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In our fast-paced, ever-changing, and chaotic world, it can often feel difficult to remember something good that has happened in the past week, let alone an entire year. Nice News is here to help you remember some of the most significant positive stories from 2022 — from the endangered species that are bouncing back (looking at you humpback whales and monarch butterflies!) to the new mental health hotline and the most efficient malaria vaccine yet. 

Read about those and more below; we can’t wait to see and report on all the good that happens in 2023. 

1. Some Endangered and Threatened Species Bounced Back 

We frequently hear about animals that are threatened by extinction, but 2022 saw a resurgence in various species — a sign that conservation efforts are working. 

In January, the Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation announced that California’s population of monarch butterflies — an endangered species — jumped from just 2,000 in 2020 to nearly 250,000 in 2021. And way over in Australia, humpback whales were taken off the threatened species list, thanks to decades of anti-whaling protections. 

The green sea turtle population is also making a comeback after hunting and egg harvesting during the 19th and 20th centuries landed them a spot on the endangered species list. But in 1968, Aldabra Atoll in the Seychelles became the first nesting site to ban turtle hunting in the Western Indian Ocean. From then to now, the breeding ground has seen a roughly 500% increase in the number of new eggs laid — and it’s expected to keep going. 

2. The World Rallied Around Ukrainians 

Russia invaded Ukraine in February, leading to the war that wages on today. While that’s not “nice news,” the way the rest of the world responded absolutely is. In less than two months, the country received more than 600 grants totaling nearly $900 million for humanitarian aid and relief efforts, per a report from Fortune

Beyond the record-breaking amount of donations, various nonprofit organizations have sprung to action to feed people, find homes for refugees, help Ukraine’s pets, and more. And individuals have stepped up, too: opening their own homes — or hotels, in one case — and hearts to those affected by the conflict. 

maki_shmaki / iStock

3. U.S. Wind Power Was the Second-Leading Source of Electricity for First Time

In March, energy generated by wind turbines was the second-highest source of electricity for a 24-hour period for the very first time. Wind beat out both nuclear and coal power, but fell behind natural gas, according to the Energy Information Administration (EIA). 

“The amount of wind electricity generation has grown significantly in the past 30 years,” the EIA website reads, noting that “advances in wind energy technology have decreased the cost of producing electricity from wind.”

As outlined in the United Nations’ 2022 climate report, relying on wind power, as well as solar and other forms of renewable energy, will help keep global warming below 1.5 degrees Celsius and maintain a habitable and thriving planet for generations to come.

4. Scientists Sequenced the Complete Human Genome for the First Time 

Scientists studying genetics reached a major achievement in March: sequencing a complete human genome for the first time. In 2003, researchers revealed what was then called a complete human genome, but it was missing about 8% of the code. This one was gap-free — and it’s a huge step forward for the study of DNA.

Eric Green, the director of the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), called the sequence “an incredible scientific achievement” that could help inform how we identify, treat, and cure human diseases. Adam Phillippy, a senior investigator at the NHGRI, compared the triumph to “putting on a new pair of glasses.” He added: “Now that we can clearly see everything, we are one step closer to understanding what it all means.”

5. World’s Largest Kindness Study Suggested the Pandemic Made People Kinder

In the world’s largest public study of kindness, released in March, two-thirds of participants said they believe the COVID-19 pandemic has made people kinder. 

The Kindness Test, an online questionnaire created by researchers and psychologists at England’s University of Sussex, reached over 60,000 people from 144 countries. The questionnaire sought to understand how people experience kindness in their daily lives. 

Three in four people said they received kindness from close friends or family quite often or nearly all the time. Sixteen percent of those surveyed said they had received an act of kindness within the last hour, and an additional 43% received one within the past day.

Income had no correlation with kindness, proving that acts of kindness don’t have to cost a ton of money — or any money — to have an impact.  

Living Habitats and National Wildlife Federation

6. World’s Largest Urban Wildlife Crossing Planned Above Busy California Freeway 

In April, California broke ground on the world’s largest urban wildlife crossing, located over U.S. Route 101 near Los Angeles. The crossing will allow mountain lions, coyotes, deer, lizards, snakes, and other animals to safely cross through the Santa Monica Mountains and have better access to food, open space, and mates.

