30 Small Ways to Make a Difference

 Old, young or somewhere in between - we are all capable of making a positive impact in the world. While small acts might not seem like much - one positive action, smile or act of kindness can make a huge difference. These free and low cost do-good ideas are perfect for one person, a group of friends or the whole family! 

Check off as many activities as you can in 90 days or ask each member of your crew to pick something that means a lot to them, then get going. Start with the suggestions below, then add ways that you can help your family, neighborhood, community and world.  

  1. Stream Clean Up - Head to a nearby stream, lake or riverway and spend a few hours picking up trash along the bank. Keeping debris out of water systems encourages healthy plant and animal habitats and protects the water supply.

  1. Plant a Tree - Give the gift of clean air, cool shade and soil stabilization for generations to come when you plant a tree. Watch your sapling grow in your yard, or donate a tree to a park, school or greenspace. 

  1. Shop Local - From clothing to food, yard care to jewelry- put your money where your community is. Shopping locally reduces trucks on the road and increases employment opportunities for friends and neighbors.

  1. Donate Blood - Make a plan to donate blood regularly. If you don't meet the age or health requirements, coordinate a blood drive at your school, church or during a local event.

  1. Recycle and Upcycle - Keep your world clean by depositing cans, bottles and other containers in recycling bins. Go a step further and upcycle clothes and other household materials and make old things new again!

  1. Clean and Donate - Clean out your closet and donate clothes and shoes you no longer wear to a shelter or Goodwill store. 

  1. Run a Race - Choose a walk or run event and join other kindred spirits in supporting a cause close to your heart. 

  1. Hair Cut- Grow out your lovely locks then donate them to those struggling with cancer or other health challenges. Research specific organizations before you start cutting and note the specific requirements. 

  1. Welcome a Neighbor - Be the first to greet a new neighbor with a small gift, baked goods or card. Let them know where to find the best restaurants, playgrounds and grocery stores near you!

  1. Write Letters - Don't underestimate the power of the pen. Write to a family member or friend who might not be able to get out much or make a pen pal with someone who is elderly or incarcerated.

  1. Adopt a Family - Ask a local agency how you can help a family in need and give what you can. Donate a weekly meal, clothing or household items to them or offer assistance during the holidays. 

  1. Collect Bathroom Items - Put together hygiene bags filled with toothpaste, a toothbrush, shampoo, sanitary items, deodorant and other must haves and give them to a women's or men's shelter. Ask local stores, dentists and other companies to contribute to the cause. 

  1. Donate to A Food Pantry - Clean out the cupboards and give unexpired canned foods and other nonperishables to your local food bank. 

  1. Babysit for Free - The gift of time can be just as valuable as monetary donations! Offer to babysit for a friend or neighbor who could use a little help with childcare. 

  1. Foster a Dog or Cat - Even if you aren't ready to have a furry friend join your family, giving an animal time away from a shelter to decompress and learn how to live in a household is a gift that keeps on giving. 

  1. Plant a Garden - Grow fruits, veggies and herbs in your backyard, windowsill or container garden. Not only will fresh foods up your cooking game, plants also help clean the air and prevent soil erosion. Share your bounty with friends, neighbors or those who have limited access to fresh foods. 

  1. Teach a Class - Share your talent with the world! If you can paint, sing, play an instrument, rock a spreadsheet or are a LEGO genius - teach someone who wants to learn. 

  1. Donate Books - Organize a neighborhood book drive and give the gift of reading to a school or library in need. 

  1. Feed the Birds - Help feathered friends stay fed in cooler months by making homemade bird feeders and keeping them filled. Place the feeders near a window with a bird's eye view of your winged friends.

  1. Sponsor a Youth Team - Donate equipment, game day snacks or purchase a sponsor package and help a local team have a successful season. Ask your employer if they would consider pitching in!

  1. Save Your Coins - Collect coins you find in the couch, the car, your pocket, or on the ground and put them in a jar or piggy bank. When your change starts stacking p, decide how you want to spend the money. Donate to charity or give anonymously to someone you know could use it. 

  1. Link to Schools - Many food stores offer shoppers the opportunity to link frequent shopper numbers to a local school. Don't pass up this easy way to support education in your community. 

  1. Birthday Celebration - Celebrate another year around the sun by giving to a favorite cause. Encourage friends and family to make a donation in your name in lieu of gifts. Give each gift giver a personalized thank you card and information about how their donation will be used.  

  1. Tutor - Giving just a few hours a month to a student who could use extra support can go a long way in setting someone up for a successful future. Let your local education providers know you are available to help!

  1. Get First Aid Certified - You never know how or when First Aid or CPR training could come in handy or even save a life. Take a class as a family and be prepared for any emergency situation. 

  1. Write Thank You Notes - Your mom was right! Thank you notes go a long way in making people feel appreciated. Put pen to paper and show your mail carrier, garbage people, teachers and anyone else who makes a big impact on your quality of life the appreciation they deserve. 

  1. Pay it Forward - Pay for the meal or coffee of the next person next in line at your favorite drive through.  Not only will it make you happy, but it might also inspire that person to do the same. A chain reaction of people doing good - what a wonderful world!

  1. Get to Know You - Make a commitment to getting to know members of your family you might not see as often. Send a weekly email or letter and start making connections. Write down family history and other pertinent information for future generations!

  1. Driveway Art - Take the kids and colorful chalk outside and draw pictures or write words of encouragement on the sidewalk or driveway. Walkers, runners, strollers, families and dog parents will appreciate the pick me up!

  1. Dine Out and Support Youth Organizations - Look on social media or neighborhood message boards to see which restaurants are offering a night where a portion of the proceeds for each meal sold is given to a youth group or organization. Easy and delicious!

 This feel-good list is just the beginning! These seemingly small actions will quickly add up to a big deal. 

Courtney McLaughlin is a freelance writer in Charlotte, N.C. She gratefully shares her life, home and heart with her daughter and their dog.