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An honest self-help guide: Stuff that works for me

2023-03-24 05:03:38

An honest self-help guide: Stuff that works for me

Read a lot of self-help books, as many of us did during the pandemic, and patterns start to emerge. (We're not just talking about the titles getting more sweary.) In 2020, I boiled the advice of hundreds of books down to 11 rules that recur throughout history and are backed up by science. These were, in short: build small habits; plan clearly; accept disruption; postpone judgment; carpe your limited diem; be playful; be useful; learn to chill; write; let others help. Oh yes, and perfectionism leads to procrastination – a rule that still feels like a personal attack.

An honest self-help guide: Stuff that works for me(图1)

When I reviewed the latest in preventative healthcare a year later, I also found advice that could be reduced to a list that seemed almost tauntingly easy. A doctor ran through a list of DNA markers that made me more at risk for a range of diseases, as well as a few concerning numbers in my bloodwork. What could I do to put them right and alleviate my genetic risks? In every case, the answer came down to just four incredibly basic things: Better sleep, more frequent exercise, better nutrition decisions, more stress-reducing meditation. Add those four to the original 11, and you end up with 15 easy rules for the ideal healthy life. Right? 

Wrong, because here's the problem with being human: Awareness of what you need to do is a universe away from actually doing it. Yale professor Laurie Santos brought this point home in the happiness course I reviewed in 2021. "Knowing is not half the battle," Santos says, upending a quote from the 1980s G.I. Joe cartoon. You can read all the happiness studies there are and still struggle to improve your own life, as Santos admits she does.

Or in my case, you can write repeatedly about the importance of sleep, test sleep trackers, and still struggle to get six hours in bed a night. (That's thanks in part to being a night owl, a chronotype that science tells us we shouldn't try to change, living in a lark world.) 

Here's how I would reduce those 15 rules to one: We are all basically meatsacks. No matter how smart we are, our brains are shaped by powerful evolutionary chemicals, and are often incredibly difficult to rewire. This may not be the most uplifting self-help notion, but it should encourage you to forgive yourself if you fail, and try again with more modest habit-changes. (How are those New Years' resolutions going, fam?) 

Still, we all know what a breakthrough looks like: the rare moment when you try some form of self-improvement and it actually takes. Perhaps the most honest thing a writer of self-help can do is outline their own successes and failures, while noting where the science stands, and the constant caveat that your mileage may vary. What follows, then, is nothing more or less than stuff I've written about that has changed my life in ways large and, as in the first instance, deceptively small. 

Click on the titles for more details and the science behind each change. If we're lucky, there might just be one or two things in this list that work for your meatsack too. 

1. Drinking lemon water

I don't follow a specific diet plan, though I've tried many of them in the past. The most useful in my experience was the Whole30, a month-long reset button where you just eat plants and protein and don't count calories or bother to weigh yourself. It helped in the long run by increasing the number of easy vegetable-cooking options in my limited repertoire. (Eggplant, asparagus, and sweet potato slices with olive oil in the toaster oven FTW.) 

But there is something I consume religiously, multiple times a day. I fill a 30-ounce tumbler with ice and water, squeeze in half a lemon, and drink the ultra-cold result through a straw (to avoid harming the enamel on my teeth). It's the most refreshing way I've found to stay hydrated, and one that seems to be winning converts the more friends I share it with. I find it cuts down my need for snacks by filling my stomach; these days I even find it preferable to alcohol at mealtimes. If you're looking to replace sugary drinks (and UCSF pediatrician Robert Lustig's famous sugar lecture(Opens in a new tab) often reminds me why that's a good idea), iced lemon water might be just the ticket. 

2. Running with perfect playlists 

There are many great forms of exercise I've enjoyed over the years: Yoga; tai chi (which could use more love from the tech world); e-biking (in year-long reviews, wild distance rides, and hot bike summers); hiking, especially during the pandemic; snowshoeing in winter (with the perfect audiobook). The one that stuck, much to my surprise, was running. I started doing it daily during 2020 as a much-needed stress reliever, very gradually upping my distance (currently 7K a day) even while masked

As with a lot of my habits, I track my daily 7K via the award-winning Streaks app(Opens in a new tab), which helps keep me honest. But I wouldn't have kept it going without a couple of obsessively-curated Spotify playlists that help me run at the recommended number of steps per minute – playlists I now listen to through the ideal pair of running headphones

3. Breathing through the nose 

I knew the importance of breath from yoga and meditation, but James Nestor's 2020 bestseller Breath was what really changed my behavior. In short: inhaling and exhaling slowly through the nose is key, even while exercising, especially while asleep. I never imagined I'd put a small strip of surgical tape on my lips at bedtime, as Nestor does, but was surprised to find it makes even my minimal amount of sleep much more refreshing. 

4. Meditating without a guide 

As the creator of March Mindfulness, a tongue-in-cheek meditation contest now in its fifth year, I know the value of being light, playful, and experimental with this often-too-serious practice. Whatever helps you meditate regularly, especially amidst the chaos of a pandemic, is good! Personally, I find the drone of voices that tell you how to do it to be a distraction. Most days you can find me simply following my breath for five minutes at a time via the Mindfulness app on the Apple Watch, or using the Muse 2 (which listens to feedback from your brain with less hassle than the later Muse S).  

