Sophocles wrote: “To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task.” Most people strive to do good in the world; whether it be for work or leisure, making the world a better place is perhaps the most admirable goal there is. For me, there are two principal ways a person can have the most positive impact on their world: helping the community, and helping the environment. My only problem is I rarely have enough resources to do both at once.
Fortunately, I have found a number of ways to do the most good in the world by combining my loves for charity and ecology. You too can improve individual lives and entire environments in single, simple maneuvers by completing any of the following four benevolent deeds.
1. Support Environmental Organizations
Perhaps the most direct way to ensure your donations are green is to contribute to charities that are overtly environmentally friendly. Some of the most powerful forces for environmental protection are non-profit organizations that live and breathe from donations alone. Here are a handful of environmental organizations that need your support in the fight against waste and destruction:
- National Resources Defense Council. Backed by more than 350 lawyers, scientists, and other professionals, the NRDC is perhaps America’s most powerful environmental group.
- Ocean Conservancy. Addressing issues such as ocean acidification, oil-spill recovery, and marine resource planning, Ocean Conservancy is devoted to keeping the seas safe.
- Greenpeace Fund. Though Greenpeace can be a controversial group, it is hard to argue that the organization lacks an idealistic passion for protecting the environment.
In addition to these national and international groups, you should investigate charities devoted to cleaning up and protecting the natural spaces in your region. For example, Living Lands and Waters focuses on cleaning and preserving the Mississippi River. By contributing to a regional cause, you can improve your community as well as the environment.
2. Donate Salvageable Items
Oftentimes, when a household item breaks, gets old, or goes unused, we throw it away. Unfortunately, most of our trash goes straight into landfills, which have various deleterious effects on surrounding environments, including the release of the dangerous greenhouse gas methane and the pollution of precious groundwater.
Fortunately, there are a number of charities that will take in your old items, refurbish them, and use them to benefit the community. Hundreds of organizations, like Goodwill and St. Vincent de Paul, will resell furniture and clothing, providing jobs and other benefits to people who need them. Additionally, there are a handful of organizations that will refurbish larger items, like appliances and vehicles, and sell them, donating the proceeds to local charities. That means you can get rid of the rusty boat or car in your driveway and benefit a good cause.
3. Contribute Your Compost
Any scrap of food you throw in the garbage can end up in a landfill, which is particularly tragic considering the good that food waste can do when used properly. With minimal effort, you can start composting in your backyard. Even if you don’t have a garden, your compost soil won’t go to waste: Nearly every community has some sort of park or garden that can benefit from your repurposed scraps. By contacting parks and schools in your area, you will eventually find someone to take your excess compost off your hands.
4. Recycle Everything
Most cities in the United States boast some form of recycling program, and by participating you can limit trash production and mitigate the consumption of raw materials. However, with some savvy recycling, you can also generate funds that can help charitable causes in your community. A number of states provide monetary compensation for certain types of recyclables, like plastics, glass, and metals. After collecting and sorting these materials yourself, you can drop them off at dedicated recycling plants to receive your reward. Then, you can donate your earnings to whichever charity you see fit.
Many of the items public programs won’t accept are still recyclable, but the process is too dissimilar to make the endeavor profitable for states. Fortunately, Terracycle accepts nearly all types of waste and transforms it into resalable items. By sending in recyclable materials, you earn points which can be donated to help your favorite charities — or complete other Earth-saving acts of kindness.