In addition to being the world’s largest, the planned bridge will be the first of its kind near a major city. Once completed in 2025, it will stretch 200 feet above 10 highway lanes. Beth Pratt, the NWF’s California executive director, said: “Crossings like this are nothing new. This one’s historic because we’re putting it over one of the busiest freeways in the world.” 

7. New Malaria Vaccine With 77% Efficacy Sparked Hope Among Researchers 

In 2020, there were an estimated 241 million cases of malaria around the world, 95% of which were on the African continent. But newly developed vaccines are sparking hope among researchers and locals alike. One shot was endorsed by the World Health Organization last year, and another — with remarkable efficacy rates — is on the way, researchers revealed this summer. Called R21, the second vaccine had a high-level efficacy of 77%.

“The data was being presented. And … you get goosebumps. It was absolutely extraordinary,” Mainga Hamaluba, the principal investigator on the phase III trial for R21, told The Guardian. “It still is.” Once it’s ready for public distribution, the Serum Institute of India, the world’s largest vaccine manufacturer, will be able to deliver at least 200 million doses per year. Adrian Hill, who heads a research institute at Oxford University, added that he believes the vaccine could reduce malaria deaths by 75% by 2030, and help fully eradicate it by 2040. 

NASA, ESA, CSA, and STScI

8. NASA’s James Webb Telescope Delivered Deepest and Sharpest Infrared Image of Space 

The James Webb Space Telescope — the largest and most powerful telescope in the world — launched on December 25, 2021 and traveled nearly 1 million miles over almost 30 days to reach its permanent vantage point, a gravitationally-stable spot in space near earth opposite the sun. On July 12, the telescope’s much-anticipated first images were finally released

The five stunning shots include a “glittering landscape of star birth” called NGC-3324 within the Carina Nebula, a stellar nursery about 7,600 light-years away. The image features what have been dubbed the “Cosmic Cliffs” for their resemblance to a mountain range but are actually the gaseous edges of a cavernous area inside the nebula. The other images are of the Southern Ring Nebula (a cloud of gas surrounding a dying star), Stephan’s Quintet (a grouping of five galaxies), WASP-96 b (a distant giant planet), and galaxy cluster SMACS 0723, which shows the faintest objects ever observed in the infrared.

“It cannot be said enough that an achievement like the James Webb Space Telescope is something bigger than any one of us. It’s bigger than any organization, than any country,” NASA scientist Michelle Thaller said at the time. “This truly takes a planet — Webb belongs to all of us and starting today, the discoveries start and are not going to stop. This is just the beginning.”

9. Mental Health Alternative to 911 Launched Nationwide — and Proved Successful 

In another one of this year’s top positive stories, a new alternative for 911 — 988 — rolled out in the U.S. in July in an effort to better address mental health emergencies. “When you get on the line with someone who is trained as a professional counselor, they are able to help instill hope,” Dale Adair, chief psychiatric officer at the Pennsylvania Department of Human Services, told The Philadelphia Inquirer. “The person taking the call is able to help the person develop a safety plan.”

The hotline routes to the already existing National Suicide Prevention Lifeline, which is currently at 1-800-273-8255. Officials hope that the easier-to-remember 988 will prompt more people to reach out for help when they need it.

And it’s been working: As of September, 988 had led to a 45% increase in calls and a reduction in average response times from 2 1/2 minutes to 42 seconds, USA Today reported.

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10. Parts of the Great Barrier Reef Showed Highest Coral Coverage in 36 Years 

Some portions of the Great Barrier Reef — the world’s largest coral reef system —  are showing the highest coral coverage in 36 years, according to an August report from the Australian Institute of Marine Science. Though the area is still threatened by climate change and warming waters, the recovery is “good news for the overall state of the [Great Barrier Reef],” the report reads.

