Doctors in England Can Now Prescribe Walking, Cycling
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The United Kingdom has taken a positive step toward boosting the well-being of its citizens by encouraging them to explore their relationship with movement. In an effort to improve the mental and physical health of patients, and reduce disparities across England, doctors can now prescribe social prescriptions, including walking, wheeling, and cycling. 

The 12.7 million-pound multi-year program, announced by the U.K. government on August 22, will be offered in 11 areas across England: Bath and North East Somerset, Bradford, Cornwall, Cumbria, Doncaster, Gateshead, Leeds, Nottingham, Plymouth, Suffolk, and Staffordshire. 

Funding for the program will go toward adult cycle training, free bike loans, and walking groups, among other pilot projects, and “[they] must be delivered alongside improved infrastructure so people feel safe to cycle and walk,” according to a press release. 

The goal of the pilot programs is “to evaluate the impact of cycling and walking on an individual’s health, such as reduced [general practitioner] appointments and reliance on medication due to more physical activity.” 

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In a statement, Minister for Health Maria Caulfield praised the upcoming trials, saying: “The U.K. is leading the way in embedding social prescribing in our NHS and communities across the country. We’ve already exceeded our target to ensure over 900,000 people are referred to social prescribing schemes by 2023-24 and this pilot will help us identify further schemes to reduce disparities and boost mental and physical well-being across the country.” 

It’s no secret that physical movement benefits the body and the mind: Exercise triggers a release of endorphins (“feel-good” hormones) that can help alleviate some effects of anxiety and depression. Health Guide reports that physical exercise can even encourage “neural growth, reduced inflammation, and new activity patterns that promote feelings of calm and well-being.” 

England’s new program follows in the footsteps of other countries that have joined the initiative to prescribe physical activity to patients. Earlier this year, Canada implemented a similar program across four provinces that provides “patients with a free annual pass to the country’s national parks as part of an effort to increase access to nature and the health benefits to be found outside,” NPR reported. 

With the pilot programs rolling out in England through 2025, the U.K. plans to make movement more accessible and enjoyable for everyone.

Nonprofit Ocean Sole Turns Flip-Flops Into Art
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In 1997, Julie Church was studying the nesting habits of sea turtles on Kiwayu Island, Kenya, as a project executant for World Wildlife Fund when she observed a distressing variable: Newly-hatched sea turtles had to crawl through heaps of trash on their maiden voyages into the ocean. 

Dotting the shore was Styrofoam flip-flop debris, which Church observed was being collected by children and turned into toys. Though unintentional, this cleanup effectively created a safe path for the hatchlings to reach water. 

She encouraged the children’s mothers to collect, wash, cut, and fashion the trash into art to sell at local markets as a means of income. The idea was a success. For the first time, women of the Kiwayu Island village community acquired a steady source of disposable income, earning up to 5,000 Kenyan shillings ($65) a month — more than the local fishermen earned, World Wide Fund for Nature reported.

What started as a personal project grew into a full-fledged nonprofit organization in 1999 called Ocean Sole, which currently impacts over 1,000 Kenyans through direct employment or payment for flip-flop collection. Its mission is to upcycle the world’s flip-flop pollution into art and functional products while raising “visual awareness of the problem at hand.” 

Ocean Sole focuses on upcycling Styrofoam waste by annually repurposing 1 million flip-flops, which is the equivalent of over 2,000 pounds a month. Styrofoam has an extensive post-consumer lifespan of about 500 years or more, according to UCLA, and when polluted, can cause serious harm to wildlife. Foamed polystyrene is a popular material used in flip-flops due to its lightweight properties; but like the majority of plastics, it is not biodegradable. While it can be recycled or repurposed, not all recycling facilities have the ability to process the material. 

In the more than two decades since it began, Ocean Sole has found a way to repurpose the colorful sandals while employing Kenyan artisans. Pounds of flip-flops are hand-carved into sculptures, including animals such as giraffes, hippos, and turtles. No two pieces of art are alike, and they range in size from “small” keychain pieces to “double extra-large” sculptures over four feet tall. 

