Social Causes

Despite the growing need for housing across the nation, houses are becoming more expensive than ever. This is putting them out of reach for countless Americans. In fact, the rate of new houses being built now is over 20% lower than the rates previously seen between 1975 and 2000, according to the National Review.

Just last year, the United States needed more than 400,000 new homes to be built in order to accommodate the growing population. Unfortunately, few Americans can hope to cough up the funds for building a home in or around productive cities like Los Angeles or New York City. The National Review notes that construction prices have risen by almost 33% in the last three years alone in the Bay Area.

But America isn’t the only nation struggling to match supply with demand.

One of the world’s most unaffordable property markets is making it impossible for even well-paid citizens to claim a home of their own. Hong Kong residents simply cannot hope to establish roots in the New Territories in the traditional housing market.

This is where steel shipping containers and boxes come in.

In Hong Kong, prefabricated steel containers that look like shipping containers are being sold by the dozen amidst the area’s housing crisis. One of the most popular container home costs around $19,100 for 30 square metersBloomberg reports that the cost of a down payment on an apartment could be more than double that price.

As a growing number of people move into these homes, however, more people are being put at-risk for legal consequences.

“Of all the prefabricated homes in the style of a container that I have seen in ads or online, I can tell you 99.9 percent aren’t in compliance with the law,” claims Vincent Ho, one of the managing directors for Freevision Ltd.

This is because a citizen needs to receive government approval before construction of the property begins. It also has to meet certain standards, akin to zoning laws and building permits present in the United States. For example, these container homes need to comply with certain fire-safety codes, ventilation standards, and zoning laws established by the government.

Regardless, the demand for this type of home has only grown. Steel container orders have more than doubled in Hong Kong since 2016 and estimates claim that 40% of these containers are being designed to serve as home residences.

In Hong Kong, citizens have managed to shirk these laws and avoid detection since the majority of these homes are being built in obscure locations. But construction companies have taken note of their popularity and affordability. With backing from the government, a non-profit called The Hong Kong Council of Social Service plans to build 90 legal container homes within the city’s poorest areas. These homes are not meant to be permanent dwellings, but they will serve as a necessary form of housing as citizens wait for public housing.

American businesses have dubbed these living quarters “modular homes.” These homes are prefabricated by an offsite manufacturer, shipped to the buyer, and then assembled on-site. Where an apartment building might take more than a year to construct and rely on a number of specialized industries to make the final product, a modular steel home can be achieved in nine months and rely on cheaper labor.

This has become an increasingly popular option in Florida. Though shipping containers aren’t often built to withstand extreme weather, many Floridians have fallen in love with the eco-friendly design, affordability, and timeliness.

Should a homeowner worry about their home blowing away in a hurricane, a solid foundation can put these thoughts to rest. New concrete foundations only take between two and seven days while raised concrete can be used almost immediately. Securing the modular home to a strong foundation will ascertain it won’t blow away during periods of inclement weather.

Should the steel container home ever blow away, you never need to worry about it taking on damage. Every modular home sold in the United States has to pass a floor test where a concentrated load of 16,000 lbs is pressed onto an area measuring 44 square inches. The strength offered by steel ensures that your home will take on minimal damage should an accident or other natural disaster occur.

The four most-common metals used in the construction industry are aluminum, copper, carbon steel, and stainless steel. Because these modular homes are typically made from steel, they’re easily recycled. Even the 2.5 million metric tonnes of metalworking fluid sold throughout the world can be recycled, making it a green building process.

Even snowy Brooklyn has begun to experiment with modular homes.

FullStack Modular helped create the world’s tallest modular tower measuring 32 stories. Now, New York City’s agency has begun to engage in further efforts for affordable housing, including modular housing for mixed-use development.

Are steel container homes the wave of the future? It’s too soon to say. But as this trend grows amidst the nation’s worsening housing crisis, we might see the housing market start to change.

When people think about Las Vegas, they don’t often think of the beautiful green landscapes. They probably don’t think about those green landscapes at all, actually, they think about the dreamjackpot casino games. But that is starting to change.

According to the Las Vegas Review-Journal, an unknown forest with more than 117,000 trees is actually located in America’s driest desert.

The forest consists of approximately 75% hardwood trees, which take upwards of 20 years to reach maturity. Las Vegas is one of 100 U.S. metros that the U.S. Forest Service hopes to one day add the Vegas forest to its annual Forest Inventory and Analysis, which is an exhaustive nationwide tree tally and health assessment.

“For us, it’s about getting a better understanding of trees, be they in natural forests or landscaped ones,” said Michael Wilson, inventory and analysis program manager of the Rocky Mountain Research Station.

