At certain points in my life, I have had this niggling thought at the back of my mind that has asked me, “what have you done lately to make an impact on this world?”. If the answer has been “not enough”, then it is during those times that I have looked in desperation for a way to quickly correct my perceived wrongdoings. While I believe that it is better to play the long game and align your life’s work with purpose and making a positive impact, the short-term value that I have gained from volunteering has never failed to support my confidence and happiness during the times that I crave for a stronger sense of purpose.
Unfortunately, not many Australians benefit from this same “instant support” that volunteering can provide. With approximately 1/3rd of Australians volunteering, there is a sizeable majority that might be finding it hard to easily answer the question of, “what have I done to make an impact on this world?”. Volunteering is one way to make a positive impact, but it’s not the only way.
So, for the next time that you ask yourself that question and can’t come up with an easy answer, here’s a quick guide on how to change the world right now.
1. Buy Locally Sourced Food
The power you have as a consumer is undeniable: without your money, many corporations don’t exist. It follows logic, then, that your decision as an individual consumer to purchase goods that are aligned with ethical purposes is going to make a direct positive impact.
Sam Marwood, CoFounder of Cultivate Farms, agrees, “You can support good causes every day in choosing how you eat. For example, buying food directly from farmers who are making produce in an ethically and environmentally friendly way supports sustainable land management and pumps the life into regional communities. Plus the food is heaps tastier.”
Choosing to shop at farmers markets or through services such as Aussie Farmers Direct instead of supermarkets makes a world of difference to local industry. If you want to do more, however, Cultivate Farms can accommodate through their upcoming farm investment services. Sam continues, “Don’t just buy food locally. Soon, you’ll be able to buy a farm through crowdfunding as well. It’s all about exploring heaps more ways you can do good with the food you eat.’”
2. Destigmatise Mental Health
“65% of people experiencing mental illness symptoms don’t seek help from health services, while about 40% of women get help and fewer than 30% of men do the same,” says Lance Piccione, the founder of mental health organisation Love Me, Love You.
A former AFL player, Lance battled with depression throughout his playing career and knows as well as anyone the stigma that can be attached to talking about mental health. Despite having access to medical staff on a round-the-clock basis, Lance as a young man was reluctant to open up and remembers suicidal thoughts being “as common as breakfast.”
Lance is a strong advocate for utilising friends, colleagues, and family as a support network for people in mental health crises, “If people muster up the courage to seek help and trust you in that position to have that conversation, it’s your duty to be that friend and support network that they need in that situation. While professional help is always recommended, sometimes just by being the friend that is easy to talk to about anxiety, depression, or stress, you will be able to empower someone to address their problem and seek help.”
As an individual with a social network of friends, family, and colleagues, you can be a key advocate in destigmatising mental health by talking about it in the same way that you might talk about a broken leg or a sore back. In doing so, you will be making a direct impact on risk of suicide and self-harm within your social networks.
3. Volunteer Online
The next generation of Australians have less time, require more flexibility in their lives to suit their morphing work/life balance, and want to create a tangible impact in the good work that they do; traditional volunteering is perceived as an activity that achieves none of these things. Vollie is an online volunteering platform that connects non-profit organisations to skilled volunteers for the purpose of remote online volunteering. It takes seconds to match your skills and the causes you are passionate about to projects available on the platform, and once you find a project that you love it only takes another matter of seconds to apply.
Online volunteering creates a huge impact (Vollie projects deliver approximately $100 in value for every hour a volunteer gives) and often exceeds the value that traditional volunteering, donating, or fundraising can deliver. Non-profit organisations crave access to volunteer services from skilled individuals, and using Vollie gives volunteers and non-profits alike the opportunity to work with each other with an unprecedented level of efficiency. So instead of spending your weeknights watching the next reality TV show, try donating some of that time to non-profits online through Vollie and make a difference to the world, your way.
4. Buy Palm Oil Free Products
Palm oil is used in around 50% of products consumers purchase and use on a daily basis. Palm oil and derivatives otherwise known as fractions of the oil are used in the manufacture of prepackaged food, cosmetics, cleaning products, hair care, soaps and personal care items. It is also used to manufacture biofuel and has become what is called the green fuel option for motor vehicles, shipping and aircraft fuel. It’s an incredibly diverse resource that is relatively easy to harvest, which is why we need to stop using it.
Indonesia and Malaysia collectively account for 87% of global palm oil production, which makes the industry one of the country’s largest exports. Unfortunately, this is having a drastically negative impact on greenhouse gas emissions (Indonesia averages 917,000 ha in natural forest loss per year as a result of palm oil plantations) and species threat, with an estimated 50 orangutans being killed every week by “pest busters”, machinery, and fire. Elephants, tigers, and rhino are also being impacted through a loss of habitat, which decreases their food source, marks them as “pests” to plantations (which leads to trapping and poisoning), and exposes them to poaching.
But Wait, There’s More!
There are literally millions of ways an individual can change the world, and almost none of them require a significant amount of money, time, or changes to your lifestyle. While donations are always the most useful form of charity that an individual can give (due to the fact that the money can be spent on anything), giving your time or changing your behaviour is often the most valuable form of charity that an individual can give, and creates a significantly positive impact to the cause(s) you are representing.
Have Other Suggestions?
Do you have suggestions for other ways that you can change the world? We’re keen to hear them! Let us know by either posting as a comment below or heading to our facebook page and letting us know!
I’m Matthew Boyd, and I’m the founder of Vollie, a for-profit impact enterprise that specialises in empowering individuals for the purpose of making a positive impact.
Vollie is suitable for non-profits of all sizes, individuals from any background, and any business that is wanting to step up its’ corporate social responsibility game.
Head to www.vollie.com.au to find out more.