Today is World Kindness Day. Founded in 1998 by the World Kindness Movement, a coalition of NGOs from more than 27 nations around the world, this day seeks to highlight the positive impact of showing how compassion can not only unite us globally but also build stronger local communities.
Not only does kindness touch others, but doing good can make you feel good. According to the Mayo Clinic, acts of kindness boost serotonin and dopamine, the neurotransmitters responsible for activating the reward/pleasure centers in the brain. It can even release endorphins, the body’s natural painkillers that can bring about feelings of euphoria.
There are many ways to be kind to the planet and others around you. This could mean checking in on that friend who you haven’t spoken to in a long time, reducing your plastic use, and eating more plant-based foods. It also includes being kind to yourself. Try not to beat yourself up when you make mistakes and practice gratitude, which can actually have a healing effect on the mind (and also release serotonin and dopamine!).
Practicing kindness can also be centered around supporting grassroots activism that addresses issues that affect us globally, nationally, and locally. These include healthcare, clean water, environmental conservation, and food insecurity. No act of kindness is too small.
Looking for ways to be kinder to the planet, people, and animals? Here are 9 grassroots charities to get involved with.
1. Earth Guardians
If Greta Thunberg has shown us anything over the past two years, it’s that young people are capable leaders and advocates for global change. Boulder, Colorado-based, charity Earth Guardians is an intergenerational charity that centers young activists who are on the frontlines of environmental and social justice movements, which often intersect. The youth-led organization began as an accredited high school in Maui back in 1992. It focused on creating positive environmental change through grassroots actions. Its first initiatives addressed local issues. These include restoring sandalwood forests and shutting down the practice of burning sugar cane. The latter releases toxic emissions into the atmosphere.
Today, Earth Justice educates and empowers young people across six continents about the power of political action and activism in their own community and on a global scale through art, music, and ground issues. In nearly three decades, the charity has helped establish fees on single-use plastic bags in Boulder, kick-started conservation projects in Mexico, planted 20,000 trees in Togo, and more. The charity also provides grants and stipends to Indigenous youth leaders for their work.
Learn more about Earth Guardians here.
2. Center for Biological Diversity
The Center for Biological Diversity is centered around the belief that humanity’s well-being is interconnected with the health of the environment, animals, and plants. Three men in their early 20s—Kierán Suckling, Peter Galvin, and Todd Schulke—who met while surveying owls in New Mexico for the U.S. Forest Service—founded the charity in 1989. During this time, they discovered a rare Mexican spotted owl in an area that was to be razed for timber. When their concerns were dismissed by the Forest Service, which prioritized profit over the land, they took the story to the local paper and in the end, saved the tree where the owl had taken up residence. Their actions reached other environmental advocates through word of mouth and soon, they became known as The Center for Biological Diversity.
Since its founding, this grassroots charity has worked to protect the Earth’s natural resources and inhabitants from the far-reaching effects of climate change through educating the public, advocating for environmental policies and political activism, litigation.
It employs a pro bono team of attorneys from large firms and has a full-time staff of environmental lawyers who work exclusively on its campaigns. According to the charity, 83 percent of its lawsuits have resulted in favorable outcomes.
Learn more about The Center of Biological Diversity here.
3. Surfers Against Sewage
It’s estimated that 8 million metric tons of plastic pollution makes its way into the oceans every year; Founded in 1990 in the seaside village of Porthtowan, UK, marine conservation charity Surfers Against Sewage is run by a 20-person team that tackles plastic pollution through beach clean-ups and other volunteer activities, petitions, and advocates for a reduction in single-use plastic.
Its primary mission is to protect the oceans, beaches, and wildlife against the scourge of single-use plastics. Surfers Against Sewage mobilizes volunteers through beach clean-ups (its beach clean-up community is the largest in the UK!), organizing campaigns, speaking with legislators, educating local communities on how to reduce plastic use, and challenging the industries to do better by the planet. Its campaign, Mass Unwrap, takes a lighthearted, but effective approach to showing the scope of our plastic waste. The charity encourages consumers to buy their groceries as they normally would, then unwrap their food and put it in empty trolleys.
Learn more about Surfers Against Sewage here.
