass away.

Freddie set his guitar back in his case and stepped into another role: that of a comforter and a friend. It was a short, soothing moment in time during a life landmark that are frequently shawl in anxiety and desperation.

That’s what Swan Songs is all about: bringing joy, connect, and peace to death, one of the most human experiences of all.

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An accident resulted in a plastic-eating mutant that just might save us all.

Plastic has been taking over our world for a while now.

You may not think too much about it , but plastic is a global crisis. A recent rundown in The National Review reveals that more than 8 million tons of plastic is regularly deposited in the ocean. It’s killing sea life, jeopardizing coral reefs, and affecting the fish we feed because of the toxins they ingest.

So much for a happy, carefree day, right?

But there’s some good news on the horizon: Scientists have found a mutant bacteria that fees plastic.

A recycling mill in China. Photo by China Photos/ Getty Images.

Of course, this mutant bacteria isn’t precisely like the kind of mutants you see in movies and comic books. Although, I’ll acknowledge I initially believed, “Good! Someone’s eventually getting Storm to handle this whole climate change business.” How cool would that be?

So maybe Professor X isn’t coming out of hiding to help us with our global problems, but the reality of this news is just as exciting. According to The Guardian, an international squad of scientists have mutated a bacteria’s enzyme to fully break down plastic bottles.

The plastic-eating bacteria was first discovered in 2016 in Japan. Researchers analyzing plastic pollution — specifically polyethylene terephthalate or PET — discovered a colony of bacteria that fed on the plastic, breaking down strong chemical bonds as a means of survival. The bacteria back then, though, was eating through highly crystallized PET — the material plastic bottles are made of — at a slow rate. Researchers knew it would take a while for the bacteria to evolve into the environmental savior we need.

Scientists started studying the bacteria’s evolution and detected they’d unintentionally stimulated it stronger.

“It’s alive! It’s alive! ” they screamed. That’s how I imagine the discovery of this mutated bacteria enzyme ran, with all the blinking lights and klaxons of a superhero movie. That’s what happens in labs, right?

Well, that’s how it should have gone. Because this is exciting! After viewing a 3D model of the bacteria, scientists discovered that small modifications could make its enzymes much more effective. The BBC reports that PET takes “hundreds of years” to break down on its own, but with the modified enzyme, called PETase, the same process begins within a matter of days . The enzyme breaks down PET to its original building blocks, means that the plastic can be reused again without losing quality.

A Chinese worker kinds plastic bottlers. Photo by Fred Dufour/ AFP/ Getty Images.

Here’s why “its important”: You may think plastic bottles are recycled into new plastic bottles and that every bottle you drink from had a rich and beautiful life before it came to you, but that’s not true. In 2017, BuzzFeed reported that Coca-Cola sourced only 7% of its plastic from recycled material and merely 6% of Nestle’s bottles were made from recycled plastic. The remainder of all that single-use plastic being dumped is was transformed into other fibers like carpet and clothing.

This is because plastics degrade as they’re recycled. “Bottles become fleeces, then carpets, after which they often end up in landfill, ” the BBC notes.

But PETase makes it possible to utilize PET in its original kind over and over again.

We’re merely at the beginning of this development.

On one hand, PETase could bring us closer to true recycling( producing much less plastic and using much less fossil fuel) than ever before. But the research has only started. The breaking down process still needs to be made faster, so it could be years before PETase or anything like it is used on an industrial scale.

While scientists keep working to make PETase a worldwide plastic problem-solver, we can all do our portion by reducing our reliance on plastic. Little things — like a reusable bottle for the gym, keeping metal utensils at work, and reusable containers and totes for trips to the store — can help keep the Earth clean, save animals, and stimulate us a little less reliant on mutants( er, mutant enzymes) to save the day.

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