Make The Most Of Your Charitable Giving (With Less Waste)

Even though there are human needs year-round, fall tends to bring a heightened awareness of charitable giving.

There is however an interesting friction that appears at the intersection of striving to do good for the earth and trying to do good for those in need, one that surprised me when I initially encountered it.

At the teen drop-in center where I used to work, it was customary to put together hygiene kits to help youth who may not have been able to supply these items for themselves. The kits were essential, supplying things like toothpaste, a toothbrush, soap, and mini bottles of shampoo and conditioner, but they were also packed with a bunch of plastic one-time use items that would end up sitting in landfills for millions of years.

It would be callous to refuse to provide these items for environmental reasons, but anyone who has ever worked at a non-profit knows that there isn’t exactly a budget for bamboo toothbrushes and paraben-free shampoos. So how do we reconcile these two goals? It’s not simply an argument about the value of human life, because all life depends on the survival of our natural environment.

give earth a chance...
Image courtesy of CRASH:candy

One way to merge these two ideals is to create a sort of eco-friendly altruism by remembering the Golden Rule. Regardless of your religious affiliation, charitable giving just makes sense on a personal level.

Help must be provided to those who need it, and this help can absolutely come in eco-friendly forms if we simply use a little creativity.  Here are four simple ideas for making the most of your giving with less waste.

  • Hand out fresh fruit, prepared vegetables, or trail-mix packaged in brown paper lunch bags. It’s inexpensive, portable, and healthy, not to mention being a virtually waste-free way to provide nourishment to those who need it.
  • Purchase eco-friendly products in bulk when you can, or stock up when they are on sale, and donate these to a local non-profit. For example, provide a local women’s shelter or foster home with biodegradable diapers, donate utensil kits or stainless steel water bottles to street youth, or natural laundry detergent to homeless shelters or your local SPCA.
  • Support your local toy drives by choosing books or non-plastic toys to donate. Not only will these items typically hold up better to heavy use or frequent moves, they generally have a smaller environmental footprint than their plastic counterparts.
  • Ask. The best way to support a non-profit is simply to call and ask what they need. Going right to the source will ensure you’re not duplicating services, ignoring an immediate need, or providing a green alternative when it might not be appropriate or feasible. But most non-profits exist to do good, and extending that mandate to providing assistance in a green way is definitely a goal worth exploring.

Feature image courtesy of Kris 

By Madeleine Somerville

Madeleine Somerville is the author of All You Need Is Less: An Eco-Friendly Guide to Guilt-Free Green Living and Stress-Free Simplicity. She is a writer, wannabe hippie and lover of soft cheeses. She lives in Edmonton, Canada, with her daughter. You can also find Madeleine at her blog, Sweet Madeleine.