The Fiddle-Leaf Fig: A Headstrong Houseplant

The Fiddle-Leaf Fig: A Headstrong Houseplant

The fiddle-leaf fig is the outlaw of the houseplant world: tough to tame, hard to understand, difficult to love. Yet, we try to keep it and love it.

The fiddle-leaf fig’s columnar, complicated physique makes it among the most photogenic of trees; its likeness is printed, etched, and painted onto countless pieces of décor and works of art. Fiddle-leaf figs have been central to thousands of interior designs in the past decade; the focus of dozens of websites, giveaways, chat rooms, and weekly newsletters; and the muse for a seemingly endless stream of Pinterest galleries. Even The New York Times called the fiddle-leaf fig the new “it” plant. And no matter what houseplant trend comes up, nothing has budged this tree from its pedestal.

States with the most UFO sightings

States with the most UFO sightings

In the Bible's Book of Ezekiel, a mysterious ship appears from the sky in Chaldea, modern-day Kuwait. The next wave of mysterious apparitions showed up in fourth-century China when a “moon boat” was documented floating over the country once every 12 years. More strange sightings were noted around Rome in 218 B.C., Germany in 1561, Hull, England, in 1801, and multiple times during World War II when allied pilots used the term “foo fighters” to describe the odd circles of light pilots noticed flanking their planes during combat.

The term “UFO,” short for “unidentified flying object,” was coined in 1953 by the United States Air Force as a bucket term for such reports as the foo fighters in WWII. Stateside sightings were hardly restricted to military flyover zones, however. Here, the first recorded UFO sighting is from 1639 when John Winthrop wrote in his diary about a large, strange light in the sky that shot back and forth long before the time of satellites or planes. By the time he and the other men on his boat got their wits about them, their boat was a mile from where it had been when they first spotted the light.

The first documented image of a UFO was captured in 1870 on the summit of Mount Washington in New Hampshire. More sightings were reported at Mount Rainier in Washington in 1947, and of course several in Roswell, N.M. Since then, countless numbers of unusual shapes in the sky—and their supposed inhabitants—have been exhaustively reported without sufficient explanations beyond the possible existence of extraterrestrial life.

A surge in eyewitness accounts begot even more sightings, and ways to guard against invasions and abductions—more than 40,000 Americans bought into alien protection insurance, which offers customers monetary relief should a loved one get carted away by little green men. As recently as last year, Texas reported a wave of UFO sightings even as overall sightings have declined. In spite of hundreds of thousands of sightings, reports, and claimed abductions (researchers of one Roper Poll in 1991 estimate 4 million Americans think they've been abducted by aliens) worldwide, the official position of the government thus far has been that such alien activity stems from hoaxes or simple cases of mistaking other objects like weather balloons for alien life. Of course, UFOs are simply that: unidentified objects, which are not necessarily the same things as evidence of extraterrestrial life.

Since its founding in 1974, the National UFO Reporting Center (NUFORC) has documented around 90,000 UFO sightings, with almost 95% of those sightings supposedly easily explained away as military tests, weather balloons, or other terrestrial activity. Still, in December of 2017, the New York Times brought to light the Pentagon program Advanced Aviation Threat Identification Program (AATIP), a $22 million investigation funded and carried out by the U.S. government into UFO reports from 2007 to 2012. This investigation came decades after more well-known programs such as the 1952 Project Blue Book, which inspired the 2019 History Channel series by the same name.

Using data from NUFORC's 24/7 hotline, which has been around since 1974, Stacker compiled a ranking of the states with the most reported UFO sightings. The website details not only the total number of sightings in each state, but also the odds of spotting a UFO for a resident in each. Of note is that almost three-quarters of all UFO sighting reports in the United States occur between 4 p.m. and midnight, and tend to peak between 9 and 10 p.m. Food for thought next time you're out scoping for alien life.

Ecofriendly Swaps for Household Items

Ecofriendly Swaps for Household Items

Let’s say you’re a “Level Two” eco-warrior. Maybe you’ve been composting for a while, eat a plant-based diet, and have a bicycle basket loaded with mesh produce bags and cloth shopping totes for items not already grown in your garden. What, then, to do with the waste that still piles up around your home?

