It wasn't all bad
1:50 a.m.

Over the last 20 years, so many forests have regenerated worldwide that they could fill up France, according to a new World Wildlife Fund study.

There were different ways the forests were regenerated — in some areas, nothing was done, while in others native trees were planted, invasive plants removed, and livestock fenced off, BBC News reports. Natural forest regeneration is "cheaper, richer in carbon, and better for biodiversity than actively planted forests," WWF's William Baldwin-Cantello said.

The documented forest regeneration occurred in northern Mongolia, Canada, central Africa, and Brazil, where an area about the size of the Netherlands has regrown since 2000. These regenerated forests could absorb the equivalent of 5.9 gigatons of carbon dioxide, which is more than the U.S. emits every year, BBC News reports.

To "realize the potential of forests as a climate solution," there needs to be more than just the restoration of natural forests, Baldwin-Cantello said. The world must also combat deforestation. Catherine Garcia

May 11, 2021

RepurposedMaterials gives new life to commercial waste that is otherwise bound for the landfill.

The Denver company estimates that every year, it keeps 3 million pounds of refuse out of dumps across the United States. Its founder, Damon Carson, accepts all kinds of industrial waste — think hundreds of pounds of rope, used fire hoses, and street-sweeper bristles — and connects these castoff items to new owners.

The bristles, for example, can be put out in a field so livestock can use them as backscratchers, and the fire hoses can be used as bumpers to protect boat docks. Recycling takes energy, while repurposing does not, so RepurposedMaterials makes sure the items stay in their original forms. "Why grind something up," Carson asked Popular Science, "why melt something down, if it still has value?"

On average, about once a week Carson will receive an item he's never had before — recently, it was ceramic paper — and he gets to work learning about the product and then finding the right new owner. Carson got the idea to start RepurposedMaterials while working in the trash business, and saw up close how wasteful people can be, throwing away perfectly good items like windows still wrapped in factory plastic. Since then, he has found that even if it doesn't seem like it, every discarded item that comes his way has value. Read more at Popular Science. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2021

His hard work paid off, and now, Joshua Nelson wants to give a boost to another deserving student.

Nelson, 18, is a senior at St. Charles West High School in St. Charles, Missouri. He was one of just a handful of students to receive the President's Scholarship at Southeast Missouri State University — a $43,000 award that will cover tuition and boarding for four years, as long as Nelson meets the criteria for renewal. He had saved $1,000 for college, and is now using that as the foundation for the Joshua Nelson Leaders in Action Scholarship, which will be given to a well-rounded student active in community service.

"I really thought it was important to give back to my community that poured in so much to me," Nelson, who will study biomedical sciences, told KSDK. "Honestly, it makes me feel on top of the world. The fact that I can just help somebody a little bit makes me feel great and I really want to see other people succeed."

Nelson has a history of giving back: he is president of his school's Multicultural Achievement Council, which aims to prepare historically under-represented students for college and careers, and also tutors at a local Boys and Girls Club. On top of that, he is a varsity basketball player and member of the National Honor Society and National Society of Black Engineers.

It is Nelson's hope that other individuals and businesses in the community will donate to the scholarship fund, so multiple awards can be distributed to students for years to come. Catherine Garcia

May 10, 2021

When his mother called to tell him she had been fired from her job as a hotel housekeeper, Sian-Pierre Regis knew it was time for her to stop worrying about taking care of everyone else and start focusing on herself.

His mom, Rebecca Danigelis, was fired in 2016, at the age of 75. By that point, she had been working hard for decades, and Regis was concerned that without a job, she would feel adrift. "She worked her hands to the bone," Regis told CBS Evening News. "She deserved to feel joy. And that's what I wanted to give her."

Regis, a freelance journalist, had his mom share with him her bucket list — things she had always wanted to do, but couldn't because of work. Soon, they were on the road, doing everything from milking cows in Vermont to dancing in a hop-hop class to jumping out of an airplane. Regis filmed their adventures and turned the footage into a documentary called Duty Free, which is about their journey, ageism, and financial insecurity. The documentary is now in theaters and available to stream online. Catherine Garcia

May 7, 2021

Zach Vraa turned his quarantine hobby of making ice cream into an actual business, with his one-of-a-kind creations regularly selling out in just one minute.

