All NYC Public Schools To Serve Vegan Lunch Options

Lately, the New York public school system has been on a roll with its feeding programs. Since its city council decided to offer free cafeteria lunches, there are now also options for vegans.

The upcoming vegan food options range from Mexicali Chili to Lentil Stew, to Zesty BBQ Crunchy Tofu — all which sounds pretty like a big improvement from conventional school lunches which are often highly processed meats or fried food.

Behind the movement is the Coalition for Health School Food, which has also helped three NYC schools go completely vegetarian. The vegan choices will allow food autonomy to children as well as lower their carbon footprint. While many parents have expressed concern over vegan diets, research can put their minds at ease.

The British Dietetic Association (BDA) have recently confirmed that “they believe a well-planned vegan diet ‘supports healthy living in people of all ages’ including ‘during pregnancy and breastfeeding.’”

Of course, students will be given the freedom to choose their own meals. Though a typical second-grader may be more privy to chicken nuggets, encouraging a side of vegetables may not be too difficult.

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Sisters Selling Lemonade To Pay Off Lunch Debts

Kids these days are more intellectually advanced than our generation ever was. While some are building computers, others are painting like Michelangelo. These two Seattle sisters are playing it a little bit simpler — but for a great cause. Amiah and Aria Van Hill are selling lemonade to help fellow students pay off lunch debts.

“We are thrilled that Amiah has embraced that value at such a young age and we are so very proud that she has taken it upon herself to find a way to help those in need,” [said Amiah’s elementary school principal] “She is a very special little lady.”

On their first day of sales, the sisters managed to pay off a $40.55 debt at Hayden Meadows in Idaho. Mother Rachel encouraged her daughters to extend help to other schools. They then raised over $300 for two establishments.

“I had to explain to her that this was a lot of money,” Van Hill said, recommending that they finally take their efforts to GoFundMe to reach their goal.

Donations are now at the $2,700 mark. Amiah and Aria are living proof that little girls can dream big both for themselves and for others.

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Acrobatic Felines Give Stray Cats A Second Chance

Though places like Vancouver are encouraging shelter rescues by banning the sale of puppy mill animals, many others have a long way to go. If an animal isn’t cute, chances are it’s not leaving its cage. Because of this, cat trainer Samantha Martin and her acrobatic felines are giving strays a second chance at life.

 The Amazing Acro-Cats [are] a traveling troupe of house cats that ride skateboards, play musical instruments and sometimes get bored and wander off into the audience.

“The team [of cats] themselves are all former rescues and strays,”

Martin, who is an experienced feline foster mom, has no problem draining shelters of its resident kittens. Since starting the group, Martin has been savior to over 200 cats.

“We try to partner with a local rescue and donate a portion of the [show’s] proceeds,” she said. “Sometimes people just contact us. It can be very random.”

Martin often takes in kittens with behavioral problems, proving that aggression can, in fact, be trained away. However, she focuses only on positive reinforcement. If you’re lucky enough to see the Acro-Cats in action, perhaps consider taking a non-permanent purr-former home.

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Tunisian Women Can Now Marry Non-Muslims

Across the globe, the LGBT community is finally receiving the rights it deserves. In Canada, gender discrimination is outlawed. Taiwan became the first Asian country to recognize same-sex marriage. However, homosexuality remains a crime in many countries. In fact, some traditional marriages aren’t even tolerated due to religious factors. But President Beji Caid Essebsi of Tunisia is shifting views, now allowing Tunisian women to marry non-Muslims.

Until now, a non-Muslim man who wished to marry a Tunisian Muslim woman had to convert to Islam and submit a certificate of his conversion as proof.

Tunisia, which is 99% Muslim, is viewed as one of the most progressive Arab countries in terms of women’s rights.

Non-Muslim marriages were restricted in 1973. The president referred to it as an obstacle to one’s freedom of choice. Baffling was the fact that the law did not apply to men and included minority women who were Jewish or Christian.

Scrapping the decree may not do away with the cultural and traditional obstacles women face with their families in cases of inter-faith marriage, but it now offers Tunisian women greater freedom of choice from a legal perspective.

