Plant your pants for soil health (yes, really)

A charity is calling on people to start planting their undies.

Weird! Tell me more

Called ‘Plant Your Pants’, the campaign is organised by The Country Trust, a charity that is trying to encourage people to explore the world beneath their feet. 

So, today is all about ‘planting’ your cotton underwear and then leaving it hidden for two months, before digging it up. The Country Trust has an interactive UK soil health map that anyone can contribute to, so we can all see how healthy the soil is in our vicinity.

But how does planting your pants indicate soil health?

Healthy soil is alive with living organisms and will help break down, or degrade cotton faster than soil with low levels of microbial life. 

Soil health is essential to all of us – from the air we breathe to the food we eat and the carbon that is stored. 95% of the food we eat is produced in soil, but often we don’t think about the earth we walk on when talking about planet health.

It is hoped that this campaign will give valuable insight into the health of our soil, as well as encouraging people to reconnect with the world beneath them!

If you’re interested in getting involved, you can see information about the Plant Your Pants campaign on The Country Trust website. 

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


The 20 happiest countries in the world

Happiness around the world persists, despite the COVID-19 pandemic – that’s the main finding of the latest global report on happiness levels.

Tell me more.

The World Happiness Report has found higher levels of benevolence than before the Covid-19 pandemic in countries around the world.

100,000 people across 137 countries were asked to evaluate their lives on a scale of one to 10 and, on average, gave scores just as high as they did pre-pandemic.

According to the 10th World Happiness Report, “the undoubted pains were offset by increases in the extent to which respondents had been able to discover and share the capacity to care for each other in difficult times”.

So which countries were the happiest?

The country which scored the happiest overall was Finland. Following that, came Denmark, Iceland, Israel, Netherlands, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Luxembourg and, coming in 10th, New Zealand.

The US ranked number 15 on the list, while the UK was still up there at number 19. Here’s the full list.

World’s 20 Happiest Countries in 2023

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Israel
  5. Netherlands
  6. Sweden
  7. Norway
  8. Switzerland
  9. Luxembourg
  10. New Zealand
  11. Austria
  12. Australia
  13. Canada
  14. Ireland
  15. United States
  16. Germany
  17. Belgium
  18. Czech Republic
  19. United Kingdom
  20. Lithuania

This article aligns with the UN SDG Good Health and Wellbeing.


This organization helps young girls get dresses for school dances

School dances like homecoming and prom are some of the most significant moments in young kids’ lives, but not every kid gets to live the dance of their dreams.

Unless you get creative or find a hand-me-down, prom dresses can run a few hundred dollars, a figure that’s unattainable for many families in the US, so Believe in Yourself helps provide them to underprivileged girls.

The organization goes into community centers, after-school programs, and low-income housing centers and provides designer dresses for the girls. 

“At the same time, we promote positive body image through mentoring and speakers,” they write on their website.

The program was founded by Sam Sisakhti, who also founded UsTrendy. They just want to help young, underprivileged women and girls have the opportunity to be happy with themselves.

“Many teen girls are up against unobtainable social standards placed upon them-which are not just unhealthy, but often times unaffordable,” they write.

“In an effort to close this gap, The Believe In Yourself Project is dedicated to the gainful advancement and empowerment of young women with a gift of confidence.”

Find out how you can support the project on their website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.


Man with autism starts business – to help others like himself

Just because someone lives with a disability, doesn’t mean that they aren’t just as capable as anyone else – something that Marcus Moore took to heart. 

Marcus lives with autism and wasn’t happy he had to rely on his parents to be able to survive so he decided to start a business that lets him care for himself. That business, Moore Crunch, stemmed from his passion for pretzels.

“One day I was gobbling up some pretzels and wanted to make them taste better,” Marcus says on his website. “My parents were like, ‘what do you think about starting a pretzel business?’ I made some pretzels and they were just ok. I switched up some things and came up with my own process and recipes. My mom got me a booth at a local farmers market and Moore Crunch was born.”