5. Flipping the fasting switch – without actually fasting 

Science tells us that giving our cells more time without energy intake is what helps them become hardy, removing disease-causing junk like misfolded proteins. But in our diet-obsessed world, fasting can too easily become associated with eating disorders. So rather than stick to a complicated intermittent fasting schedule, I follow the advice of Harvard genetics professor David Sinclair, whose studies suggest we can halt aging and maybe even live to 150

Sinclair recommends a couple of over-the-counter supplements that mimic the effects of fasting at a cellular level: NMN and resveratrol. (A major 2021 study(Opens in a new tab) confirmed the anti-aging benefits of NMN, which is derived from niacin, and while cautioning that more study was needed, recognized that "no rigorous side-effects" have been reported; similarly no severe side effects have been found for resveratrol(Opens in a new tab), which occurs naturally in grapes and other food.)

Having taken both for two and a half years, I find, like Sinclair, that they give me more energy and have reversed a number of gray hairs (something we can also do simply by de-stressing, according to a recent groundbreaking study.) 

6. Keeping a digital diary 

You may have seen studies that show writing a gratitude journal(Opens in a new tab) can improve your health. I still roll my eyes at that notion. That said, journaling in general is a form of therapy I can't do without, especially when my daily entries are written, calligraphy pen-style, on the gorgeous ReMarkable 2 e-ink tablet. Once a month I drop those handwritten entries into my digital diary app, DayOne, which syncs seamlessly and securely to all my devices. DayOne's "on this day" feature is a profoundly useful (if often cringeworthy) way to see patterns of negative thoughts and feelings. The more I'm aware that they recur across the years, the more likely I can resist them in the future.   

7. Finding flow, the fun way

The science of cannabis and psychedelic medicine has evolved by leaps and bounds these past few years. I've written about authors who microdose LSD and why it's just as effective as other so-called smart drugs, and the respected mushroom researcher who promotes psilocybin's therapeutic effects in small doses. (Think Nine Perfect Strangers, but with consent.) 

But perhaps the most useful suggestion came from author and researcher Steven Kotler, who studies the science of the powerfully productive brain state known as flow. Kotler found that the chemical signature of flow in the brain is indistinguishable from the combination of coffee, exercise, and a small dose of cannabis. Your mileage is definitely going to vary on this one, depending on local laws. (Hello from California!) But in my carefully-curated experience, Kotler is clearly on to something.

8. Hacking my dreams 

I may not be the best at staying asleep as long as I should. But I have learned to enjoy and extend the trippy experiences that come at both ends of the night: brain states called hypnagogia and hypnopompia that science still barely understands. Dream hacker Jennifer Dumpert calls this liminal dreaming, and it may be the wildest, weirdest natural high our meatsack brains have to offer. 

9. Sculpting my brain 

Taking a course in "neurosculpting" in 2019 left me with a few residual practices I still use: gargling to soothe the vagus nerve; literally "shaking it off," Taylor Swift-style, to shift out of an anxious brain state. But the most important impression the course left was how hard it is to train the brain's natural neuroplasticity to kick in. You have to be thoroughly relaxed, with at least 20 minutes of deep meditation, before even attempting to make any changes to that troublesome meatsack brain.     

10. Reclaiming my time

In a normal week, my most-used app is Todoist. It's the one that most effectively implements productivity author David Allen's simple and widely-used system, Getting Things Done or GTD. But every so often, I'll spend a week noting how I use my time via the ATracker app. My categories: creating, reading, exercising, tasks, sleep, everything else.

SEE ALSO: Watch out diet culture. Inclusive fitness pros are coming for you.

Looking at the week in retrospect, without judgment, can help me lean in to the times when I'm most productive in each area rather than trying to shoehorn change into my natural schedule. And the simple act of timing helps me think more about exactly what I want to do in any given moment. Some week soon I may even have the gumption to further reclaim my time from the social media algorithms that dominate too much of it – by implementing Screenless Sundays and ditching apps Marie Kondo-style.   

11. Preparing for the midlife dip

As the elders of the millennial generation are starting to learn, the 40s are a "decade of despair." That's not just subjective opinion, but a growing body of science; evolution seems to have primed all primates for a midlife crisis that helps them become wiser and happier on the other end. Knowing this isn't close to half the battle, of course. But it does help you take a beat if the negative voices in your fortysomething head tell you to radically upend your life without a good plan. In short: It gets better.

12. Discovering what's truly essential 

The pandemic disrupted a lot of daily life. But it also offered clarity on the stuff that really matters, which is way less than we thought. Commuting, for many of us, isn't essential; community is, for all of us. In the post-COVID-19 world, the list of things I'll likely use less than I did in the Before Times includes sunglasses, office chairs, regular pants, and airplanes. And when it comes to the internet, there are things we could stand to do more – like truly unbiased research and bringing our online identities closer to reality

13. Remembering how little time we have 

The best form of time management may involve looking at life in terms of weeks, as one efficiency expert recommends – because we have so frighteningly few of them. Like any form of memento mori, the "four thousand weeks" method helps remind us that we have little time to do what's most important to us. And even if we don't figure it out with enough weeks left, on a long enough time scale, very few achievements truly matter. So just chill, and write that novel or paint that painting or record that music because it pleases you, not with any eye to history. 