The battle for women’s rights may be a little worn out, but remains optimistic. A round of applause for Tunisia!

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Cosmetic Brand Lush Is Funding Permaculture Farms

Cosmetic brand Lush, known for its scrumptious bath bombs, is on a roll with its eco-initiatives. Since turning trash into packaging, it is also now funding permaculture farms at £1 million a year.

“For us, the work we focus on is often regenerative, as opposed to sustainable – we want to give back more than we take,”

The said permaculture farms provide the beauty brand with organic ingredients such as aloe and shea butter. While Lush can count on a stable supply of materials, it is also helping communities thrive.

“We started the fund in 2010, with the idea that there can be a different, more supportive way of doing business,” [says creative buyer Gabbi Loedolff.]

The initiative, called the SLush Fund, has reached out to groups in Ghana and Peru. It is creating jobs and providing new technologies while being mindful of the environment. On that note, I think a relaxing soak in the tub would be doing myself and Lush some good.

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Algae Structure Produces Crucial Superfood

Algae has been making rounds in the fashion world as part of a running shoe. But beyond a sustainable footwear material, it’s also a crucial superfood — and this algae structure produces it.

The Algae Dome is a four-meter-high… pavilion that houses a photo-bioreactor, a closed system primed to produce microalgae at high quantities.

In just three days, the dome is capable of producing 450 liters of algae. It’s ultimate goal is to call attention to the product’s high nutritional value and unique characteristics.

Not only is algae rich in nutrients, containing twice as much protein as meat, it’s also packed with vitamins and minerals like iron.

Hear that, filet mignon? You’ve got competition. Being the fastest-growing plant species, various industries ought to pay more attention to the green gem. It can even grow in polluted water, which is practical in this day and age. Looks like a brighter future could be in store for us, thanks to this unexpected savior.

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Spread The Charitable Holiday Cheer On A Budget

Rolling into the “ber” months has many of us anticipating the upcoming holidays. While December usually means plastic pine trees from Home Depot and the return of Starbucks’ secret menu, it is also a time of giving. Though it’s the simplest and most practical way to help others in need, we aren’t all equipped to donate money. (That is, of course, unless you’re Bill Gates) However, there are a plethora of different ways to spread the charitable holiday cheer on a budget — and it may be more rewarding than you think.

Making a physical donation is easily the most viable option for holiday busybodies. If money isn’t exactly on your side, choose to donate in kind. Considering that the Christmas season rakes in a lot of presents, there are probably household items you can choose to live without. You can pledge clothing to shelters and toys to children’s groups. Books can go to your local library and appliances or electronics can end up in Goodwill. Of course, it is best to ensure that the items in your “give” box are in good condition.

If you can spare a day being proactive, you can opt to give your time. Charities don’t only seek checks and boxes — they need people. Volunteer at a home, whether for the elderly, ill, or four-legged. Chances are, there will be a lot for you to do. A rise in nonprofit groups may leave you with a copious amount of options. If you’re unsure of where to start, figure out where your interests lie and what skills you have to offer. This is where making a list and checking it twice may come in handy. (Scoot over, Santa)

If you are keen on raising funds, plan something income-generating like a garage sale or auction. If you’re without a charity of choice, research a group that could use the money. Remember that you will make the greatest impact by sticking to one organization. A few hundred dollars will go a long way for a single cause as opposed to dividing costs between various groups.

Some people love experiencing the immediate effects of giving back. If you’re handy in the kitchen, consider running a food drive. Get your neighborhood in on the action. Decide what meals are easiest to throw together, and are most cost-efficient. Not only will you satisfy a handful of hungry tummies — you’ll bring the community together.

Needing a change? Or are you simply not so squeamish? Make a medical donation. Blood drives are common during the holidays and a perfectly suitable option for those who have managed to stay in shape. (Perhaps skip the fruit cake?) If you’re not too hot for needles, donate your hair! You’ll be surprised how many people are affected by hair loss due to medical conditions. Moms can also donate breast milk to milk banks.

Giving back can be rewarding, especially if you have the money to do so. But you can choose to be charitable every single day. The time you take to change someone’s life will likely be more meaningful than just a dollar bill.

