San Diego artist replaces tagging with community art pieces

Symbols and graffiti populate most cities, on the backs of buildings, train cars, and city infrastructure. Usually, this stuff is covered up – but elementary school teacher and artist LeoAngelo Lacuna Reyes wanted to do something a little different in San Diego. 

More power lines are being buried and large green utility boxes pop up in their place. Those boxes are perfect spots for would-be taggers to leave their mark, which LeoAngelo didn’t like.

“I do view graffiti as art, but tagging is just doodling,” he said. “Some people think of it as art, but it can really blight up a neighborhood. Kids with a lot of angst see a big electrical box, and it’s an inviting surface for them to deface.”

So LeoAngelo saw an opportunity to do something for his community, a neighborhood in San Diego named Mira Mesa. Inspired by a utility box completely painted over with art in 2010, he asked the Mira Mesa Town Council to give him permission to paint over some of the tagged boxes.

The theory was that with a little bit of upkeep, the painted utility boxes could deter would-be taggers since the boxes were already spots for art. His first project was a graffiti-covered box across the street from a library that turned into a colorful four-sided bookcase. That box hasn’t been touched in over 12 years. 

Since then he has taken on a lot more projects, painting over 40 utility boxes, and even inspiring some of his students to paint community murals. The art has become something that the community takes pride in. 

“This is something any town can do with a little paint and some community involvement,” Reyes said. “Something like a giant goldfish in a public space brings new life and energy to a tired neighborhood.”

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


You could soon exchange your plastic bottles for money

A deposit return scheme will be launched in England, Wales and Northern Ireland by 2025.

Alright, what’s a deposit return scheme?

In this case, the deposit return scheme is an effort to make sure that fewer drinks bottles are discarded as litter. 

Small cash deposits will be placed on single-use drinks containers (plastic bottles), which you can get back when you return them.

How will it work?

In essence, you’re renting a plastic bottle as a container for your drink (yes, it sounds a little bizarre when you put it like that).

When you’re done with your drink, rather than littering or throwing it away, you can return your plastic bottle via a vending-style machine, and receive your deposit back.

Is it just for plastic bottles?

Currently, that’s the plan – however, in equivalent schemes in Wales and Scotland, glass bottles are also included.

There are a couple of years to go, yet, before the scheme is launched – who knows, maybe the scheme will expand to include glass here, too?

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


‘Pocket Forests’ are the future of Paris

French volunteers are on a quest to create ‘pocket forests’ in Paris.

What are pocket forests?

Great question! These pocket forests are based on a Japanese method of tree planting known as the Miyawaki method, after Akira Miyawaki, the botanist who invented it.

Miyawaki was inspired by the small forests around shrines made up of indigenous tree species that seemed to thrive without human intervention.

Not only that but based on his findings he concluded that densely planted indigenous species grown at four different heights in prepared soil not only grow ten times faster than standard managed forests, it also traps more carbon.

So why are they planting these pocket forests in Paris?

Organised by the French non-profit Boomforest, the forests are hoped to help with climate change. They have another bonus effect, though – Paris has been feeling the heat lately and, with only 9% tree coverage, the city sweltered during the heatwave this summer.

It is hoped that planting these trees and creating more shade will create a better environment for the Parisians, and for the planet.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.


Dolphins spotted in the Bronx River for the first time in years

The Bronx River has long been considered an “open sewer“, thanks to massive amounts of industrial waste dumped into it for over a century.

So it was a surprise when people saw dolphins in the river for the first time in years recently.

The sheer amount of pollution drove many local species away for cleaner water, dolphins among them, but years of concerted conservation work have made the water clean enough for the dolphins to swim and hunt in, and ideally, soon make more regular appearances. 

“It’s true—dolphins were spotted in the Bronx River this week,” NYC Parks and Rec wrote in a Tweet. “This is great news—it shows that the decades-long effort to restore the river as a healthy habitat is working. We believe these dolphins naturally found their way to the river in search of fish.”

In 2018, the parks department released 400 adult alewife, a type of herring, into the river as part of its efforts to help improve the water ecology. The hope was that the fish would mate and lay eggs in the river restoring a previously naturally occurring population of fish in the only freshwater river in New York City. 

According to the BBC, this is the first time dolphins have made their way into the Bronx River in five years. 

The section of river that they were spotted in was next to Starlight Park, an area in the Bronx that has previously unused developed land and has since been restored with vegetation, picnic areas, playgrounds, and more.