Vraa, 29, is the founder of A to Z Creamery in St. Louis Park, Minnesota. At the beginning of the pandemic, he was working in sales; while at home, he started using the ice cream machine his mom bought for his birthday. He came up with different flavor combinations, like Lucky Charms with black cherry frosting, and posted photos of his concoctions online. People asked if they could buy his ice cream, and Vraa started selling a few pints of each flavor. The demand was there: for every 10 pints he had available, Vraa received 100 messages from customers wanting the ice cream.

"That's when I kind of figured out, 'Wow, I need to start doing this full scale in a full commercial kitchen,'" Vraa told KARE 11. Now, he can make 300 pints a week, with the base and toppings all made from scratch. No flavor is too out there — Vraa has made an Everything Bagel ice cream, topped with a garlic cream cheese swirl — and none are ever repeated.

Vraa puts up one flavor for sale every week, and they typically sell out in a minute. The lucky people able to purchase a pint come down to the creamery to pick up their orders, and Vraa told KARE 11 that "every time I open the door and see the line wrapping around the corner, it's a feeling that never gets old." Catherine Garcia

May 6, 2021

After being separated for almost six decades, Martin Hauser was finally able to meet his younger brother, Joe Shaw, for the first time — and the happy occasion was made even sweeter by the fact that it took place right before Shaw's wedding.

Hauser was adopted as a baby in 1962 in North Carolina. After he started having his own children, Hauser decided he wanted to learn more about his biological parents and any siblings he might have, and the Arizona resident tried everything to get information — he took DNA tests and visited ancestry websites and adoption Facebook groups, but kept coming up short.

Last December, the Children's Home Society was able to track down his biological father's death certificate, and listed as his next of kin was Shaw. Within 15 minutes, Hauser found Shaw on Facebook and sent him a message. Shaw told WXII he read his note in absolute disbelief, and his fiancée encouraged him to call Hauser. That was the first of what would become their almost daily phone calls, and last month, the brothers were finally able to see each other in person, when Hauser came to North Carolina for Shaw's wedding.

Shaw said he felt "ecstatic" to get to know his brother, and Hauser was excited about meeting ever more relatives at the wedding. Hauser told WXII he hopes his story will inspire others who are struggling to uncover information about their biological families, as he "never gave up" on finding Shaw. Catherine Garcia

May 6, 2021

Monyay Paskalides now celebrates two birthdays: the day she was born and the day she was officially adopted by Leah Paskalides, her former caseworker.

Monyay, 19, of Bradenton, Florida, spent most of her childhood in foster care. Six years ago, Leah, 32, became her caseworker, and she told Good Morning America that once she gained Monyay's trust, "we just clicked." She became Monyay's mentor, and helped her as she aged out of the foster care system once she turned 18. This was a hard time, Monyay said, because she went from living in a group home where adults could "help you immediately" to being on her own.

Leah couldn't adopt Monyay while she was still in the foster care system, as it would be a conflict of interest, but after she watched a documentary about a man who was adopted as an adult, she approached Monyay to see if she was open to the idea. "I wanted to make sure she knew that she had somebody who loved her and who would have done this years ago and still would as an adult," Leah told GMA.

Monyay was overjoyed by the offer, telling GMA "that's the one thing I've wanted my entire life, to have a mom." On April 27, Leah officially adopted Monyay, who changed her last name and now calls Leah "mom." Monyay is also a mentor to foster youth, and talks with them about expectations and what they can accomplish in life. "I never expected to be adopted, and here I am," she said, adding that her new mom "never gave up on me." Catherine Garcia

May 4, 2021

Not wanting other military spouses to struggle to find work like she did, Michelle Penczak launched Squared Away, a company that connects the wives and husbands of service members with jobs that can be done remotely.

When Penczak's husband was deployed, she tried to find a job, but because military families often move a lot, it was difficult to find a company willing to hire someone who might not be in the area for long. "I felt like I was being judged because of my husband's choice of career," she told CBS News.

Her company, Squared Away, connects military spouses with companies that need personal assistants or other workers that don't have to be in an office. It's a perfect fit because "as a military spouse and mom, you are managing calendars, you are balancing everybody's activities," Penczak said. "If you can handle that, I guarantee that you can handle working with a few CEOs and their teams."

She has helped hundreds of people find work, including Sara Glover, who told CBS News she went on interview after interview without getting an offer. "It wasn't an issue of my qualifications or my education," she said. "It was the fact that I can't be permanent." When Squared Away connected her with a job, it felt "too good to be true," Glover said. The company has changed lives, and because of that, Glover has dubbed Penczak "Wonder Woman." Catherine Garcia

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