14. Remembering what matters

Self care is a political act and always has been seen as such, from Socrates to Audre Lorde. It isn't about pampering, it's about stepping back and taking stock of yourself so that you can jump back into the fray and more effectively fight for just causes. Though human nature is more filled with kindness than you might expect, and we are in many ways living through the best time in history, there is still plenty wrong in the world – much of it driven by the fact that extreme wealth tends to turn billionaires into assholes

That won't get fixed if we all stand idly by. So take the time you need to work on yourself, but remember that working for all of us is more fulfilling. As much as personal decisions matter (choosing alternate meat or alternate milk, growing your own veg, leaving no trace, not buying a car), it's societal change that matters more. 

Perhaps most pressingly, you could fight for universal healthcare, which is most definitely a thing that worked for me. Or for universal basic income, speeding the end of global poverty, implementing a cryptocurrency-based solution for climate change, or the late E.O. Wilson's idea that we just need to leave half the Earth alone, or for a regulatory nudge as simple as requiring all gas stations to provide electric vehicle chargers. Band together, apply pressure to leaders, don't stop – and your self-helped self could honestly help to change the world.

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    "Reddit is a place for community and belonging, not for attacking people," Reddit chief executive Steve Huffman told the New York Times. "'The_Donald' has been in violation of that."

    SEE ALSO: Reddit turns 15: The dramatic moments that shaped the internet's front page

    About 2,000 other communities were also banned in the overhaul, including those on the other end of the political spectrum. The left-leaning subreddit r/ChapoTrapHouse, devoted to the podcast of the same name, was also banned. In a community-wide announcement(Opens in a new tab), Huffman wrote that the subreddit "consistently host[s] rule-breaking content and their mods have demonstrated no intention of reining in their community."

    The new policy comes after multiple subreddits went temporarily dark in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement and in protest of the platform's allowance of racist content.

    "I have to admit that I've struggled with balancing my values as an American, and around free speech and free expression, with my values and the company's values around common human decency," Huffman told the Verge(Opens in a new tab).

    The 2,000 banned subreddits also include ones that are considered inactive — only about 200 had more than 10 active daily users(Opens in a new tab), the Verge reports. While the ban is historic for the company, Huffman assured reporters that Reddit would continue to support free speech.

    "Political speech continues to be safe," Huffman added. "But all communities, including our political communities, have to abide by our policies. And while we will do everything we can to help bring them in line, if they fail in doing so they are not allowed on Reddit."

    Critics think the sweep is too late. Earlier this month, former Reddit CEO Ellen Pao tweeted(Opens in a new tab) at Huffman, "You should have shut down the_donald instead of amplifying it and its hate, racism, and violence. So much of what is happening now lies at your feet. You don't get to say BLM when reddit nurtures and monetizes white supremacy and hate all day long."

    Reddit co-founder Alexis Ohanian also chimed in. He resigned from the Reddit board earlier this month to allow a Black board member to take his place.

    It's worth noting that many controversial subreddits still stand, including one praising the St. Louis couple who threatened(Opens in a new tab) Black Lives Matter protestors with guns over the weekend.

    "Our policies will never be perfect, with new edge cases that inevitably lead us to evolve them in the future...But just as our content moderation cannot scale effectively without your support, you need more support from us as well, and we admit we have fallen short towards this end," Huffman concluded in the announcement to the site. "We hope that our progress towards this commitment, with today’s update and those to come, makes Reddit a place you enjoy and are proud to be a part of for many years to come."

  • John Krasinskis Some Good News Twitter account will brighten your timeline

    John Krasinskis Some Good News Twitter account will brighten your timeline

    Each day in the coronavirus era seems to bring forth a whole new avalanche of distressing news. It can be extremely difficult to stay positive and remember that there's good in the world during troubling times, so John Krasinski made it his mission to help remind people.


    After asking his Twitter followers to share positive life updates using the hashtag #SomeGoodNews, the Quiet Place mastermind best known for his role as Jim Halpert on The Office launched Some Good News, a "news network for good news," which he hosts on YouTube.

    In the first episode, which was uploaded March 29, Krasinski shared a variety of heartwarming stories and even chatted with his former on-screen boss, Steve Carell, about The Office.

    Krasinski's efforts have given people a much-needed dose of delightful, uplifting content, and Episode 2 of the show is already in the works(Opens in a new tab). But if you're looking for a way to brighten your Twitter timelines in the mean time, we highly suggest following the @somegoodnews Twitter account(Opens in a new tab).

    John Krasinski making important good news calls. Credit: screenshot / twitter

    It's unclear if Krasinski will be sharing a new episode of his YouTube show every Sunday night, but in between episodes the Some Good News Twitter account will help fill the good news void in your heart.

    The account retweets a variety of good news stories from around the world and highlights everything from marriage proposals and selfless deeds, to cute kid content, hilarious dance routines, and more. Here are a few examples:

    We know this is a scary time and that social distancing can be lonely, but hopefully this account will add some joy to your days.

