It’s a Wonderful World

Trevi Fountain, Rome

Santorini, Greece

Machu Picchu, Peru

Moraine Lake, Canada

Iceland (Aurora Borealis)


Winner of Starbucks’ Coffee Cup Challenge isn’t a Coffee Cup

Betacup Challenge is an open design competition partly sponsored by Starbucks with a mission to reduce the waste from to-go paper coffee cups. Having beat out over 430 entries, Karma Cup will receive $10,000.

The Karma plan: A chalkboard at the coffee shop will chart each person who uses a reusable mug. The tenth person to order a drink with a reusable cup will receive his or her drink free. By turning a freebie program into a communal challenge, Karma Cup would create incentives for everyone to bring reusable mugs.

Every year, 58 billion paper cups are thrown away, 20 million trees are cut down to manufacture these cups and 12 billion gallons of water are used in the manufacturing process. We could also power 53,000 homes with the energy we consume with paper cups.

Although there are no firm plans to implement Karma Cup at coffee shops yet, it was selected primarily on its viability and ease of implementation. It’s a low-risk program that doesn’t require creating any new products, and Starbucks also didn’t want to change the coffee-drinking experience.  This is probably why the ‘Cookie Cup’ didn’t make the grade. Who wouldn’t want to eat their cup after drinking out of it, especially if it’s made of cookie dough?


Electrolux: Turning Plastic from the Ocean into Vacuum Cleaners

Talk about the right marketing at the right time. Electrolux is taking advantage of our collective awareness on the ocean by launching Vac from the Sea, an initiative that will turn plastic pollution from the ocean into Electrolux vacuum cleaners.

Electrolux is recruiting trained volunteers to gather plastic, either by diving after it or scooping it up from waves, from a variety of locations in the Pacific, Indian Ocean, the Atlantic, the Mediterranean, and the Baltic and North Sea. Collection started in Sweden just a few days ago. Once enough plastic has been collected, Electrolux will press it together into a series of concept vacuum cleaners

Hans Stråberg, the President and CEO of Electrolux, explains the reasoning behind Vac from the Sea: “Our oceans are filled with plastic waste. Yet on land, there is a shortage of recycled plastic. The supply of sustainable raw material, such as recycled plastic, is crucial for making sustainable appliances, and assisting consumers in making their homes greener. I therefore hope people will join us in raising awareness about the threat plastic poses to marine habitats, and the urgent need for taking better care of the plastic that already exists.”


Spotlight on a Helping Foundation: OneSight

Vinolia, South Africa – After living in virtual blindness for more than 45 years, Vinolia couldn’t contain her excitement at finally being able to see the world clearly!  Forced to quit school in the sixth grade, she exclaimed, “I can’t wait to go back to school and expand my mind!”

Maiko, Brazil – After failing two grades in school because he couldn’t see the blackboard, 11-year-od Maiko was in desperate need of eye care and eyewear.  His parents had saved for four years to purchase his first pair of glasses, which he recently lost.  Maiko and his mother were both very thankful for his new eyewear.

Naya, India – 80-year-old Naya sells colorful textiles for a living.  Failing vision put him in danger of having to close his business.  As the sole wage earner for his family, his new glasses enable him to clearly see and sell his beautiful fabrics in his store.

Elsa, South Africa – Elsa was given her very first pair of glasses – a pair of readers.  She was so thrilled to finally read her bible again.  But more important to Elsa, was finally being able to see the face of her daughter, a sight she hadn’t enjoyed in quite some time.

Each of these individuals have benefited from the efforts of OneSightOneSight, a Luxottica Group Foundation, is a family of charitable vision care programs dedicated to improving vision through outreach, research and education. Since 1988, these charitable efforts have provided free vision care and eyewear to more than seven million people in need around the world and have granted millions of dollars towards optical research and education.  OneSight’s volunteers give the gift of sight by traveling to developing countries to hand-deliver much needed, free eye care and eyewear through temporary Optical Clinics.

Want to get involved?  Visit

Bizarre Good News: Mozart Makes Microbes Eat Sewage Faster

It looks like Mozart has billions and billions more fans than we thought, and much smaller ones, too. Evidently, sewage-eating microbes are major appreciators of the Austrian composer. One pioneering waste treatment plant in Germany has taken to playing Mozart on an expensive stereo to the microorganisms that break down sewage, and it found that it greatly increased their speed and efficiency and could save the plant thousands of dollars a year.

Here’s how it works: According to Der Spiegel International, the sonic waves of Mozart’s compositions, along with the addition of oxygen, spur micro-organisms to a higher performance in breaking down biosolids, operations manager Anton Stucki explained. As a result, wastewater facilities will be able to save energy costs and decrease the amount of residual sludge, which is expensive to dispose of.

