How do you feel about the world right now? If you’re like many Americans, you’re not feeling so great. Studies show that many of us have grown more pessimistic about the state and direction of our country and our world. Rates of anxiety and other mental health issues appear to be on the rise. It’s not hard to see why this might be! Everywhere we look, we see bad news. The environment is in rough shape, and things are projected to get worse. People are suffering in worn-torn countries—and in rich countries, too, as wealth inequality reaches staggering proportions. Hate is on the rise and anger is everywhere.
In the face of all of this, despair is understandable. But despair is not the only option. Each of us can choose to do our part to make the world a better place. Even the smallest actions can improve the state of the planet and the human race. By using our time and money to help others, we can also help ourselves feel healthier, happier, and more joyful. Why not choose to be a force for positive change? There’s so much that you can do! Here are just a few ways to make a difference.
Howard Fensterman is a success story. He’s a New York-area lawyer who built an impressive career fighting things like financial malpractice on behalf of his clients. But all the success in the world isn’t enough to make a person happy, and Howard Fensterman knows that. That’s why, these days, he’s as well known for his philanthropy as he is for his legal victories.
When you’re donating as much money as Howard Fensterman is, it’s wise to make sure that you’re doing so efficiently. While many philanthropists don’t mind cutting a spur-of-the-moment check, the bulk of philanthropic donations are managed pretty carefully. Billionaires will develop their own foundations to ensure that they’re spending their charitable contributions in the way that they want to. Others will simply vet various charitable organizations and causes before committing the big bucks. This is wise, because the unfortunate truth is that not all charities are created equal.
You may not be able to afford to donate millions, but you can likely contribute something to charity. When you do, be organized about it. Throwing a few bucks into a collection bucket is nice, but you’ll feel better when you can point to real progress that your money is making possible. Consider looking into resources for “effective altruism,” a school of thought focused on making every dollar count as much as possible.
This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t buy your niece’s girl scout cookies, of course, but it does mean that we should all think about how we might best donate our hard-earned cash!
Create a Donation Zone
We all have junk. In fact, the average American is overwhelmed with stuff! We’re running out of space and even renting storage units, despite the fact that American homes have grown enormously on average since the middle of the century. Naturally, many of us make efforts to clean things out once in a while. We pile up the junk and we get rid of it!
We should be donating a lot of this stuff. We’re not just talking about clothes, either: A lot of things that you might assume can’t be donated actually can! Do your research, and try not to waste. And here’s a big tip: Don’t wait until your next spring cleaning session to worry about this stuff. Designate an out-of-the-way spot in a closet or the garage to store things that you want to donate, then make a run to local donation centers two or three times a year. It’s like a “junk drawer” that you can actually feel good about!
Every one of us can make a difference. When you choose to donate food to a food pantry or to cut down on your carbon footprint, you’re helping mankind and planet Earth. Still, it’s easy to get frustrated. The things that we do on our own can seem very small compared to the actions of huge groups or giant corporations.
Don’t let the difference in scale between individual actions and big business and policy decisions keep you from making the most of your own efforts. Just because some big corporation is not concerned about global warming doesn’t mean that you should stop driving a fuel-efficient hybrid. If you’re going to let the big picture affect your decisions, do this instead: Focus on changing that big picture!
Businesses have a big role to play in helping us save our Earth, point out experts in used cooking oil collection. Recycling things like cooking oil in restaurants can be a big deal because businesses that operate at scale have an impact that is orders of magnitude larger than that of a private citizen. But businesses aren’t people, and they don’t have consciences. That’s especially true when they’re large and publicly traded, which means they have an obligation to make their shareholders money, not to help the planet. Here’s the thing, though: You can help change this. You can help lobby for rules that incentivize, or even force, businesses to do better.
Sure, it’s true enough that an individual’s choice to recycle is relatively small potatoes compared to corporate and governmental waste. But what about recycling laws that mandate recycling habits for huge cities? New York City’s recycling program unifies the efforts of more than eight and a half million people. One policy decision made a huge, huge difference! So if you’re feeling discouraged by the scale of a problem and are frustrated by your limited ability to help, get political. Donate your time and money to lobbying organizations, go to protests, and spread the word. In the meantime, keep making those little changes in your own life. Grab a reusable water bottle as you head to an environmental meeting. Donate food to a homeless shelter on your way to a city hall meeting about affordable housing. Help out in ways large and small, and remember: All of it matters.