The institute, which surveyed about two-thirds of the reef, said that one reason for the increased coverage is low levels of “acute stress” over the past year. There have been no severe cyclones and fewer outbreaks of crown-of-thorns starfish — a species that preys on coral. And while higher water temperatures have led to some coral bleaching, it has not been hot enough to kill the coral. Overall, the Great Barrier Reef has proven to be resilient and able to recover after ecosystem disturbances, a sign that continued conservation and protection efforts are as necessary as ever.

11. Ozone Layer Recovery Hit a “Significant Milestone”

The NOAA announced in September that the concentration of chemicals and substances that deplete the ozone layer had fallen more than 50%, back to the levels observed in 1980. In a press release, the organization said the latest tracking data “shows the threat to the ozone layer receding below a significant milestone in 2022.”

The ozone layer is essential, as it protects the planet and everything that lives on it from the sun’s UV rays. In the 1980s, scientists discovered that human-made chemicals were severely damaging the ozone and mobilized for change. By 1987, every single country on Earth agreed to the Montreal Protocol to regulate the harmful chemicals — the first and only time the entire world has ratified a treaty in unison.

Stephen Montzka, senior scientist for NOAA’s Global Monitoring Laboratory, noted that there’s still a ways to go in restoring the ozone layer to where it needs to be, but the milestone offers hope for a full eventual recovery. “It’s great to see this progress,” he said.

12. The Patagonia Founder Gave the Company — and His Billions — Away

For years, outdoor gear brand Patagonia has led the charge in how corporations can be part of the solution, rather than the problem, when it comes to climate change. And in September, founder Yvon Chouinard made a radical move to further that mission: donating the entire $3 billion company.

In a press release titled “Earth is now our only shareholder,” 83-year-old Chouinard wrote about realizing the efforts Patagonia was already making to combat climate change still weren’t enough, and feeling uninspired by what he saw as the available options for change — selling the company outright or going public. “Truth be told, there were no good options available. So, we created our own,” Chouinard explained.

“Instead of ‘going public,’ you could say we’re ‘going purpose.’ Instead of extracting value from nature and transforming it into wealth for investors, we’ll use the wealth Patagonia creates to protect the source of all wealth.”

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13. Cheaper Hearing Aids Became Available Over the Counter

There was positive news for the hard of hearing this year: The Food and Drug Administration approved a measure that allows some hearing aids to be sold over the counter, a rule that took effect in October. Officials hope that the move will make the products cheaper, more widely available, and potentially even higher-quality. 

It’s estimated that the new rule will save people around $2,800 per pair, a significant improvement for the nearly 30 million adults in the U.S. who could benefit from them.

“Today’s action will not only help adults who have perceived mild to moderate hearing loss gain access to more affordable and innovative production options, but we expect that it will unleash the power of American industry to improve the technology in a way that it will impact the enormous burden of disability from hearing loss affecting the world,” FDA Commissioner Dr. Robert Califf said at a news briefing.

Gareth Fuller / PA Images via Getty Images

Most parents aren’t too pleased when their kids draw on the walls, but Sam Cox’s folks didn’t mind. That creative freedom inspired Cox, also known as Mr. Doodle, to produce a one-of-a-kind work of art: a house completely covered in doodles.   

“I have wanted to live in a property completely covered in characters of my own creation. A DoodleLand filled with happy creatures that bring me joy when I see them,” the U.K.-based artist wrote in an Instagram post. “For me, that’s what I create art for, to make myself happy and to hopefully make others happy along the way.”

Cox’s mammoth creative project took two years to complete. According to his Instagram, he used 900 liters of white paint and 401 cans of black spray paint for the exterior, and 286 bottles of black drawing paint and 2,296 pen nibs for the interior. He covered every inch of the sprawling 1.35 million-pound (around $1.5 million), 12-room mansion, from pillowcases and lampshades to the stovetop and bathtub.  

“It is a project I have been dreaming about since I was very young. Everything I have done up to this point has been in aim of being able to realize this piece,” Cox wrote about his Tenterden, England, home. “I spent years planning the work; every part of the piece was carefully thought and rethought before final completion.”

He told the BBC he’d loved doodling since he was a child but didn’t realize he could make it a career until people began asking to purchase or commission his pieces. According to Artsy, he studied illustration in Bristol, England, where a professor nicknamed him “Mr. Doodle” for his animated apparel featuring hand-drawn patterns. 