The plant expects to save 1,000 euros a month by piping in music. The plant managers have spared no expense, either: They’re using top-of-the-line stereo systems that are intended to replicate the concert hall sound as accurately as possible. Running the stereo costs 400 ($485) a month, but it’s proven to be so effective at boosting the speed of the sewage-eating microbes that they’re saving more than twice that.


Norwegian Boy Saves Sister from Moose Attack Using World of Warcraft Skills

Hans Jørgen Olsen, a 12-year-old Norwegian boy, saved himself and his sister from a moose attack using skills he picked up playing the online role playing game World of Warcraft.

Hans and his sister got into trouble after they had trespassed the territory of the moose during a walk in the forest near their home. When the moose attacked them, Hans knew the first thing he had to do was ‘taunt’ and provoke the animal so that it would leave his sister alone and she could run to safety. ‘Taunting’ is a move that is used in World of Warcraft to get monsters off of the less-well-armored team members.

Once Hans was a target, he remembered another skill he had picked up at level 30 in World of Warcraft – he feigned death. The moose lost interest in the inanimate boy and wandered off into the woods. When he was safely alone, Hans ran back home to share his tale of video game-inspired survival.


Power-Generating Soccer Ball a Bright Idea

The sOccket looks like a regular soccer ball, but a tiny electric generator hides inside. Children playing soccer for 10 minutes can “earn” three hours of electricity, a boon in Africa, where in most countries 95 percent of the population has no access to electric power.

While players kick the sOccket around the field, an inductive coil mechanism responds to the ball’s movement. The tiny machine generates electricity and stores it. Users can plug small LED lights or cell phones into a universal DC jack on the ball.  Beyond the electrical application and obvious physical advantages of running around a soccer field, the sOccket provides an additional health benefit. People who don’t have access to electricity often use expensive kerosene. The flames are dangerous, but it’s the smoke that presents particular risk; respiratory infections kill more children in developing countries than either AIDS or malaria.

Four Harvard students created the sOccket as an engineering class project two years ago. The four bonded over their experiences in developing countries.  Jessica Lin, who graduated with a government degree last year, spent all her college summers working in Africa as an intern for the Centers for Disease Control.  Recent grad and psychology major Jessica Matthews, was born in America to Nigerian parents and serves as marketing and operations manager for a Nigeria-based consulting firm.  Julia Silverman, who graduated this year with a degree in social anthropology, has conducted education research in Tanzania and worked on databases at an AIDS/HIV clinic in South Africa.  Hemali Thakkar, who will receive a social anthropology degree next year, was born in India.  The quartet kicked around ideas for mobile health devices and video games before scoring with the sOccket.

“For us, we had all seen the power of soccer and this universal need for energy, and married the idea together in the last two weeks of class to come up with the sOccket,” Linn told AOL News.  That summer, after school let out, Lin traveled to Africa and watched kids from WhizzKids United (an organization developed in response to the staggering high numbers of HIV infection amongst youth in KwaZulu Natal, South Africa) test their product.  The kids loved them.  “Hopefully what it does is inspire and encourage children to think about ideas in new, innovative, creative ways, especially children in Africa facing these problems on a day-to-day basis,” Lin said.

The FIFA World Cup in South Africa, which kicks off Friday, offers the team a perfect opportunity to introduce the sOccket to the soccer universe.  The group hopes to have the sOccket on shelves by winter. In the meantime, Thakkar returns to her studies, Matthews starts a marketing job in New York, Silverman looks for a job, and Lin moves to South Africa.


More Happiness Awaits People After 50, Study Says

Arthur Stone, a professor of psychiatry at Stony Brook University tracked the emotions of some 340,000 adults and then published those findings in the Proceedings of The national Academy of Sciences: Happiness, in a general way, improves as one gets older.

Of the 340,000 people studied, on average, people get happier with age.  Professor Stone replicated work that’s been done showing a particular pattern over age in what’s called ‘life satisfaction.’ The researchers discovered that in asking about personal satisfaction, there is a U-shaped relationship with age.  Answers showed that in general, people are least satisfied with life in middle age or around the 50’s and are most satisfied in their 20’s and in their 70’s and early 80’s.

It may seem obvious that someone in their 20’s would feel satisfied, as you’re looking to achieve things in life with a forward-looking positivity, but this is especially puzzling in the phase of increasing levels of illness as one gets older. One of the big theories comes from Laura Carstensen at Stanford University.  Her view is this- when you get older, you know where you are in life. You stop looking forward quite so much and you start focusing on smaller things in life, like being with friends and families or hobbies or volunteering that bring you immediate satisfaction.  You savor the day at hand.

(2010 National Public Radio)