TEN THINGS YOU CAN DO TO MAKE A DIFFERENCE IN THE WORLD
There is no limit to what you can do to make the world a more peaceful, sustainable and compassionate place for all. Here are 10 ideas we have. Hopefully this list will help you get started or be more effective. Let us know if you have other suggestions or feedback.
1. Become informed. Choose an issue that you care about — maybe the environment, or racism, or homelessness — and do some research to really understand the problem, the solutions, and what different organizations and individuals are doing about it. One site you can start with for ideas is Change.org. Check out our Beginning Activist Guide for help walking you through this process and our Resources page for links to great organizations and tools to get started.
2. Practice what you preach. Perhaps the greatest social changemaker ever, Gandhi, said “my life is my message.” Take a look at your beliefs, and see if your actions are in line and not hypocritical. This might seem simple, but maybe you really care about the environment and haven’t really thought about or modified your behavior (like your transportation, diet, products you buy, etc.) to reduce your impact on the environment. Or maybe you care about peace in the world but you bully your siblings. It’s impossible to be perfect, but we can always strive to take actions so that our life is our message.
3. Vote with your dollars. Good news! You don’t need to be 18 to vote. Every dollar we spend is a vote. The law of supply and demand says that businesses will make more of something as long as people want to buy that thing. If we all stopped buying something we oppose, like fur coats or Hummers, companies who make that product will find some other way to make a living. Maybe the most famous boycott in US history was the bus boycott during the Civil Rights Movement in Montgomery, Alabama. The other side of that is that buying eco-friendly products encourages those companies and helps to make them cheaper and more available for others to buy too. But before you spend another dollar, watch the Story of Stuff.
4. Eat less meat, and encourage others to do the same. Building on #3, above, we mention this boycott specifically because it has such a huge impact and because we all have to eat. There are so many impacts to these food choices: the UN Food and Agriculture Organization says that the biggest cause of global warming is livestock production (more than cars), there is rampant animal suffering, food is wasted instead of going to starving people, mistreating workers, and our own health. Check out ChooseVeg.com and a Guide to Cruelty-Free Eating to get started.
5. Connect with others through a club or group. Once you’re aware of issues you care about, are becoming more informed, and taking action according to your ethics, you can really start ramping up your activism by working with others in an organized way. Clubs and community groups are great ways to get people involved and working together to take on bigger actions. If there’s already a group, join, and if not, start one! Check out our tips for successful school clubs.
6. Better your school or community. Put your crew to work making your school and community the most positive place you can, whether it’s raising awareness of homophobia, addressing bullying or school violence, or picking up litter. Check out this awesome guide for tips on eco actions like talking to your school administration about buying recycled paper and non-toxic cleaning products, getting more vegetarian and vegan options at your cafeteria, improving energy efficiency, switching to humane and eco alternatives to dissection, and more. And contact amazing organizations to do assemblies at your school! Alliance for Climate Education (ACE) offers free school assemblies on climate change, and Challenge Day offers life-changing day-long assemblies that will transform your school community.
7. Spread the word about your issue. This is a great thing to do with your club. Contact an organization you support. Many will send you flyers for free or cheap. Give them out on club days, at events you create or that are already set up by others, or just after school. On Facebook, find organizations or people doing work you care about and “Like” or “Friend” them, then “Like” and “Share” videos, news articles or action alerts they post. Getting the word out about issues has never been easier!
8. Speak up when you see or hear something you disagree with. We’ve all seen someone being made fun of, heard racist or homophobic comments and jokes, or overheard a conversation where someone may be unknowingly spreading a prejudiced viewpoint. Speak up and let them know that it offends you and others and ask them to stop. When you see something you disagree with at a larger level, speak up about that too. This takes courage, but check out this fun 3 minute video on leadership for an example of how to bring about a change in your community.
9. Put your skills or interests to good use. Figure out what you love to do or are good at (or both) and put it to use for your issue of importance. Whether it’s computer skills, cooking, singing, writing, or something else, find creative ways to apply your unique contributions to make a difference.
10. Keep at it and stay positive! It’s easy to get frustrated and feel as though it’s too hard to make big changes. Big societal changes often take a while to happen, but the more you can stay positive, not be a “Debbie Downer,” and not be angry at people or give them a hard time for not behaving how you would like, the sooner you’ll see changes — and the more likely you are to stick with it and not get demoralized. Try reaching out to like-minded organizations or friends who also make a difference and work with others who care so you realize you are not alone. Call us! Remember the progress that has already been made, and read words of great leaders, like Martin Luther King, Mahatma Gandhi, or Margaret Mead. And come to camp for more inspiration.