Today, Mr. Doodle is world-famous, his whimsical style instantly recognizable. He shot to fame after a viral Facebook video showed him covering an entire shop floor in doodles and has since amassed millions of followers on social media.

He has also shown his work in exhibits around the globe, from London to Seoul, and collaborated with brands like MTV, Adidas, Puma, and Fendi, per Artsy. In August 2020, his painting Spring (2019) sold for nearly $1 million, and that same year, he was the world’s fifth-most successful artist under age 40 at auction, according to the BBC

“I’ve always loved doodling since I was a little kid. It just became an obsession of mine and I never really realized I could kind of make a career out of it until people started to ask if they could buy my work,” he told the outlet n 2020. He added: “My influences mostly stem from video games and comic books that I played, or watched, or read as a kid.”

While doodle décor might not be for everyone, Cox shared, “This is sort of a paradise for me.” He and his wife, Mrs. Doodle, and their Doodle Dog don’t plan on going anywhere anytime soon. 

“There’s a whole world to doodle over,” he said.  

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

For nearly two decades, Yasmeen Lari — Pakistan’s first female architect — has directed her considerable talents toward building sustainable shelters and infrastructure for people experiencing homelessness due to natural disasters. A co-founder of the nonprofit Heritage Foundation of Pakistan, 81-year-old Lari had initially retired from her storied career in architecture in 2000. However, she was mobilized back into action by a devastating earthquake that hit Pakistan in 2005, and has remained on her current path ever since.

The bamboo shelters she designs nowadays are highly portable, easily disassembled and reassembled, and are made with materials that can be repurposed to build more permanent housing as warranted.  “The beauty of it is that it’s low-tech,” Lari explained in an interview with Fast Company — made so by utilizing a simple design and affordable materials, with zero carbon footprint. 

The use of sustainable materials, such as bamboo, is an altruistic consideration, albeit one born from a practical need that arose in the aftermath of the 2005 quake. “You could not find other materials,” Lari said. “Everything was taking too much time [to source], like bricks … You could find bamboo. And I said, ‘OK, let’s give it a try.’” 

Heritage Foundation of Pakistan

Lari now runs a training center called Zero-Carbon Campus, where artisans construct these disaster-relief shelters for people displaced by flooding and landslides. It’s here where designs of the original bamboo hut evolved to incorporate prefabricated bamboo panels that can be quickly and easily pulled together with rope. At the campus, the artisans build eight shelters per day, on average. 

Earlier this summer, six of the artisans on campus started building a small village that will eventually include 100 bamboo homes — all of which reportedly survived the current flooding. And, in true pay-it-forward fashion, the artisans are training others on how to build these structures. “My artisans, who are my best entrepreneurs, will now teach other artisans from surrounding villages to be able to go back and build your own unit,” Lari said. “If I can disperse it all over the country, we can make hundreds of these a day.” 

The Heritage Foundation also makes assembly instructions for the temporary shelters available on YouTube, for emergency situations when the need is more urgent.

Lari’s current focus on disaster relief projects is something of an unexpected detour from an illustrious career that once encompassed building opulent, high-profile corporate and government structures in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city. The city’s finance and trade centre and the Pakistan State Oil House are two of her most celebrated designs. 

In 2020, Lari was awarded the prestigious Jane Drew Prize, an award granted to a select few female architects who have made extraordinary contributions to architecture in the traditionally male-dominated industry. 

In an interview with The Guardian, not long after receiving the award, Lari reflected upon her change in direction, stating, “I feel like I am atoning for some of what I did. I was a ‘starchitect’ for 36 years, but then my egotistical journey had to come to an end. It’s not only the right of the elite to have good design.”

Lari’s change of heart, and its ripple effects via the new generation of artisans she trains at the Zero-Carbon Campus, seem to be delivering on that vow, exponentially. 

She elaborated on her philosophy in a Q&A session with Dwell magazine: “I often tell my colleagues: Let us not treat the disaster-affected households as destitute needing handouts; let us give them due respect, and treat them as we would a corporate sector client. If we can encourage that elusive element of pride among traumatized, shelterless families, half the battle would be won, for they would soon be on the road to self reliance.”

