Energetic dolphin pod swimming and jumping in the ocean surface with oil platform in background in the Santa Barbara Channel.
Jon Osumi / Alamy Stock Photo

More than two dozen oil platforms dot the waters off the coast of California. Of them, 15 are still active, a number that will shrink further as more are set to be decommissioned in the coming years, and just what to do with the disused platforms is currently the subject of debate. 

Some believe the rigs — all built between 1967 and 1989 — are problematic and should be removed, an expensive process that could disturb surrounding wildlife. Others, including many environmentalists and scientists, are advocating for them to remain in place. Why? The human-made structures have become veritable if unlikely oases, habitats and havens for a vast array of marine species. 

The platforms have been in place long enough to establish themselves as sorts of artificial reefs, as much a part of the ocean environment as its natural topography. Plankton, barnacles, rockfish, mussels, mackerel, and even mammals have made the massive metal frameworks their homes.   

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

“Nature does abhor a vacuum,” University of California, Santa Barbara scientist Milton Love explained to The Guardian, “which is the reason that on a platform, every square inch is covered in life.” 

His colleague Ann Scarborough Bull, a marine biologist, has been studying California’s oil rigs for over two decades and has seen firsthand the astonishing ecosystems that have sprung up around them. She and Love estimate that billions of animals in total rely on the rigs. 

“These places are extremely productive, both for commercial and recreational fisheries and for invertebrates,” Bull said. She added: “If you take away habitat, then there’s no going back. You would never allow the willful destruction of a kelp bed, or of a rocky reef, even though rigs have similar biodiversity.”

In 2014, the two scientists co-authored a study on the amount of life the rigs host. They wrote that California’s oil and gas platforms are “among the most productive marine fish habitats globally,” determining them to be 27 times more productive than the state’s natural, rocky reefs.

Four years earlier, the state government had passed the California Marine Resources Legacy Act, which began allowing oil companies to only partially remove rigs “if the Ocean Protection Council (OPC) determines there would be a net benefit to the marine environment and other requirements are met.” The companies would then donate a portion of any money they saved by not removing the rigs to the California Endowment for Marine Preservation and other state funds.

Speaking to PBS in 2022, Amber Sparks, co-founder of the ocean stewardship non-profit Blue Latitudes Foundation, also showed support for leaving the rigs be. To her, the issue isn’t just about the life they directly affect, but also the influence they have on the larger ocean biome. 

“Decades of scientific research really makes the case that these structures are functioning as essential fish habitat; fish are spawning, breeding, and growing to maturity within these ecosystems,” she said. “They are adding value and compensating for some of the nearshore habitat loss that we see.”

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

But while the rigs have undeniably become makeshift artificial reefs, they aren’t the sort that everyone believes should be playing the part. Some environmental groups see the disused platforms as unsightly rubble taking up space and in some cases leaving behind toxic debris. 

“We certainly don’t think that the oil platforms should be left in place,” Pete Stauffer, ocean protection manager for the non-profit Surfrider Foundation, told the outlet. “They are a hazard that needs to be dealt with and our default position would probably be to support full removal.”

Leaving decommissioned oil platforms in place is not a new idea. In the Gulf of Mexico, at least 573 of the structures have been declared artificial reefs by the government. Sparks’ co-founder at Blue Latitudes, Emily Hazelwood, believes the magnitude of the Gulf’s oil industry compared to California is part of why the “Rigs-to-Reefs” policy has taken off in that area. 

Stocktrek Images, Inc. / Alamy Stock Photo

“One of the big reasons that reefing is so successful in the Gulf of Mexico is there are hundreds of offshore platforms in the Gulf so there’s a lot of familiarity with this program,” she explained. “People know what great fishery habitat reefed oil platforms provide and more often than not fishermen get upset when they’re removed, rather than the opposite.”

Hazelwood also added her insight to The Guardian’s recent reporting on the topic, noting that she hopes public perception of disused oil platforms shifts, and that they’ll be seen as “not just menacing industrial giants, but vibrant ecosystems that exist below the surface.” 

There are many nicely wrapped gifts with different colored ribbons Hands of an anonymous person are putting one gift on the table
miniseries/ iStock

You’ve heard the old saying “It’s the thought that counts” — typically offered up off-handedly following the receipt of a less-than-thrilling present. But did you know the aphorism is actually backed by research? Dig into the science of great gift giving, and then put your thinking cap on as you peruse Nice News’ annual holiday gift guide. 

We compiled some great gift ideas this year, with something for everyone on your “nice” list, from personalized children’s books to self-care journals, an award-winning party game, and a portable pizza oven for the foodie in your life 

Silk + Sonder Self-Care Journals 

Courtesy of Silk + Sonder

Silk + Sonder self-care journals combine cognitive behavioral therapy, positive psychology exercises, and bullet journaling to help reduce anxiety and boost brain function —  and they come with another, equally exciting benefit. Users get access to a built-in community support system through the companion app. Gift a subscription and a new journal will arrive on your recipient’s doorstep every month, or start simpler and wrap up one of the brand’s beautiful gift boxes

UGG Blanket

Courtesy of UGG

UGG may be best known for its trendy footwear, but wool-lined boots aren’t the only cozy items the brand offers. Blankets make great gifts for the people you know best and the newcomers in your life — because who doesn’t appreciate an added layer of warmth in the winter? This 50 by 70-inch throw is both beautiful and extra plush, and it comes in a variety of colors.  