Before starting Moore Crunch, Marcus worked at grocery stores for years but since he didn’t see much upward mobility, he wanted to do more.

Since the founding of his business this past October, Marcus has sold over 600 bags of pretzels with multiple stores holding his product on their shelves.

With his success, Marcus is looking to grow, like finding a commercial kitchen and hiring other people with autism or disabilities to help him.

“Just help expand and show them how to do this give them that chance and opportunity,” he said.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.


Meet the Blind Braille artist making art accessible

When thinking of art, the first thing that might come to mind is large galleries, roped-off paintings and sculptures… but one man is setting out to change that.

Clarke Reynolds, known as the ‘Blind Braille artist’, has recently launched his first solo exhibition in London. Born partially sighted in his right eye, Clarke became an artist when the deteriorating eyesight in his other eye forced him to give up his career.

Today, he retains around 5% sight, meaning he’s registered as severely sighted and uses a white cane. Still, Clarke is an artist, and he has adapted to express himself through his art – and to make it accessible for everyone.

“I’ve lived two lives one with sight and one without,” Clarke tells Smiley News. “As an artist, and when I start losing my sight, I realised how inaccessible it [was] to go into a gallery. It feels like I don’t belong. Sometimes you may get a touch tool, but then you have to wear gloves, or you get a bit of audio description. But it’s quite patronising.”

At Clarke’s exhibition ‘The Power of Touch’ at Quantus Gallery in Shoreditch, he was determined to make it accessible to everyone – as well as give sighted people a chance to experience what it is like to live with limited sight.

“For me, because I work in braille to tell stories through my art, the idea of touching art, even for the sighted community … it kind of brings something different,” explains Clarke. “[My art] was made to be touched and to have conversations.”

Clarke’s art is made up of braille, made out of enlarged, colourful dots that are designed to be touched and experienced as much as they are seen. Unlike traditional braille, Clarke created a colour-coded system so that a sighted person could learn braille. This is meant to be touched and felt by everyone, with no restrictions.

By combining the two, Clarke has created something new, and incredible.

To make the exhibition even more incredible, specially made glasses were donated by the charity The Vision Foundation, so that sighted visitors can see and experience the world the way Clarke does, with only 5% vision.

“It’s really hard to explain how we see so they’re … not perfect,” explains Clark. “For me, I describe how I see like looking underwater. Every day is a new day … and these glasses represent that. It’s really interesting to hear conversations with people with the glasses on because I don’t physically see my artwork. I only see my art [through the] engagement it has so that’s why I love talking to strangers at my exhibition because that’s how I see me – and for them to understand how I kind of see is really interesting.”

Clarke has also been going into schools around his local area to teach them more about his experience as the blind braille artist, and about how he experiences the world. Here, he teaches braille, talks about sight loss, and helps to break down barriers by discussing the stigma that is attached to sight loss with a new generation of people.

“If you teach those kids at the start about how to appreciate art through touch and get close to it, then you don’t have to have barriers up,” he explains. “My art was selling for thousands of pounds in this exhibition … and yet people were touching it.

“They were scared to touch at the start because they saw the label and ‘Oh my god this art’s worth a fortune’ – I said no. The idea is to touch the art. People are buying it because there’s a story behind touching the art – it’s an experience.”

As for the legacy Clarke hopes to create through his art? It can all be boiled down to one word.

“It’s about empathy. I mean, empathy is a key word,” Clarke says. “[People] come to my exhibition, and they’ve looked at the art and engaged with the art and they realise that sight loss is more than just black and white.

“They learn empathy towards what sight loss is and then go home and discuss it with their grandchildren, kids, nieces, nephews – talk about it.”

If you’re interested in supporting people who experience blindness on a daily basis, you can donat emoney or volunteer with The Vision Foundation. If you’re interested in supporting Clarke and his work, you can do so through his website

Image credit goes to the Quantus Gallery.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Reduced Inequalities.


