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By Tonya Russell
A few years ago, my fiance and I got into an argument on our way to spend Christmas with my family.
As we drove through unfamiliar territory, we began to notice a lot of people who appeared to be without a home. This started to break up the tension as we turned our thoughts to this bigger issue.
Shifting Priorities<p>Many have trouble volunteering because of hectic schedules. With virtual volunteering, it's easy to find opportunities that fit your terms.</p><p><a href="https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/abs/10.1177/0164027504271349" target="_blank">Studies show</a> that those who volunteer report higher levels of happiness, likely due to an increase in empathy and a resulting sense of gratitude for what you have.</p><p>It can also boost self-confidence and give individuals a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/how-helping-people-affects-your-brain" target="_blank">sense of belonging</a> and purpose. I've personally felt idle sitting at home, and a sense of purpose is just what I need.</p>
Ways to Give<p>Whether you want to take the lead on a project or jump in and help, here are tips to find the right volunteer opportunity for you while physical distancing:</p><p><strong>Find Virtual Opportunities</strong></p><p>Databases are a great first step in finding the perfect volunteer opportunity. You can filter by categories, hours, and locations. That way, you can pick somewhere nearby in case you want to volunteer in person later.</p><p><a href="https://www.volunteermatch.org/virtual-volunteering" target="_blank">VolunteerMatch</a> and <a href="https://www.justserve.org/" target="_blank">JustServe</a> offer virtual opportunities to volunteer for nonprofit organizations, charities, and businesses with heart.</p><p><strong>Grant a Wish</strong></p><p>If you have extra cash or a way to raise funds, you can fulfill <a href="https://gooddler.com/Landing" target="_blank">charity wish lists</a>. Many organizations accept items year-round.</p><p>You can choose from different categories like animal welfare, environmental organizations, health services, and the arts. Whatever moves you, you'll find a cause to give to.</p><p>Items range in price from low cost to high ticket, so you'll still have something to offer if you're on a budget.</p>
Adapting to Our New Day to Day<p>We aren't quite certain when things will go back to normal, or if quarantine <em>is</em> the new normal. While we may be limited in what we can do, that doesn't need to stop our ability to give.</p><p>So many — from those experiencing homelessness to the neighborhood kids — depend on our generosity right now.</p><p>My fiancé and I look forward to seeing familiar faces when we can return to volunteering in shelters.</p><p>Until then, we've partnered with an assisted living facility to offer virtual art classes and music hours to keep their residents entertained.</p><p>Our hope is to inspire others to step outside their situations and look after someone to connect with anyone who has also been affected by COVID-19.</p><p>We're grateful that technology has made altruism easier, so we can continue our ritual of giving back.</p>
EcoWatch Daily Newsletter
While some are trying to clean up the plastic pollution in the oceans, and others are removing it from beaches, one company is looking to end the need for plastic bottles that last hundreds of years and are rarely recycled. A Dutch company is looking to fight the plastic crisis with a plant-based alternative that degrades in one year, as The Guardian reported.
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By Jiraporn Kuhakan
Thailand has found the largest number of nests of rare leatherback sea turtles in two decades on beaches bereft of tourists because of the coronavirus pandemic, environmentalists say.
Staff at a national park in the southern province of Phanga Nga bordering the Andaman Sea found 84 hatchlings after monitoring eggs for two months. REUTERS / Mongkhonsawat Leungvorapan<p>"This is a very good sign for us because many areas for spawning have been destroyed by humans," he told Reuters. No such nests had been found for the previous five years.</p><p>"If we compare to the year before, we didn't have this many spawn, because turtles have a high risk of getting killed by fishing gear and humans disturbing the beach."</p><p>Leatherbacks are the world's largest sea turtles. They are considered endangered in Thailand, and listed as a vulnerable species globally by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.</p><p>They lay their eggs in dark and quiet areas, scarce when tourists thronged the beaches. People have also been known to dig into their nests and steal eggs. </p><p>Late in March, staff at a national park in the southern province of Phanga Nga bordering the Andaman Sea found 84 hatchlings after monitoring eggs for two months.</p>
Leatherbacks are the world's largest sea turtles and considered endangered in Thailand. REUTERS / Mongkhonsawat Leungvorapan
The Denver Zoo may be closed to visitors to prevent the spread of the new coronavirus, but, for the animals inside, life goes on.
