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Good News This Week: January 27, 2024 - Farms, Food, & Seaweed

A photo collage of a man riding a lawnmower, a man holding up seaweed, a screenshot of one of Collective Fashion Justice's content, a group photo of the Vegan Hacktivists, and a man pouring soup into a bowl

Every day the Good Good Good team collects the best good news in the world and shares it with our community. Here are the highlights for this week!

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The Best Positive News We’re Celebrating This Week —

An organization in California is helping immigrant farm workers transition to farm owners

For more than two decades, the Agriculture and Land-Based Training Association (ALBA) in Salinas, California, has been playing a crucial role in empowering farm workers, particularly immigrants from Mexico and Central America, to transition from farm workers to farm owners.

ALBA's comprehensive approach involves offering classes, on-farm training, access to land, equipment, and business support to aspiring organic vegetable farmers. This initiative has received over $15 million in support from federal grants, local and national foundations, and individual donors in the last 20 years, resulting in the launch of more than 220 businesses since 2001.

Participants in the ALBA program initially work part-time on larger farms, gaining essential knowledge and skills through introductory coursework. The program then offers them the opportunity to farm a designated plot of land owned by ALBA, complete with equipment, technical assistance, and a market for their produce through partnerships with local distributors.

This approach has enabled participants to make the challenging transition from farm workers to farm owners, with some even expanding their operations independently.

The group’s impact report indicates that farms nearly triple in acreage on average after leaving ALBA, and most alumni farms exclusively grow organic produce. This shift not only supports sustainable farming practices but also contributes to climate benefits by reducing dependence on fossil fuel-intensive methods.

Why is this good news? Land access is a critical barrier for aspiring farmers, especially young individuals, BIPOC farmers, and immigrants. In this context, ALBA has been a trailblazer in addressing issues of land justice. The program not only imparts education through a year-long course but also facilitates land access and ongoing farm support. Such a comprehensive framework has positioned ALBA as a model for newer farm incubator programs across the country.

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California's efforts to address food waste are working

In 2022, consumers and businesses in California generated almost 13 million tons of surplus food, reflecting a 10% decrease from 2016, according to nonprofit ReFED.

The reduction indicates progress in the state's efforts to address food waste, with California implementing regulations requiring residents to sort food scraps into compost-specific bins. State law also mandates recovering 20% of edible food otherwise disposed to landfills for addressing food insecurity, aligning with California's goal of reducing organic waste disposal by 75% by 2025.

Why is this good news? Food waste contributes significantly to landfill input and greenhouse gas emissions — it even has a carbon footprint larger than that of the airline industry. A 10% decrease in surplus food shows that efforts to address food waste, including regulatory measures and public awareness, are working.

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A startup is replacing traditional plastic packaging with a seaweed-based alternative

Sway, a California-based startup founded in 2020, is making waves in the sustainability world by addressing the issue of plastic pollution. Recognizing the environmental impact of traditional plastic packaging — particularly the thin, film-like variety that is challenging to replace with eco-friendly alternatives — the company has developed a solution using polymers derived from seaweed.

Co-founded by Julia Marsh, Matt Mayes, and Leland Maschmeyer, the company aims to revolutionize the packaging industry by offering a compostable alternative to thin-film plastic. This innovation comes at a crucial time when plastic pollution has become a global concern, with millions of tons of plastic waste accumulating in landfills and oceans.

According to Plastic Oceans, approximately 180 billion plastic bags are produced annually for storing and protecting clothing, shoes, and accessories. These bags can take up to 1,000 years to decompose. In contrast, Sway's seaweed-based bags biodegrade in just four to six weeks. The seaweed used can also sequester up to 20 times more carbon per acre than trees, according to a Harvard University study.

The company collaborates with ocean farms that cultivate seaweed, ensuring a responsible and sustainable harvesting process. The seaweed, when harvested, is described as being akin to giving the plants a haircut rather than uprooting them, promoting their continued growth.

