You look around and you see the world’s problems and solutions.
But you also look around and see a lot of opportunities to make the world a better place.
You believe in the power of individuals to make a difference — and you want to follow in the footsteps of the many heroes who chose to make a positive difference in their communities and the issues they care about.
But it’s not always easy to know how best to make a difference in the world.
We created this guide for you.
This guide breaks down dozens of unique ways you can help create positive change. One person can make a difference in the world — but it’s not your job to change the entire world. It’s simply your job to show up and play your part — whatever part that is.
We give you full permission to start small, with action steps that take very little time or money. And then, slowly, feel free to do a little more.
You’ll be changing the world in no time.
Ways To Create Positive Change in Your Community and Beyond
We broke this article down into how to make a difference in all kinds of ways. Scroll through and pick out an action step or two you can get started with this week. And then bookmark this page so you can come back again another day.
There’s no shortage of opportunities for each of us to make a positive impact on the world around us.
Care For the Environment
Before we get into any of these other action steps, we want to acknowledge that it’s not possible to buy your way to sustainability. The key to making a difference for the planet is to simply consume less. Use what you have until you can’t anymore.
Reduce food waste.
Did you know that, according to the USDA’s Economic Research Service, America simply throws away 30-40% of its total food? This means that food that could otherwise make it to people facing food insecurity and hunger is simply being thrown away. When that uneaten food ends up in landfills, it releases significant amounts of methane. Plus, the energy it takes to discard, transport, and dispose of food is bad for the environment.
While a decent percentage of the food waste comes from industry and retail, consumers can make a difference by not wasting food in our kitchens, using Too Good To Go or other do-good apps to help reduce food waste in your community.
Explore our entire guide to how to reduce food waste.
Get rid of things in a sustainable way.
When we have things we need to get rid of, it can feel easiest to just throw it in the trash. But the reality is that most of the time, it’s possible to give products a second life — or at least recycle them.
Check out a few tips:
- Shoes can actually be recycled or given a second life
- It’s possible to ethically and sustainably Marie Kondo your life
- It’s even possible to be thoughtful about how you dispose of your raked autumn leaves and Christmas tree
Have you ever heard of the phrase ‘wishcycling’? It’s when you just throw things into the recycling bin and hope that it’s recyclable. But the reality is that this can actually ruin entire batches of recyclables.
Instead, make sure to check your local city’s recycling rules (literally Google “recycling in my city”) when in doubt.
Bonus: Try out The Recycling Partnership, which just launched a beta version of their program, where users can send a message and get real-time recycling advice based on their zip code!
Eat less meat.
One of the easiest ways to reduce your personal carbon footprint is by eating less meat. Kudos to you if you can go fully vegan, but know that any reduction in meat consumption will have an outsized positive impact on the environment.
Producing meat requires a significant amount of land, water, and energy, and also emits one-quarter of the world’s total greenhouse gas emissions.
Eating less meat can be fun, too! You can join a global community of people who take part in ‘Meatless Mondays’, try out wonderful new cuisines, and experiment with new cooking techniques.
Ask media outlets to accurately report about climate change.
Weather disasters like hurricanes, floods, and even tornados are being made worse by climate change. It’s important that journalists acknowledge this. You can reach out to encourage writers and newsrooms to do so via this guide we created.
Advocate for systemic change.
The reality is that governments and corporations are overwhelmingly responsible for the climate problems we’re facing. And while our individual actions do matter, it’s important that we’re advocating for laws, systems, and norms to change on a systemic level. (More on that in the next section)
Get Involved in Politics
Practice contacting your elected officials.
Getting in touch with your elected officials can feel scary, but it’s genuinely super easy.
The short explanation is this: Just contact your representative and tell their office how you feel about an issue you care about. If you know how you’d like them to solve the problem, tell them. If not, just ask how they plan to address it — and tell them that you’ll be paying attention to see what they do.
Check out our “how to contact your elected officials” guide for all the details on how to get in touch (via phone, text, or email), what to say, and everything else you need to know.
Run for something.
It might feel scary to think about running for political office, but the reality is that if you care about your community, you’re qualified to run!
After working on Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton's presidential campaigns, Amanda Litman founded Run for Something, an organization dedicated to helping young and non-traditional candidates successfully run for office.
Voting is the easiest way to have an outsized impact on the world around you. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, only 66.8% of citizens 18 years and older voted in the 2020 election. With so many people staying at home, your vote matters even more.
Find out when your next election is, double-check that you’re registered, take some time to research candidates by looking at what policies they advocate for, create a plan for when and how you’ll vote, and then go out and… vote. (Don’t forget to take a selfie with your “I Voted” sticker!)