  • Cops share photo of a driver that went a little too hard with their Christmas tree

    Cops share photo of a driver that went a little too hard with their Christmas tree


    Look, if you want to cut down a massive Christmas tree, and stick it up inside your two-story living room, go for it. But maybe don't endanger anyone's life in the process.

    Police in Massachusetts put up a post on their Facebook page on Friday, reminding people to please transport their Christmas trees safely. They really shouldn't have to do this, but here we are.

    SEE ALSO: Upside down Christmas trees are trending, and the internet is outraged

    "One of our officer's stopped this vehicle on Route 20 today," the cops said on Facebook(opens in a new tab), posting a photo of what appears to be a Prius topped with a Christmas tree.

    The tree is so large, it completely obstructs the view of the side and rear windows. It's not clearly visible, but we're also guessing that it wasn't tied down very well.


    While the tree transport was outrageous to say the least, most people in the comments were upset that the police decided to call the tree a "holiday tree" instead of a Christmas tree.

  • Beyoncé was everyones favorite part of the Met Gala and she wasnt even there


    Beyoncé was everyones favorite part of the Met Gala and she wasnt even there

    Year after year Beyoncé slays the Met Gala, and 2018 was no different -- well, maybe a tiny bit different.

    The goddess of entertainment didn't physically attend this year's "Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination" themed event, but fans knew she was there in spirit. That's how "The Holy Ghost" meme was born.

    Desperate to celebrate Bey, people began sharing photos of empty spaces on the Met Gala carpet, where they claimed the "Holy Ghost of Beyoncé" was standing. As you will see, she looked absolutely stunning as always.

    SEE ALSO: Pope Rihanna arrives at the Met Gala, causes worldwide religious experience

    And here she is striking a pose and serving some looks for the cameras. Where's Jay-Z, though??

    Some thought Beyoncé had the best look of the night, but have they SEEN sis Solange? Definitely a tough choice to make.

    ICYMI, here is Solange posing with Beyoncé. Two absolute fashion icons.

    Solange and Holy Ghost Beyoncé at the 2018 Met Gala. Credit: Dia Dipasupil/WireImage

    Can't wait to see what Bey wears next year!

    Want more clever culture writing beamed directly to your inbox? Sign up here for the twice-weekly Click Click Click newsletter. It's fun – we promise.

  • Chrissy Teigen found a creative way to get around Instagrams nudity rules

    Chrissy Teigen found a creative way to get around Instagrams nudity rules


    Chrissy Teigen just wants to be a nude salad-making goddess and you should damn well let her be.

    SEE ALSO: Chrissy Teigen, queen of Twitter, has got women embracing their grey hair

    Teigen Instagrammed a pic of herself making a rather delicious-looking salad. Oh, and she happened to be partially nude.

    Ever creative, she found a way around Instagram's nudity guidelines(opens in a new tab), which prohibit photos of some female nipples. She decided to use two salad emoji to cover up her breasts, which is pretty creative tbh.

    View this post on Instagram


    (opens in a new tab)

    "Plz don't shame me I am a strong proud salad making woman just being natural and trying to live my life," wrote Chrissy.

    And, what can be more natural than cooking in the nude!

    We support you, Chrissy!

  • Sex toy recycling is an absolute mess

    Sex toy recycling is an absolute mess

    Major sex toy companies have made numerous highly visible and vocal attempts to go green over the last decade-plus(Opens in a new tab): As the industry woke up to the toxic effects of common toy materials, most makers overhauled their manufacturing, using body safe and often more environmentally sound practices and substances. To cut down on ancillary waste(Opens in a new tab), most replaced battery-gobbling electric toys with rechargeable models, and developed slimmer toy packaging. A couple companies even tried to launch fully green-powered toys, like a hand-cranked vibrator and a solar-powered bullet vibe(Opens in a new tab)


    Yet even the most eco-conscious makers and retailers often gloss over the topic of toy disposal. At best, most stress that their toys are durable, and thus should last users years. But Carol Queen(Opens in a new tab), a sexologist who works with the toy retail chain Good Vibrations, notes that this hand-waving just "kicks the can down the road." This non-engagement is also rather conspicuous in light of the rapid growth of the sex toy industry(Opens in a new tab) — and with it toy waste, as users toss out(Opens in a new tab) old products in favor of new models, as well as new items they didn't like as much as they hoped. Sex toys are a miniscule slice of overall consumer waste, but those made of plastic and electronic bits can be particularly environmentally devastating(Opens in a new tab). It's all but impossible to calculate the exact number of adult items that end up in landfills, but the rising tide of toy waste has some activists concerned.   

    "Holy shit, so many plastic sex toys are filling our landfills, polluting the ground," says Annie Sprinkle(Opens in a new tab), a pioneer of ecosexuality(Opens in a new tab), a small but growing movement built around the eroticization of eco-consciousness. 