The nonprofit has also grown beyond sustainable art to include apparel — its online shop features T-shirts, bracelets, and a classic espadrille shoe design with a neoprene sole made from a mosaic of rubbers. 

Five years ago, Kenya became a leader in global conservation when it banned the sale and distribution of single-use plastic carrier bags, one of the first countries in East Africa to do so. While the nation still has more work to do in cleaning up its watersheds, lakes, and coastline, the production of Ocean Sole’s art pieces is a sustainable and sensible approach — and it’s restoring the beautiful beaches of Kenya one step at a time. 

See more of Ocean Sole’s work here.

New Free Guide Helps Restaurants Reduce Plastic Use
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As the popularity of fast food options and meal delivery services has grown in recent years, the number of single-use plastics that accompany orders has also increased. To help the restaurant industry cut down on plastic use and disposable packaging moving forward, Beyond Plastics has created a free, detailed guide for businesses to successfully implement positive changes — while continuing to serve up tasty meals to customers. 

The organization released the easy-to-follow, 47-page manual, titled “Hold the Plastic, Please: A Restaurant’s Guide to Reducing Plastic,” last month. Brimming with helpful tips, examples, and resources for restaurant owners who are looking to cut down on plastic use, it includes a plan to effectively implement reusables for to-go orders. 

The guide states that 44% of plastic waste in the ocean consists of takeout food and drink containers, and consumers are eager for businesses to take action to prevent more waste from littering the environment. This gives restaurants an added incentive to make long-needed changes that may have previously felt overwhelming.

“Industry research has found that the use of plastic makes consumers feel guilty, frustrated, and annoyed — precisely the opposite of what restaurant owners want their customers to experience. The majority of people surveyed also shared that they feel restaurants must do more to address the plastics problem directly,” Megan Wolff, Ph.D., MPH, Beyond Plastics policy director and lead author of the guide, said in a press release.

The guide includes case studies and statistics, and provides a multi-step process for reducing waste: perform a plastic audit, involve staff, notify customers, and finally make the switch to reusable dishware and takeout containers.

“Reusables are the gold standard for reducing litter, fighting plastic pollution, and combating climate change,” the guide states. While it does acknowledge that “the upfront costs are higher, the payback period for switching to durable goods can be as short as a few months, and over their lifetimes reusables use less energy and water than single-use containers, even after dishwashing. They also result in lower greenhouse gas emissions.” Additionally, many resusables are recyclable and reduce the amount of waste that ends up in landfills.  

To make the switch to reusable takeout containers, it’s suggested that restaurateurs partner with third-party services that operate much like linen services: supplying, collecting, cleaning, and redistributing the reusables. 

The guide also highlights the importance of restaurants telling the world that they have taken “steps to reduce plastic and safeguard the environment,” adding that “now is your time to shine, so don’t be shy about showing off your credentials as a green business.” 

With the United States generating more plastic waste than any other country on Earth, and the industry largely contributing to the growing climate crisis, it’s vital that action is taken to protect our planet. 

“Already, many eateries are choosing to either become plastic free, reduce their use of plastic, or eliminate single-use disposable items. In doing so, these restaurants have demonstrated that they can decrease costs, grow their clientele, increase revenue, and make a real and vital contribution to the health of the environment,” the press release reads. “Their actions send an important message to consumers: the future is not in plastics.”

Laboratory technician preparing blood sample for medical testing in laboratory
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Scientists have created a blood test that can predict people’s risk of heart attack, stroke, and heart failure, or death related to those conditions over a four-year period. 

The test could save lives and prevent serious medical emergencies by helping doctors see if current drugs are working and whether patients might need additional or alternative medications, The Guardian reported. It’s being used in four healthcare systems in the U.S. and may expand to the U.K. soon.

More accurate than risk prediction models based on genetic assessments, the test measures 27 proteins contained in blood plasma, which shed light on the state of someone’s organs, tissues, and cells at any moment.

It also fills a significant gap in medical assessment and treatment. Existing risk prediction models are typically less accurate for patients who have already had a heart attack or stroke, have an additional illness, or are already taking risk-reducing drugs. This test has proven accurate for those cases.

