Updated: Aug 11, 2021
If you've been wondering how to make a difference in the world, you're not alone. All over the planet, people are actively trying to make kinder, more ethical choices. Caring for the environment comes down to the choices we make. This applies to the products we use, the waste we produce, the foods we eat and every other choice we make as individuals. While volunteering is certainly a way to make a difference, there are many smaller changes you can make in your life that can have a big impact. To help you get started, I've put together some ideas on how you can make a difference in the world.
I decided to start making changes in my own life when I adopted my beagle, Hunta. Beagles are the number one dog breed used in animal testing. To find out more about my how and why, click here.
How to Make a Difference Knowing how to make a difference can be a little confusing – especially with the abundance of information out there. You may feel that you have to change your entire life to have any impact, but this is not true. Even the smallest change helps to heal this planet of ours. Here are just a few ways that you can make changes in your life that have a big impact.
“You cannot get through a single day without having an impact on the world around you. What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make.”
- Jane Goodall
Be an Ethical Consumer Many people are unaware of the reality behind the products they use daily. We are so used to reaching for household brands for everything from cosmetics to bath products and cleaning products. These products are readily available on the shelves and they are not harmful to the environment... are they? In reality, the products we use come at a huge price for animals and the environment. Animal testing is something few like to think about. Many associate testing with medicine and science rather than the products we see on the shelves when we're doing a weekly shop. An overwhelming number of these products are tested on animals. Rats, mice, rabbits, beagles (dogs) and other animals live their lives in small cages, experiencing a great deal of suffering to test ingredients and final products. Cruelty-free products are proof that products can be created and safely tested and approved without the need for animal testing. As awareness for animal testing grows, international brands are working at replacing animal testing with more effective, compassionate approaches. This means that shopping for cruelty-free products is easier today than it ever was before.
With that said, it is very easy for brands to claim to be cruelty-free without actually being so. Greenwashing is sadly a major concern. This is where regulatory bodies come in to help consumers make ethical choices. Globally, the primary regulator of cruelty-free products is Leaping Bunny. In South Africa, the regulatory organisation is Beauty Without Cruelty. PETA’s Beauty Without Bunnies Program also allows companies to be branded with their no-harm logo. There are a few important things to know about these certification organisations, however. For products to be certified cruelty-free and permitted to use relevant logos on branding, they should meet the following requirements:
Products and ingredients may not be tested on animals
Documents must be sourced from suppliers to ensure compliance
Independent audits must be conducted
Brands may not be sold in mainland China, as China requires testing for products to be sold in stores anywhere in the country
Brands need to recommit on an annual basis to ensure that they are still compliant
Certification is free, provided all the paperwork is submitted, brands do not have to do anything besides ensure that their products are fully cruelty-free. While both Leaping Bunny and Beauty Without Cruelty have all of these requirements in place, Peta only requires companies to submit a formal letter from the CEO stating that products are not tested on animals. A clause also needs to be included in supplier contracts stating that ingredients should not be tested. As there is no auditing or formal procedures in place for suppliers, it is not guaranteed that ingredients or products have not undergone testing at any point. Peta does not have any requirement for products sold in China, either. Reduce, Recycle and Reuse It may not be possible to remove all plastic from the earth. Sadly, our oceans, rivers, forests and habitats may pay the price of disposable products for generations to come. That doesn't mean that responsible choices won't lessen the impact, however. Reducing the amount of waste we leave behind is essential. You can replace plastic with sustainable materials, such as biodegradable bags and plastic free cotton ear buds and reduce your footprint by choosing reusable makeup remover rounds, bamboo or hemp clothing/bedding and water-wise clothing and products, as examples. These suggestions are by no means the only alternatives out there and websites such as SHiFT, may assist you to find the alternatives you need on your journey. Recycling should also be a habit. This can mean using a recycling service or taking recyclable goods to your nearest recycling centre. Reusing items is equally important. You could consider shopping at vintage or second-hand clothing stores, donating old clothing or fixing holes rather than throwing out those old jeans. Buying less, in general, is another way to make a difference. That could mean spending a little more on something that will last rather than buying the cheapest item that will end up in a landfill.
Be Kind to Yourself Finally, don't forget to be kind to yourself. Learning how to make a difference is not something that will happen overnight. You could start by going meat-free one night a week or trying some vegan food once in a while. You could look for cruelty-free products and start replacing your old products with more ethical alternatives. You could start recycling or choose plastic alternatives. You could visit your local pre-loved clothing store to see what they have in stock. Making even one change can be enough to start making a difference. Rather than trying to change everything all at once, start by simply doing your best to make informed decisions. That is the single most important thing you can do to bring about real change in the world.
Working together, let's be the change we want to see in the world. Once you begin the process you will start to see that it's not as hard as it may seem to know how to make a difference as a consumer.
Lots of love,