    This gap in the green sex conversation largely reflects the fact that it's shockingly hard to recycle sex toys — especially in America, one of the epicenters of the adult industry but also a nation with a notoriously erratic and dysfunctional(Opens in a new tab) recycling system. So, even if retailers and makers want to give users responsible avenues for disposing of their old items, Queen says they often just can't. A few firms have attempted to address these limitations in recent years; last fall actually witnessed a flurry of excitement(Opens in a new tab) about a new wave of supposedly easy-to-recycle, and in some cases even ostensibly biodegradable, toys. (VICE’s Helen Meriel Thomas dubbed it(Opens in a new tab) "the second coming" of eco-friendly sex toys.) But all of these solutions are flawed and limited at best, which leaves users to come up with creative ways to reduce their own sex toy waste.  

    Untouchable materials 

    Though some cheap, iffy sex toy materials, such as jelly-like plastics, are so low-grade(Opens in a new tab) that they cannot be broken down and reused, most modern toys are made of substances like ABS plastics(Opens in a new tab), pure silicone(Opens in a new tab), metal, glass(Opens in a new tab), and even treated and sustainably-sourced hardwood(Opens in a new tab) that are in theory recyclable. In nations with robust recycling programs(Opens in a new tab) and laws, this theory translates well into practice; so long as you can get your toys to specialist recycling centers, they'll be broken down into their elements, and their recyclable materials will hopefully get turned into new items, but that's not always the case. 

    In 2007, the United Kingdom-based toy mega retailer Lovehoney actually launched a program, dubbed "Rabbit Amnesty"(Opens in a new tab) in honor of the era's most popular type of vibrator(Opens in a new tab), that helped British consumers avoid the hassle of finding specialty recyclers, and the (misplaced) shame of rolling up to one with an old vibrator in tow, by sending it to them instead. Lovehoney then consolidates these forsaken toys and brings them to proper disposal points. Over the last 15 years, a handful of similar convenient services have cropped up  across the United Kingdom and Australia(Opens in a new tab)

    But in the United States, Queen explains, even a toy made solely of one eminently recyclable material "isn’t recyclable under ordinary conditions." Most recyclers just don't want anything to do with items that have been in contact with sexual fluids; they view them as a biohazard, and are under no legal obligation to process them. "Even while wearing protective gear, handling used sex toys is just unpleasant," admits Jack Lamon(Opens in a new tab) of the Canadian retailer Come As You Are. 

    Many modern sex toys are also made of a mixture of materials, which most recyclers don't want to deal with, as breaking them down is time- and labor-intensive and they are price-sensitive, for-profit operations(Opens in a new tab). "The materials might only be worth, say, $3," explains Alex Truelove(Opens in a new tab), a recycling expert at the United States Public Interest Research Group, by way of a hypothetical yet all-too-plausible scenario. "That's much less than the labor and transportation costs associated with separating and preparing them." 

    Eco-conscious consumers can try to break toys down themselves, but Felicity of Phallophile Reviews(Opens in a new tab), a prominent sex toy review site, notes that this is often a lot harder than you might expect. (Felicity only uses her first name when discussing sex toys publicly.) And many toys don't actually list their specific materials, so it's hard to know what elements of a toy you've taken the time and effort to break down might actually be recyclable in theory. America's recycling system is also notoriously so fractious that even if you know that a toy or some of its broken-down elements are in theory recyclable, that doesn't mean anyone in your area, much less your municipal recycling program (if you have one) will be set up to take it. Taking pains to ship materials off to a recycler in another state that can take them may also end up creating a carbon footprint in transit and processing that outweighs the green value of recycling them.  

    Even if you know your local recycling program processes the materials you've extracted from a toy, and sterilized to hell and back, you can't just pop it into a blue bin and have faith that it will get recycled. As Truelove explains, American recycling relies heavily on automatic sorting systems to keep costs low, and those systems are usually built to process common and fairly standardized items, like aluminum cans or cardboard boxes. Sex toys are rare enough, and so diverse in form, that they're not really on most recyclers' radars, and thus aren't accounted for in many automation systems. So, during sorting, toys or their deconstructed parts may still get diverted into a trash pile instead of processed for recycling. In the worst case (but all too common(Opens in a new tab)) scenarios, sorters may deem even sterilized toys or non-sortable toy elements contaminants, reject the entire bag or bin they're in, and burn or rubbish it all.   

    "Right now, the term recyclable doesn't really mean anything."

    So, Truelove cautions against putting too much stock in company hype about a product's so-called recyclable materials. (A few sex toy makers and retailers do use this as a selling point.) Because in-theory recyclable products are often not recyclable or recycled in fact. 

    "Right now, the term recyclable doesn't really mean anything," Truelove stresses. 

    A good idea while it lasted 

    In the late aughts, ambitious toy companies and independent startups decided to get around these thorny issues by creating their own toy recycling programs, either for their defective or returned toys or for public use. The most ambitious(Opens in a new tab) of these projects would invite people from across the nation to sterilize and then send in their own toys. A dedicated team would sterilize them again and break them down into clearly identified materials and send large chunks to specialist recyclers who'd already guaranteed that they'd buy and process the raw goods in bulk. Even if they had to ship these materials far away, shipping one big hunk of matter rather than a flurry of individual toy bits would in theory minimize both environmental and capital costs.

