This year, I celebrated Independence Day at a friend’s barbeque. As I sat with my feet dangling in the pool, a bottle of Dos Equis in one hand and a watermelon slice in the other, my mind should have been on light matters, like do I need to reapply sunscreen? or who’s up next for beer pong?
Instead, I was mentally rehashing a CNN article I’d read the day before; a Syrian refugee’s personal account of the ongoing mass murder, torture and corruption in his home country. Similar world issues began rolling around in my head, and soon I was deep in thought about extreme violence and famine in Somalia, slavery in Mauritania, female infanticide in India.
I don’t (always) go around bumming people out at pool parties. But the contrast was too glaring not to notice; as we were celebrating our country’s freedom (and all its implications) with cookouts and fireworks, billions of people around the world woke up facing horrors we cannot even imagine. As I contemplated how fortunate I was to live not only in a free country, but in a safe apartment where I have running water, electricity and a refrigerator full of food – basics that so many people live without – a tidal wave of gratitude washed over me.
And if it’s true that gratitude is an attitude, perhaps, in addition to the fireworks and pool parties, we should consider celebrating our country’s independence by giving back to those who aren’t as fortunate, and staying true to “America the Beautiful” by taking care of our environment.
Small, collective acts can be a powerful first step towards global change. While “slacktivism” cannot singlehandedly fix all world issues, in the words of Howard Zinn, “Small acts, when multiplied by millions of people, can transform the world.”
And so, here’s a very short list of things each of us can do to help make the world a better place – without even breaking a sweat:
1. Feed a Child & Save a Marine Animal | Use a Reusable Bag Instead of Plastic
Nearly 1 million sea creatures die each year as a result of plastic bags and other plastic garbage that end up in ocean. Plastic bags that end up in landfills don’t biodegrade – but when the sun breaks them down, carcinogens leak into the soil and water. And that’s not good for people, either.
(Go the extra mile, and opt for a reusable FEED bag, which benefits The FEED Foundation’s fight against global hunger. The money spent on one reusable FEED bag will feed one child for an entire year.)
2. Save a Life | Donate Your Old Nokia
The old cell phones that we toss away each year create approximately 65,000 tons of toxic waste – when they could be saving lives! Verizon, for instance, refurbishes donated old cell phones and distributes them to women’s shelters so that battered women can make emergency calls; other organizations distribute them to soldiers stationed overseas and senior citizens.
3. Fight HIV/AIDS | Check In on Foursquare
Last month, Starbucks joined forces with Foursquare to raise money for (RED) Global Aids Fund. For each Foursquare check-in, Starbucks donated $1 to fight HIV/AIDS in Africa. The (RED) RUSH campaign, with the help of Starbucks patrons, raised $250,000 for the cause.
While this particular (RED) campaign has hit its goal, other companies like jcpenny are spearheading Foursquare campaigns to benefit charities. The retailer will donate $1 to the United Service Organization for each Foursquare check-in from July 23-31.
3. Stimulate the Global Economy | Shop With Meaning
Companies like Tom’s Shoes, Creative Growth for Everybody, and Warby Parker are making it easier than ever to look good and do good all at the same time.
One billion people around the world (or, 15% of the population) do not have access to glasses or proper vision care. And if you can’t see, you can’t work. See how that hurts everyone? For every pair of Warby Parker glasses purchased, the company donates a pair to someone in need.
4. Fight Climate Change | Print on Both Sides of the Paper
Recycling one ton of paper saves 17 trees – which can absorb 250 pounds of carbon dioxide from the air each year. At home or in the office, print on both sides of the paper – with one flick of the wrist, you’ve already cut your own paper consumption by 50 percent. Boom.
5. Fight World Hunger | Play a Computer Game
United Nations World Food Program is riding the game wave to fight global hunger. Players of the computer game FreeRice earn 10 grains of rice for each correct answer – and while that might sound small, this simple game has facilitated the distribution of 100 billion grains of rice (or, 10 million servings) to hungry people around the world.
6. Spark Global Change | Use Your Words
If you’re reading this blog, there’s a good chance you work in media or public relations. Which means that your voice carries. Use it. If you know about a situation that needs attention or cause that needs support, write about it. Tweet about it. Tell your Facebook community. Use your own words to give that cause a bigger voice. Or just share this post.