Even the most eco-conscious among us make daily decisions about a seemingly perpetual stream of trash that feels unavoidable and impossible to dispose of properly. For folks who have already taken steps to live green, here’s the next phase of self-examination: We’re talking clothing, toothbrushes, shampoo bottles, and cotton swabs, just to name a few. As your tin foil tube grows leaner and your plastic toothbrush frays, consider this guide for low-waste replacements.

Discover the Healing Power of Labyrinths

Discover the Healing Power of Labyrinths

Some people clear their heads by running. Others practice yoga, hike to a mountaintop, or walk in silence. A labyrinth is another form of moving meditation, spiraling its participants toward its center and back out again. The non-branching path, while meandering, is singular. Where a maze confounds, a labyrinth clarifies.

Best countries for children

By Nicole Caldwell for Stacker

Children around the world live vastly different lives, from places where child labor is legal and common (Bangladesh, Ethiopia, and Myanmar), to countries where education is compulsory and lengthy (Norway, the United Kingdom, and South Korea). Some nations, such as Italy, even require children to attend preschool. On other fronts, marriage and motherhood among teenage girls are still widespread (even in developed countries), and both are often viewed by international organizations and human rights groups as inhibitors to economic and social growth.

To find out which countries in the world are best for children, Stacker looked to a 2018 report from international NGO Save the Children, a group working to promote the welfare and rights of young people everywhere. Save the Children’s report is the result of data the group compiled on the livelihoods of children worldwide from 2012 to 2017. Save the Children created an index score on a scale from 1 to 1,000 that reflects the average level of performance across a set of indicators related to child health, education, labor, marriage, childbirth, and violence. Countries with higher scores are better at protecting and providing for children. Data points specifically look at under-5 mortality rates (deaths per 1,000 live births); percent of primary and secondary school age children not in school; percent of girls aged 15 to 19 currently married or in union; and births per 1,000 girls aged 15-19.

Findings reveal that Niger comes in last internationally for children, with an index score of just 388; while the United States ranks at a middling #36 with a score of 945 in between Russia and Belarus. Singapore and Slovenia are tied for first place with an index score of 987.

Stacker broke this listing out into the top-50 countries for children internationally and included the percent of a country’s population that is 0 to 14 years old for reference, provided by the CIA World Factbook.  

Read on to discover the 50 best countries in the world for children.

We Are 'All in the Same Boat'

We Are 'All in the Same Boat'

Eco-friendly initiatives, from zero-waste living to reducing meat consumption, are no longer concepts relegated to cities, progressive coastal communities, or the tired trope of yesterday’s “hippie.” With growing scientific evidence of the roles we all play in polluting our waterways, affecting climate change, and harming fragile eco systems all over the world, choosing to “live green” and tread more lightly aren’t fringe ideas at all—nor are they new in the north country.

Eco-friendly replacements for 50 plastic items in your life

By Nicole Caldwell for Stacker

About 300 million tons of plastic are produced from oil each year. Almost half of that is used for single-use packaging, such as plastic wrap on food, containers for personal care items, bottles for cleaning products, and other everyday purchases—including the plastic bags we carry them home in. Worse, only about 9% of all the plastic ever created has been recycled. And things are getting worse, not better: Almost half of all the plastic ever made has been created since 2000, the production of plastic is way up, and recycling alone can't stop the flow of plastic pollution into the world's oceans.

As more statistics come out about the volume of plastic ocean pollution (18 billion pounds annually from coastal regions alone) and the effect that is having on marine life (267 species worldwide have already been adversely affected), people have begun eschewing plastic products for zero-waste, eco-friendly options. Most global consumers are willing to pay more for sustainable products, which has inspired thousands of companies to seek alternatives to plastic items from zero-waste personal care products and kitchen items to office equipment and ethically sourced, sustainable clothing.

Stacker has pored over the research and scoured product reviews and company backgrounds to compile this gallery of 50 easy, eco-friendly replacements for common plastic items in your life. Prices have been provided, and represent the cost for long-term use, except in the case of items that run out, like toothpaste. Those numbers should be compared to an individual's or family's spending on similar, single-use products over time for items such as sandwich bags or disposable razors. Wherever possible, products listed in this gallery represent less expensive options over time to their plastic, disposable counterparts.

In the interest of being most serviceable, Stacker has left two of the most ubiquitous, eco-friendly items—stainless steel drink canteens and reusable shopping bags—off the list in order to make room for items that may be less well-known. Wherever possible, products referenced come in zero-waste, plastic-free packaging, as well.

Continue reading to discover 50 easy alternatives to everyday, plastic items.