Approximately 80% of Americans live in metropolitan areas, urban forestry will likely be the only way people who live in cities like Vegas to experience green trees and nature. When most of us think of Las Vegas, we think of dingy motel rooms that require mold killers in the bathrooms, or the brightly lit strip full of casinos and gaudy hotels. Not exactly a nature lover’s paradise. But the forest project is helping to change that.

The U.S. Forest Service’s annual inventory collects the samples from 200 randomly selected areas in order to determine the type, size, and relative condition of the trees in a given area.

“Our whole purpose is to be able to track forest health over time,” added Mark Majewsky, supervisor forester at the Forest Service’s Northern Research Station.

Las Vegas urban forest, which is entirely man-made, is actually much larger than forests in other U.S. metros. Since 2013, the Nevada Division of Forestry released a detailed inventory cataloging more than 117,000 trees from 262 different species on the publicly owned property.

“In the East, urban forests were carved out of natural forests,” added Wilson. “Our in the West, we create an urban forest where there wasn’t a forest before.”

Here are some interesting facts about the Las Vegas hidden forest:

  • The most popular individual species is the Mondale pine (14% of the total population), the Fan-Tex ash (9%), the desert willow (5%).
  • Nearly 50% of Henderson’s trees were in the youngest tree age, with trunks of 3 inches in diameter or less.
  • 50% of the trees in Boulder City ranked as large or medium size, the highest such percentage in Clark County.
  • Approximately 25% of Mesquite’s public space trees were palm trees.

Working in social care can be incredibly stressful. Many of the most popular careers for those who have graduated with a master’s degree in social work include working with the most vulnerable members of society. You could spend your days traveling between client’s homes, courtrooms, hostels, hospitals, and care centers, helping those who need it most. But when you spend your life helping others through unbearably difficult situations, sometimes dealing with aggressive or even
dangerous clients, as well as those who have been through horrifying experiences, it’s hard not to get stressed out. However, learning to manage your own stress is essential. Here are some helpful ways to cope with stress as a social worker.

Talk

While you should not confide the specifics of cases with your friends and family, you can let them know if you are feeling stressed out. You could also speak to your superiors or colleagues at work if things start to get you down or you are worried about a particular case.

Switch Off

When you get home, spend a little time reflecting on your day or talking about it. Then, do
something different. You may want to sit and watch some TV or read a book for a while, or you could go for a run. Just find something that helps you to switch off and leave work behind. Then you are free to enjoy the rest of your evening.

Do Your Best

One way to avoid stress is to know that you are doing your best. Be confident in your own abilities. A great way to boost your confidence is studying for an online masters in social work. Even if you’ve been in the field for a while, an M.S.W. online can refresh your knowledge and make sure it’s up to date.

Exercise

Exercise is a fantastic form of stress relief. Many people find repetitive exercises such as swimming or running help them to clear their mind as they can focus purely on the movements of their body and the sound of their feet hitting the floor or their breathing.

Self-Care

Looking after yourself will help you to maintain better physical and mental health. Do your best to eat a healthy, balanced diet. Drink plenty of water and get as much sleep as you can. Maintaining a healthy lifestyle also makes it easier to recognize the signs of stress and burnout if they come.

Say No

Social workers are often amazingly compassionate individuals who want to help as many people as they can. But, sometimes you need to accept that you can’t always help. Say no to doing extra or helping with other cases if you feel like you have too much on. Learning how to say no without feeling guilty is an important skill many of us need to learn.

Learning how to manage your stress levels will help you to be a better social worker and thereby help more people. But, it will also help you to be able to separate work and home and find a better work-life balance.

January 8, 2010 was easily one of the worst days of my life. It was the day my family found out that my then 4-year-old daughter had leukemia. The day started with a trip to the pediatrician to check out some swollen lymph nodes that just would not go away, and ended with an ambulance ride to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta with a warning that my daughter probably had cancer.

Unfortunately, her pediatrician was right. My daughter spent the next several years in treatment, first to push the leukemia into remission, then to keep it there.

All things considered, we were lucky. That may sound strange in a story about cancer, but we really were. My daughter was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia, or ALL, which is one of the most common forms of childhood cancer, and which had a 85-90% cure rate at the time. That meant there was a well-established treatment protocol, plus lots of research for new treatments. That, coupled with the fact that my daughter responded well to chemotherapy and went into remission early on, meant her chances for surviving — and thriving — were great.

More than seven years later, I am happy to say that she has done just that — survived and thrived. And I am reminded of how easily her story could’ve unfolded in a much more tragic way.

