12 Small but Effective Ways to Make a Difference This Year, Without Leaving Your Home

published Jan 23, 2021
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Credit: Viv Yapp

2021 is here, and I for one am surrounded by a feeling of hope. Naive? Possibly — but who cares? As activists told Apartment Therapy last November, the work isn’t over once the election is over. There is still plenty of work to be done to help promote change in your community for good. 

Not sure where to start from your corner of the world, especially if you’re spending a lot of time at home to keep yourself and your neighbors safe? Don’t let that stop you from doing your part. Whenever I feel particularly overwhelmed, I remember a Turkish idiom, “Damlaya damlaya göl olur,” which means “drops of water can form a lake.” In other words, small actions can lead to big changes — and that includes your community work and activism. Whether you start by supporting activists and organizations on the ground, or simply rethink how you spend your money, there are plenty of ways to get involved, all from the comfort of your favorite couch. 

You’re going to be shopping online a lot this year — why not harness it for good?

According to one survey, 26.8 percent of the global population shops online, and supporting small businesses and shops directly has never been more important. E-commerce giant Amazon has accounted for 47 percent of all US e-commerce sales in 2020, and while that rapid delivery is tempting, there are ways to practice being a more conscious and community-oriented shopper: 

1. Fight textile waste by sourcing your next DIY project with deadstock.

If you’re looking for supplies for your next sewing project, you can buy fabric from Fabscrap, an organization that works towards decreasing the amount of textile wasted by collecting and recycling fabric scraps, excess fabric, cuttings, overstock bolts, and mock-ups. You can shop online for their scraps, and even volunteer for them if you are interested. 

2. Support small businesses owned by Black people, Indigenous peoples, and other people of color every day.

No matter what you’re looking for, there’s probably a company owned by Black people, Indigenous peoples, and other people of color that makes it. And luckily, there are plenty of resources to help make finding everything you’re looking for that much easier. Intersectional Environmentalist has compiled together. Se’e Ñu’un-Hijas de la Tierra compiled a similar list of small businesses owned by Afro-Indigenous and Indigenous peoples, and there are plenty of resources here at Apartment Therapy that provide a variety of options for home decor, and so much more

3. Harness the power of your browser to help you find more mindful alternatives.

Sometimes, all it takes is identifying your need, and then finding a company who goes the extra mile and sells the product you’re going to buy anyway. Thankfully, technology is here to aid us in our search for ethical and sustainable products! DoneGood is a Chrome extension that recommends more sustainable options to your everyday consumer searches — simply download it, plug it in, and let the recommendations guide you as you do your day-to-day shopping. 

4. Support small and independent bookstores.

For online book purchases consider looking up local and independent bookstores in your area. Some examples include McNally Jackson and Bluestockings Bookstore, Cafe & Activist Center in New York, Elliot Bay Book Company and Paper Boat Booksellers in Seattle, and The Bookies Bookstore and Capitol Hill Books in Denver. If you like comic books, check out Weird Enough Productions, a comic company that focuses on creating positive images of Black people and folks from other and intersecting minority groups. 

5. You might not be able to visit your favorite museum IRL — so bring their wares to you.

According to a UNESCO report, 90 percent of museums globally have temporarily closed because of the pandemic. You can support museums by shopping their gift stores, many of which have kitchen essentials such as mugs, cutlery and plates; home decorations; bags; and more. Searching your area for local museums will definitely bring up a list of museum gift stores that you can browse online. 

Rethink how green your kitchen is

According to a May 2020 report by BusinessWire, people have turned to takeout and delivery during the pandemic to both support their favorite restaurants as well as to balance work and cooking. In order to decrease waste and support sustainable food spots, here are some tips:

6. Do away with wasteful takeout containers.

Call the restaurant you are planning on getting takeout from to ask if they can put your food in a Tupperware you will be providing — COVID and health guidelines may vary in your area, so make sure you call ahead of time. 

7. And make sure to only order what you plan on using.

When you are ordering delivery, indicating that you do not want plastic utensils and napkins can cut down on your waste, and save the restaurant a few dollars here and there. 

8. Cut out the delivery app and place your order directly.

Order from local and small businesses in your area, and be sure to call rather than using an online platform to avoid making your restaurant pay third-party fees. 

9. Donate to organizations helping keep restaurants and their workers afloat.

You can start by donating funds to Sanctuary Restaurants, an organization that offers support and resources to workers, restaurants, and consumers.

Another good option? The Street Vendor Project, which gives legal advice and support to over 2,000 vendors in the city, most of whom are immigrants and people of color. (This organization only operates in New York City, so check your local area to see if another group is doing work for food vendors in your area.)

And World Central Kitchen works to strengthen communities through food, and has mobilized against the growing hunger crisis in the U.S. and around the world. 

10. Invest in less-wasteful versions of your everyday kitchen faves.

If you can, reuse items like plastic bags until you can’t anymore — then invest in reusable containers that cut down on your plastic use. Bee’s Wrap can replace your plastic wrap roll, while there are plenty of food-grade silicone bags that will replace your Ziploc habit for good.

And if you’re looking to get involved with an organization the good, old-fashioned way…

11. Offer your skills from the comfort of your home.

According to Marci Iacobucci, a volunteer for ACLU’s People Power initiative, a great way to start was by making use of what you already have. In that vein, Giving Way is an online platform that connects emerging nonprofits with volunteers looking to get involved either on-site or online by looking through their website to see what organizations need.

12. And don’t underestimate the power of your donation, no matter how small.

The simplest way to help promote change is by supporting organizations that have already taken matters into their own hands and are working towards making a difference. Plenty of organizations feature ways to donate money or other resources through their website, so you can easily find an issue you are passionate about, and support it. Do not forget! You can save money on your taxes if you donate and keep your receipts. For more information you can check out this insightful article from Apartment Therapy that gives you a step-by-step explanation because we all know taxes can get confusing.