Siblings Holiday Candles

Courtesy of Siblings

With its clean, coconut blend wax and sleek, refillable vessels, Siblings is a staff favorite here at Nice News. Right now, we’re enjoying the brand’s holiday collection, which includes fragrances like musky Vintage Cardigan, cozy Chestnuts Roasting, and Nightcap — with notes of smoked bourbon, honey, and black oakwood. They make great gifts, but we wouldn’t judge if you snatch up a few for yourself — take the company’s scent quiz to see which one suits you best. 

The Joylands Card Deck

Courtesy of Charlo

This beautiful deck of cards by the artist and muralist Charlo is a portal to an imagined world: The Joylands, where “every shared smile, laughter-filled adventure, and heartfelt conversation are the true treasures, revealing the enchantment of life itself.” Featuring mesmerizing designs with hidden words and symbols, the cards are “a reminder of the magic that unfolds when we come together, be it with our community, friends, or family,” said Charlo. “I aimed to craft a symbolic realm that reminds us to cherish the significance of shared moments and the time we spend together.” 

Concept Party Game

Planning a game night? Check out Concept: It’s award-winning and easy to play with groups of all sizes and ages. The object is to non-verbally communicate words and phrases by coming up with creative associations between the board’s colorful illustrations — and you’re bound to hear some hilarious guesses. This writer received the game as a gift a few years back, and it’s now a staple at family gatherings. 

Ooni Backyard Pizza Oven

Courtesy of Ooni

Like most things, pizza is often better homemade. Serve up your own delicious pie with this portable and easy to use oven that reaches scorching hot temperatures, so you can enjoy authentic stone-baked pizza cooked over wood or charcoal in just one minute. Bonus: You can also use it to cook steak, fish, and vegetables.

DraftPour Beer Dispenser

Courtesy of Fizzics

This neat device transforms canned or bottled beer into a nitro-style draft, for an extra refreshing finish to a workday or weekend without having to hit the bar. It converts existing carbonation into uniform bubbles, creating a rich and creamy foam head on any brewski. It’s also great for impressing guests at parties!

Ninja CREAMi

Courtesy of Ninja

The Ninja CREAMi has gone viral for good reason. Filling TikTok feeds with an endless variety of homemade concoctions (like a can of peaches turned into sorbet and a protein-packed “Oreo McFlurry”), this machine lives up to its tagline: “Turn almost anything into frozen treats.” It’s a perfect gift for someone with a sweet tooth — and if that person just so happens to share a freezer with you, even better. 

Manicure Set

Courtesy of Familife

This writer was gifted a travel manicure set as a stocking stuffer last year, and it’s no exaggeration to say it has changed her life for the better. The Swiss Army knives of personal grooming, kits like this one mean you never have to walk into a meeting with a rogue eyebrow hair or pick at a hangnail in the middle of a movie again. Choose from rose gold, classic brown leather, navy blue, and seven other styles.

Gorjana Jewelry

Courtesy of Gorjana

Founded by a husband and wife in Laguna Beach, California, Gorjana offers both everyday and fine jewelry, from a beautiful blue lace agate bracelet set for under $75 to sparkling white sapphire earrings. In addition, the brand partners with charities like Baby2Baby, Dress for Success, and the Breast Cancer Research Foundation. 

Nomatic Luggage

Courtesy of Nomatic

Everyone needs good luggage, whether they’re occasional road trippers or regular jet setters. Shopping for said luggage isn’t necessarily the most fun item on a pre-travel to-do list, though, so consider saving your loved ones a step and doing it for them this year. Nomatic carries everything from backpacks to duffel bags to suitcase sets, and the brand is offering up to 40% off with its holiday sale. 

EverFoams Slippers

Courtesy of EverFoams

Slippers you can leave the house in? We’re sold. These are microsuede, made with comfy memory foam and lined with cozy faux fur. They also have rubber soles, so their wearers can grab the mail or take the dog for a short walk without switching shoes. They’re available in 10 colors, and the brand also offers men’s styles

Helly Hansen Parkas

Courtesy of Helly Hansen

Bundle him up in a Helly Hansen parka this winter: The jackets are sleek and stylish yet seriously effective at keeping their wearers warm. Choose from a wide selection that includes waterproof options as well as windbreakers and ones specifically for active lifestyles. The brand also sells winter clothing for women and kids. 

Roka Sunglasses

Courtesy of Roka

Roka was founded in 2013 by two Stanford University swimmers and has grown to become a favorite for triathlon gear and other sports apparel. But you don’t need to be an athlete to wear the brand’s prescription eyeglasses or sleek shades, with patented “FloatFit” technology, polarized lenses, and a ton of different styles for every face shape. 

Put Me in the Story Personalized Children’s Books

Courtesy of Put Me in the Story

Want to make a bedtime story reading ritual extra special? Put Me in the Story lets you personalize an array of popular children’s picture books for all age ranges, starting with infants. Featuring characters from Sesame Street, Curious George, and more, they make for particularly thoughtful and meaningful gifts that are sure to become keepsakes for the little ones you love.

Architectural Digest Book 

Courtesy of Architectural Digest

This Architectural Digest coffee table book celebrates 100 years of the magazine’s production, and it’s a perfect present for the design-minded person on your list. With a foreword from Vogue’s Anna Wintour, it features the personal spaces of famous figures like David Bowie and Truman Capote as well as works from renowned architects and interior decorators like Frank Lloyd Wright and Elsie de Wolfe. 