When we first learned she had leukemia, what little I knew about the disease led me to believe that she would need a bone marrow transplant. So before we got to speak to her team of doctors, I started researching the procedure. What I learned scared me.

Bone marrow transplants quite literally can save the lives of people with more than 70 diseases including leukemia, lymphoma and sickle cell. The scary part? A whopping 70 percent of patients don’t have a fully matched donor in their family. In other words, the odds are pretty slim that there is a familial match. So how does a person find a match when that happens?

They depend on the Be The Match Registry®.

Be The Match is the world’s largest and most diverse donor registry. But even with those numbers, there still thousands of patients who don’t have a match currently available. That means more of us — yes, that means you and me — need to register to ensure that many more patients have access to life-saving treatment.

The younger a person is, the healthier their bone marrow is – which means that more young adults are especially needed to join. And because ethnic background does factor into matching as well, more people of color are needed to join the registry. Joining the marrow registry is pretty simple — all it takes is a cheek swab. You can visit join4kami.org for more information.

But what happens when you’re actually a match with someone?

Well, donating bone marrow is a lot less painful than you (and I) are probably imagining it is. Most people donate through a Peripheral Blood Stem Cell (PBSC) donation, during which a machine draws blood from one arm, extracts the necessary cells, and returns the remaining blood to your body through your other arm. Donors are fully awake during the procedure and can chat with family and friends or binge on Netflix.

For some donors, a doctor will need to extract marrow directly from the back of your pelvic bone with a needle. If this is necessary, you’ll receive anesthesia and feel no pain during the procedure. Most donors recover completely within a few weeks.

Kamryn, 11, is an example of a patient who currently has no donors available on the marrow registry. She has sickle cell anemia and needs a match. Learn more about Kamryn’s story and sign up to join the registry at join4kami.org.

The saddest part? Kamryn actually had five matches on the registry. They all turned out to be either unwilling or medically unable to donate. What patients really need is donor registry members who are truly committed to donating if the need arises. But too often, registry members who are called upon as a match then say they are “not interested,” which as you can imagine is heartbreaking for patients and their families.

Like I said, my family was lucky. My daughter did not end up needing a bone marrow transplant and chemo alone was enough to save her life. But there are so many families out there who can’t say the same, and who really need the kindness of strangers to keep themselves or their loved ones alive.

Will you sign up to Be The Match?

I was selected for this opportunity as a member of CLEVER and the content and opinions expressed here are all my own.

Parley, an eco-organization with the lofty goal of ending plastic pollution in the ocean, has teamed up with the fashion industry. Both individual fashion designers and entire brands have thrown their support behind Parley’s environmental initiative to help eliminate plastic and other pollutants from the ocean.

It’s predicted that the amount of plastic being washed out to sea will more than double over the next 10 years; a fact that caught Maryna Linchuk’s attention. The Belarusian modeling star felt such a connection to Parley’s initiative that she spent much of her winter break cleaning up the Maldives beaches.

“It’s shocking to me that this material that is so unfriendly, so dangerous for animals, and potentially toxic to us has become so normal in our society. A plastic bottle you use for 10 minutes will be here forever,” Linchuk told Vogue.

Modern consumers are hooked on environmentally unfriendly containers. For instance, while most of the 159.6 million cases of wine sold to millennials last year contained recyclable glass, there are just as many plastic soda and water bottles sold each year that won’t decompose so easily. Inevitably, many of them will end up in the oceans.

This is knowledge that Parley hopes will gain traction through partnerships and inventive methods of combating pollution. The organization’s A.I.R. strategy (Avoid, Intercept, Redesign) targets marine plastic waste with the goal of cleaning up oceans and potentially even eliminating plastic someday.

Parley founder Cyrill Gutsch believes that through collaboration and a good dose of creativity, a solution to the world’s plastic problems can be discovered. He says the first hurdle is convincing people that these issues directly affect them.

“Until something is happening directly in front of you, it’s very difficult to picture and connect to the reality,” he said.

Gutsch’s mindset is a large part of the reason Adidas decided to partner with Parley for a second time. This collaboration features the Ultraboost, Ultraboost X, and Ultraboost Uncaged sneakers.

The collaboration launches on May 10 in-stores and online. Each pair of shoes reuses 11 plastic bottles and includes laces, heel lining, and sock liners created with other recycled materials. This eco-friendly production is where Parley comes in. In addition to supporting Adidas, the organization helps create thread from waste materials.

“We not only see sustainability as an opportunity to get a competitive advantage. We see it as an obligation for us as a global company to do business in a responsible and sustainable way,” said Kasper Rorsted, Adidas CEO.