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Yale Students Build Affordable Housing for the Homeless

Design and advocacy go hand in hand. There are many ways that design proves itself to be beyond aesthetics; it targets sustainability, promotes awareness, juggles being eco-friendly and multi-functional, and generally allows for an explosion of ideas. And sometimes, it doesn’t just save the planet. It saves the people in it, too. Witnessing to that are some great projects such as these portable origami tents or this efficient flooring system, especially built for refugees and the homeless.

Architecture students from Yale have worked on the same advocacy as they designed and built an affordable shelter for homeless people. The affordable housing project is part of an ongoing university tradition.

The 1,000-square-foot house for the homeless is a handsome prefabricated structure clad in cedar and topped with a standing-seam metal gable roof. According to the project statement, students were “challenged to develop a cost-efficient, flexible design that tackles replicability in material, means, and method of construction.” The house comprises two separate dwellings: one is a studio, while the other is a two-bedroom apartment with built-in storage.

Every year, the university tasks first-year architecture students to design and build structures that will benefit the community. The tradition has apparently been going on since 1967. For the project’s 50th iteration in 2017, some students that participated in the Jim Vlock First Year Building Project chose to explore cost-efficient and flexible design in giving affordable housing to those who need it the most. They executed their plans and successfully constructed the building at New Haven’s Upper Hill neighborhood.

The project also marked the first partnership between the Yale School of Architecture and the non-profit Columbus House, an organization that has been providing solutions to homelessness in the New Haven area since 1982.

If all school projects had this much impact and advocated this strongly for the betterment of the community, I probably would’ve been more motivated to get that A.

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Bee Saving Paper — You Guessed It! — Saves Bees Globally

Unable to resist our sweet stripey friends — and of course, the danger to our food resource brought about by the dwindling of their populations — different sectors have already been participating in bee saving initiatives. There is the UK’s ban on harmful pesticides. There is the transformation of empty lots into bee farms by a group of Detroit locals. Recently, there is free ice cream from food company Häagen-Dazs to promote the bee saving advocacy.

The latest to join the hive is a Polish startup company that created a biodegradable paper from energy-rich glucose that may feed bees. Not only is it definitely usable for us humans because the material isn’t sticky at all, Bee Saving Paper is very nutritious and delicious for our pollinator friends.

The material is made by dissolving a special kind of sugar into water, making a paste that beekeepers use to nourish their hives during the winter. According to the paper startup’s website, only 0.5 kilograms of the substance is enough to feed several thousand bees.

The paper is also made with honey plant seeds, which means that once the bee eats up all the glucose, the paper’s biodegradation will grow another “rest stop” for bees in its place.

Now you might ask: why would any creature want to eat paper? What could make it seem sumptuous? Well, the designers have also come up with a solution to make the Bee Saving Paper look yummy.

Since bees see fields of flowers as circles of colored light on the ultraviolet spectrum, the engineers used water-based UV paint to cover the paper with colored circles that are only visible — and attractive — to bees.

Since last year, the startup has already successfully executed its first field test. They helped out a Polish beekeeper whose bee farm populations were rapidly decreasing. Now, the company aims to promote their bee saving products to large brands and businesses that need paper. Which could be every business out there, really.

[A]ny business or manufacturing company using paper can start making their products out of materials that are environmentally friendly and nourishing to pollinators — from paper bags to parking tickets and picnic plates.

I can’t imagine how exciting it would be to do everyday chores. Shop with a paper bag, read food labels printed on paper, drink from a paper cup, write love letters on paper… do pretty much everything as a bee saving hero!

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The Art of Happiness: 4 Things You Need to Know

Everyone has dreams and aspirations. Some people strive towards certain long-term goals, integrating their sense of self, their career, their relationships, and other aspects of their lives mindfully — and in such a way that they organize particular steps on how to find success and work on that plan. Others are more content to live each day to the fullest, making the most of the different aspects of their lives even without a precise set of objectives, and finding small successes in short-term goals that they achieve. Either way, everyone is trying to figure things out. In my understanding, what we’re really trying to figure out is the art of happiness.