Good Morning, I Love You, Violet

Courtesy of Shauna Shapiro

Based on neuroscience and psychology principles, this children’s book by mindfulness expert Shauna Shapiro provides a roadmap for fostering deep calm and compassion in youngsters. “By teaching self-compassion to our children, we are hardwiring in resources that will support them for their entire lives,” Shapiro told Nice News. “These seeds of kindness will ripple out into our world.”


Courtesy of Amazon

This isn’t the first time we’ve recommended the Amazon Kindle, and it likely won’t be the last.  Its Paperwhite display means no glare, and it can hold thousands of books, so the bibliophile in your life will never run out of reading material. Plus, it’s designed to withstand accidental water immersion, and a single charge via USB-C lasts weeks. 

melitas/ iStock

One of the best parts of the Nice News community is that we’re not only sharing positive stories — we’re creating them. 

In December 2022, our parent company Pardon launched a year-end fundraiser for Family-to-Family, a grassroots, hunger-relief effort dedicated to providing food and other necessities to American families. We shared that fundraiser with Nice News readers, and you blew our expectations out of the water, helping to raise a whopping $11,675 (which, thanks to a $10,000 match from Pardon, actually ended up being $21,675). 

That inspired us to launch the Cause of the Month initiative in February. Every month since, we’ve handpicked a different charitable organization to share with this community, and every month since, you’ve been incredibly generous. To date, our total amount raised has reached $43,760, an achievement we truly could not be more proud of. 

In honor of Giving Tuesday, scroll down to look back on each 2023 fundraiser and see how you’ve helped make the world a better place over the past 12 months. (And consider helping us meet our goal for the November Cause of the Month to make our total tally even bigger!)

Chicago Eco House: $2,581 

Courtesy of Chicago Eco House

Chicago Eco House is a Black-led nonprofit with a mission to alleviate poverty through sustainability. It operates four flower farms and a flower shop in the Windy City, as well as one farm in Detroit — all of which employ local residents, particularly at-risk youth. Flowers are sourced from farms with a commitment to renewable energy and the utilization of rainwater irrigation systems; organic material is composted onsite; and the company uses recyclable, reusable, and biodegradable materials wherever possible.

All of its profits go directly toward the mission of combating poverty in Chicago’s communities through sustainable practices, including providing job training for at-risk youth. These young gardeners are employed to transform unused and unsightly corners of the city into lots of life and color: They create bouquets for sale, work in flower shops, tend to plant beds, and even make and package honey. 

Donate here

Impact100 Global: $1,500 

Courtesy of Impact100 Global

Impact100 Global has been empowering women to transform their communities since 2001. Founded by Wendy Steele, a Nice News reader, the organization operates around 65 chapters around the world, all of which embody its mission of uniting women “to fund solutions to the most pressing problems facing humanity.” Under the Impact100 model, at least 100 women come together to help a local charity, donate $1,000 each, and award the charity a combined $100,000 grant. To date, the nonprofit has donated more than $123 million to worthy causes, each of which receives the support of a team of dedicated women in addition to the grant.

“They get a legion of women who understand and support their work in other ways, connections to new donors, and increased visibility in the community,” Steele told Nice News.

Donate here.

The Nature Conservancy: $1,876

zodebala/ iStock

In honor of Earth Day, Nice News’ April Cause of the Month was The Nature Conservancy. From densely populated urban environments to remote rainforests and coral reefs deep below the surface of the sea, the wide-reaching nonprofit is dedicated to “advancing effective, lasting conservation in more than 70 countries and territories.”

And its scientists are working on a strict deadline: The Nature Conservancy has six goals to achieve before 2030 to help prevent further global warming and lessen the effects of climate change. They include reducing carbon emissions, helping 100 million people at severe risk of climate-related emergencies, and conserving 9.9 billion acres of ocean, 1.6 billion acres of land, 621,000 miles of river systems, and 74 million acres of lakes and wetlands.

Donate here.

Every Mother Counts: $3,050

Goodboy Picture Company/ iStock

An estimated 287,000 women worldwide die every year as a result of complications of pregnancy and childbirth — and almost all of those deaths can be prevented. Every Mother Counts, founded in 2010, “envisions a world where all women have the opportunity to enter motherhood and not only survive, but thrive,” and operates based on four key principles: placing mothers at the center, strengthening healthcare workforces, facilitating access to resources, and advancing proven models of care.

So far, Every Mother Counts has invested over $24 million in public education, community engagement, and grantmaking; touched the lives of more than 1 million people (including women, babies, health workers, and community members); and released dozens of educational films on the topic of maternal health care.

Donate here.

The Trevor Project: $4,081

Courtesy of The Trevor Project

The Trevor Project is a nonprofit that provides suicide prevention and crisis intervention services for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer, and questioning young people. The organization was founded in 1998 as the Trevor Lifeline, the first national crisis intervention and suicide prevention lifeline for LGBTQ+ youth. The hotline is still in operation — helping hundreds of thousands over the years — but the Trevor Project has also expanded, pursuing its goal to end suicide in the queer community through crisis services, peer support, education initiatives, research, and advocacy.

Beyond donating, you can support this important endeavor by reading more about the organization’s work, accessing resources on everything from understanding sexuality to learning how to be a strong ally, or signing up to become a volunteer for the call, text, and chat lifelines.

Donate here.

