Do you wonder why you exist? Yearn for a purpose? Struggle with how to make the world a better place?
It starts with little things. But if all of us did the little things, we could have a big impact.
Here are some suggestions.
Become an environmental steward
Pick up trash when you take a walk. It’s something I noticed my dad doing when I was growing up. It simply involves bending down, putting your fingers around a piece of litter, and transporting it to a trash can (or a bag if you are carrying one for that purpose).
Encourage your political representatives to support environmental causes and efforts to combat climate change.
Avoid pesticides that are bad for the water, the soil, the air, or the bees. Yes, bees—and other pollinators of our food. Biodiversity—the variety of plants, animals, and life in an ecosystem—is important to protect our future food supply. Right now, a million species are at risk of extinction.
Volunteer (time, money, blood)
There are many worthy causes—locally, nationally, and internationally. Choose one. Check out Charity Navigator if you want to assess the charity prior to donating money.
Register to be an organ donor. It takes just a few moments to sign up, and you can do it online.
Donate good-quality used items to local thrift shops.
Listen with BOTH ears
Yes, we live in an increasingly polarized society. And I admit it’s hard to listen to someone who views the world from a different planet. But it’s good to try. Respect the person, even if you don’t agree with their beliefs. My former yoga teacher shared the following poem that captures the essence this concept.
Tell the truth
I know everyone offers “little white lies” to spare another’s feelings occasionally. But we need to tell the truth and hear the truth to create a better world for the future. This is a little thing that is TRULY a big thing.
Never underestimate the long-term, ongoing value of truth for society. Lying destroys trust, a vital component of relationships, economic transactions, and societal well-being.
Support your values with your purchases
Buy wisely. Don’t patronize businesses that exploit people, animals, or the environment. Consider the company’s actions and mission statements. Do they promote just causes? Are they contributing positively to society (beyond improving stock prices)?
Pay attention to the source of your food, with an eye toward local and fair trade.
What is fair trade? According to Wikipedia, it is an arrangement to reduce exploitation of producers (often growers of products like coffee) in developing countries. It provides them a living wage and improved social and environmental standards.
The definition of conservation is “prevention of injury, decay, waste, or loss; preservation.” (And as an aside, conservation and conservative have the same word origin. Just thought I’d mention this as an interesting factoid.)
Save water by turning off the faucet while brushing your teeth. Don’t water your lawn if you can avoid it.
Be consistent in your recycling efforts. Live by the old motto: Reduce, Reuse, Recycle. Compost your excess organic waste to use as a natural fertilizer.
Don’t waste food. Try to place on your plate only what you’ll eat. And do your best to use up left-overs.
Children are our future. Help them by tutoring, volunteering at local schools, or giving teachers a hand.
Build new skills for yourself in terms of lifelong learning, and encourage others to do so.
Support your local library. Even if you are unable to provide financial contributions, take advantage of the opportunities to learn by attending programs and events.
Meet your neighbors
People feel a stronger sense of community when they know those who live around them. Invite a neighbor over for coffee. Offer to mow their lawn if you see they are struggling. Strike up an occasional conversation. Be kind.
Be civically engaged
Vote—it’s both a right and a responsibility. According to FairVote, “voter turnout in the U.S. is much lower than most established democracies.” Barely half of eligible voters participate in presidential elections, and it’s even lower for midterms. People used to say, “you get what you pay for.” It’s also true that you get what your vote (or don’t vote) for.
Don’t just read this list. Make a commitment to yourself to DO something. Let’s all help make this world a better place.
For more in-depth ideas, refer to these additional articles.
New York Times: How to Make the World a Better Place