The ‘singing solicitor’ raising funds for local charity

A charity single is raising thousands, thanks to the ‘Singing Solicitor’.

Tell me more.

Spearheaded by Northampton’s ‘Singing Solicitor’ Kevin Rogers, the cover version of Snow Patrol’s ‘Chasing Cars’ raised £1,600 for charity within the first 24 hours.

With the help of broadcaster John Griff, plus some talented school pupils, NHS staff and local musicians and businesspeople, the touching music video and song are raising funds for local charity, The Lewis Foundation.

Who are The Lewis Foundation?

The Lewis Foundation provides free weekly gifts and support packs to adult cancer patients in the hospital. The packs usually include items they might find difficult to buy themselves or simply cannot afford.

The charity was founded in 2016 by Lorraine and Lee, after they lived through four-plus years of hospital visits when Lee’s mum had cancer treatment.

The music video does a brilliant job of telling a heartwarming story of how The Lewis Foundation provides free gifts and care packs to adult cancer patients in 17 hospitals across the Midlands.

They have raised nearly £3,000 for charity and the donations are still pouring in.

If you want to watch the music video and listen to the song, you can do so on YouTube. You can donate to The Lewis Foundation through their JustGiving page, or via SMS by texting ‘Lewis’ to 70450.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnership for the Goals.


93-year-old knits replica of Buckingham Palace

A nonagenarian knitter has knitted a replica of Buckingham Palace.

Amazing! Tell me more.

Margaret Seaman, aged 93, has knitted an 8ft (2.4m) x 5ft (1.5m) replica of Buckingham Palace.

The brilliant knitter from Caister-on-Sea, near Great Yarmouth, Norfolk, has used her crafts to raise nearly £100,000 for charity.

That’s brilliant!

In December, Margaret was presented with a British Empire Medal for her contributions to charity – a fitting tribute to her work, as she has decided to hang up her knitting needles for now.

If you want to see Margaret’s work in person, it is currently on display at the Norfolk Makers’ Festival at The Forum, Norwich.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partnership for the Goals.


Street Libraries are bringing communities together

You can’t overstate the importance of books, especially to kids learning about how the world works. But not every kid has a love for reading or access to them.

Sure, there are libraries but they aren’t always close enough for kids to make use of them. So in different places around the world, people have been starting small community ‘street libraries.’

In the US these street libraries come from Little Free Library, and way across the sea in Australia, they’re called Street Library Australia. They are weatherproof boxes set up outside a house or in a public space, filled with books that community members can take from or donate to.

The founder of Street Library Australia was inspired by the ones in the US and decided to bring the idea back to his home country. In the beginning, he planned on having about 30 libraries in 2015, and there are now about 4,500 registered Street Libraries in Australia. 

Beyond the focus of free access to books a large part of these libraries is the idea of bringing the community together. Both organizations let individuals petition to bring a street library to their community and Little Free Library even hosts building events. 

On top of that, the idea that anyone can give and take books at their leisure incentivizes helping your community while they help you back.

“Our vision is a Little Free Library in every community and a book for every reader,” Little Free Library says on its website. “We believe all people are empowered when the opportunity to discover a personally relevant book to read is not limited by time, space, or privilege.”

And over in Australia, it’s much of the same.

“When people take a book and leave a book, they create a cycle of generosity that allows them to share what they love with those around them,” they write on their website. “By participating in the Street Library movement, you too can help encourage reading, encourage sharing, and encourage community.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.


New San Diego policies to promote racial inclusion

Redlining was a federally endorsed policy in the US in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, where banks and mortgage lenders rejected and approved home loans based on race, income, and neighborhood.

This practice dominated many US cities and many neighborhoods and their racial makeup today is the direct result of those segregation tactics. 

Officials in San Diego, California, say redlining is the main reason majority-White neighborhoods dominate the northern and coastal parts of the city, while Black and Hispanic neighborhoods are mostly confined to southern parts of the city. 

Those same officials are trying to do something about it.