By Aaron Mok
The novel coronavirus (COVID-19) has upended nearly every aspect of modern society, but especially the food system. Farmers are being forced to discard unprecedented amounts of food surplus because of the closure of schools, restaurants, and hotels. And, because of the complex logistics of the food supply chain, diverting food supply away from wholesalers directly into the hands of consumers can be costly. Experts like Dana Gunders from ReFED are concerned that more food waste will be produced in 2020 than in previous years.
Despite these challenges, organizations around the world are working to reduce food waste. In honor of Stop Food Waste Day on the 29th of April, Food Tank is highlighting 23 organizations and companies trying to eliminate pandemic-fueled food waste.
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By Cris Brack and Aini Jasmin Ghazalli
Are you feeling anxious or irritated during the coronavirus lockdown? Do you constantly want to get up and move? Maybe you need a moment to engage with nature.
Biophilia<p>But inside, in your hastily constructed home office or home school room, you may be unable to take full advantage of <a href="https://theconversation.com/green-for-wellbeing-science-tells-us-how-to-design-urban-spaces-that-heal-us-82437" target="_blank">urban nature</a>.<br></p><p>Embracing the notion of "biophilia" – the innate human affinity with nature – while locked down inside may improve your productivity and even your health.</p><p>The <a href="https://theconversation.com/building-a-second-nature-into-our-cities-wildness-art-and-biophilic-design-88642" target="_blank">biophilia hypothesis</a> argues modern day humans evolved from hundreds of generations of ancestors whose survival required them to study, understand and rely on nature. So a disconnection from nature today can cause <a href="https://link.springer.com/article/10.1023/A:1010043827986" target="_blank">significant issues for humans</a>, such as a decline in psychological health.</p><p>In practice at home, connecting with nature might mean having large windows overlooking the garden. You can also <a href="https://makeitwood.org/documents/doc-1624-pollinate-health-report---february-2018.pdf" target="_blank">improve working conditions</a> by having natural materials in your office or school room, such as wooden furniture, natural stones and pot plants.</p>
Indoor Plants<p>Our research has demonstrated that even a small number of plants hanging in pockets on along a busy corridor provide enough nature to influence our physiological and psychological perceptions.</p><p>These plants even caused behavioral differences, where people would <a href="https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S1618866717306763" target="_blank">change their route</a> through a building to come into contact with the indoor plants.</p><p>We surveyed 104 people, and 40% of the respondents reported their mood and emotions improved in the presence of indoor plants.</p><p>They felt "relaxed and grounded" and "more interested". The presence of indoor greenery provides a place to "relax from routine" and it made the space "significantly more pleasant to work in".<span></span></p><p>As one person reported:</p><blockquote>When I first saw the plants up on the wall brought a smile to my face.<br><br>Whenever I walk down the stairs or walk past I mostly always feel compelled to look at the plants on the wall. Not with any anxiety or negative thoughts, rather, at how pleasant and what a great idea it is.</blockquote>
Looking at Wildlife Photography<p>Our research also explored whether viewing images, posters or paintings of nature would make a difference.</p><p>We photographed the plants from viewpoints similar to those the corridor users experienced. Survey responses from those who only viewed these digital images were almost the same as those who experienced them in real life.</p><p>While we can't say for sure, we can hypothesise that given the importance of vision in modern humans, an image that "looks" like nature might be enough to trigger a biophilic response.</p><p>However, physically being in the presence of plants did have some stronger behavioral effects. For example corridor users wanted to linger longer looking at the plants than those who viewed the photographs, and were more likely to want to visit the plants again. Maybe the other senses - touch, smell, even sound - created a stronger biophilic response than just sight alone.</p><p>So the good news is if you can't get to a nursery – or if you have a serious inability to keep plants alive – you can still benefit from looking at photographs of them.</p>
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By Julia Conley
Five weeks after launching an aggressive nationwide lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic—coupled with one of the most robust economic relief packages of any country—New Zealand's government on Monday announced that the new coronavirus is currently "eliminated" in the nation.