Blogmas Day 9: Project for Awesome Inspired

Ahh, here we are: blogging late at night yet again. I told you we'd get back around to doing this. I'm writing this in a moment of what can only be described as mild panic, as I've just looked at the clock and realized, though I've reminded myself to blog multiple times throughout the day, I had yet to do so. Now here we are at 9:40 on a Friday night, in-between episodes of Gilmore Girls and editing my writing portfolio.

Anyway, today is an important day in new media history. For the 10th year in a row, John and Hank Green (known to the internet community as the vlogbrothers) are in charge of Project for Awesome, an annual virtual fundraising effort. The event itself has changed in logistics and scale over the years to respond to growing media and the way online video plays a part in our lives, but it's the same basic formula through and through. Basically, the Green brothers and those who are a part of their community create videos promoting their favorite charities in order to raise awareness and (most importantly) money. They've raised staggering amounts over the past decade, and it's overall an incredibly inspiring ordeal. So in honor of that, today's blog post is going to be all about ways you can make a difference if you don't have a large sum of money to donate to charity. Because don't get me wrong, monetary donations are great, but that's not always doable. Especially for those of us who are younger or don't have a salary to depend on.

1) Clean out your cupboards
Throughout the year, but especially during the holidays and the colder months, local soup kitchens and food drives are looking for donations of non-perishable goods to give to impoverished community members. You'd be surprised how many of the items they request are hiding in your cupboards and under your sinks! Find a local goods pantry and see what they're in need of: canned food, bars of soap, and paper products are just a few examples of items in high demand that you probably have lying around. So toss all of those cans of cream of mushroom soup and cling peaches in a box and take them somewhere they'll actually be eaten. If your community doesn't have a nearby pantry, many schools and offices will have communal deposit boxes this time of year, which takes the commute out the equation for you. Plus, it's an ethical way to declutter.

2) Walk a dog
Earlier today I went and filmed dogs and cats at the local SPCA for my video journalism course. While there, we saw many volunteers coming in to exercise and feed the animals. This is good for the restless animals that are kept in cages for most of the day, and is good for the people hanging out with them, too. Going outside for a walk is a great way to clear your head and get moving in the winter, and puppy kisses only make those rewards sweeter. You'll be doing good for your mind, body, and for local animals. What a win-win-win situation.

3) Shop consciously
Okay, technically this one does require spending money, but it's money you're already planning on spending. When shopping for loved ones this holiday season, bear in mind all of the ethical and fair-trade brands that are out there. So many gift shops give job opportunities and a portion of proceeds to tradesmen and women all over the world, whether they are survivors of assault, live in impoverished nations, or are drastically effected by the gender wage gap. This connects our global market and gives individuals independence and livelihood as small business owners. Plus, their products are high-quality and make great gifts with an even better story attached. My favorites include Punjammies, The Little Market, and (a local fave) New Creation.

4) Let your lifestyle change create a domino effect of good
Those of us living in more privileged environments have the opportunity to change our lifestyles without much thought. We can throw away old clothes, try out new gadgets, or change our diets without thinking about a longterm financial impact. This is a good and bad thing. The good thing is it means we are able to advance technology, help the environment, and continue the flow of commerce. The bad thing is it can create wasteful behaviors. But it doesn't have to! If you've made a lifestyle change recently, think about how your leftovers can be donated or repurposed. Just lost a bunch of weight? Donate your now too-big clothes, as long as they are no more than gently worn. Just switched to the Diva Cup? Donate your leftover sanitary pads and tampons to a women's shelter; one of the number one requests from impoverished women is donations of feminine hygiene products, as 38 of our 50 states consider them "luxury goods" (and therefore cannot be purchased with food stamps). Are you now a vegan or gluten-free? Donate your inedibles. You get the picture. Don't just let remnants of your old life collect dust when they could instead be helping others.

5) Ask for donations for the holidays
Trust me, I know how fun it is to get gifts during the holidays, but don't pretend like you have never received a gift you didn't need from a well-intended distant relative. It's totally fine to partake in the giving and receiving part of the holidays (more than fine: FUN!), but next time your mom says, "Your great-aunt Felicity wants to know what you want for Christmas" come up with a gift that is ethically sourced (see idea #3) or the name of a charity you'd like them to donate to on your behalf. Nothing screams holiday cheer like knowing you helped others and avoided yet another unnecessary stationary set in the process.

And there you have it! If you'd like to know more about Project for Awesome, watch this video. Otherwise, I'd love to know if you have any other ideas for ways you can do good this holiday season.

I'll see you tomorrow,


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