Northern New York’s Opioid Crisis: What is the cost as the epidemic continues to grow?

Northern New York’s Opioid Crisis: What is the cost as the epidemic continues to grow?

The opioid crisis has hit home with a vengeance.

Opioids in 2016 were the cause of 42,249 deaths nationally—five times the amount in 1999. Between 2005 and 2014, opioid-related emergency room visits and inpatient stays skyrocketed by 200 percent across the United States. Around half of these incidents involve drugs prescribed by doctors.

Architecture Firm Creates 4-Story-Tall Whale From Ocean Plastic

Architecture Firm Creates 4-Story-Tall Whale From Ocean Plastic

The Contemporary Art and Architecture Triennial has returned with a splash to the northwest Belgium city of Bruges, featuring poignant works of art and architecture exploring this year’s “Liquid City” theme.

Peppered among the city’s famous canals, medieval buildings and beloved cobblestone streets rises a trail of installations by artists and architects from around the world that will be on display through Sept. 16. At one poignant spot—where the canal dips underground and disappears—rises a particularly noteworthy installation: a breaching, four-story tall whale called “Skyscraper,” made entirely of plastic plucked from the ocean.

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe, According to the Woman Who Invented It

How to Build a Capsule Wardrobe, According to the Woman Who Invented It

Fast fashion is costing us dearly.

Worldwide, fashion is a $2.5 trillion industry that is one of the biggest consumers of water. People go through 80 billion pieces of clothing every year, and the average American produces 82 pounds of textile waste annually. Far from previous generations, when clothes were made to last, mended, and invested in, our cheap clothes today are seen as disposable. So we dump them, en masse, into landfills every single day.

Airbnb Brings Income, Commerce to the North Country

Airbnb Brings Income, Commerce to the North Country

Airbnb has changed the face of tourism since it was launched in 2008. The company has enjoyed a 45 percent increase in US bookings alone year-to-year, and today boasts around 4 million listings in more than 191 countries and 65,000 cities.

Nature Preschools Offer an Education That Classrooms Can't

Nature Preschools Offer an Education That Classrooms Can't

Children today spend just half the time outside that their parents’ generation did. The consequences of our nature-deficit disorder are still largely anecdotal, but obvious: shorter attention spans. Diminished cognition. Lowered creative-thinking skills. Childhood obesity.

Back-Farms Program in Utah Pairs Gardeners With Disadvantaged Seniors

Back-Farms Program in Utah Pairs Gardeners With Disadvantaged Seniors

In recent years, we’ve seen a deepening commitment to connect people with the food they eat. 

The number of community gardens across the country has surged, we’ve seen the return of victory gardens, ramped-up efforts and innovations in urban farming, and you can’t turn around without learning about another at-home aquaponic, hydroponic, vertical, or container garden for your home. But while we invigorate a younger generation and remind people to rethink their own food supply, one demographic too often gets left out of the equation: senior citizens.

Urban Planners Are Saving the Planet With Redesigned, Walkable Cities

Urban Planners Are Saving the Planet With Redesigned, Walkable Cities

The healthiest, most economically advantaged and sustainable cities on the planet share one trait: their walkability.

Walkable cities are better for the environment, people’s overall wellness, and positively impact levels of wealth. Unfortunately for those of us in the United States, a lot of our cities were built around cars — not feet. For as much as folks love the walkability of New York, Boston, Minneapolis, and Savannah, they dislike in equal measure the sprawl of other beloved cities like Atlanta, Los Angeles, and Dallas.

Experts Weigh In On Taking Your Kitchen From Wasteful To Waste-Free

Experts Weigh In On Taking Your Kitchen From Wasteful To Waste-Free

It’s easy to succumb to the greenwashing of eco-friendly packaging. 

Buzzwords like recycled, organic, compostable and recyclable convince us to buy additional products just because they say they’re better for the environment. But the central ethos of reducing our impacts and waste have to start with buying high-quality and long-lasting items, and end with nothing getting tossed out (even if it’s being thrown into a recycle bin).

Nowhere in our lives is this process more difficult than in the kitchen. From the excessive packaging on food to the wastefulness of food storage methods, the kitchen ends up being one of the most wasteful zones of the home. Composting is simply not enough to counteract the onslaught of garbage that comes with virtually every meal. So we talked to three heavyweights in the zero-waste movement about how to turn a kitchen from wasteful to waste-free.