News first broke in a study published in Science Translational Medicine in April. Dr. Stephen Williams at SomaLogic in Boulder, Colorado, who authored the study, describes the medicine as revolutionary.

“I think this is the new frontier of personalized medicine, to be able to answer the question, does this person need enhanced treatment? And when you’ve treated someone, did it actually work?” he told The Guardian.

SomaLogic’s test can categorize people’s risk levels and provide a percentage likelihood of suffering a cardiovascular event within four years.

“If it turned out that your score was high, you would have a roughly one in two chance of an event, but the average time to that event would be just over 18 months, and the most likely event type would be death,” said Williams. 

He added that a person with that risk profile would “need immediate enhanced cardio protection [in the form of drugs or other interventions], because those are near-term catastrophic risks.” 

Artificial intelligence played a significant role in the creation of this groundbreaking test. Researchers used machine learning to analyze blood samples from 22,849 people, and they identified 27 proteins out of 5,000 total in each sample that could predict heart attack, stroke, heart failure, or death over four years.

They found their model was twice as effective as existing risk prediction models, which rely on a person’s age, sex, race, medical history, blood pressure, and cholesterol.

The study reports even more reasons to hope. Looking ahead, Williams said he’s hopeful the test will also be used as a quick way to assess cardiovascular drugs in development, getting treatments to patients faster and saving lives in the process.

Domenick "Don" Vultaggio, chairman of Beverage Marketing USA, parent company of AriZona Iced Tea
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Don Vultaggio began Arizona Beverages in May of 1992, creating the now-ubiquitous iced tea can with a 99-cent stamp indicating its affordable price. Thirty years later, that stamp has remained — and despite soaring inflation across the U.S., it’s not going away anytime soon.

In April, Vultaggio told Today that his consumer-focused strategy, which places an emphasis on the shopping habits of buyers, specifically aims to make Arizona a viable and inexpensive option for everyone. 

“Everything [people are] buying today there’s a price increase on. We’re trying to hold the ground and hold for a consumer who is pinched on all fronts. I’ve been in business a long time and candidly I’ve never seen anything like what’s going on now. Every single thing has gone up,” Vultaggio said of the current inflation rates.

Arizona Iced Tea is one of the leading iced tea brands in that market, according to Associated Press. It was co-founded by Vultaggio, who runs the company today with his two adult sons and sits as the company’s chairman. But how has the family-run business stood against the changing times?

Vultaggio said his company has been able to cut costs in other ways that don’t involve charging customers more. This includes changing the shape of the can to use less aluminum, which has become more expensive, and shipping their products only at night so trucks are more efficient.

“We’ve tried to manage the things behind the scenes not by cutting quality of product, but by producing it faster, making it more efficient, handling it less in warehouse, putting it on trains versus trucks, solar panels on roofs, higher speed machines,” Vultaggio told Yahoo News.

Clearly, Vultaggio’s approach to manufacturing is a proven success. The formula has worked for decades now, and as it happens, it has helped Arizona Iced Tea stand strong amidst the highest inflation rate that the country has seen in decades. 

So next time you stop into a bodega, deli, or gas station, rest easy knowing you still only need a dollar for a cold beverage.

Maud Lewis painting
Jon Dunford, Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd

It seems unlikely that a humble grilled cheese could be worth over a quarter of a million dollars, but one sandwich that Irene Demas cooked up in the 1970s really was — though in quite a roundabout way. 

This epic fable of food, art, and fate began in Canada at an Ontario restaurant called The Villa in the early 1970s. Irene and her husband Tony, the owners of the restaurant at the time, struck up a friendship with local artist John Kinnear and his wife, Audrey.

“My husband made a deal with them to trade food for art,” Irene told The Washington Post. “We needed art for our walls, and he needed to eat every day.” She added that this sort of barter system wasn’t particularly unusual back in the day: “In the ’70s, it was different. We didn’t think so much about ourselves; we thought about our neighbors and how we could help each other out.” 