Remember, voting isn’t just about electing the president. Your votes for state and local officials can have an incredibly significant impact on your and your neighbors’ day-to-day lives. Show up at your polling location with your community’s best interests at heart.
It sounds simple, but it’s really profound. Books are tools for empathy, gateways to knowledge, and roadmaps to positive action.
If you’re stumped on where to start, we’re highlighting the best new releases — about making a difference, building empathy, and learning from important voices — all year long.
Listen to podcasts.
Like books, podcasts give us a great opportunity to learn about new topics and hear from new voices in accessible and entertaining ways.
Learn from elders who made a difference.
All throughout history there have been activists working to make the world a better place. And every new generation has the opportunity to learn from the difference-makers who came before them.
Follow a diverse range of people on social media.
It’s helpful to intentionally audit who you’re following and why — so we can understand how to expand who we’re following. Consider asking yourself questions like:
Do the people in your social media feed overwhelmingly look like you? Is your following list mostly people who share your beliefs? Do the photos you like mostly come from people who share your life experience?
Once you’ve evaluated these, seek out voices that are underrepresented in your news feed. Learn from people who have different life experiences from you and use social media as a tool to build more empathy and understanding.
Commit to monthly donations.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money to donate, committing to donating monthly can be hugely beneficial to nonprofits. By signing up for recurring donations, you’re helping the organization project how much money they’ll have in the future. This allows them to invest in long-term projects and make a bigger difference.
Contribute to mutual aid funds.
When we think about making a donation, most of us think about donating to registered 501(c)(3) charities. (And that’s great!) But there are also likely amazing grassroots mutual aid funds being organized in your community to help people who often get left behind by traditional charities.
You can search for mutual aid funds near you at Mutual Aid Hub.
Donate without spending any money.
If you want to make a donation without spending any of your own money, check out Tab for a Cause. It’s a free browser extension that allows you to raise money for charitable causes simply by opening new browser tabs.
Use the Internet for Good
Download some apps that make a difference.
From helping people who are visually impaired via a FaceTime-like app, to helping reduce food waste by buying discounted food from restaurants in your community — there are dozens of amazing apps that allow you to make a difference for others.
We created a guide of our favorite apps that do good. Download a few and get started making a positive impact from your phone.
Share helpful information about important causes on social media.
While sharing posts to your Instagram Story or hitting retweet shouldn’t be the end of your activism, it’s still a valuable way for you to amplify important ideas and help introduce your friends and followers with opportunities to make a difference.
Whether you have 100 followers or a million fans, think of yourself as a positive influence(r).
Engage With What’s Happening in the World
Consume the news thoughtfully.
The news can feel incredibly heavy at times. While it’s important to stay up-to-date on what’s happening in the world, (because the privilege of experiencing bad news through the news comes with the requirement that you use that privilege for good) you can still consume the news responsibly.
We also recommend reading the news — not watching the news. Lastly, we put together a guide on how to read the news with intentionality.
Learn from Fred Rogers by looking for the Helpers.
One of Mister Rogers’ most prolific quotes is actually the foundation for starting Good Good Good. He shared: When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”
Rogers’ mother didn’t say that when bad things happen in the world we should turn off the television. She actually said to look closer and find where the Helpers are.
And then, taking things a step further, we think you should join in and become a Helper yourself.
Only when we pay close attention, look for the Helpers, and then become Helpers ourselves can we truly make the world a better place.
Support Mental Health
Prioritize taking care of yourself.
This means that you know yourself well enough to set boundaries and care for yourself before you even reach a breaking point.
You can’t pour from an empty bucket, and you can’t make a difference if you’re burnt out.
Ask for help.
Sometimes it feels scary or selfish to seek help. Whether that means sharing the load with your loved ones or finding a professional to help, we encourage you to know yourself and your limits and seek help to support your mental health when you need it!
Take action for others.
May is Mental Health Awareness Month — and we put together a guide of ideas to celebrate the month by taking action for mental health. Whether you’re reading this in May or not, this is your ultimate guide on more ways to get involved and make a difference.
Celebrate good news.
The world is full of good news. Take it from us, we’re a good news media company that literally makes a monthly print newspaper filled with good news.
When we fill our brains with reminders that there’s lots of good in the world, it helps us feel more hopeful about the future and encourages us to be a part of creating that better future.
And, lastly, when you’ve found good news — make sure you share it with others too!
Vote with Your Wallet
The biggest benefit of buying local is that you’re supporting business owners in your community — instead of big corporations somewhere else.
Every time you buy from a locally-owned business, you keep more money in your community — and also allow these small businesses to invest in your neighbors and neighborhoods.
Buy from underrepresented business owners.
