Kid Sells Xbox To Donate Blankets To Homeless

Too often, we underestimate the giving nature of children. But kids like Jayden Perez, who ran a toy drive for Puerto Rican youths, are what give Generation Z a good rep. Continuing the streak is 9-year-old Mikah Frye, who gave up his Xbox One to purchase blankets for the homeless.

“He knew what it was like to not have a blanket at night and have to give it back,” said his grandmother, Terry Brant. “So the first thing he wanted to do is give a blanket that they could keep.”

Clearly, it was firsthand experience that encouraged Mikah to donate blankets (60 of them) to the needy. Moved by the gesture, tech giant Microsoft made a donation of their own — to Mikah. The generous preteen scored a brand new Xbox, and deservedly so.

“It’s just amazing, it’s a blessing, Mikah is a blessing to our family and we thank you very much,” said Brant.

Giving back is never about the rewards that come in return. But this one sure is swanky!

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Running Shoes Are Made With Graphene-Rubber

Fashion is always evolving, especially in the shoe industry. Sneakers don’t only look cool — they feel cool. They’re also becoming more sustainable, with kicks like Clark Ultra Blooms, which are made with algae. Groups like Viupax are even designing eco-friendly shoe boxes. Rubber may be hard to get around, but brands are trying to be less wasteful. In fact, Manchester researchers are infusing rubber soles with graphene, making shoes sturdier than ever.

To create the super-strong soles, researchers… heated up rubber and then added microscopic particles of graphene into the mix at the same point you’d add other preservatives and colours.

The shoe, which will sell at a wallet-guzzling £150, is 50% more resistant to damage. It’s also significantly stretchier, which brings together the usually problematic features of grip and strength.

“It’s this compromise between trying to get this very good grip and having a hard-wearing, long-lasting compound of rubber,” says [developer Aravind] Vijayaraghavan.

It may not eliminate rubber entirely, but at least it’ll add some years to a rather short lifespan.

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Market Chain To Donate Leftover Food To Needy

To accommodate a plethora of customers and increase sustainability, supermarkets across the globe have been making changes. From hosting seasonal “quiet hours” to selling perfectly edible expired products, chains are catering to various needs better than ever. Aiming to reduce both waste and poverty, Aldi is donating all its unsold fresh foods to underprivileged families.

“As Aldi stores will shut at 4pm on Christmas Eve until December 27, they will have a variety of good quality surplus food products that they will wish to redistribute in support of less fortunate individuals and to prevent food going to waste.” [the supermarket announced.]

To stay organized, Aldi is inviting local charities to collect the items for distribution. Each branch hopes to set out at least 20 to 30 crates of leftover food. So far, the initiative is gaining traction and supporters, all thanks to social media.

“Kudos to Aldi arranging for dispersal of unsold food on Christmas Eve to organisations helping those in need.  Let’s hope others follow suit. Well done.” [said a netizen.]

Talk about killing two birds with one stone — except maybe the stone is an apple.

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Startup Hires Single Moms To Make Recycled Shoes

With the holidays upon us, the season of giving has kicked off. Secret Santas are paying off strangers’ Christmas debts and random acts of kindness are on the rise. But for one Argentine startup, generosity lasts all year round. The group is employing struggling mothers to recycle tire scraps into shoes, tackling not only underemployment, but rubber waste.

“We like people and companies who buy our products to know they are helping empower women and people excluded by the system,” says [Xinca businessman Alejandro Malgor].

25 employees are currently working for the company, and operate in rural areas. Xinca’s main goal is to present underprivileged women with both the resources and confidence they lack.

“We teach the women how to work as a team, how to take responsibility in a job. When they learn new skills, the women get better self-esteem and more confidence. Having a job means they don’t only learn new tools for work but they grow personally, too.”

Xinca is also taking 100,000 tons of discarded rubber tires into their own hands. In just four years, the group has already managed to recycle 20,000 kilograms into footwear. It’s surely brought a whole new meaning to flats!

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U.S.A. Introduces First Bullet Train

China may hold the record for housing the world’s fastest high-speed railway, but Florida is making headlines for launching its first. The private rail service will run from West Palm Beach to Fort Lauderdale.

“It’s the first time that it’s happening, being built by a private company,” [says John Renne of the Urban Solutions committee). “And that’s kind of a game changer for this type of model.”

Along with carbon emissions, the $3 million train project will cut 3 million cars from traffic-laden roads. All Abroad Florida hopes to target the state’s densest area of nearly 6 million people.

“The federal highway system expanded … and everyone got off trains and into cars,” [says] John Guitar of All Aboard Florida… “And we’ve done a full circle now that the traffic and congestion and gas prices are so bad, people are looking for alternatives to get out of their cars and find other ways to get around the state.”

For what’ll likely be just $16, passengers can zip from West Palm to Miami in merely an hour. Road trips may be fun, but if I can shave 4 hours off a drive, why not?

