Do Good Today

Each and every day, we’re inundated with stories about how the world is going to hell. War, poverty, pollution…It’s enough to draw even the most lighthearted person into a pit of despair.

Now, none of us can change the world by ourselves, but with small amendments to the choices we make and to we you spend your time, we can create a positive snowball effect. Here are a few easy things you can do:

Attend Effective Altruism events:

  • EAGlobal is the annual conference of the effective altruism community, with events held in San Francisco and London during 2018.
  • Every second Sunday of each month, Effective Altruism Netherlands (EAN) organizes an inspiring community event at University College Utrecht. This is a great occasion to get to know other effective altruists and collaborate on EA initiatives. Register here to join! 

Speak Up, and Take Action

If there are issues that concern you, use your voice to bring attention to them. Sign petitions, write letters to a member of parliament, make an appointment to sit down with someone who has the power to change things, and discuss your worries with them. If someone you know treats another badly, then call them out on their bad behaviour: saying nothing is basically just condoning poor behaviour.

If you find out that the company that makes your favourite chocolate bar has questionable practices, then find a more ethical product, and don’t forget to write to the company to let them know why you are no longer buying from them. Your voice can make a profound impact, so let it be heard.

Plant a Garden

You’d be surprised what a little patch of green space can do for the environment, and if you have a bit of land that you can turn into a garden, you’ll make more of an impact in your corner of the planet than you realise. Planting and harvesting your own food means that less has to be carted in from other countries, which decreases the amount of fuel that’ll be shot off into the atmosphere. If instead of food you’d like a flower and herb garden, plant flowers that attract and feed pollinators like bees, butterflies, and birds: they’re disappearing at an alarming rate because of pesticide and insecticide use, so an organic garden full of delicious blossom and seeding plants (like sunflowers, amaranth, and millet) will help exponentially.

If you don’t have your own land but have a thoroughly green thumb, consider getting involved in a community garden project: you’ll help others to develop their gardening skills, help to empower them by showing them how to be self-sufficient with their food security, and that garden will become a supportive ecosystem to all kinds of insects and small animals.
Watch the video on how to encourage wildlife into your garden:

Clean Up

You’re probably quite vigilant with regard to disposing of garbage properly, but others may not be quite so conscientious. If you see a piece of rubbish lying about that some jerk has tossed out their car window or just dropped on the ground, throw it out. If you want to take this step more seriously, organise a cleanup with your family, or at school. It doesn’t only teach the children to keep things clean, it will make everyone feel great. I know families that plan a couple of hours of beach cleaning every weekend.

Stop Polluting the Water

Have you ever been thirsty? I mean, truly parched? So thirsty that your throat started to close up and your lips were cracking and you thought you were going to die? Consider the fact that our bodies are comprised of nearly 70% water, and nearly all animals and plants require water to survive. Then think about the fact that only 2% of all water on earth is drinkable, and a significant amount of that is now polluted because of all the crap we keep dumping into it.

Every drop of chemical cleaner, every drop of hair dye, every bit of pesticide, paint, non-biodegradable laundry detergent, toilet bowl cleaner, etc. gets into the water system, and although the drinking water in cities is filtered a great deal, most of those toxins still leak into the soil and underground water table, killing life around the planet. We must be conscious about what it is you pour down your drains or use on your lawns, and try to be as eco-friendly as possible. If you dye your hair, try plant-based dyes or henna instead. Instead of harsh household cleaners, all you really need are vinegar, baking soda, and essential oils. To help take action for clean drinking water, look into groups like Waterkeeper Alliance, which has chapters all over the world that you can get involved with.

Reduce Plastic

Plastic is a durable material made to last forever, yet 33 percent of it is used once and then discarded. Plastic cannot biodegrade; it breaks down into smaller and smaller pieces. Americans alone discard more than 30 million tons of plastic a year; only 8 percent of it gets recycled. The rest ends up in landfills or becomes ‘litter’, and a small portion is incinerated. Plastic spoils the environment, attracts other pollutants, threatens wildlife, affects human health, poisons the food chain and costs billions to abate.

Recycle More!

Even people who already recycle, sometimes take the easy bin option. Remember, recycling helps to reduce the pollution caused by waste and reduces the need for raw materials so that the rainforests can be preserved.

Reconsider Your Eating Habits

Write a list of the items you normally buy at the grocery store, and consider doing a bit of research on where these items come from. Does your favourite brand use mostly GMO ingredients? If you eat meat, is it from local sources where the animals are treated ethically? Are your eggs free-range, or do they come from a place where the birds are crammed into small cages? Is the sugar you buy harvested by children? Are your organic vegetables picked by people who earn a living wage?

Delve into the sources of your food and determine whether you’re contributing to the well-being of others, or if your habits could be a little more compassionate and conscientious.

Find Out More About What You Buy/Wear/Use

Just like food, clothing has to come from somewhere, but few people take the time to really research the origins of their clothes. Does the company that makes your shirt source pesticide-laden cotton from a developing country? Have your jeans been sewn by children’s hands in Thailand or India? Were any animals harmed to source real fur trim for your jacket or boots? How much water was used to grow the cotton used for what you are buying? Was the water polluted to create the PVC in your bag or shoes? Educate yourself so that you can educate others. 

It’s claimed that the garment industry is the second worst polluter in the world. Watch Stacey Dooley investigating the textile sector:

Apart from the above there are plenty of opportunities to help promote ethical fashion. Have a look at the Cordes Foundation, which impact invest in ethical fashion social enterprises.

Volunteer

There are many different ways to donate your time to others, so don’t feel that you have to put yourself in a position you’re uncomfortable with in order to make a difference. Some people might be happy working in soup kitchens or helping street youth, while others may not, and that’s totally okay! There are volunteer opportunities for people of every age, profession, and physical ability.

If you like the outdoors, consider doing some volunteer work to help clean up parks. Are you an animal lover? Offer to walk dogs at an animal shelter a few times a month, or maybe help to campaign for the World Wildlife Fund, SPCA, etc. Are you a super-busy professional? Consider donating an hour or so a month to help mentor young people who wish to follow in your footsteps. Are you crafty? You can use up spare yarn by knitting or crocheting warm hats, scarves, and mittens for those in need, like women and children in shelters, or even overseas orphans and refugees. Trust that there’s charity work that’s perfectly suited for you out there, and it doesn’t take a lot of effort to make a dramatic difference in another’s life.