Disabled Hikers: $1,250 

Courtesy of Syren Nagakyrie

Founded in 2018 by Syren Nagakyrie, Disabled Hikers is an entirely disabled-led organization that celebrates disabled people’s experiences in the outdoors and helps facilitate those experiences with information, resources, and events, including trail guides and group hikes.

Its overall mission is to make the outdoors more inclusive and accessible to all — if you’re interested in accessing the nonprofit’s myriad resources, you can explore its hiking guides and learn more about the trail rating system.

Donate here.

AdoptAClassroom.org: $2,505  

Courtesy of AdoptAClassroom.org

With a mission to advance equity in education, AdoptAClassroom.org is a national nonprofit that provides classroom funding to teachers and schools throughout the U.S. The organization’s flexible funding model means that teachers who receive donations and grants can decide what supplies they need and when they need them.

“I think oftentimes people aren’t sure how to help when they hear about the struggles that teachers are facing, and AdoptAClassroom.org is a really easy way to just donate,” Cristina Easton, a former teacher and current program strategy manager at AdoptAClassroom.org, told Nice News. “You know that those funds are going to go to a classroom with a teacher who knows exactly what they want to do with that money.”

Donate here.

The Jed Foundation: $2,170

SDI Productions/ iStock

Honoring National Suicide Prevention Month and Self-Care Awareness Month in September, Nice News partered with The Jed Foundation to fundraise and highlight its mission to make youth mental health a priority and prevent teen suicide.

JED, founded by parents Phil and Donna Satow in 2000 after their youngest son Jed died by suicide, empowers young adults by helping them build resiliency and life skills, promoting social connectedness, and encouraging help-seeking and help-giving behaviors. The nonprofit has worked with more than 9,000 high schools, colleges, and universities to strengthen their mental health and suicide prevention safety nets.

If you are in need of help, or know someone who is, check out the organization’s robust mental health resource center.

Donate here.

First Nations Development Institute: $2,381  


The First Nations Development Institute improves economic conditions for Native Americans through direct financial grants, technical assistance and training, and advocacy and policy. The nonprofit was founded in 1980 and began its grantmaking program in 1993. Since then, First Nations has successfully managed 3,052 grants — totaling $64.7 million — for Native American projects and organizations in 45 states, Washington, D.C., and American Samoa. 

Those projects are spread across six key areas: stewarding Native lands; nourishing Native foods and health; advancing household and community asset-building strategies; strengthening tribal and community institutions; investing in Native youth; and achieving Native financial empowerment.

Donate here.

Hilarity For Charity: $691

Ali Michelle

Actors Seth Rogen and Lauren Miller Rogen founded Hilarity For Charity, or HFC, in 2012, a few years after Lauren’s mom was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. It started with one comedy fundraiser and has since grown into a sweeping organization: Today, HFC helps fund new technology and prevention-focused research; educates people on brain health via social media and a dedicated digital platform; and provides support and resources to caregivers who are looking after loved ones with the disease.

And it does it all through a lens of levity, something that came naturally to the duo. “We’re comedians and all of our friends are comedians … and so the idea of doing that to raise awareness and money for Alzheimer’s was just very organic to who we are,” Seth told Nice News. He added: “It is such a dark disease, and I think bringing light and bringing levity is maybe a little more necessary with Alzheimer’s than it is with some other aspects of life.”

Learn more about the organization and read brain health tips from one of its science advisors, Dr. Annie Fenn.

Donate here.

members of Girl Scout Troop 8542, which brings together kids and their families who are part of the deaf community, stand on a bridge with big smiles
Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

It’s a little-known fact that Juliette “Daisy” Gordon Low, the founder of the Girl Scouts of the USA, was hard of hearing for much of her life. Now, more than a century after she started the enduring nonprofit, there’s a Girl Scout troop in Orange County, California, that’s carrying on her legacy in more ways than one. 

Troop 8542 is the only one of its kind, bringing together members of the Deaf and hard-of-hearing community in a cohesive group. It’s the brainchild of Girl Scouts alumna Natalie Westfall, who had the idea to create a troop centered on the Deaf community and American Sign Language as her Gold Award in high school — considered the highest achievement within the organization. 

It took a few years to get off the ground, but her idea finally came to fruition in 2020, and Troop 8542 is now thriving, with 12 members ages 5-11. Though the girls have some activities incorporating ASL, they also do all the same things you’d associate with Girl Scouts. 

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

“They are doing everyday things — we’re going on hikes, we’re going on tours of equestrian centers, we just go play in the park some days, we do arts and crafts some days — and the kids around them happen to also be deaf and hard of hearing,” troop leader Janna Cowper told Nice News. “And that’s the representation that we want them to have.” 

Cowper, who is deaf, has an 8-year-old daughter in the troop and a 5-year-old “honorary member.” 

“[My daughter] goes to school every day and she is the only deaf and hard-of-hearing person there,” the mom shared. “But she’d come to the troop, and suddenly she’s not the only one with a hearing aid, so that’s really important for her to see.” 

She co-leads with Alexis “Lexi” Marman, who is deaf and has a hearing daughter in the group. Both cited their own isolating experiences as children as reasons for why they’ve become invested in the troop and see it as being so important for their kids. 

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

Marman recalled being a Brownie, one of the stages of being a Girl Scout, and not being able to understand what was going on around her. 

“Believe it or not, I sometimes forget that I’m deaf. It’s being in a hearing environment that reminds me that I’m different or that I have a hearing loss,” she said via email. “When I am with others who have a hearing loss or who are deaf as well — it allows me to forget that there is something different about me and I can just be me. I hope to create this kind of environment for the girls, where they can forget that they have something different than everyone else and they can just be themselves.” 