Importantly, Sway's materials seamlessly integrate into existing supply chains and machinery, eliminating the need for new infrastructure. Marsh emphasizes that the company's focus is on encouraging corporations and brands (the major producers of waste) to adopt their material rather than placing the burden on individual consumers.

Sway is part of a growing trend in the industry, with investments in seaweed-based startups doubling in 2021. Plastic alternatives often face challenges, such as the difficulty of composting corn-based plastic, which requires large amounts of land to grow. Seaweed farms, on the other hand, offer the benefit of creating jobs along coastlines without the need for additional land or fertilizer.

Why is this good news? Sway's commitment to providing a sustainable and functional alternative to traditional plastic packaging demonstrates the potential of seaweed-based materials to address the environmental challenges posed by plastic pollution. As the company continues to gain recognition and pave the way for eco-friendly packaging solutions, it contributes to the broader movement toward a more sustainable and regenerative approach to materials and waste.

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A nonprofit is advocating for a holistic approach to combat greenwashing in the fashion industry

Nonprofit organization Collective Fashion Justice is tackling the issue of greenwashing in the fashion industry by advocating for a comprehensive approach known as "total ethics fashion."

With the increasing focus on sustainable fashion, many clothing brands claim to be environmentally friendly, but the reality often falls short. The nonprofit, founded by Emma Håkansson, urges companies to prioritize people, animals, and the planet over profit.

The term "total ethics fashion system," coined by Håkansson, encapsulates the organization's efforts to address the complex challenges posed by harmful practices in the fashion industry. The approach involves considering fair fashion (caring for humans), sustainable fashion (caring for the planet), and vegan fashion (caring for animals).

The nonprofit recognizes that substantial change in the fashion industry requires action at a governmental level. They’ve partnered with the United Nations Environment Programme and participated in creating "The Sustainable Fashion Communication Playbook."

This guide aims to redirect fashion communication toward sustainable and circular solutions, providing a framework for marketers, brand managers, influencers, and media.

While acknowledging the significant impact of large fashion companies, Collective Fashion Justice encourages individuals to take steps toward total ethics fashion.

Education plays a crucial role, and the organization provides resources such as articles and guides on its website, covering the latest news and offering advice on supporting ethical brands.

Why is this good news? Collective Fashion Justice seeks to revolutionize the fashion industry by promoting a total ethics fashion system, encouraging a shift toward a more holistic and ethical approach that considers the interconnected issues of people, the planet, and animals. Through education, awareness, and citizen engagement, the organization aims to combat greenwashing and foster positive change in the fashion industry.

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A collective of vegan tech volunteers are utilizing their skills to inspire advocacy within the vegan community

The Vegan Hacktivists, a global collective of volunteers comprising software engineers, designers, data scientists, writers, and strategists, have united with the common goal of leveraging their digital skills for animal protection activism.

Established in 2019, this group collaborates to develop projects and provide guidance to organizations dedicated to the welfare of animals. Their initiatives include Vegan Bootcamp, a website offering free courses to guide users toward adopting a plant-based lifestyle, an interactive Animal Rights Map pinpointing 2,500 local animal rights activist groups globally, and Vegan Linguists, a platform facilitating the translation of vegan content for broader accessibility.

Additionally, they conducted a groundbreaking Tech & Data Study, exploring how the vegan movement employs technology. This comprehensive 50-page report delves into challenges and opportunities while offering recommendations for community members to effectively harness technology in support of their cause.

While the organization initially focused on creating tools and platforms to assist individuals in adopting veganism, it has evolved to provide consulting services for advocates and organizations, aiming to enhance support for the movement. Notably, all services offered by the Vegan Hacktivists are provided free of charge, emphasizing their commitment to ensuring everyone in the movement thrives.

The impact of their work is evident in their accomplishments. In 2022, the organization granted over $56,000 in grant money to individuals and developing organizations, while providing partner organizations with over $620,000 worth of free tech, design, and support services.

