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Friday 5 - 23rd December 2016

Posted by Amirah Jiwa
27 December, 2016

Your weekly helping of five interesting ideas to take you into the weekend. Curated by Good Business and delivered straight to your inbox first thing on a Friday, if you subscribe here.

(1) The Good Stuff

We wanted to draw attention to the many positive things that we’ve seen over the last twelve months that perhaps didn’t get as much coverage as they deserved. In fact, 2016 was a game changing year for the world. Some good news that may not have made it onto your radar includes the fact that world hunger reached its lowest point in 25 years, and that in 2016, more than 20 countries pledged more than $5.3 billion for ocean conservation and created 40 new marine sanctuaries covering an area of 3.4 million square km. For more examples like these, have a skim of political economist Angus Harvey’s list of ‘99 Reasons Why 2016 Was a Good Year’. Or, check out the BBC’s list of the year’s heartwarming human stories, put together to counter the tales of terrorism and divisive politics that dominated their headlines for most of the year. Here’s to further progress in 2017!

(2) (Bio)Yule Logs

Our friends at the Sustainable Restaurant Association (SRA) have facilitated a partnership that will keep your log fire burning sustainably over Christmas. SRA-member Petersham Nurseries has recently started sending its waste coffee grinds to bio-bean, an award-winning green energy company that tackles the problem by recycling coffee grounds into biomass pellets and coffee logs. Given that the 70 million cups of coffee consumed per day in the UK results in half a million tonnes of waste annually, innovation like this is essential. The Nurseries, which houses a restaurant and a tea house, serves its fair share of coffee – ethical of course – and now recycles 80kg of waste granules a month with bio-bean. It also sells the coffee logs – which burn longer and hotter than regular wood ones – made from that waste in its Garden Store, making the scheme a lovely illustration of circular economy principles in action. To warm up via waste over the holidays, you can also grab some bio-bean Coffee Logs online.

(3) Surveilling Santa

Trackers at the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) are getting ready for their most important mission of the year: Following Santa's progress around the planet on Christmas Eve and reporting it to a waiting world. For 60 years, NORAD and its predecessor, the Continental Air Defense Command (CONAD) have tracked Santa’s flight. According to legend, the tradition began in 1955 after a Sears advertisement misprinted the telephone number for children to call Santa. Instead of reaching Santa, the phone number put kids through to the joint U.S.-Canada command that protects the continent from bomber and missile attack. The Director of Operations at the time, Colonel Harry Shoup, had his staff check the radar for indications of Santa making his way south from the North Pole and children who called were given updates on his location. Today, every stop – from the first present drop in the Republic of Kiribati, to his last, (probably Niue, pop. 1612) after a journey of 510,000,000km – is streamed live on an interactive website that is expected to receive over 22 million unique visits. We'll be keeping an eye on the Santa Tracker tomorrow evening, and hoping we've all been good enough.

(4) Top of the Tree

Last week Google announced its YouTube Ads Leaderboard which ranked the most popular Christmas ads in the UK. The ranking was determined by an algorithm that factors in organic and paid views, watch time and audience retention which was why Sainsbury’s ‘The Greatest Gift’ topped the table despite the fact that second-place winner John Lewis’ ‘#BusterTheBoxer’ racked up a higher overall view count (23 million compared to Sainsbury’s 16 million). Missing from the league however, was the Christmas film that we loved most, an ad from a little-known Polish auction website that tells the story of a Polish man struggling to learn the basics of English. An unexpected success rather than a multimillion-pound endeavor specifically designed to go viral, the touching ad racked up over 12 million views after it was widely shared on social media. The camera accompanies him taking his first steps, trying to painfully learn the basics – “I am; you are; he/she is” – and peppering his house with Post-it notes to expand vocabulary beyond the rather unparliamentary phrases he learned from a TV action movie. In the film’s last scene, we finally learn the tear-inducing reason behind his determination to learn the language which we’ll leave you to discover if you haven’t already...

(5) A Seat at the Table

In our search for interesting Christmas content for Friday 5, we found a host of wonderful ways of celebrating the holidays from around the world. For example, in the Venezuelan capital Caracas, it is customary for the entire city to roller-skate to early morning Christmas Mass. In Canada, the postal system genuinely recognises the address ‘Santa Claus, North Pole, Canada, HOHOHO’ and any letters sent there are not only opened but replied to! And, in Ukraine people tend to adorn their Christmas tree with a fake spider and web to bring good luck. Potentially our favourite foreign tradition, however, is the fact that in Poland many homes symbolically leave an empty place setting at the table on Christmas Day for a lonely wanderer who may be in need of food or a deceased relative who might like to share in the meal. Though it’s not an official tradition here in the UK, restaurants around the country are bringing the sentiment to life, with plans to host the elderly or homeless for free Christmas dinners and cheer. And, across the pond Humans of New York blogger Brandon Stanton has launched his annual ‘HONY For The Holidays’ initiative to connect people in New York City who would otherwise be alone for the holidays with those who have an extra seat at their table. We hope that you and whoever you celebrate with this year have a warm and wonderful Christmas!

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