Courtesy of Unshattered

Kelly Lyndgaard is open about the fact that she once thought people struggling with addiction were irresponsible or simply making poor choices. But today, the former executive is their champion, having built a thriving business and a strong community with the goal of helping women put — and keep — the pieces of their lives back together. 

After spending time with a local recovery program, Lyndgaard’s eyes were opened to traumatic life experiences that drove many to substance abuse, and the lack of available resources for helping an individual stay sober. So she started Unshattered, a handbag and accessory brand, and hired only women in addiction recovery. 

“I felt that I could use my business skills to help close the gap between sobriety and long-term success, and Unshattered has been employing women in recovery for more than six years now,” Lyndgaard told Nice News. 

According to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, substance use disorders have a relapse rate of 40-60%, similar to other chronic medical conditions. With Unshattered, Lyndgaard wants to end that relapse cycle. “We’ve had just a single relapse for our employees,” she shared. 

“We’re seeing our women really thrive in recovery. Three of them have spoken at the White House. One of our employees was named 40 under 40 business leader for our community here in Dutchess County last year,” Lyndgaard continued, adding, “It turns out all that they needed was some safe community, purpose, and good work to do.”

The upstate New York-based nonprofit specializes in handmade leather bags and has established partnerships with companies like Southwest Airlines to recycle materials into new artisan products.

Courtesy of Unshattered

Each bag has a series of things that make it unique. First, the names, like Ashley, Joy, and Sheila, are in honor of somebody who’s still struggling with addiction. The woman making the item also incorporates a “secret message” with a personal detail about herself — perhaps her number of days of sobriety or something else meaningful — inside the liner of the bag. 

Finally, Lyndgaard looks to the Japanese art form of kintsugi as inspiration for both the bags and the organization’s overall ethos. 

“Kintsugi was when a piece of pottery was broken, they would use gold in the cracks to put it back together. And that was so beautiful that it became a form of art,” she explained. “The term roughly means ‘more beautiful for having been broken.’ So Unshattered is really celebrating that those places of brokenness, where we have been fully healed, are actually the places where our beauty and goodness shine through … those places that have been healed can actually be our biggest places of success.”

As an ode to that, each Unshattered bag contains a single gold thread. Beyond the products, though, Lyndgaard said the community is a critical part of what makes Unshattered work. Being around like-minded people who can encourage and motivate each other is key to sobriety, and creating a safe space like that is a lesson the women can take forth with them in the future. 

Looking ahead, Unshattered has plans to get bigger and better: The nonprofit is preparing to close on a new facility to further expand its mission and output. 

“It just never gets old to see a woman make something beautiful,” Lyndgaard said. “And that first moment of pride where she’s like, ‘I’ve made this!’ — it’s an incredible thing to witness their own shift into believing what is possible for them.”

DroneSeed

Nestled in the heart of the Pacific Northwest, Washington is a treasure trove of natural beauty, famed for its lush, dense forests, majestic snow-capped mountains, and dramatic, rocky coastlines. But in recent years, the Evergreen State has also become known as a hotbed of the wildfires that have ravaged the west coast, laying bare millions of acres of wilderness, farmland, and residential areas. A Seattle-based environmental tech startup is on a mission to revitalize the once-ravaged land, as well as the ecosystems and communities that depend on it, one seed at a time. 

“Wildfires are burning hotter, faster, and more frequently. As a result of climate change, we can no longer rely solely on natural regeneration to recover,” reads the DroneSeed website. “We’re on a mission to make reforestation scalable to mitigate the worst effects of climate change.” 

In the past, the Earth could recover from a typical forest fire without human intervention. The remaining trees and plants would reseed the soil and regenerate the ecosystem with the help of native fauna. But, as Geekwire reports, recent blazes have become so intense they destroy everything in their path, creating barren deserts devoid of seed sources. Without assistance, they could remain treeless grass or shrubland for years. 