Cowper echoed that, noting that confidence is the most important attribute she hopes to instill in her Girl Scouts. “I actually grew up learning, ‘Oh, you know, you should blend in, you should cover your ear, you should hide the fact that you have a hearing aid,’” she said. “With these girls being very confident about it and being very bold, it’s something I wish I had.” 

Westfall, who is hearing, handed the troop off to Marman and Cowper when she headed to college, and said she’s proud of how it’s grown from just three girls to the current group of 12. She remembered attending a Halloween party when the troop was still young, and reveling in the way they all interacted with each other.  

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

“Seeing all of these girls sitting on the couch, eating their food, and just chatting together, some using sign language, some using broken words, some speaking orally … I think was just the proudest moment, because I saw how far my project went and where it’s going,” she said. 

The diversity of the Girl Scout Troop is also something Cowper championed, noting that it’s been special to see her daughter learning more about the Deaf community. As Westfall said, though they all have a common connection, some members know sign language, while others only communicate orally; some have cochlear implants, while others don’t; and some are children of deaf adults (CODAs), while others are deaf or hard-of-hearing themselves.  

“It’s been nice to see her ask her own questions,” Cowper said of her 8-year-old, offering examples of some of the queries she’s come home with: “‘How come one girl only signs but doesn’t speak? How come some people speak but don’t sign?’” 

Courtesy of Girl Scouts of Orange County

She continued: “It’s been cool to see her learn about her community, because … at least in our own school district, they’ve not had that type of conversation or that type of representation.” 

Representation is at the core of Troop 8542’s ethos, and letting the kids simply be kids — playing, learning, and building friendships like everyone else — is right alongside it. Marman said the best part of being a troop leader is just seeing the girls have fun and laugh. 

“There’s no need to translate the beauty and language of laughter,” she said, adding, “I have been fortunate to have accomplished a few great and grand things in my life, but being a part of [Troop 8542] has truly been on the top of the list. There’s nothing more rewarding than knowing you might, just might, be making somewhat of a difference.”

RELATED: More Than Just a Toy Company: The Powerful Representation Message Behind A Doll Like Me — Exclusive

Courtesy of Cake Therapy

When most people think of therapy, they don’t picture sugar, flour, and butter as some of the main ingredients involved in unpacking trauma. 

Cake Therapy, a nonprofit founded in 2019, uses baking to provide a therapeutic outlet for girls and young women who have experienced personal trauma or been impacted by the justice system, foster system, out-of-home placement, or juvenile detention centers.

“The benefits of Cake Therapy are just limitless,” Altreisha Foster, CEO and one of the organization’s co-founders, told Nice News, adding that Cake Therapy aims “to help these girls, and generations of women behind them, change the generational trauma.”

Up to 80% of kids in foster care deal with significant mental health issues — with mental and behavioral health being “the largest unmet health need for children and teens in foster care,” per the American Academy of Pediatrics

Courtesy of Cake Therapy

The Minneapolis-based Cake Therapy, which is free and caters to girls and women ages 14-24, offers a safe space for those seeking alternatives to traditional therapy or a creative outlet.   

“There is a huge role for any art form to be included in any form of therapy for people to regain what has been lost,” said Foster, who’s originally from Jamaica, adding: “We need to be a little bit more open-minded about what we’re doing in terms of how we’re responding to trauma.”

The nonprofit offers bimonthly sessions, reaching the young people via social media, word of mouth, Foster’s boutique cake studio Sugarspoon Desserts, and community partners, such as the YMCA and local social workers. The organization provides guidance and ingredients, but gives participants the autonomy to decide what they want to bake from scratch during their sessions.

Courtesy of Cake Therapy

“We are really promoting centering of oneself, being able to have this … introspection on what’s going on in one’s life, and to be able to communicate what’s going on in one’s life as well,” said Foster. 

She helped found Cake Therapy when she saw the benefits of baking firsthand after suffering from postpartum depression following the birth of her second child. Earlier this year, she put those lessons to paper and published a book, Cake Therapy: How Baking Changed My Life.

Foster added: “What Cake Therapy has also done is provide opportunities for our resources for girls to plan a future. It doesn’t have to be around baking, but we give them all the tools to be able to be ready to take on the world.”

aerial view of modern eco city
zhang meng/ iStock

Over the past few years, the number of Americans working fully remote or hybrid schedules has increased. And with the rise in remote workers and digital nomads, more office buildings are empty — and staying that way. 

Reports show nearly 20% of office spaces are currently vacant in the United States, and in certain major cities, like Dallas, San Francisco, and Houston, those figures are over 25%. So what can be done with all that unused real estate? 

Well, as some with visionary mindsets will tell you, a lot. In certain instances, vacant offices provide a foundation for something new without starting from scratch. This concept is known as adaptive reuse, which is described by Merriam-Webster dictionary as the “renovation and reuse of pre-existing structures (such as warehouses) for new purposes.”

Rather than tearing down a structure and rebuilding (or leaving a space with an eerie ghost town-like feel), adaptive reuse blurs the lines separating past and present in a way that’s imaginative and inherently sustainable. As 2018 American Institute of Architects President Carl Elefante said, “The greenest building is … one that is already built.”

Below, we rounded up some examples of former offices and factories that have been transformed into new hubs for gardening, relaxing, learning, and living — all the while providing evidence of the beauty in old bones. 

