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In our resolution to make better choices that help animals, people, and the planet there are times we look for third-party assistance to do more than the absolute bare minimum. We might think about donating to a charitable organization, for example, but there are countless charities that need our support and with over one million registered in the United States alone it can be impossible to know where to start.
For the amount that would be spent per month supporting a charitable organisation, consider spending the same amount on helping a cause close to your heart, close to home. There are numerous ways we can improve the lives of animals; help the environment; or offer assistance and support to other people, and below are 10 suggestions to get you started.
1 OFFER SANCTUARY: the habitat of wildlife is constantly threatened by development, especially in urban areas. Each of us can help by offering a mini sanctuary to wild animals within our back- or front-yard;,on a balcony, or even a deck. The key is to have more native plants which will benefit bees, butterflies and birds, as well as offer brush piles, hedges, and/or trees to provide cover and nesting spots for small mammals.
Cost: the seeds for a selection of native plants and nesting material during fall and winter.
2 PROVIDE BEE, BIRD AND BUTTERFLY FOOD: in the absence of being able to offer hedges, plants, and/or trees, perhaps consider a bird feeder filled will nuts and seeds, as well as a window box to hold flowering plants that provide food for both bees and butterflies. In addition, offering clean water (in both the summer and winter) can help wildlife immensely.
Cost: initial cost for bird feeder, a window box and seeds for flowering plants. On-going cost: nuts and seeds.
3 FOSTER: if making a long-term commitment to a companion animal isn’t possible, discuss fostering with the local shelter. It can be hard to predict how long an animal will need to be in a foster home, but some shelters need people to foster animals for a short predetermined period of time post-rescue, pre-forever home.
Cost: a bed and bowl will be important! Food and veterinary care is generally covered by the shelter.
4 PLANT A TREE: it is estimated 95% of forests in the United States (and half of those in the world) have been destroyed. Trees are important for the environment, as for each tree planted more carbon dioxide emissions are removed from the atmosphere. In addition, trees (if planted in the correct spot) can help to cool your home, reducing the amount of energy used by cooling equipment.
Cost: tree seedling.
5 COMPOST: instead of sending garden and kitchen waste off with the rest of the household waste, consider composting. This not only diverts material from landfills, but it also avoids the production of methane. Compost use has further environmental benefits, such as increasing the nutrient content in soils and helping them to retain moisture; suppressing plant diseases and pests, eliminating the need for chemical fertilisers and pesticides, while promoting crop- and plant-growth.
Cost: an inexpensive indoor composter can start at around $40, while an outdoor composter can range from $30-$200.
6 INVEST IN CF BULBS: hile it’s important to ensure that lights are turned off when leaving a room, there are times they need to be on! The best bulbs to get for the job are CF (compact fluorescent) light bulbs which, in addition to helping the environment, save us money too. According to Energy Star it is estimated that CF light bulbs use 75% less energy than conventional light bulbs and last 10 times longer!
Cost: light bulbs.
7 USE RECHARGEABLE BATTERIES: it is estimated 15 billion batteries are used each year, most of which are alkaline and therefore discarded after a single use, generally ending up in landfill. It is possible to purchase eco-friendly and energy-efficient rechargeable batteries and chargers, however, to replace the old alkaline battery. Over time, they are much less expensive to use.
Cost: batteries and charger.
8 HELP THE HOMELESS: chronically homeless people are a particularly at-risk group of individuals who are often in need of mental and physical health services, as well as other support. While cash might be a bad idea, food and water is a good one. Spending a small amount of money on a hot drink or meal at a local café could help them enormously.
Cost: whatever you choose to spend!
9 HELP OTHERS IN NEED: whether visiting a care home; hospital; or a neighbor-in-need, creating a simple care package for someone is a nice gesture when someone needs a pick-me-up. Moreover, it’s a whole lot more personal when delivered by hand, making them feel cared for. Reuse an old box and put a few items in it, such as coffee or tea, reading material, soup – anything the person might enjoy or need.
Cost: whatever you choose to spend!
10 WRITE TO PEOPLE INCARCERATED: there are numerous people worldwide who have been incarcerated because of their determination to fight for animal, earth, and/or human liberation. It is important that these people feel their efforts were not in vain and that they have the support of fellow human beings. Writing a letter to one (or more) activists in prison is a great way to keep their spirits up!
Cost: envelopes and stamps, i.e. minimal!
– instead of waiting until the end of the month to see how much money is “left over” to be spent on charitable causes, consider putting the money to one side at the beginning.
– if funds are low, consider redirecting an expense, e.g. making packed lunches (putting aside that which would have been spent eating out) or riding a bike, instead of driving (putting aside what would have been spent on gas).