People of color represent roughly 40% of the U.S. population, but only 20% of the nation’s business owners with employees. White men are significantly overrepresented in business, which means there’s a lot of opportunity to increase the number of businesses in this country by supporting women- and people-of-color-owned businesses.
When you intentionally shop from underrepresented business owners, you’re helping create a more equitable business environment.
(You can learn more about how to support Black-owned businesses in our guide.)
Look for certification labels.
There are a number of organizations that work hard to certify that brands are doing good one way or another. Look out for some of our favorites:
- 1% for the Planet: Certified companies donate at least 1% of their profits to environmental organizations
- Leaping Bunny: Ensures products are cruelty-free
- B Corp: A network of companies that are a force for good
- Climate Neutral: All member companies reduce and offset their carbon footprints
Boycott brands that don’t align with your values.
If you disagree with a business’s decisions — like how they treat their employees, source their products, care for the environment, communicate about important issues — then opt not to shop with them.
It may be inconvenient to find another company to shop with, but it’s worth the extra effort. You might play a role in encouraging the bad company to change, and you’re also supporting a good company. Win-win!
Volunteer remotely for a crisis line.
You don’t have to leave your house to make a difference for others. Organizations like Crisis Text Line and The Trevor Project have programs that train volunteers to become crisis counselors, helping people through online chat in their moment of need.
They’ll give you all of the training and support you need, and you’ll work in teams to help respond to people who are messaging the organizations seeking mental health support.
Find a small, local nonprofit to volunteer with.
One of the best ways to find an opportunity to volunteer is to simply pick up the phone and call a few local organizations that inspire you. They’ll likely be thrilled to give you a volunteer opportunity.
Remember, volunteering doesn’t just mean clichés like stocking shelves at a food pantry or helping set up for a gala. You can use your unique skills to help make a difference for an organization.
If you’re great with spreadsheets, volunteer to help organize their donor database. If you have a bubbly personality, volunteer to make phone calls. And if you’re creative, offer to help design social media assets.
Volunteer your technical skills.
If you’re techy, there’s an organization that helps people like you get matched up for projects with nonprofits. Develop for Good was founded by Mary Zhu while at Stanford. Since its inception, the organization has helped more than 1200 volunteers support more than 95 nonprofit projects, saving more than $4.2 million in development costs.
You can even take things further by finding a need and creating your own unique tech solution to help solve the problem. (Take inspiration from Aral Sürmeli, a Harvard-educated healthcare provider who launched the HERA app — a mobile app connecting refugee mothers and children with preventative healthcare.)
Get involved with an organization that supports refugees in your community.
Imagine you and your family needing to flee your home and your country to escape war, conflict, or instability. And then imagine arriving in a new community thousands of miles away, but being welcomed by kind, generous volunteers who are excited to welcome you and help support your transition. You could be that volunteer. Almost every state in the United States (and communities in other countries) has local resettlement organizations that help support refugees.
We curated a list of every refugee organization in each state — so you can find one to volunteer with or donate to. Their budgets are tight (especially over the last 5+ years) and they’ll be really grateful for whatever you can do to help.
More ways to make a difference in people’s lives
Take bystander intervention training.
Intervening when someone is being harassed feels scary. But an organization called Right To Be is making it easy to put an end to harassment. The organization has grown to 14 countries, where it provides free trainings on conflict de-escalation, bystander intervention, resilience, and more.
Consider a career change to something that makes a difference.
If you have the privilege of being able to consider switching jobs… consider making a change. Become a social entrepreneur, join a nonprofit, or apply to work with a purpose-driven company.
Not only will you feel fulfilled to be using your skills for good, you’re also going to be encouraging your old employer (and employers like them) to positively change their business to retain good employees.
There are many ways to protest — and all of them have strategic pros and cons. Connect with organizers with expertise on a topic you care about and join a protest.
A few examples include:
- Civil Disobedience: The Greensboro Lunch Counter Sit-Ins
- Vigils: March For Our Lives drawing attention to the need for gun regulations by placing body bags representing lives lost on National Mall
- Rallies: The historic March on Washington
- Lock-ons: Greenpeace activists creatively blocking the United States’ largest oil export facility
- Boycotts: The Montgomery Bus Boycot
And of course however you protest, make sure to practice safe protest techniques.
March for a cause.
Marching is one of the oldest and most iconic forms of protest in American history.The iconic March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 created the tipping point that led to the passing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and Voting Rights Act of 1965.
In recent years we’ve seen the impact of peaceful protests like March For Our Lives and The Women’s March on national political discourse and changes to local, state, and federal laws.
The power of a march comes from large group of people coming together around a central mission, being seen publicly by community members and the media, and using that attention and energy to drive systemic and cultural change.
Find an issue you care about and look for an opportunity to join (or even organize) a march in your community.
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