Why is this good news? The Vegan Hacktivists not only empower a growing community of individuals concerned about animal welfare and the environment but also strive to simplify the process of taking meaningful action. As they continue to evolve and expand their initiatives, the group envisions a future where their projects contribute significantly to the broader adoption of vegan lifestyles and increased activism for the well-being of animals.

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World Central Kitchen reaches milestone of 22 million meals served in Gaza

Amidst the prolonged conflict in Gaza, where violence continues to escalate, World Central Kitchen, led by Chef José Andrés, has achieved a milestone by delivering over 22 million meals.

The dire situation in Gaza has led to over half a million people facing "catastrophic hunger" — equivalent to famine levels — according to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency. Despite the challenges posed by intense fighting and the complexities of aid distribution in the region, WCK has proven resilient in its commitment to providing essential food assistance.

In response to the urgent humanitarian crisis, WCK has undertaken a comprehensive approach, deploying over 800 trucks to the area and establishing 27 kitchens, along with 750 clean cooking stoves. The organization's efforts are concentrated around its Field Kitchen in the city of Rafah, where many Palestinians seek refuge.

Over the course of 100 days, WCK has demonstrated its dedication by serving hot meals and assisting in the construction of kitchens to address the immediate needs of affected families.

Furthermore, WCK has extended its support beyond immediate meal provision by designing ready-to-eat meal kits with ingredients capable of sustaining a family for four days. With an eye on the upcoming Ramadan in March, the culinary team has prepared special boxes, demonstrating foresight and proactive planning to address ongoing and future needs.

Why is this good news? The organization's mission remains steadfast — to reach as many people as possible with nourishment, providing comfort and support in times of crisis. In the midst of violence and escalating tensions, providing essential food assistance to those facing "catastrophic hunger" is a humanitarian effort that addresses an urgent and critical need.

World Central Kitchen's approach to addressing immediate needs, coupled with forward-thinking solutions and global outreach, exemplifies the organization's dedication to making a meaningful impact on the lives of those affected by crises.

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An Indian teen invented a device to detect falls and wandering in individuals with Alzheimer's

A 17-year-old Indian teenager named Hemesh Chadalavada has developed an innovative device known as the Alpha Monitor to address the needs of individuals with Alzheimer's disease.

Inspired by his grandmother's experience with Alzheimer's, Chadalavada wanted to create a gadget that could enhance the safety and well-being of those affected by the condition.

The Alpha Monitor is a lightweight and compact device that can be worn as a badge or an armband. It is designed to detect when individuals with Alzheimer's fall or wander, going beyond the capabilities of existing devices.

One notable feature of the Alpha Monitor is its use of long-range technology, which enables it to detect a person over a mile away in cities and three miles in rural areas. This technology surpasses the limitations of devices relying on Wi-Fi or Bluetooth, which lose connection when the person moves out of their limited range.

The device also includes a medication reminder feature, ensuring that individuals take their prescribed medications on time. Chadalavada aims to further enhance his invention by incorporating machine-learning technology to predict a patient's movement patterns.

Chadalavada, a self-proclaimed robotics enthusiast, taught himself about robotics and electronics through YouTube tutorials. To better understand the needs of Alzheimer's patients in India, where an estimated 8.8 million people live with the condition, he spent time at a day center run by the Alzheimer's and Related Disorders Society of India.

In recognition of his groundbreaking work, Chadalavada won a 10 million rupee ($120,000) grant from the Samsung Solve for Tomorrow contest, beating 18,000 entries. Chadalavada hopes to make the device available on the market by this fall.

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More good news of the week —

A groundbreaking procedure allows heart repairs to grow with children and holds promise for revolutionizing treatment options. The innovative approach offers a potential long-term solution for children facing heart-related challenges and provides hope to hundreds of pediatric patients with congenital heart disease in the U.S.