Food Justice Charities
1. Chilis on Wheels
The idea for Chilis on Wheels was born when founder Michelle Carrera and her son sought out a vegan soup kitchen to volunteer at in NYC. Finding nothing that ticked those boxes, Carrera decided that she would take matters into her own hands. They would make vegan chili and give it away for free to anyone in need of a meal. On Thanksgiving Day in 2014, they gave away 20 bowls–and from that act of charity, a national movement was born.
Chilis on Wheels stands by the belief that access to healthy, plant-based food is a right, not a privilege. It began in NYC where its weekly meal shares and annual vegan Thanksgiving event are still going strong. But today it has 10 chapters all across the country run by a team of compassionate volunteers. You can even reach out to the charity in order to learn how to start your own local chapter.
Learn more about Chilis on Wheels and how to get involved here.
2. Food Not Bombs
Similar to Chilis on Wheels, Food Not Bombs believes that access to nourishing food is a right, regardless of income. Its philosophy centers around the question, “When a billion people go hungry each day, how can we spend another dollar on war?”
This volunteer-run organization collects imperfect produce, and shelf-stable vegan and vegetarian food that would otherwise be discarded, and gives the rescued groceries away to the community. Through this, it addresses both food insecurity and food waste. The USDA estimates that people throw away 30-40 percent of the food supply (roughly 133 billion pounds of food) each year.
Food Not Bombs has chapters in more than 1,000 cities across 67 countries. Several chapters also host weekly vegan meal shares. It has no headquarters and no leadership, relying on group consensus in order to make decisions. Due to this, anyone can start their own Food Not Bombs chapter. It also provides free food to people affected by disasters as well as activists participating in occupations, strikes, and marches.
Learn more about Food Not Bombs here.
3. Support + Feed
Maggie Baird, mother to Grammy Award-winning musician Billie Eilish, founded this new hunger relief initiative. Support + Feed was born amid the first months of COVID-19 lockdown. The initiative purchases meals from vegan restaurants affected by the pandemic and partners with nonprofit organizations to see to it that those in need get the food. It recently completed a summer campaign with the Boys & Girls Club of Metro L.A. and L.A. United School District in order to address food insecurity experienced by children and BIPOC communities. It began in LA, but it now has four chapters in major metropolitan areas. These include New York City, Washington DC, and Philadelphia.
“Knowing that we’re feeding so many people plant-based meals, hearing the comments of how delicious and nourishing the food is to their souls, and helping small businesses stay open, has been very rewarding,” Baird told LIVEKINDLY at the time.
It has provided more than 50,000 free vegan meals since April 2020.
Learn more about Support + Feed here.
Animal Justice Charities
1. Compassion in World Farming
Founded in 1967 by a British farmer who became opposed to increasingly intensive animal farming, Compassion in World Farming advocates for reforming farm animal welfare. Since its inception, the charity has ended the use of gestation crates in the UK and Europe. It now has chapters across more than 10 countries. These include the U.S., China, the Netherlands, and Spain. They campaign for better treatment of farmed animals so they can be recognized as sentient beings. It does that through grassroots activism including holding businesses and politicians accountable to creating policies that benefit animals and encouraging others to follow a plant-based diet.
Learn more about Compassion in World Farming here.
2. The African Wildlife Foundation
The African Wildlife Foundation is a charity that trains on-the-ground rangers to combat poaching and protect Africa’s endangered wildlife. This is critical for the ecosystem and people to thrive. It was founded in 1961 to address Africa’s unique conservation challenges. In its early years, it helped establish the College of African Wildlife Management at Mweka, Tanzania. It also built a conservation center at Nairobi National Park. Today, it combats poaching through cutting-edge technology to combat the online illegal wildlife trade. And in 2018, it pledged a $25 million investment to support African governments and communities working to protect threatened species.
Learn more about The African Wildlife Foundation here.
3. Local Animal Sanctuaries
Farm animal sanctuaries do the critical work of providing a safe haven for rescued animals, often survivors of animal agriculture industries. Not only that, but they also show how animals reared for food are so similar to the animals we keep as companions when allowed to live in peace. Did you know that turkeys make friends and love to cuddle? Cows also form strong bonds with each other and their human caretakers. Through this, sanctuaries can help shift peoples’ preconceived perceptions of farm animals. As nonprofits, they rely on donations and volunteers, so show your local farm sanctuary some love!
If there isn’t a local animal sanctuary in your area, don’t worry! Check out the Global Federation of Animal Sanctuaries directory to find one that speaks to you.