Kinnear would mostly barter for meals with his own paintings, but on one fateful day, he arrived with several works by Nova Scotian folk artist Maud Lewis. Lewis grappled with both financial scarcity and severe rheumatoid arthritis during her life. After reading about her in a 1965 newspaper article, Kinnear was moved by her plight and, feeling empathy for a fellow artist who was struggling, developed a friendship with her. He soon began providing Lewis with art supplies so that she could continue to paint. In exchange, Lewis showed her appreciation by sharing several of her own paintings with Kinnear, and struck up a correspondence with him. That’s how Kinnear came to be in possession of the painting in question.

Jon Dunford, Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd

When Kinnear presented Irene and Tony with a selection of paintings by Lewis, who died in 1970, they were drawn to one that had a black truck on it. The couple — having no knowledge of Lewis or her work — simply liked what they saw. “We loved the piece,” Demas told Today. “We didn’t buy it as an investment or didn’t think that it was a great piece of art even.” They offered up a grilled cheese and took the painting home.

The rest, as they say, is history.

Lewis’ art started becoming popular in the early 2000s, and though Irene wasn’t looking to sell at the time, she took note of the increased interest. Then it was discovered that the black truck was unique. No other works of Lewis’ featured such an image, thus making the Demases piece even more valuable. At an auction last month, it sold for a whopping $272,548.

Jon Dunford, Miller & Miller Auctions Ltd

Along with the painting, Kinnear had provided the Demases with several letters that Lewis had written to him. These too would come to fetch a pretty penny at auction (over $54,500, to be exact), given that they were equally rare and that they furthermore authenticated Kinnear’s relationship with Lewis.

“The astonishing prices realized for both the Black Truck painting and Maud’s personal letters were no accident,” said Ethan Miller, CEO and co-owner of Miller & Miller Auctions. “Together they told a story that captured international interest and sent bidding into oblivion.”

He added to The Post about the backstory of the painting, “Just given the heaviness of this era that we’ve managed to survive, suddenly someone mentions a grilled cheese sandwich and a celebrated artist that has overcome physical adversity. All of those things combined is as irresistible as a grilled cheese sandwich.”

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Hugo and Ross Turner
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Meet Ross and Hugo Turner, a.k.a. The Turner Twins. They’re professional adventurers who’ve rowed across the Atlantic (netting the duo two world records), scaled Mount Elbrus in Russia, and have traveled to four of the world’s Continental Poles of Inaccessibility — by bicycle and paramotor, no less — to list but a few of their accomplishments. Their latest adventure, though, is different. Set to begin in the next few weeks, their upcoming trip has been dubbed the Blue Pole Project: a 100% emission-free expedition.

The Turners will be sailing from the U.K. to the Canary Islands to the Azores archipelago and then the Atlantic Pole of Inaccessibility (POI), the point in the Atlantic Ocean that is furthest away from land in any direction, on a yacht powered by a prototype hydrogen fuel cell. 

“The core of what we’re trying to do is discover something new.”

One of their aims with this trip is to draw attention to both hydrogen fuel technology and ocean conservation measures. Of the latter, this six-week  journey will support efforts to gather data for research being conducted by Plymouth University’s International Marine Litter Research Unit. The unit’s research is focused on developing a clean-up strategy for marine plastic pollution.

“The core of what we’re trying to do is discover something new,” Ross recently told CNN of the twins’ emission-free expedition. “To be curious and use new technology and science to make our trips more sustainable. And if we can prove that they [the new technologies] are more sustainable in these extreme environments, then it should give a good example for everyone back in cities and normal life that the new sustainable technologies are very much user friendly every day.”

The brothers’ journey first began when Hugo broke his neck in a diving accident at age 17. Ross had broken his leg at an earlier point in time, and the once-hardy siblings had come to curtail their shared passion for and participation in sport. After Hugo was fortunate enough to fully recover from his diving injury, the duo began to undertake various adventures as a means of renewing their bond and rekindling their love of physical challenge and fitness. But it didn’t stop there.

While it may sound like they’ve since built a name for themselves due to their oversized sense of daring, there’s an altruistic underpinning to their endeavors. Not only do they consistently raise money for spinal research related charities (Wings for Life is one such organization they support), they furthermore declare their mission to be: “To help brands and people learn about our world through new technology and purposeful adventure.”