Climate change emergency. Conflicts with civilian casualties. Increasing levels of loneliness.
Looking at some of today’s news headlines, it can be hard to stay positive about the state of the world--let alone consider how we can change it. While many of us may feel a momentary sense of urgency to take action, more often than not, the next item in our social feed has us moving right along.
So how do we make the world a better place? Big change starts with small acts. The world needs people who show up daily, for the long-term, recognizing that lasting improvement takes time. We need people who care about relationships—to our environment, communities and the wider world.
So, here are eight ideas to ignite your passion and bring about change in the world. Find the one that connects with you and get started!
1. Reduce your waste
Garbage is taking over our natural world at an alarming rate. We each have responsibility to reduce our impact. Photo: Hans Braxmeier
- Reduce your waste
- Expand your bubble – and do it face to face
- Become a conscious consumer
- Sponsor a child
- Plant a tree (or a couple thousand)
- Connect grandparents with grandkids
- Speak up: pursue a better world
Let’s dive right in with one of today’s most overwhelming issues—waste. When a whale washes up on shore with 88 pounds of garbage in their stomach
, we have a problem we can’t ignore. For the good of all animals and our natural world, try taking some simple steps to reduce single use plastic:
2. Expand your bubble – and do it face to face
Salima’s smiling face should encourage us all to expand who we interact with. Photo: Jon Warren
- Grabbing produce in the grocery store? Try shopping with Beebagz, small, reusable bags made from beeswax, specifically designed to hold your fruits and veggies.
- Buying cereal or pasta? Bring your own container to the bulk food store and fill up there. It’ll save money and packaging.
- Hosting a party? Forego using the cheap, paper-plate variety and put your regular dishes and cutlery to work.
In today’s digital age, we’re more connected than we’ve ever been, but also more lonely
. It doesn’t help that many of our digital spaces can be dominated be polarizing opinions, preventing common ground from being found. If you’re the type who’s seeking a world with less loneliness and judgment, perhaps it’s time to meet new people…IRL (in real life). Here are some places to get started:
3. Volunteer your time
Volunteering your time with puppies at an animal shelter is just one of the ways you can build community. Photo: jools_sh from Pixabay
- Commit to a social circle. This could be a sports team, Zumba class, place of worship or a book club. Even spending 30 minutes a week together can create an environment that breaks down barriers.
- Invite your neighbour for coffee. Get to know the people who live around you. Your neighbour may open your eyes to vegetable gardening or offer the opportunity to lend your expertise. Ultimately, our world benefits when we live in community and care for those around us.
- Smile and say “hello” to strangers. We could all benefit from moving past the “stranger danger” mentality. I get it, we don’t want to disturb or startle others, but that person on the bus or at a business event sitting alone may be in need of a little humanity. Next time the opportunity presents itself, step outside of your comfort zone and you might just end up making a real connection.
The dog in the local animal shelter who needs a friendly face.
The recently landed Syrian family who needs help figuring out their new home.
The local events and festivities taking place in your community.
There are endless opportunities
to give what is arguably your most precious resource—time. When you volunteer, not only are you giving back, you’re also benefitting your mind and body
. When we choose to be active members of our communities, we become more aware of the needs around us and give ourselves the chance to do something meaningful about them.
4. Become a conscious consumer
Buying Fairtrade goods is helps ensure workers earn a fair wage. Photo: Isaac Fryxelius
Put your ethics into practice.
Conscious buying is all about choosing goods that are ethically sourced, ethically made and ethically distributed.
When enough consumers shop in an ethically conscious way, it can cause companies to take notice and address their supply chain practices.
These changes can help parents around the world earn a living wage and reduce the likelihood that their children end up in dirty, dangerous and degrading jobs. Here are four simple ways to get started:
- Search for Fairtrade goods. With over 7,000 products available in Canada, there are plenty of options available.
- Shop local, learn to fix broken items or buy new ones secondhand.
- Eat sustainably. Find food that is kind to growers, animals, the earth and your health.
- Can’t find out how an item is made? Tweet at the company to get some answers.
Learn more about how you can take action against child labour in Canadian supply chains
5. Sponsor a child
Seven-year-old Lighton attends World Vision's Reading Camp. Photo: Laura Reinhardt
Around the world, innocent children can fall victim to conflict, disaster and poverty. Every child deserves help to reach their full potential.
Make a long-term investment in the future of a child and develop a personal connection, through sponsorship
. Your support will provide nutritious food, health care, water and education for children, their families and communities to thrive.
6. Plant a tree
A farmer prepares to plan a young tree in Kenya, a country pushing back against the desertification of its land. Photo: Nick Ralph
Time to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty. One of the cheapest and most effective ways to address climate change is by simply planting trees
. A report from the journal Science found that new trees could suck up 750 billion tonnes of CO2—the equivalent of all the pollution humans have caused over the last 25 years.
Take the time to do your part by:
7. Connect grandparents with grandkids
Grandparents like to have fun too! Photo: Alexandra Koch
- Planting a native tree on your property or in a planter on your condo window sill. Many cities have programs that supply residents with free trees.
- Encouraging your child’s school to set aside some play area for new trees to grow.
- Becoming a tree planter for a summer. It’s a tough gig, but experienced planters plant upwards of 4,000 trees each day. Your hard work can pay down student debts while helping our earth.
Depending on how old the kids in your life are, you may already be hearing the line, “Ugh, but I don’t want to go to grandma and grandpa’s today.”
Even if it has to be encouraged, the lessons and love that can be shared across generations of family members has an immeasurable impact on our lives
They may start off the occasional sentence with, “Back in my day…” but grandparents can be wonderful educators—teaching grandkids how to make delicious cookies, tie the perfect tie and perhaps, most importantly, the core values of respecting and cherishing one another.
8. Speak up: pursue a better world
Speaking up for a better world helps key decision makers down a path to change. Photo: Jerry Kiesewetter
“Never be afraid to raise your voice for honesty and truth and compassion against injustice and lying and greed. If people all over the world...would do this, it would change the earth.” ― William Faulkner
In a just world, every child thrives. In a just world, the earth can regenerate.
In a just world, humans can respectfully express their views, without fear of oppression.
As we seek to create a more just world, know that your voice holds power. Here are a few examples of people using their voice—and backing it up with their actions—to build a better world:
- Greta Thunburg—A climate activist who inspired a generation of young people to protest climate change.
- Malala Yousafzai—A courageous voice fighting for the education of girls around the world. The Malala Fund is breaking down barriers to help girls get into school.
- Desmond Tutu—A prominent activist against apartheid in South Africa. His messages of reconciliation after the ending of segregation earned praise, even being described as the moral conscience of South Africa.
Whether you’re calling for children to stop being treated as commodities
or starting a #FridaysforFuture
protest, let your voice be heard.
It starts with a step
One of the most overwhelming parts of facing our world’s biggest problems is that we often struggle to see how we could be part of the solutions. Hopefully, “8 ways to help change the world” has not only reminded you that change is, in fact, possible, but has given you fresh inspiration to take that first step toward making the world a better place.