Hannah Drake

10 Ethical & Sustainable Brands on My Radar

LifeHannah DrakeComment

This year, I’ve been trying to pay better attention to where I’m spending my money and how sustainable the products I’m buying are. I’ve been learning a lot about sustainability, but it’s a journey and there’s always more to learn. I’ve done a decent job of unfollowing bloggers and influencers who perpetuate fast fashion, who promote excess, and who literally make a living off followers buying cheap products with the intention of replacing it as soon as the next trend comes out.

One thing to keep in mind about sustainability, though, is that it’s not sustainable to toss what you have because it came from H&M or Forever 21 and replace it with a piece from an ethical or sustainable company. As my friend Anne always says, the most sustainable fashion choice you can make is to shop your own closet. To avoid purging everything I own because I didn’t purchase it from a sustainable company (and believe me, that’s a lot of stuff), I’m trying to gather information about where I can shop when things need to be replaced.

I want to highlight 10 brands that I currently shop or are on my radar, even going beyond fashion. I’ll talk about what appeals to be about their ethics and/or sustainability and I’ll let you know if I currently use or have their products, or if I’m just highlighting them based off research and recommendations.

Before I jump in, I just want to take a second to highlight two of my Instagram friends Anne and Megan who have become great resources for me in my journey to a more sustainable life. Anne is my sustainable and ethical fashion guru! She highlights great companies, talks about investing in pieces to build a wardrobe that works for you every day, shopping secondhand, and especially shopping your own closet. I did Megan’s Earth Month challenge in April and it taught me so much about my own habits and where I need to improve when it comes to so many areas of my life. She has great resources to help you make better choices with your money and will teach you how to do so many cool things at home that will save your money.

THE BODY SHOP

If you follow me on Instagram, you might have noticed that I’ve been a brand ambassador for The Body Shop since last fall. It’s been such an incredible opportunity to partner with such an amazing company and I’ve been really lucky to try so many of their amazing products.

Why I Support The Body Shop: The Body Shop is a British company that started in 1976. Throughout their history, they have been committed to bettering the beauty industry in a number of ways. In 1987, they launched Community Trade, pioneering fair trade in the beauty industry and benefiting local communities across 20 countries and working to enrich, not exploit. The company has campaigned for cruelty-free industry standards since 1989, helping to ban animal testing in the UK, then in the EU, and are now working on the UN. A few weeks ago, I went into the store to pick up some mascara and asked the woman helping me about their plastic packaging. They have really beautiful glass bottles for some products, but others are still in plastic bottles. According to their website, they’re aiming for a minimum of 75% PCR (post-consumer recycled) plastic across all product lines by 2022, up from 10%. By 2025, all plastic will be free of fossil fuels and by 2030, they’ll only use three types of plastic, instead of 20. The Body Shop understands their responsibility to be a leader in the beauty industry and also their responsibility as a big company to protect our planet and I can absolutely get behind that.

My Favourite Products: Without a doubt, my favourite line from The Body Shop is the Drops of Youth skincare line. I got to try a few of the products through my partnership with the company, but I’ve also invested in some of the other products on my own. Currently, almost my entire skincare routine is from this line.

EVERLANE

Everlane, founded in 2010, first came on my radar a few years ago when I got a pair blush oxfords because they seemed to be good quality and well made. Even though I don’t wear them often (because I’m so protective of them and don’t want to get them wet or dirty or scratched), they continue to be one of my favourite pairs of shoes I own. Back then, I didn’t fully understand what an awesome company Everlane was, but in my research to be more sustainable and support companies committed to ethical practices and sustainability, I’ve rediscovered them.

Why I Support Everlane: Everlane believes and is committed to making a difference in the fashion industry through exceptional quality, ethical factories, and radical transparency. When you look up their products online, it will tell you information about the textiles used in the item with care and cleaning instructions. It will tell you where the product was made and even link to the factory so you can see it for yourself. If you scroll all the way to the bottom, there is a transparent pricing guide that lists the costs of materials, hardware, labor, duties, and transport to reveal the “true cost”. Then, their price is compared to traditional retail. I’ve never seen that kind of transparency in the fashion industry and I am all about it.