A U.S. appeals court has upheld a decision to temporarily block part of a Texas law restricting books in public school libraries. The court's decision was celebrated by bookstores, trade associations, and critics, who argued that the law violates free speech rights, particularly the First Amendment, and imposes onerous conditions on businesses.

A startup is creating customizable dolls specifically designed to represent children with disabilities. The dolls are hand-crafted and assembled in the United States, with a focus on offering more realistic movements and customization options than traditional dolls.

Authors Ann Patchett, Jason Reynolds, and Eric La Salle, in collaboration with audiobook platform Libro.fm, are donating 100% of customer payments for selected audiobooks between January 23 and 25 to Binc. The initiative supports Binc's charitable programs, providing assistance to book and comic sellers facing financial hardships or emergencies.

A Brooklyn-based electric mobility company has celebrated its two-millionth ride in the New York metropolitan area, just six months after reaching its millionth ride milestone. The company operates an all-electric rideshare fleet of over 500 vehicles, offsetting over 9 million pounds of carbon emissions with its two million rides, and employs about 1,500 W2 drivers with guaranteed hourly wages, benefits, and covers vehicle costs.

After a year of the statewide fee on single-use plastic bags in Colorado, the Eco-Cycle recycling center estimates a reduction of up to 1.8 billion plastic bags used in the state in 2023. The collected fees, which are divided between businesses and local governments, fund green initiatives.

During a recent ice storm in Portland, food salvage and redistribution nonprofits stepped in to rescue and repurpose excess food from closed businesses. These organizations, which normally salvage food to prepare free meals, worked through icy conditions to collect larger quantities of food due to restaurant and grocery store closures during the storm; the salvaged food was then distributed to emergency shelters.

After facing decades of criticism, FEMA has announced a major overhaul of its disaster aid system. The changes, set to take effect in late March, include new programs offering rapid cash payments of $750 to victims of federally declared disasters and flexible upfront funding for housing, eliminating red tape such as Small Business Administration loan requirements and pre-existing conditions provisions.

The European Parliament has approved a new law aimed at preventing greenwashing and misleading environmental claims on products. The directive prohibits terms like "environmentally friendly," "biodegradable," and "climate neutral" in advertising or packaging without concrete evidence.

Scientists exploring hydrothermal springs off Costa Rica's Pacific coast have discovered at least four new octopus species. Two octopus nurseries were found during expeditions in 2023, revealing unique biodiversity.

Brian "Head" Welch, guitarist and founding member of Korn, has launched Atlantic Behavioral Health, a mental health treatment center providing intensive outpatient treatment in Massachusetts and New Hampshire. Inspired by his own struggles with depression, Welch aims to create a supportive community through the center, combining individual therapy, group therapy, and medication management to address anxiety, depression, and various mental health disorders.

Canada has granted the Arctic territory of Nunavut control over its mineral resources, including gold, diamonds, iron, cobalt, and rare earth metals. The devolution agreement allows the territory to collect royalties that would otherwise go to the federal government.

A new report suggests that plastic bag bans in the U.S. have been successful in reducing plastic bag use. The study, focusing on five representative policies in New Jersey, Vermont, Philadelphia, Portland, Oregon, and Santa Barbara, California, indicates that plastic bag bans can eliminate nearly 300 single-use plastic bags per person per year.

Miami-Dade County is set to receive nearly $20 million from the EPA to fund the purchase of 50 new electric school buses and 16 fast chargers, bringing the total number of electric buses in the public school district to 100. The funding is part of the EPA's Clean School Bus Program’s Grants Competition, aimed at accelerating the transition to low- and zero-emission vehicles, improving air quality for children, and advancing environmental justice.

New York City Mayor Eric Adams has announced plans to eliminate over $2 billion in medical debt for up to 500,000 residents in partnership with RIP Medical Debt, a nonprofit that buys and forgives medical debt in bulk. The city will allocate $18 million over three years for the debt relief program, which Mayor Adams considers a significant investment in the financial well-being of middle- and working-class New Yorkers.

Article Details

January 27, 2024 5:00 AM
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