    However, when the adult industry reporter Lux Alptraum(Opens in a new tab) tried to follow up on these projects in 2013, she found that(Opens in a new tab) most of them never even got beyond the planning stages. And those that did manage to reach an operational stage were already defunct(Opens in a new tab). Stefanie Iris Weiss(Opens in a new tab), the author of ECO-Sex: Go Green Between the Sheets and Make Your Love Life Sustainable, says that most of these projects fell short because they ran into "systemic recycling issues in their communities." 

    Lamon suspects that even those that managed to bypass the limitations of recycling systems just couldn't make their programs work economically. Come As You Are runs a program like this in Canada, sending ABS plastics to a commercial recycler, electronic waste to its local municipal processing system, and saving loads of silicone for an undisclosed future store project. Lamon says he's never counted, but he estimates that the program gets about 20 items to recycle per week. However, he admits that they still have to throw a few of these toys out, because they're made of unrecyclable materials. "It is amazing to me that in 2022 a lot of people actually still don’t know what their sex toys are made of. It’s actually pretty scary," he said.

    Lamon freely acknowledges that Come As You Are loses money on the project — which he is happy to do in the spirit of social-environmental service. But few businesses are willing to make that bottom line sacrifice. The adult retail giant Adam & Eve(Opens in a new tab) has in the past openly admitted that it can't find an economically viable way to recycle returned toys, and thus throws tens of thousands into the trash every year. Lovehoney did not respond to a request for comment, but it's possible that these practical limitations explain why they never expanded their Amnesty program to the States.   

    One of these programs, started in 2009(Opens in a new tab) by the Portland-based retailer Scarlet Girl, is supposedly still operational — but reportedly only for its customers. Scarlet Girl did not reply to a request for comment and has in the past been cagey(Opens in a new tab) about its economic viability and logistical specifics. 

    Taylor Sparks of the eco-conscious retailer Organic Loven(Opens in a new tab) is still confident that someone will eventually make intra-industry recycling work, somehow. A few toy industry insiders Mashable spoke to speculated that if the adult world as a whole came together to develop one cohesive system, and perhaps subsidize it, they could develop a viable program with longevity. 

    However, Ben Foster of The Natural Love Company(Opens in a new tab), an eco-focused sex toy firm, says that most consumers just don't prioritize and demand recyclability in the same way they do body-safe and non-toxic materials, so the incentives just aren't there for such a serious recycling push within the industry yet. Popular attitudes are changing, he acknowledged. However, they're nowhere near the critical mass they'd need to reach in order to spur wide-scale waste management reform.

    "As someone who lives in the southern U.S., I don't see many people prioritizing recycling,” Felicity, the sex toy reviewer, agreed. “My apartment complex doesn't even have recycling.” 

    "Also, there's no public relations benefit in programs like this, because sex toy recycling sounds to the general public too much like 'reselling used sex toys,'" says Lamon. That's actually an issue in some shady corners of the adult industry, he stressed, so no one wants the association. 

    However, even a fully-functional, industry-wide program would still have severe limitations. Truelove points out that prices for recycled materials fluctuate wildly, so there's no guarantee that any buyers the industry finds for its old toy materials will stick around for a meaningful amount of time. There's also no guarantee that the folks they sell materials to won't downcycle(Opens in a new tab) them into cheap items that cannot be recycled again, thus only slightly mitigating or deferring their environmental costs. Truelove notes that it can be hard for people offloading materials to tell what actually becomes of them — if they were actually recycled, or just dumped into a landfill at a later stage of the recycling process or turned into a costly new non-recyclable item, loaded with toxic additives. 

    Which, of course, is not ideal. 

    Go with the flow 

    Rather than attempt to invent and control an industry-specific recycling system, in recent years a few toy makers have started developing toys that attempt to work with the current state — and the constraints — of the American recycling system. Most of these toys are modular, and thus easy to break down for maximal recycling within the limits of a local system's materials and sorting rules and standards. But since 2019(Opens in a new tab), a handful of companies have also released toys made using biodegradable bioplastics — polymers created using things like corn starch rather than oil byproducts. This past spring, the sex tech company Womanizer drew a ton of press (including a writeup by Mashable) when it released the PREMIUM Eco, a toy made largely of bioplastic. 

    SEE ALSO: 5 biggest sex toy myths debunked

    "The development took around two years, because finding the right material wasn't easy," says Johanna Rief, Womanizer’s head of sexual empowerment and spokesperson. 

    However, modular toys only reduce some friction in recycling efforts; they don't overcome(Opens in a new tab) hard limits within recycling systems. And bioplastics are notoriously controversial materials. Most of them only actually degrade(Opens in a new tab) in special industrial facilities; in nature most break down slowly into tiny microplastic bits, which are still often environmentally harmful even if they may not be as toxic as an oil-based material. Womanizer openly acknowledges that these facilities are still rare in the United States. However, Rief still advises disposing of the PREMIUM Eco "in the regular household recycling bin." 

    This advice flies in the face of most recycling experts' caution about not putting anything that your local recycling system can't process into a bin, for fear of processors treating it like a contaminant and trashing the whole lot. 