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Train Station To Shelter Homeless On Christmas

Homelessness continues to plague millions who remain under the poverty line. While the chances of a better life often remain slim, generous donors and establishments such as universities can make a difference. Opening its doors to 200 rough sleepers, the London Euston station will act as a shelter on Christmas Day.

“Many people become homeless because of relationship breakdowns so Christmas can be a particularly lonely time for some of our residents,” said Beth Norden, community and events manager at St. Mungo’s [charity].

Independently, the homelessness charity supports roughly 2,700 homeless people across the U.K. It may seem only a ripple in the water, but with over 300 ongoing projects, a single plate of food may save a life.

“This will be a fantastic fun day for our homeless friends that we will all hope could be replicated anywhere and everywhere.” Steve Naybour, of Network Rail, said.

Working over the holidays is all too much a reality. While nobody looks forward to late night shifts on Christmas, giving back could be a game-changer.

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Zero-Emissions Train Is First Of Its Kind

As a solar-powered train, it may not be the first, but Byron Bay’s eco-railway is completely emissions-free. Carrying up to 100 passengers, the refurbished antique-on-wheels is a breakthrough in clean commuting.

“Of course the major difference is it’s got solar panels on the roof so it can recharge itself. For those cloudy days we’ve also got 30 kilowatts of solar panels in this [station’s] roof here so we can also plug it in.” [says mastermind and businessman Brian Flannery.]

The resort-owner-slash-techie hopes the train will also draw in tourists. Still, the project itself is a giant leap towards greener transport systems. The “red rattler” is also bringing disused tracks back into business, drawing old and new together.

“I think everyone knows that Byron’s very conscious about anything to do with the environment,” [Byron Bay Railroad Company’s Jeremy Holmes] said. It’s really nice to be able to run a train that’s zero emissions and powered by the sun.”

Running on a three-kilometer track, the solar train has (literally) a long way to go. But I can’t say I’m not impressed with where it stands.

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MIT Creates Glow-In-The-Dark Plants

New Zealand’s 1 billion tree-planting goal is proof that society is recognizing nature’s benefits. Anyway, city trees do cut down community expenses by up to $500 million. Besides producing oxygen, plants reduce air pollution and carbon emissions — and can now light up in the dark.

A team of MIT engineers have created living bioluminescent lamps out of watercress plants with the goal of one day replacing conventional electrical lighting with the glowing greenery.

The enzyme responsible for the Green Lantern glow is luciferase, active primarily in fireflies. For now, the plants glow dimly for around 4 hours at a time. With the project continuing to progress, scientists are hoping to at least pull leafy desk lamps from the experiment.

“The vision is to make a plant that will function as a desk lamp — a lamp that you don’t have to plug in. The light is ultimately powered by the energy metabolism of the plant itself,” says Michael Strano, a Professor of Chemical Engineering at MIT.

If MIT is drafting a customer waitlist, I’m definitely first in line. My electricity bill could use one less zero!

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California Pet Stores To Sell Rescue Animals

Following Vancouver’s ban on puppy mill animals in pet stores comes a promising American contender. Home to the rich and famous, California is the first U.S. state to require pet stores to sell shelter animals. Any noncompliance will amass a stiff fine of $500!

“This landmark law breaks the puppy mill supply chain that pushes puppies into California pet stores and has allowed unscrupulous breeders to profit from abusive practices.”

Private breeders can remain in practice, given that the animals are well kept. Reckless breeding methods result in some 1.5 million euthanized animals yearly. The fact that 99% of pet store puppies are from mills is even more disturbing.

Despite the numbers, change seems promising, as 36 cities follow a ban on mass breeding. Pet shops have opposed the ban, citing breed specificity will be a problem. If you aren’t into half-breeds, you may need to get with the times!

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Concrete Structure Can Harness Solar Energy

Running on solar may seem simple enough, but it isn’t always the most affordable option. Some institutions, such as the famed solar high school in Copenhagen, can afford to maintain thousands of panels. But for those on a budget, alternatives such as solar blocks may be a more suitable option. Either way, engineers continue to develop more efficient methods for going solar. Designed in Zurich, this concrete roof prototype can generate solar power.

The self-supporting, doubly curved shell roof has multiple layers: the heating and cooling coils and the insulation are installed over the inner concrete layer. A second, exterior layer of the concrete sandwich structure encloses the roof, onto which builders install thin-film photovoltaic cells.

The fully-developed prototype will create more energy than it consumes. The structure’s components are reusable and the concrete itself is highly robust. The team considers its success a milestone — and rightfully so.

“We’ve shown that it’s possible to build an exciting, thin concrete shell structure using a lightweight, flexible formwork, thus demonstrating that complex concrete structures can be formed without wasting large amounts of material for their construction.”

There isn’t yet word on recreating the roof commercially, but after four years of research, the wait shouldn’t be much longer.

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