From fashion models to huge corporations to boutique brands, the future of sustainability looks bright in 2017.

Disclosure: Hello Products has provided me to with product to facilitate this post, along with compensation for my time and effort in creating this content. As always, all opinions are my own.

I am the type of person who believes that giving is always important. I try to instill in my kids the value of helping others whenever possible in a wide variety of ways, from the giving of time and money, to standing up for people who might be afraid or unable to stand up for themselves. But I’d be lying if I didn’t say we try to ramp up our giving around the holidays. I am a sucker for Christmas, and I always want to make sure everyone has a merry one.

In years past, my family has donated toys to children in need via programs like Toys for Tots and the Angel Tree program, and one year, we even bought gifts for a whole family that we found on Craigslist. This year, we are financially strapped, so we’re not able to do the same kind of giving we have in years past. But that doesn’t mean there isn’t something we can do.

My family has fallen in love with hello products over the last several months. Their toothpaste is our new favorite, and I look forward to the fresh feeling I get after using them and hello’s breath sprays. This year, I wanted to come up with a simple, unique way to provide at least a small bit of joy for those in need. So my family and I decided to create small care packages to keep in our car to give to anyone who might need one.

They’re really easy to assemble. We included:

  • Several small tubes of hello toothpaste
  • A new toothbrush
  • A hat and a pair of gloves
  • A pair of socks
  • A cup with a cover and a few packets of tea
  • A few dollars
  • A few sanitary pads (for women)
  • Baby wipes

There is really no “wrong” way to do this. My family included items that we would appreciate and that we thought would provide at least some small measure of comfort. You can include whatever items you choose, or make some substitutions. For example:

  • You can include KoolAid packets and sugar instead of tea
  • In place of the cash, you can include a gift card to McDonald’s, Starbucks or someplace else where a few dollars will go a long way.

In doing this, the idea is to teach our kids that even when we don’t have much, we can all find a way to give to others. And we can all stand to do this all the time, but this is our effort to make the holidays more friendly.

Like us, hello products does its best to give back. Hello’s mission is to create the most natural, effective personal care products in the world, in the friendliest way possible. In an effort to make a positive impact in the world and “spread the friendly”, this year, they have donated close to $350,000 worth of products to charity.

What do you and your family do to give back during the holidays? Share your stories in the comments below.

Disclosure: This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and the American Cancer Society. All opinions are mine alone. The views and opinions expressed in this post are my own and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the American Cancer Society. #Th3Fight #ad #CollectiveBias

As a parent, there is little that feels worse than being completely helpless when your child is hurting. And yet that is precisely the place my husband and I found ourselves in back in 2010 when our daughter was diagnosed with leukemia.

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The process began innocently enough. She had a cold that took a little too long to clear, and swollen lymph nodes that just wouldn’t go away. Her pediatrician told us to keep an eye on her, and bring her back if things didn’t look better in a week. Within that week, she tripped over a baby gate, sprained her ankle and developed a swollen lymph node on — of all places — her head. A lymph node that an ER doctor told us was just a cosmetic problem we shouldn’t worry about.

But I knew my daughter, and I knew she didn’t seem like herself. She’d been sick for weeks, and I wanted to know what was wrong. So I took her back to her pediatrician, who asked to do some blood tests. Within minutes, she came back with words that scared me probably more than anything else ever has in my life — she thought my daughter might have leukemia. She didn’t even let us go home. She immediately called our nearest children’s hospital and had them send an ambulance to come get us.

Once the doctors confirmed her diagnosis and admitted her, we were left to figure out life now that cancer had come calling. Think about this:

Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US, after heart disease, and it accounts for nearly 1 of every 4 deaths. One. In. Four. Those numbers mean that in 2016 in the U.S., there will be an estimated 1,685,210 new cancer cases and 595,690 cancer deaths.

The weight of that knowledge really hit us when she was diagnosed. But we had to find our “new normal” somehow.

More than six years later, I am so happy to say that we did find that new normal, and my beautiful daughter, shown below with her little sister, is 6 years cancer free.

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Through it all, my daughter was a fighter. She maintained a positive attitude and remained inquisitive and curious about her treatments, and she really was an inspiration to my husband and I. She rarely complained, and she was stronger than I think I could ever be if the roles were reversed. Now, she’s a competitive gymnast who continues to fight for an amazing life.

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Taboo from the Black Eyed Peas knows a thing or two about fighting. He fought and survived testicular cancer. If you didn’t know that (I didn’t either), that’s because he had been very private about his battle. But now, he’s working with American Cancer Society as a global ambassador and going public with his story in hopes of helping other cancer fighters and survivors. And his experience sparked the idea to create The Fight, an empowering song celebrating survivorship.