I’m sure all of us have wondered, some more often than others, if we’re currently happy with our lives. And if we realize we’re happy, we then ask, how do we continue being so? And if we realize we’re not, how do we start working on it? I don’t have a degree in psychology or anything, and I’m sure I’m only one of too many people to reflect out loud about the art of happiness, but let me speak from experience and take a crack at it anyway.

1. Start here and now.

First and foremost, it’s important to stop delaying or postponing the search of what makes you happy. It helps to start simple. You don’t have to engage so deeply in a philosophical discourse and quote from famous ancient Greek scholars. You don’t have to get a life motto tattooed on your arm and consistently try to stick by it everyday. You don’t have to repaint your entire house so that it will look cheerful and inspire you to feel the same. If any of those helps, good. But what matters is this: start today.

The desire to have a profound definition of happiness will put so much pressure on you. Instead, focus on the many unexpected little ways to start reflecting on your life and the art of happiness. Simply reading a book, dressing up nicely for yourself, baking cookies or walking around the community might be able to help. The point is for you to put yourself in the mindset of actively wanting to be happy, instead of merely letting your ordinary day-to-day routine pass you by.

2. Work towards a healthy lifestyle.

Now that you’re in the mindset of being happy in small and simple ways, it’s also time to introduce small and simple changes to your lifestyle. After reflecting on the ordinary things you do everyday, it helps to identify how you want to make them better.

Think about the lifestyle trends that will most benefit you. For instance, you may find fulfillment by participating in sustainability efforts, whether through fashion or recycling. Another definitely beneficial step is to pursue the healthy lifestyle you’ve always known you needed, whether that means putting effort into a plant-based diet or a regular exercise routine or both. After all, a healthy body and a healthy mind should work together. Relax once in a while. Take breaks from social media. I’m sure being more mindful of your lifestyle practices will eventually have a payoff.

3. Make positive memories.

No man is an island. As creatures with a social nature, it’s a significant part of our lives to cultivate our interpersonal relationships. But it’s not enough just to ask your family or friends how they are every once in a while. To properly keep up with our intimate connections, we have to ensure we spend quality time together.

Do a fun activity with your peers, something that you miss because you haven’t done in so long. Go bowling. Redo your garden with your family. Have a picnic with your nieces and nephews. I’m sure there are a lot of positive memories from the previous years that you go back to whenever you’re feeling down, so what’s stopping you from creating more of those? Bond with your loved ones, help each other make fantastic memories, and I don’t know, take some selfies to immortalize those great moments? Again, it doesn’t matter how you do it; what matters is that you do.

4. Express gratitude and exercise kindness.

Here’s where I go scientific about the art of happiness. Some studies have tried to recognize certain predictors to our well-being, and they consistently include these: gratitude and kindness. Feeling grateful is an awesome mindset to maintain, though it doesn’t come naturally. We spend so much time wanting more that we forget to be thankful for what’s already there for us. We forget that sometimes, good enough is good enough.

It takes practice to inculcate gratitude in oneself, so make it part of your life. Write a thank you note each day — to a parent, a friend, a co-worker, or even a stranger. (Science says you don’t even have to send the letter of gratitude, so long as you write it down and get to think about it.) If you’re a spiritual person, say thanks through your prayers before going to sleep.

Perhaps most effectively, feel grateful and pay it forward. Interestingly enough, gratitude works best when the positive feelings associated with it translate into kindness. Don’t be afraid to help out. Not only will it make you feel good about yourself, performing acts of kindness can even give you actual health benefits. Heck, it might be the best lifestyle trend (please refer to Tip #2) that you can introduce to yourself.

These are only a few steps that you can initiate towards discovering the art of happiness. The specific answers, of course, will depend on your own history and your future goals. But then, if you’re only going to follow four words from my list of tips, choose these: start here and now. You might be surprised at the happiness — and more potential of it — that is already present around you, if you just look close enough.

* This post is inspired by BeepBeep Nation, an app that provides a platform for people to request for the help they need and others to offer their help. By facilitating face-to-face human interaction and creating a culture of kindness, it aims to make the world better. The EMINENT token, also known as the fuel for the BeepBeep Nation app, is now available for sale!

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