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As its name denotes, DroneSeed, founded in 2016, deploys custom-made drones to quickly and efficiently disperse seeds over hundreds of acres of scorched earth across the northwest, reaching many areas that are treacherous, if not inaccessible. Where possible, they also use manual methods to plant seedlings. Since 2019, they’ve reseeded thousands of acres, according to Geekwire. 

It’s not the first company to scatter seeds by air — others, including Flash Forest, Dendra Systems, and Terraformation, in Ontario, the U.K., and Hawaii, respectively, use similar methods. But DroneSeed is reportedly the first to receive Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) approval for using heavy-lift drones, which span eight feet and can carry up to 55 pounds. 

The company also utilizes other technologies and traditional hands-on methods to survey the land meticulously and strategically chart the drones’ courses based on where seeds are most likely to thrive. They then closely monitor areas after a deposit, lending Mother Nature a hand when needed. 

“It is very much a marriage of old technology and new tools,” Kea Woodruff, senior operations manager for DroneSeed, told the publication. 

DroneSeed

DroneSeed maintains nurseries and an expansive wild seed inventory, ensuring they’re ready to act quickly after a wildfire. The company’s comprehensive reforestation capabilities make it a “one-stop shop for all reforestation needs,” according to its website. 

It’s even helping individuals take part. Recently, DroneSeed announced a partnership with the nonprofit One Tree Planted to assist landowners in paying for and implementing restoration projects. According to the One Tree Planted website, the global environmental organization has planted over 40 million trees in more than 47 countries. 

While the technology could one day be deployed globally, DroneSeed is currently focused on the western U.S., British Columbia, New Zealand, and Australia. 

Said Cassie Meigs, a DroneSeed forest ecologist: “We’re out there trying to seed hope.” 

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We know stretching and exercising strengthens the body — but what about the mind? A Wake Forest School of Medicine study, presented at the Alzheimer’s Association International Conference in early August, set forth to examine this question. The results showed that moderate aerobic exercise and low-intensity stretching stalled cognitive decline in elderly participants who had exhibited signs of early-onset Alzheimer’s disease.

Funded by the National Institute on Aging (NIA), the clinical trial evaluated whether regular exercise could benefit people with amnestic mild cognitive impairment (MCI), which primarily affects memory in older adults and increases the risk of Alzheimer’s or related dementias. MCI is the “stage between the expected cognitive decline of normal aging and the more serious decline of dementia,” Mayo Clinic explains

Wake Forest coordinated the 18-month trial in partnership with YMCA and enrolled 296 participants aged 65 and above. Participants were assigned to two groups: one that engaged in intensity aerobic training, and the other in less intense stretching and range-of-motion exercises. YMCA trainers and staff supervised exercise sessions during the first 12 months of the study. 

Cognitive function did not decline in either participant group over the 1.5-year testing period, which suggests that even mild exercise may have stalled cognitive decline attributed to MCI. Meanwhile, a comparison group of older adults with MCI who did not participate in routine exercise showed significant cognitive decline over the course of the study. 

Overall, the exercise trial took over five years to conduct, making it the longest study involving MCI to date. Researchers began enrolling participants in September 2016 and concluded the study January 28. 

“Our results were noteworthy given that the trial was conducted during the COVID pandemic,” said Laura Baker, the author of the study and Wake Forest School of Medicine Professor of Geriatric Medicine. “[Participants] received equal amounts of weekly socialization.”

Results from this trial highlight the need to continue public and private research investment of neurological disorders in older adults, said Dr. Heather M. Snyder, Alzheimer’s Association Vice President of Medical and Scientific Relations. 

“Researchers are advancing our understanding of the disease by exploring biomarkers, discovering potential ways to reduce risk, and working to move promising treatments and diagnostic tools forward into clinical testing,” she said

FDA-approved treatments for Alzheimer’s have largely focused on targeting beta-amyloid, a microscopic protein fragment that forms in the brain and accumulates into plaques. However, some reports in the medical community have raised questions on the efficacy of anti-amyloid antibody treatments, leading many scientists to switch gears. Maria Carrillo, chief science officer of the Alzheimer’s Association, said Baker’s research presents a more multifaceted approach in slowing the symptoms of dementia — something that is needed in the field.

“There’s just more understanding of the underlying biology and what potential treatments can impact the disease, which actually includes exercise,” Carrillo told USA Today.