The first time I listened to this song, it brought tears to my eyes. I love the idea of an anthem that honors and celebrates the seriousness of cancer along with the joy of surviving.

You can join The Fight too. Download the song from iTunes. Proceeds from the sale of this song benefit the American Cancer Society. You can also learn more about Taboo’s own fight.

The American Cancer Society has made a commitment to raising awareness about the prevention and early detection of cancer. In addition to their prevention efforts, they are invested in researching cancer causes and treatments. They are currently funding more than $420 million in cancer research grants, and they have invested more than $4.3 billion in cancer research since 1946.

The truth that many of us have been or will be touched by cancer, either directly or indirectly. Download The Fight from iTunes to honor the fighters in your life, or just to help make sure that the American Cancer Society can continue to do the work.

This weekend was a great time to be a Black woman. Don’t get me wrong: I’m proud of my melanin all day, every day — twice on Sundays. But over the past few days, the rest of the world has gotten to witness that pride in all it’s glory, and it is exactly what my spirit needed.

Or at least it was, until the hate started to roll in.

You probably know by now that on Saturday, Beyonce did what only she can do: She dropped a surprise video on us for her new song, “Formation.” As always, the internet collectively lost its mind. But this time, it felt different. It wasn’t just the Beyonce stans getting in on the praise. It was all the Black people and even the woke white people on my timeline and all over the web. Because more than a song, “Formation” is a political statement about Blackness in all it’s forms — feminine, queer, ratchet, refined, and everything in between — racial injustice (Hurricane Katrina, anyone?) and police brutality.

On the off chance you haven’t seen it, check it out. Or just watch it for the hundredth time. I won’t judge you.

Come through, Bey! This video is the Blackest thing to happen in 2016, and I am completely here for it.

In the days since its release, there have been many, many thinkpieces that break down why it is the best thing Beyonce has ever done (seriously), so I’ll let you read some of those. But suffice it to say that I love how she managed to make space for queer voices while she addressed her own Blackness, the persistent rumors about her AND #BlackLivesMatter, all the while calling her sisters into “formation” to join her. The song and video are a truly powerful statement, particularly coming from a person who is typically viewed as being apolitical and not “woke”.

So that was Saturday. But Beyonce was also slated to perform during the Super Bowl halftime show on Sunday. And everyone was hoping she would perform “Formation.” King Bey did not disappoint. Not only did she perform it: She did it with a group of backup dancers dressed like Black Panthers in a costume that also paid homage to Michael Jackson’s Super Bowl halftime outfit. She basked in all her Blackness in front of 100 million people, and I could not have been prouder.

Tina Knowles / Instagram

Tina Knowles / Instagram

Of course, I knew the white tears would be coming. I knew white people would be all up in arms about the song and her performance, and I was right. They’ve called Bey’s performance overtly sexual (What? Where?), boring (Compared to WetBlanket, I mean Coldplay?), race-baiting (Why does this term even exist? As if Black people need encouragement to be pissed off about our oppression), and even anti-police.

I want to address that last one in detail. White people have actually — like for real — responded to the pro-Black message and Black Panther costumes by claiming Beyonce is now anti-police. They are comparing the Black Panthers to the KKK, and calling it a racist, terrorist organization.

Listen. Being pro-Black does not mean being anti-white, and speaking out against police brutality does not mean being anti-police. The Black Panthers was not a racist organization: It was a response to racism. It was an attempt to protect Black people and Black communities from racism and the oppression of white supremacy. But somehow, they are being equated to the KKK, which murdered and raped and conspired to systematically oppress black people with reckless abandon, and STILL EXISTS today? This is somehow the same as an organization that developed programs to feed and offer health care for the Black community while fighting to come out from under the boot of white supremacy?

Miss me with that nonsense. Making the logical leaps to those conclusions requires hella mental gymnastics. Being proud of our Blackness and working to offer representation when mainstream media offers little to none does not mean we are against everyone else. It is us taking back the power that has been denied us for so long. Taking back the narrative that says we are not beautiful, intelligent, or complex, or deserving of love or success.

And hell if we’re going to let anyone take that away from us too.

With all that Black Girl Magic and Black pride in the air all weekend, I guess I felt like it was finally time for me to use my voice here the same way I use it everywhere else. If you are friends with me on Facebook, you know how often I talk about race, racism, intersectional feminism and social justice in general. This is also true in real life. Here though, in this space, my space, I don’t talk about it as often as I’d like. This post is the start of my effort to change that.

This is me, getting in formation.