    "Are bioplastics the perfect long-term solution" to sex toy waste and recyclability, Rief asked hypothetically. "Probably not until the government or companies build more of the needed special [processing] facilities. But it's the best solution that we could come up with for now." 

    Eco-conscious sex toy reviewers do not seem impressed with this solution, or other supposedly biodegradable toys. In a review of the Eco, a toy critic who goes by the name Miss Ruby wrote(Opens in a new tab), "What is the point of touting this as 'fully recyclable' if none of your customers can do so?"

    "What is the point of touting this as 'fully recyclable' if none of your customers can do so?"

    "I think it’s a marketing tactic rather than an actual environmental commitment," says Felicity. 

    Toward a greener, sexier future 

    Rief argues that solving the sex toy industry's sticky end-of-life issues will require "the overall mindset of society regarding environmental issues and recycling" changing. Truelove agrees. He stresses that we need better laws and incentive structures to make sure that we actually can and do recycle as many in-theory recyclable materials as possible, and design products with their post-use fate in mind. But that sort of social and legal change will be a long, arduous process. 

    In the short term, everyone Mashable spoke to for this story agreed that the best thing the sex toy industry can do to tackle waste is… pretty much what it's been doing for years now: Make toys durable. Cut back on excessive packaging and make shipping as efficient as possible. Limit waste in manufacturing processes and use as many sustainably recycled materials as possible in products. These mundane, often semi-invisible tweaks don't attract much fanfare, but they make a real difference. "Recycling ranks rather low among possible actions to tackle waste and climate change," argues Foster of The Natural Love Company. "Reduce and reuse take precedence." 

    There's a constant stream of new waste reduction initiatives flowing out of the adult industry at all times. Recently, for example, the British toy maker Love Not War(Opens in a new tab) started a program where it will attempt to repair any broken toy returned to it. This month, added Love Not War co-founder William Ranscombe, they're also launching a new bullet vibe, The Maya, "made from 99 percent recycled aluminum," one of the easiest to recycle, and most reliably recycled, materials out there. 

    "You do have to start somewhere," Truelove says. "I appreciate companies that are trying." 

    Consumers need to take a little ownership over and initiative in managing their own toy waste, too. Some have attempted to do so by participating in used toy exchange or resale programs among friends, in their local communities, or via online marketplaces. But as Mashable noted a few years back, the lack of regulation and transparency involved in most of these exchanges make them dicey at best if you don't know and trust your used toy source.

    The best thing most consumers can actually do is to simply buy fewer new sex toys. "Too many people buy sex toys they never use, or use once and then throw away," Sprinkle, the ecosexual activist, points out. "Novelty is nice, but it doesn't have to come in the form of an adult toy… If you have three sex toys you really love, that's usually enough." You can care for them well, keep them alive for years or decades, then replace them only when they are beyond any hope of repair.  

  • This raccoon influencer says they actually make good pets (but maybe stick to dogs)

    This raccoon influencer says they actually make good pets (but maybe stick to dogs)


    Herbert Hoover wasn't the only one who thought raccoons make great pets(Opens in a new tab).

    Most people think of raccoons as devilish, garbage-eating jumbo-rodents. Or, one may think of popular animated characters like Meeko, Pocahontas' cunning sidekick. Either way, it's unlikely to imagine them playing fetch or eating marshmallows out of your hand.

    But that's not stopping some daring animal lovers from welcoming raccoons into their homes.

    SEE ALSO: Oreo, the animal inspiration for Marvel's Rocket Raccoon, has died

    There are a host of reasons why raccoons should remain in the wild and not at the foot of your bed. According to Bill Dowd(Opens in a new tab), founder of Skedaddle Humane Wildlife Control, there are many dangers that come with owning a raccoon. Since they become sexually active at just six months, they become aggressive early in their lives. Not to mention the unpracticality their rarity affords them; some vets won't treat raccoons, and finding someone to babysit your odd pet if you take a vacation may be difficult.

    It also is wildly unethical to take a wild animal out of nature and bring it into your home.

    However, some people just can't settle for any ol' furry companion from Petco. Luckily, those people aren't alone, as the internet allows every marginalized-pet owning group their own little corner.

    The most famous pet raccoon on the internet is Tito, who lives in South Carolina with his owner, Mitchell. His day-to-day life is well-documented in a variety of adorable and entertaining YouTube videos(Opens in a new tab), from a snack eating contest (he loves whipped cream), to a trip to the pool (in which he floats on a dog.) We caught up with Mitchell over email and got the full scoop on what it's like owning a raccoon.

    Of course, the first question was why get a raccoon?


    "I didn’t actually go out of my way to get a pet raccoon. While I was working in pest control, Tito was found in someone’s attic. Unfortunately, the homeowner didn’t want anything to do with him and was going to put him down, so I took Tito in," Mitchell said.

    Now, nearly two years later, Tito is thriving.

    As a society, our view of raccoons is heavily influenced by the media, which usually depicts the creatures as trash eaters and reckless. However, they're very smart animals, according to Mitchell.

    "They have the capability to solve problems and overcome obstacles many other pets could not," he said. "Although they walk on all fours, their front paws have the dexterity of people hands. Having those fine motor movements gets them in a ton of trouble!"

