5 Easy but Impactful Ways to Make a Difference This Year

With so much going on in the world right now, it’s easy to get caught up with stress, the demands of work, and feelings of anxiety. In a world that often pits us against one another, we need to take daily actions to remind ourselves that we’re all in this together. With a fresh new year ahead, now, more than ever, we need ways to make a positive difference in the fast-moving world around us.

With a little research and a lot of hot cocoa, we’ve found five simple ways to roll up your sleeves and make a difference in 2017. Here are easy, but totally impactful ways to help make the world a brighter place this year:

Make a girl’s dreams come true

With so many amazing charities these days, it can be hard to find that personal connection. A fairly new organization called Speak Up for the Poor allows donors to support girls currently living in poverty in Bangladesh. Serving more than 1,100 girls in 26 villages, Speak Up for the Poor helps girls stay in school, and out of child marriage, as well as helps support girls who were removed from brothels. For $30/month, each donor helps a girl achieve her dreams. You’ll receive a picture and information about the girl in the mail and updates on her progress. $30/month is three Netflix subscriptions, or two nights out at the movies that could, instead, go toward making a direct impact on a girl’s life on the other side of the world.

Use less plastic

Americans use 500 million drinking straws everyday, according to the National Park Service’s Be Straw Free Campaign. That’s enough straws to fill 125 school buses. And it’s been predicted that the fastest that plastic will degrade is 450 years, and some say it might never actually decompose. Plastic is loaded with chemicals, and it’s polluting our environment, simply because it doesn’t go away.

So what what can you do to make a difference? Giving up using plastic straws is a great first step. There are some great alternatives out there: stainless steel and glass straws that won’t be thrown in the trash after one drink. Switching to a glass water bottle also eliminates tons of plastic waste each year. Additionally, it makes the water you drink safer. Water from plastic bottles contains BPA and other harmful toxins that come directly from the plastic. By switching to glass, you’re helping to save the environment and your own digestive tract. Other easy ways to reduce your use of plastic is to shop with canvas bags and switch to glass food containers.

Give gifts that heal

When looking for gifts for family and friends this year, check out these awesome ideas. The following nine organizations have thoughtful gifts that ultimately benefit the greater good. There’s no better way to celebrate a loved one’s birthday than with a meaningful, socially conscious gift:

Charity: Water – helps give people access to clean water

Fistula Foundation – helps women suffering in childbirth

The Giving Keys – helps the homeless in Los Angeles

Joggo Bag – helps educate refugee children

Casa Mantay – helps teen moms in Peru

Love 41 – helps victims of Rwandan genocide

Kidbox – helps clothe children

Make a homeless blessing bag

Around the holidays, there is a flurry of activity at local charities. But come January and February, the giving often slows down, while the need still is there. One awesome way to help those in need in your community is by creating some Blessing Bags. Make a few (or a few dozen) and drop them off at your local shelter or food pantry. This is a thoughtful way to give the homeless the little things that can make a big difference in their days.

Read (or gift) one of these books

One of the most important ways to make a difference in the world is by staying informed and educated about current issues, while also seeking inspiration from the peace-builders and changemakers who came before us. From turning oppression into opportunity for women to the power of vulnerability to more spiritually-focused self-help books, there are so many inspiring reads to get into this year. Some of my favorite books to raise awareness and inspire are: “Half the Sky,” “Daring Greatly,” “How We Choose to Be Happy,” “The Four Agreements,” and “The Long Loneliness.”

These five simple steps will lay a foundation and help you take small, but actionable steps toward truly making a difference for others this year. With packed schedules and lots of responsibility, it can be challenging to find ways to give back and be a part of the positive change in the world around you. But if we each find meaningful ways to do our part, the world will surely be left a better place than we found it.