Paper Facility → Farm: Area 2 Farms | Arlington, Virginia

Swapping paper for plants, Area 2 Farms is an organic farm in Arlington that was previously a facility for legal document storage. The urban operation opened in 2022 and now provides fresh herbs, veggies, and microgreens to more than 100 local households per week, per Arlington Magazine.

According to the website, the farm grows its produce using “a multi-level, vertical, conveyor belt-style farm [that] replicates a plant’s day cycle.” In addition to growing plants, the farm also offers public tours and a Be a Farmer program to help more people grow farms in their communities. 

Federal Workplace → Spa: Balian Springs | Alexandria, Virginia 

Before Balian Springs became an “immersive wellness retreat,” it was a federal workplace in Alexandria, Virginia, previously occupied by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. A far cry from the current three-story center that houses saunas, lounges, fitness rooms, a garden, and a rooftop infinity pool. The renovations began in 2020, according to Insider, and the retreat officially opened in 2022.

The owner, Stephanie Chon, told The Washington Post, “It definitely used to be a lot stuffier in here. Trying to convert the space was a challenge, but we made it work.” 

Warehouse → Hotel: 21c Museum Hotel | Louisville, Kentucky 

Before Louisville’s 21c Museum Hotel became a trendy hotel and space to explore contemporary art, it was five 19th century warehouses used to store bourbon and tobacco. 

The transformed space features 91 rooms, an acclaimed restaurant, and a large contemporary art museum. And as a nod to its beginnings, the museum hosts “Nightcap at the Museum,” a nightly toast with guests during which they enjoy complimentary bourbon. 

Office Building → School: Bailey’s Upper Elementary School | Falls Church, Virginia 

Bailey’s Upper Elementary School for the Arts and Sciences opened in 2014 after a unique renovation project. Over the span of eight months, the school transformed from a former five-story office building into a space for learning.

Not only was this a wonderful use of the space, but it also provided a much-needed solution. According to Architizer, before the redesign, the elementary school was “well beyond capacity at 1,400 students.” Now, the third, fourth, and fifth grade students are located about a mile from the original school, easing overcrowding and making the most of a vacant space. 

Garment Factory → Vertical Farm: Farm.One | Brooklyn, New York

Farm.One is a “neighborhood farm” in Brooklyn, providing fresh produce and herbs for high-end restaurants and opportunities for people to connect hands-on with food. But before the space was a green thumb’s happy place, it was a garment factory, according to KSBY.

Now, the farm features a 1,500 square feet showroom and hosts public tours in addition to chef-pop ups, cooking classes, and private gatherings of up to 70 people. 

Office Building → Apartment Complex: 100 Van Ness | San Francisco, California

Today, 100 Van Ness is a modern apartment community with 28 stories and 418 units that boasts a fitness center, rooftop communal garden, bocce ball area, grass lawn, and sweeping views of San Francisco. But from 1974 to 2010, it was a traditional office building and home to the California State Automobile Association, or AAA. 

Over the course of a year, from 2014-2015, the renovations involved removing concrete panels and replacing them with floor-to-ceiling glass: a way to add modernism to the old building. According to Engineering News-Record, 100 Van Ness “earned a GreenPoint certification due to its adaptive reuse of the existing structure and high-performance curtain wall.”

Candy Factory → Hotel: Charmant Hotel | LaCrosse, Wisconsin

A sweet example of repurposing, The Charmant Hotel in downtown LaCrosse, Wisconsin, was formerly the home of Joseph B. Funke Candy Company, a candy factory during the early 20th century. In 2015, it turned into a 67-room boutique hotel that still celebrates its sugary beginnings with a sweets bar, serving handmade chocolates 24 hours a day. 

The name Charmant is also intentional, as it was inspired by a premium line of chocolates produced by the Funke Candy Company; it’s also the French word for “charming.” 

Newspaper Building → Hotel: The Press Hotel | Portland, Maine 

Formerly home to Maine’s largest newspaper, Portland Press Herald, from 1947-2010, The Press Hotel now offers 110 stylish guest rooms that give a nod to 1920s writers’ offices. 

An ode to its beginnings, the repurposed building features vintage-styled journalist desks in each guest room and an art installation with 62 vintage typewriters. You may even spot “literary one-liners” in unexpected pockets. 

RELATED: New Architecture Award Celebrates the Reinvention of Old Buildings: See the Winner and Finalists

Colorful sweets for Halloween party on orange background, high angle view
Gogu Dumitru / 500px via Getty Images

Halloween is fast approaching, which means it’s time to start curating that perfect, spooky playlist, stocking up on candy, and of course, thinking about what you’re going to wear. 

People have been dressing up on Oct. 31 since the 19th century, but our choices in celebratory garb have changed dramatically over the years. “Halloween follows whatever the culture is doing and is a really good bellwether for what we’re thinking about,” author Lesley Bannatyne explained to Insider.

See some of the most popular looks from the past 150 years, and then check out our roundup of quirky decor, goodies, costumes, and more.

Plush Ghost Pillows

Courtesy of Fiopet

Who says ghosts have to be scary? We think Casper himself would approve of these cute plush pillows, available in three sizes. Toss them on your couch or prop them up beside your candy bowl — you could even squeeze one as a stress reliever during your next horror movie marathon.  

Flickering Flameless Candles

Courtesy of Aignis

You’ve gotta have some moody lighting if you’re going for full-blown spooky vibes, and nothing says creepy like flickering candles. With this battery-powered set of nine, you can turn your house into a gothic castle while avoiding a fire hazard and sparing yourself the hassle of scraping melted wax off your surfaces. 