My Favourite Products: I already mentioned my love for the oxfords I purchased from Everlane. I also really love their jumpers (sweaters) and have an oversized black alpaca jumper and a cashmere turtleneck. When my black tee from Madewell got a hole in it, I replaced it with a tee from Everlane and it’s so soft and comfortable. As some of my other tees (mostly from Madewell or Target) wear out, I will definitely be replacing them with more of the same. I also purchased some underwear from Everlane that I really like and is very comfortable. It’s more expensive than Victoria Secret (3 for $27, opposed to 5 for $25/$30), but the transparency and commitment to ethics won me over. Victoria Secret calling a 5’8 model who weighs less than 130lbs their first plus size model was the last straw for me.

FATFACE

My friend Laura introduced me to Fatface when I first moved to England. I was really hesitant about the store because of the name (what does it mean?!), but I’ve quickly fallen in love. FatFace started in 1988 as two guys selling t-shirts to fund their skiing habit, but has grown into a large responsible and sustainable brand. While it’s all over the UK, it’s slowly opening stores in the US.

Why I Support Fatface: In 2016, FatFace launched their FatFace 360 sustainability initiative. The initiative is comprised of three pillars designed to make a positive impact on the natural environment, people and local communities where they trade. The three pillars are sourcing responsibly to create sustainable products, protecting the environment, and supporting our people and local communities. According to an Instagram comment I saw recently, they’re currently working on making their packaging more sustainable.

My Favourite Fatface: I’m currently obsessed with the Sussex Jacket in chocolate and I wear it pretty much every day I need a jacket. (Plus it kinda matches Luke’s Broadsands Jacket, also from FatFace.) I have the Harpenden Sweater in brown, the Haywood Cardigan in mustard and some other items that are no longer available, like a golden yellow scarf and a navy blue shirt dress. Luke also has some fantastic clothes from FatFace, like a short sleeve linen shirt, a mustard long sleeve henley, and a plaid button down. To be honest, I actually enjoy shopping for Luke there more than shopping for myself. The last two Christmases, we’ve gotten new PJs, slippers, and robes there too.

LUSH

My oldest sister got me into LUSH years ago and I was so pleased to find out they were a UK brand when my younger sister, a beauty guru, suggested I just simply cleanse and moisturise my face as pre-wedding prep. I love going into the stores—I love being able to smell the products from outside! And I really love that they’re a leading brand in the beauty industry.

Why I Support LUSH: They’re forever against animal testing—a must for me when it comes to beauty products. All of their products are 100% vegetarian. They promote ethical buying, which means they put an emphasis on supporting the communities they’re buying ingredients from and maintaining lasting relationships with those people and the land. Their products are handmade. And they’re trying to limit the amount of packaging their products comes in. You’ll notice in the stores that many of the products are “naked”.

My Favourite Products: Even though I’ve tried products from other brands over the last year or so, I’ve stuck with LUSH for my face cleanser (Ultrabland) and toner water. (Breath of Fresh Air) I love so many of their face masks and especially like that you can bring in 5 used pots (like what face masks or my cleanser comes in) and exchange them for a free mask. I’ve tried Don’t Look at Me, BB Seaweed, and Oatifix. I’ve also used their tooth tablets (Boom!) instead of toothpaste. And I’ve tried and tested numerous other products over the years from my sister.