    Mitchell isn't going to let the stigmas around the "trash pandas" stop him from caring for Tito, despite people not exactly understanding why he has a raccoon as a pet.

    "People may say it’s 'unnatural', but if you think about it, any domesticated pet we have today was a wild animal at some point," Mitchell said.

    Though there are obvious risks in owning a raccoon, Mitchell still believes Tito is a great pet for him.

    "I think it’s all of their awesome qualities that come together to make such an amazing critter whether it’s their personality, cute looks, or crazy hands. A raccoon is unlike all other pets."


    Here's Tito hanging out with some baby Pygmy goats:

    He even does ASMR, a hobby most millennials on social media can appreciate:

    Though we're positive that owning a raccoon will never be mainstream, it's safe to say that one man's trash-eating-animal is another man's treasure.

  • Stephen Colbert is selling mugs to help feed furloughed federal workers

    Stephen Colbert is selling mugs to help feed furloughed federal workers


    The government shutdown is still (still!) happening, so Stephen Colbert has joined the growing cohort of celebrities assisting furloughed federal employees.

    On Thursday's episode of the Late Show, he announced he'd be selling mugs and donating all proceeds to World Central Kitchen. The operation is run by chef José Andrés and is currently operating an "emergency kitchen"(opens in a new tab) in Washington, D.C. for government workers who aren't getting paid -- even though many of them have returned to work(opens in a new tab).

    SEE ALSO: Stephen Colbert unpacks Trump's dramatic meeting with Pelosi, Schumer


    Appropriately, the mugs read "Don't even talk to me until I've had my paycheck." They are available on the CBS online shop(opens in a new tab) and cost $14.99 apiece.

    Credit: CBS Store

    Pretty sad that it's come to this!


  • This video of a man destroying a hotel reception with a digger has gone massively viral

    This video of a man destroying a hotel reception with a digger has gone massively viral


    Police are appealing for information after footage of a digger destroying the front of a building branded with the Travelodge logo went viral on Monday afternoon.

    The video below, which was shared by Joe Fearon on Twitter, shows a man in an orange digger rolling up the steps towards the reception area of a new Travelodge in Liverpool, UK.

    SEE ALSO: UK police get new powers to seize and search naughty drones

    "That's what happens when people don't pay their wages, mate," a man can be heard saying as the digger smashes its way into the building.

    In another video(opens in a new tab) taken from a different angle inside the hotel, the person driving the digger can be heard yelling about money.


    "600 fucking quid!" shouts the man. "All you had to do was pay me my fucking £600!"

    A final video(opens in a new tab) filmed outside the building shows the driver fleeing the digger and running into the distance.

    Merseyside Police confirmed in an online update(opens in a new tab) that they'd received a report of the incident shortly before 3pm on Monday.

    "One man experienced eye irritation due to exposure to diesel and was treated at the scene by North West Ambulance Service," reads the police update. "It is not believed anyone else was injured during the incident."

    Mashable reached out to Travelodge, who said they're unable to comment as the incident is a live police investigation. They also clarified that the site is not yet a Travelodge property.


    Mashable reached out to a member of the development team who currently own the site, and will update this article if we receive a response.

  • Rogue kangaroo confuses the heck out of people in Austria. Yes, Austria.


    Rogue kangaroo confuses the heck out of people in Austria. Yes, Austria.

    Kangaroos hopping about in Australia wouldn't make news. But a rogue hopper in Austria? Everything is melting.

    A kangaroo has been sighted casually making its way through the forests and meadows of Austria, the country routinely confused for the marsupial's similarly named motherland.

    SEE ALSO: Baby tree kangaroo takes first steps, decides pouch is better than world

    Police identified the roaming roo from videos and images taken by locals, telling Agence France-Presse(opens in a new tab) it had been spotted "numerous times" in Upper Austria over the last week. Exactly what type of kangaroo has not been determined.

    BBC reports(opens in a new tab) the kangaroo had been seen near the small town of Kirchschlag in northern Austria. And this Instagram video caught it in the Mühlviertel region.

    View this post on Instagram
    (opens in a new tab)

    Local Ruth Kastner told media outlet ORF she spotted the kangaroo while driving with her husband.

    "It then hopped a bit over the meadow and then moved away from the road towards the forest," she said(opens in a new tab). "I think it's so splendid and is looking for a quiet place."

    So, where did the kangaroo come from? A local zoo was our best guess, but turns out the police have checked that lead.

    "We have called all the zoos and kangaroo breeders around us, but no one is missing a kangaroo. We hope the owner will come forward," a Hellmonsoedt police official told AFP.

    So, "kangaroo breeders" then? It's some kind of pet? You can reportedly keep a kangaroo in Austria, according to AFP, but you need a special animal license.

    Police are certain the kangaroo will be alright, if you were wondering how it's doing out there. "Its survival chances [in the wild] are perfect," the police official said.

    It's not the first time a kangaroo has been seen on the loose in Austria — one of the last occasions was in 2016, when police tracked two kangaroos(opens in a new tab) for weeks in Styria, in the southeast of the country.

    Look, Australians ride them to work, have them deliver groceries, and keep their phones in their pouches. Maybe they're migrating to greener pastures.