Artificial Black Roses Bouquet

Courtesy of JUSTOYOU

The possibilities abound with this edgy black bouquet of roses. Carry them with you as part of a corpse bride costume, strew them individually around your house during a Halloween party, or pop them in a vase and drape over some artificial spider webs (and perhaps a spider too!) for dramatic effect.

Neon Skull Sign

Courtesy of Amazon

You don’t have stick to orange and black for your Halloween decor — why not stand out with a neon pink skull sign? Made with LED strip lights affixed to a clear acrylic board, it’s powered by USB and comes with an extra long cord, so you can display it just about anywhere. We also love these two other options: a glowing jack-o’-lantern and a ghost with the word “boo!”

Witches Brew Cauldron Mug

Courtesy of Something Different

Who doesn’t love a capacious mug? This cauldron-shaped style is certainly a festive choice to sip your favorite witches’ brew out of while you await trick-or-treaters, but it’s also cute enough to use for your morning tea or coffee any day of the year. 

Orange Hot Chocolate Packets

Courtesy of Sweetzo

You’re going to need something to put in your new cauldron mug — how about some enchanted hot chocolate? Want an extra spooky effect? Top your orange treat with whipped cream dyed with black food coloring and sprinkle on a dusting of edible glitter for a particularly magical concoction. 

Jack-O’-Lantern Candy Bowl

Courtesy of Anthropologie

We love this pretty teal candy bowl from Anthropologie, made from aluminum and also available in black. Use it to pass out candy to trick-or-treaters or fill it with goodies, keep it on your kitchen table, and count the days leading up to Halloween one (or two, or three) treats at a time. 

Resin Skull Planter

Courtesy of Simcat

Depending on how edgy your personal aesthetic is, you could keep using this planter long after Halloween is over. It’s great for a small succulent garden, but we think it would make an even better home for a creeping jenny plant. 

Hot Dog Pet Costume

Courtesy of Amazon

We’re not totally sure why humans are so obsessed with dressing their pups up as hot dogs — other than the obvious: Every canine looks ridiculously cute donning a bun and a squirt of yellow fabric mustard. This one comes in sizes XXS to XL. If you’re brave enough, you could even try it on your cat. 

Security Dog Hoodie

Courtesy of BINGPET

Looking for a more serious outfit for your furry friend? Put your pup in this tough-guy hoodie to let any potentially mischievous marauders know that your trick-or-treating troupe is accompanied by its own security guard (even if that guard is only good for tail wags and kisses). 

Monster Mash Apple Dipping Kit

Courtesy of Fancy Sprinkles

This “Monster Mash”-themed apple dipping kit comes with special Eye of Newt sprinkles for some extra spooky flavor. Just pop the bag of salted caramel-flavored chips in the microwave and dip, drizzle, or pour — the kit makes six to eight sweet, sticky treats.  

Ken Box Costume

Courtesy of Spirit Halloween

If “I’m Just Ken” has been stuck in your head since the Barbie movie came out, consider stepping into your very own Ken doll box and showing the world you’re “Kenough” this Halloween. You can even bring Barbie along (if she doesn’t already have plans with the girls).

Mona Lisa Costume Kit

Courtesy of California Costumes

We stumbled across this unique costume and couldn’t help but share. If you’ve ever dreamed of being a famous artist’s muse, you can fulfill that fantasy by donning this inflatable replica of Leonardo da Vinci’s “Mona Lisa.” 

Adult Animal Onesies

Courtesy of Silver Lilly

Don’t believe the rumors: Adult onesies are definitely cool. You might not set any teeth a’chattering or stand anyone’s hair on end if you opt for these animal outfits as a couple’s costume, but if it’s comfort and whimsey you’re looking for, they’re right up your alley. The kangaroo style even comes with a little joey in the pouch.

Skull Party Game

Courtesy of Amazon

This is our fourth skull-themed offering on the list, and it’s a great one. The perfect party game for Halloween night, it’s designed for three to six players and involves “bluffing, deducing, and out-thinking your friends.” 

an exterior view of the new library in Wuhan, featuring a facade full of windows and sloping sides. Inside you can see the tall shelves of books forming a canyon for guests to walk through.

Library lovers may want to start planning a trip to China. Designs for a state-of-the-art, 140,000-square-meter building in Wuhan’s central business district have been unveiled, and it’s set to become one of the country’s largest — and perhaps most stunning — libraries. 

Featuring sleek, flowing facades with three walls of windows offering sweeping views of the metropolis, the library’s exterior design was inspired by the city’s location at the confluence of the Yangtze River and the Han River. Once inside, visitors will be able to walk through a “canyon of books,” according to the project’s website, with sprawling shelves connected by walkways on each level. 


“This is nature versus the city, and the building is somehow focusing on this. I think this makes it an exciting place to gather,” said Jacob van Rijs, founding partner of the Dutch architectural practice MVRDV which, along with local firm UAD, won a competition to design the library.

And once gathered, bibliophiles will find it hard to leave the location: Not only will it provide ample indoor seating for studying and working, but also a surrounding park featuring native vegetation, so books can be checked out and read al fresco.