They recently voted to adopt new housing policies that incentivize racial integration with the goal of taking steps to undo the results of redlining. 

The new policies are things like allowing taller apartment buildings and more backyard units when a property is near mass transit, softening previous rules already in place.

The policies also extend those softer rules to mostly suburban areas deemed “high-resource” by the state because of the presence of high-paying jobs and strong educational opportunities.

“We are tasked with overcoming past discrimination where people of certain races and incomes were not allowed to live in certain areas,” said Seth Litchney, the city’s housing policy program manager. “Providing affordable housing in those areas helps overcome that pattern of discrimination.”

This article aligns with the UN SDG Partners of the Goals.


‘You are not alone in this’ – Meet 21-year-old climate campaigner, Noga Levy Rapoport

It’s 2019, and Noga Levy-Rapoport is 17 years old and angry.

Spurred on by their passion for the environment, and anger that the adults in charge weren’t doing anything about the climate crisis, Noga went to London to join climate marches. 

“This was not just a way of making immediate, long-term changes in drawing awareness to the climate crisis,” explains Noga, “but also in making it clear that young people were not going anywhere, and that there was an immediate, and urgent need to have our voices heard.”

From here, Noga has gone on to be one of the most prominent young climate activists in the UK, even having their own TED talk on the climate crisis, and how important young people are in the fight to protect our earth.

A passion for a cause

Over the last four years, Noga has become more determined than ever to influence decision-makers into enacting change. It isn’t an easy fight but, for Noga, that makes it even more worth it – the knowledge that they are fighting for something important.

“There was risk and, at times, there was burnout,” admits Noga, now in their third and final year of university. “But nothing was able to get me through those times like spending time with those who I worked with, with the friendships and the connections … because there is a deep understanding that the work you do can be exhausting.

“But if you stop it completely, you will be so much more drained, feeling so much more helpless.”

It’s true that fighting for a cause can be draining at times – but that doesn’t mean there isn’t hope. In fact, for Noga, there is plenty of hope to be found in what they do, even when it is hard. Surrounding themself with people who have the same priorities and same beliefs brings Noga hope because it reminds them that they aren’t alone in what they are doing.

“Any form of eco-anxiety or eco-paralysis, in my experience, has almost always come from feeling like you can only do small things and you can only do them alone,” explains Noga. “Being … in a space where you can remind yourself that you are part of something much greater by default offers you a much greater hope. You can continue to feel that passion, simply by moving away from paralysis.”

Fear about the environment can be paralysing – and no one knows that more than Noga and others in the climate action movement. Whether you’re campaigning every week, or just making small changes in your own life, it can feel as though the burden of the whole climate movement is on you.

“Whilst no one should feel that they have to carry the entire world on their shoulders, I think it’s important to stay as involved as you can and as balanced as you can,” explains Noga. “Take time for yourself, but remember that the movement needs you and you need the movement too. Without it, it can be a very depressing place to be in your life, it can be very hard to see a way forward if you’re not engaged in those in those political environmental campaigning spaces.”

A necessary voice for our future

Aged just 21, Noga is still young – something many people might try to use against them. But for Noga, they know that being young doesn’t have anything to do with how capable you are of change, or how necessary your voice is in discussing the future.

“Over the past few years, I was able to really embrace the power of young people,” explains Noga. “I was able to discuss with other young people the power that we had, that we could hold on to very strongly … understanding that our naivety is not something to be afraid of and that the restrictions that we’ve grown up with … can always show us that we can survive every single crisis, and we have the opportunity to build a better world and the world that we want.”

For those struggling with their feelings of anxiety about climate action – Noga has some advice for them too. 

“Firstly, get together. You’re not alone in this and there are so many people who are like-minded who feel the same as you,” advises Noga. “It’s very hard sometimes to be involved in nationwide or international campaigning when you feel strapped in every possible way. But getting together with the people around you is the first step to deciding what to do.”

If you want to support climate action, consider donating to or volunteering with The Climate Coalition.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.