Hopefully, as conservation efforts continue then other animals along with the dolphins can return to the Bronx River and other bodies of water around New York City.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life Below Water.


You could be paid for not using energy

Households in the UK could now be paid for not using energy during peak times.

Where do I sign up?!

The scheme has only been used in tests so far, but from today (Monday 23rd Jan) it will officially launch between 5pm and 6pm.

If your energy supplier is one of the 26 that has signed up, and you have a smart meter, you should get a notification that the scheme will start today.

How does it work?

Customers will receive a discount if they reduce electricity usage between certain times – today, that is 5pm to 6pm, but in future, it will vary.

The National Grid says you can earn a few pounds, but as much as £20, by delaying things like running your washing machine, oven, or even charging an electric vehicle.

For more information on the Demand Flexibility Service, including whether or not your provider is involved, take a look at this page on the National Grid website.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Affordable and Clean Energy.


Hope for the kiwi bird emerges

For the first time in over a century, this bird has laid an egg in the wild.

Incredible! Keep going!

The kiwi (not the fruit) is a bird native to New Zealand – and only New Zealand. There are five different species of the kiwi bird, four of which are listed as ‘vulnerable’, while the fifth is ‘near threatened’.

That sounds pretty bad.

It is – but 11 North Island brown kiwis were released at Mākara in Wellington in 2022 as part of an attempt to help boost their population. This has resulted in incredible news – the first kiwi egg to be laid in the wild in over a century!

A century?!

That’s right – the last kiwi egg known to be laid in the wild was in the Tararua Range in the mid-1870s. That’s around 150 years!

While the minds behind this venture know more than anyone not to count your kiwis before they hatch, this is still a brilliant sign for the birds in the future.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Life on Land.


This bookshop is addressing loneliness

A brand new independent bookshop is giving back to its community in a truly wonderful way.

Sounds lovely! Tell me more.

House of Books and Friends is a Community Interest Company (CIC) aiming to tackle loneliness through, you guessed it, books!

Based in Manchester, the bookshop will reinvest all its profits back into running the bookshop and projects which work to address loneliness.

How are they tackling loneliness?

As well as having a range of fiction and non-fiction books suitable for both adults and kids, the bookshop will host events like book clubs, children’s storytime, ‘meet the author’ events, and even music nights!

House of Books and Friends was the brainchild of Darryl Cooke, founder of the international law firm gunnercooke, which has its headquarters in Manchester. 

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


Meet the charity bunnies!

The charity sector is currently being helped out … by bunnies.


That’s right – bunnies! The AI Bunnies are based on two house rabbits, owned by Ian McLintock, the mastermind behind Charity Excellence – a system connecting charities to the help they need.

So what do the AI Bunnies do?

The AI Bunnies are avatars (based on the real thing, of course!) run on AI software created by Biomni. Mini Ding helps charity users to find what they’re looking for, while Mini Me helps find resources for charities and individuals so they can receive funding and assistance.

The bunnies work for free (though carrots are appreciated), don’t collect personal data, and are available to help 24/7 – unless, of course, you mention the vet!

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


King Charles III redirects crown funds to UK public

King Charles III has redirected funds that would ordinarily go to the royal family, so that they’ll be donated to charity.

Tell me more

Profits from windfarms owned by the crown estate, which usually generates £1 billion a year, will be given to ‘wider public good’ at the request of King Charles III.

That sounds brilliant.

It does! With the taxpayer-funded sovereign grant, the King currently gets 25% of the crown estate’s annual surplus. 

His decision to put these funds towards the UK public means that approximately £1 billion will be earmarked to help people, which is all the more important during the cost of living crisis, which King Charles highlighted in his Christmas broadcast.

There’s no word yet on what exactly the money will go towards, but we do know that it will be for the benefit of the UK public.

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


Wind generation hits record high in UK

The UK has hit a record high in wind generation.

Amazing! But… what does that mean?

Basically, it means that on 30th December 2022, the UK generated the most power it has ever generated from wind, coming in at 20,918MW.

Plus, the energy created through zero-carbon sources hit 87.2% of the country’s electricity mix.

However, on January 4th 2023, zero-carbon generation beat that record – getting to 87.6%. A week later, wind generation hit 21,620MW – smashing the previous record.

Why is this so great?

All this goes to show that the UK as a country is moving away from fossil fuels and towards zero-carbon energy sources – which is amazing for the planet. Good stuff.

This article aligns with the UN SDG Climate Action.