NYC's trash problem: Piles of Garbage Bags on the street for collection
georgeclerk / iStock

Black trash bags on corners and curbs are as ubiquitous in New York City as hot dog carts and yellow cabs. Officials have struggled to devise a suitable solution to the city’s trash problem for over a century, but the Clean Curbs Pilot Program could be it. 

The program resembles public sanitation measures in cities like Paris and Barcelona, providing sealed, rodent-resistant, non-flammable trash sheds to house garbage bags awaiting pickup. Proponents say that taking the trash off the street could significantly improve the city’s health, safety, and aesthetics. 

On April 20, Mayor Eric Adams and New York City Department of Sanitation (DSNY) Commissioner Jessica S. Tisch unveiled the city’s first container near Times Square. 

“Environmental justice begins at the street level, and it starts now,” Adams said, according to a press release. “Clean streets are vital to vibrant neighborhoods and to New York City’s economic comeback. We need to stop dodging black garbage bags and instead fund and test container models throughout the city that will make our streets cleaner and more inviting for both New Yorkers and visitors.”

Officials have discussed containerization for many years, but this is the first time it’s being tested. 

“Today’s announcement is a key step in finding ways to take back our streetscape from the mountains of black bags,” said Tisch. 

Officials installed four additional bins in front of businesses in June and July, and the program will extend to residential neighborhoods, beginning with Hell’s Kitchen, in the fall, The New York Times reports. Eventually, all five boroughs will have trash sheds. 

“Clean curbs mean better experiences for workers, small businesses, families, and tourists,” said Deputy Mayor for Economic and Workforce Development Maria Torres-Springer. 

Joshua Goodman, assistant commissioner for public affairs at DSNY, told The Times the city had allocated $1.3 million to test different kinds of bins in varying configurations to determine what works and what doesn’t. He said that includes the containers themselves and how they’re collected. 

Though it’s “not a silver bullet,” Goodman said, he and others believe the pilot program is a promising first step toward tackling the decades-long dilemma of what to do with millions of people’s waste. 

“It’s time to toss out the old way of collecting trash in our city,” said Councilmember Shaun Abreu. “The ‘Clean Curbs’ pilot will introduce a top-notch tactic for keeping trash from piling up on our streets. Our residents and businesses can breathe a sigh of relief knowing these containers will keep the neighborhood clean and rodents at bay. I applaud the mayor for giving the streets back to New Yorkers.”

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It may seem obvious that travel can leave people feeling relaxed and restored, but a recent study says it’s the first of its kind to explore the link between tourism and mental health, specifically for vulnerable groups like people with dementia.

The researchers concluded that tourism can provide dementia patients with “relaxing and memorable experiences that stimulate neurological functioning,” and recommended using it alongside pharmaceutical treatments.

And it’s not just people with dementia who can benefit from getting out of the house and exploring the world. Those who suffer from mental health issues, like depression, may also find particular relief using travel as a form of therapy.

“Think about how important it is for you to unwind after work, or how many of us look forward to the weekend,” neuroscientist and clinical social worker Renetta Weaver, who was not involved with the study, explained to Verywell Mind. “We all need ways of mentally and physically escaping. Our brain is always seeking a way to help us blow off steam and re-establish a feeling of balance.”

“Traveling out of the country can also help us shift our perspective and remind us that our problems are small compared to the largeness of the world; the world extends beyond our corner,” she added.

For those for whom travel isn’t possible, Weaver shared that meditating and imagining yourself in a faraway place, like a beautiful beach or mountain scenery, can have similar mental health boosting benefits. In other words, your brain can’t really differentiate an imagined vacation from a real one.

“Neuroscience teaches us about the plasticity of the brain and the possibility of recovering the parts of our brain that we thought we lost. Traveling can lead to the release of dopamine, serotonin, and oxytocin, which cause our bodies to heal and function well,” Weaver said, emphasizing the importance of stopping to smell the roses.

If you want to tap into the power of travel, check out this “Day at the Beach” guided meditation, or Travel & Leisure‘s list of the best places to visit for peace and relaxation.