As a student, one is probably in that ‘adolescent’ bracket of society and thus statistically more likely to engage in activism. Activism is a term which often receives negative connotations, but it simply means actively attempting to achieve a social, economic or political objective. Doing some or all of these things suggested in this article, admittedly, will not have an earth-shattering impact, but ‘every little helps’ (to quote one of those big TNCs which many activists loath). No statement T-shirts, no plaques, no chant-ideas, and no tips for winning a fist fight with a bobby. Here are 5 ways to make a difference from the comfort of your own home, without spending a penny and without getting yourself an ASBO.
Lots of NGOs have petitions on their websites to support for free. You can also keep an eye on thepetitionsite.com for others. I want to mention one which I recently signed and feel that it could be of interest to some readers. The coffee cup petition by Friends of the Earth. Your standard takeaway coffee cup is not recyclable, due to the plastic film inside the cup. All those Starbucks, Costa and Café Nero cups are headed to a landfill. However, many smaller independent coffee shops use recyclable ones, at a slightly higher production cost. By signing this petition, you are supporting the FOE in their attempt to change laws around production of takeaway cups and force big café chains to be more responsible. (Read more here: https://act.foe.co.uk/act/lets-end-waste-coffee-cups).
Use Ecosia instead of Google
Take care to spell Ecosia correctly, not Escosia, the French word for Scotland. This search engine is fantastic, free to install as your home-screen search engine and works exactly like google. The difference? The search ads generate income for the company and they use it to plant trees. 12-million trees have been planted so far and the search engine has over 5.5 million users. Planting trees has multiple benefits for communities and the planet, so why not help the cause whilst you surf.
Spend wisely – give your cash to brands that hold similar values to you.
Now this is quite hard to do 100%, but do what you can to support brands that have relatively good ethical and environmental values. For example, buy toiletries from brands that don’t test on animals. Superdrug own brand, Boots and L’Oréal are all ‘leaping-bunny’ approved (they don’t test on animals). Even if you are not vegetarian, most people would agree that animal testing is actually pretty unnecessary today. By not buying animal-tested products, this counts as a form of resistance, which technically makes it activism. Moreover, most supermarkets’ own-brand cleaning products and toiletries are not animal-tested, so why not switch?
Donate to charity shops and food banks.
If you have some unwanted stuff in the wardrobe don’t just bin it. Ask brothers, sisters or friends first, and pop the rest into a bag and take it to a charity shop on your next trip into town. With food, don’t just bin those odd things at the back of the cupboard that you are just never going to use Take them to a food bank (supermarkets often have collection points crates). This is activism because it is attempting to make improvements in society, by supporting good local causes that are tackling larger scale issues. If you need the incentive, acts of giving have been scientifically proven to make you feel good (although I’m sure you are wonderful already)
Share educational resources, petitions, and hashtags on social media.
This helps raise awareness by generating online noise for causes and issues you feel passionate about. If you don’t want the ‘activist spam’ on your personal social media account, you can easily open another to use for activism. This may start trends and online debates.
Even though we mere youths don’t necessarily have the power to make a massive difference; it’s always better to be part of the solution rather than part of the problem. So keep this bookmarked, and the next time you feel you want to do your bit — Happy activist-ing!
Image by Isobel Sheene