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The element of nature also adds to the library’s goals for lowered energy consumption. The park’s tall trees will temper intense sunlight from streaming through the windows, keeping the indoor areas cool. Louvers arranged in a bookshelf pattern on the exterior of the building will also offer shade, and “openable elements” will provide ventilation  to further reduce the need for air conditioning in the city’s hot climate. Solar panels on the sloping roofs will furnish clean energy, and “the use of smart devices and an efficient lighting system” will contribute to the library’s hopefully reduced carbon footprint. 


A start date for construction has yet to be announced, but once standing, according to MVRDV, the library is expected to “meet [Wuhan’s] functional needs in terms of reading, learning, communication, and innovation, while enhancing the city’s urban economy.”

Close-up image of female person giving snack to a dog outdoors.
nortonrsx/ iStock

Are humans inherently good or inherently selfish? Philosophers stretching back to the times of Socrates and Plato have debated human nature and its complexities. But only in recent decades have scientists and researchers started to pull back the layers on this complicated question. According to Scientific American, a set of studies conducted in 2012 by Harvard and Yale researchers determined that humans instinctively want to cooperate with others. Now, new research shows that humanity’s altruism extends to other species as well, and both our affinity and empathy for animals may begin at an early age. 

In a study conducted at the University of Michigan’s child lab and published on January 16 in the journal Human-Animal Interactions, researchers examined whether toddler-age children would help dogs that wanted treats or toys that were just out of reach. A total of 97 children, 2 and 3 years old, participated in an experiment in which they were introduced to a friendly dog that was confined to an enclosure, with toys and treats placed outside of the pups’ reach. 

The children helped 50% of the time when the animal expressed interest in the treat or toys. Meanwhile, they helped only 26% of the time if the dog ignored the item. Interestingly, children who lived with a pet dog were more likely to help in providing the item to the dog. Throughout the study, researchers recognized that the toddlers, even at their young ages, understood the dogs’ plights and also felt compelled to act without any reward in return. 

Tatsiana Volkava/ iStock

“These findings lend support to our hypothesis that children’s early-developing proclivities for goal-reading and prosociality extend beyond humans to other animals,” the study authors wrote. 

In an interview with The Guardian, Henry Wellman, a senior author on the study at the University of Michigan, explained how the team’s recent research casts human behavior in a new light. “It’s been known for a long time that toddlers will go out of their way to help struggling humans, even strangers. [The study shows] it applies to other animals too, like dogs they will never see again,” he told the outlet.

On a larger scale, the study could provide insight into animal domestication and “how human capabilities for interspecies care evolved,” per the study. For years, researchers have been perplexed by the mystery of why early humans decided to domesticate animals. Perhaps, one reason is due to this early fundamental state of caring. 

Dr. Rachna Reddy, lead author of the study, told The Guardian, “Animal domestication was really advantageous to human survival. It really enabled us to live and thrive, there’s a huge evolutionary benefit,” adding: “Why we came to domesticate animals is a big mystery, and this is one piece of evidence that might help us to understand that mystery.”

While the study focused solely on canines, the researchers mentioned that future studies would need to be done to examine how they react to other species like barnyard animals or cats. 

an illustration of NASA's asteroid hunter telescope in space
NASA/JPL-Caltech/University of Arizona

NASA is making big leaps in its goal of protecting Earth from cosmic threats. The space agency is currently working on a new telescope, dubbed the “next-generation asteroid hunter,” which promises to be a “game-changer” in identifying hazardous near-Earth objects.

In December, NASA announced in a press release that construction had begun on its Near-Earth Object Surveyor (NEO Surveyor) and outlined its goals for the telescope. The organization will send the device into space, to L1 Lagrange Point — 1 million miles from Earth, between our planet and the sun. Using two infrared heat sensors, NEO Surveyor will be able to identify both dark asteroids and comets and what NASA refers to as “Earth Trojans.”

Dark asteroids are currently harder to detect since they don’t reflect as much light. Likewise, Earth Trojans are cosmic bodies that travel from the direction of the sun. Due to the sun’s glare, it’s difficult for astronomers to identify these possible threats. Fortunately, NEO Surveyor would be able to spot these potential dangers, giving NASA early detection capabilities.

“For the first time in our planet’s history, Earth’s inhabitants are developing methods to protect Earth by deflecting hazardous asteroids,” Amy Mainzer, the mission’s survey director, said in a statement. “But before we can deflect them, we first need to find them. NEO Surveyor will be a game-changer in that effort.”

RELATED: NASA’s James Webb Telescope Delivers Deepest and Sharpest Infrared Image of Space

According to Cosmos Magazine, Earth is pummeled by 17 meteors each day, around 6,100 a year. Most of these pose little risk to humans, falling in uninhabited areas. In 2005, NASA made it its mission to identify 90% of near-Earth objects that are more than 460 feet in size and within 30 million miles of our orbit — objects that pose a significant risk should they impact the planet. 

Last year, the organization demonstrated its first planetary defense test against an asteroid, successfully changing its trajectory. NASA is no longer leaving Earth’s chances up to a game of blindly playing cosmic dodgeball, and NEO Surveyor is the next step in its plans.

So when should we expect the asteroid telescope to take to the stars? According to USA Today, it will be set to launch by June 2028. Back in November, the project passed a key technical and programmatic review milestone. But although construction is underway, it will take some time to complete. 

“The project team, including all of our institutional and industrial collaborators, is already very busy designing and fabricating components that will ultimately become flight hardware,” Tom Hoffman, NEO Surveyor project manager, said in the press release.

It won’t be long before NASA has a better surveillance of what is going on in our cosmic backyard. Cue audible sigh of relief.