MOLLY’S SUDS

Ashley Spivey from The Bachelor (season 15) shared Molly’s Suds on Instagram a few months ago and I immediately bookmarked their site for future reference since we had just stocked up on laundry supplies. I researched the company and discovered that the brand started after their daughter was stillborn. The couple started doing research on toxins and chemicals found in all kinds of products that we use daily. From their site: “In the United States alone 80,000 chemicals were approved for use by the TSCA (Toxic Substances Control Act) and yet only 200 of the toxins were tested for human safety. Each year the list of chemicals change. Furthermore, a report by the US Department of Health and Human Services proves that mothers pass chemicals to their babies via pregnancy and breast milk. Newborn baby cord blood and amniotic fluid had multiple non-natural toxins detected in it! Traces of nearly 300 of the chemicals were from toxins in food, personal care, environmental and household products. I knew right then, we had a responsibility to teach others about these toxins, and to make a difference.”

Why I Want Support Molly Suds: First of all, Molly’s Suds is a small, independent business and I always want to support that. I really want to reduce the number of chemicals and toxins I come into contact with on a daily basis and laundry could be a huge one.

The Products I Want: All the things! I’m 100% an adult now because I get excited about things like laundry and cleaning products. They have an extensive collection of products on their site to help make your laundry, and some day-to-day cleaning less toxic and more natural. In the UK, there are a few products available on Amazon, but I’m hoping they’ll continue to expand to the UK!

PYNE & SMITH CLOTHIERS

I found Pyne & Smith Clothiers after Anne modelled for them earlier this year. I probably spent an hour on the site after Anne first posted about them, mesmerised by all the different dresses. I mean, seriously.

Why I Want Support Pyne & Smith Clothiers: I mean first of all, the dresses are GORGEOUS. They’re made from 100% European flax linen, which requires very little water to grow. The fabric is breathable, light, durable, and biodegradable. She is transparent about her business and sustainability and I really admire that. I also love her Instagram Stories because she posts styling tips and even tips on how to mend your own dresses.

The Products I Want: All. Of. The. Things. I love Model No. 11, Model No. 12, Model No. 24, Model No. 26, Model No. 27, and Overalls No. 10. I mean truly, everything in her shop is so cute and so my style.

ROTHY’S

I first heard about Rothy’s from Melissa, but now I can barely listen to a podcast without hearing an advert from them. They currently have women’s and kids’ shoes and they’re exactly my style. I have a pair of black flats that I wear to work pretty much every day that I’m waiting to fall apart (the sole is separating from the shoe) before I invest in a pair of Rothy’s.

Why I Want Support Rothy’s: The idea came from wanting to turn single-use plastics into something else. So far, three years in, they’ve turned over 30 million—THIRTY MILLION!—plastic bottles into shoes. And I love that there’s a counter on their homepage. They’re fully committed to sustainability, not just in the materials, but in their production process, which yields little waste, the small inventory they carry to avoid overproduction, and the durability and washability of their product, which means they last longer.

The Products I Want: Rothy’s are truly an investment for me, who’s currently wearing a pair of black flats from H&M that I probably got for £15 and have already replaced once. I definitely have my eye on The Point in Black Honeycomb, which are the most similar to my everyday flats. But I also love The Loafer and The Sneaker.

TOTM

Three words: Period. Subscription. Service. TOTM is a UK based company that is set on changing period culture. Over 50% of the population have periods and yet there is still so much stigma around talking about that. It’s just baffling! Not only do they want to empower women to embrace their menstrual health, but they want to make a difference while doing so.

Why I Want Support TOTM: Their products use organic cotton, which produces up to 94% less greenhouse gas emissions. The packing is also carbon negative, recyclable, and biodegradable, which is a huge plus considering it’s a mail subscription service. They’re using their platform and profits for good. In 2018, they donated to Endometriosis UK. And that’s without mentioning how convenient it would be to have a month’s worth of tampons or pads shipped directly to your house. You can pause or cancel your subscription at any time.

The Products I Want: They have a range of products, including non-applicator tampons, applicator tampons, pads (day and night), liners, and accessories.

TRADLANDS

Like, Pyne & Smith, I found out about Tradlands from Anne. Admittedly, I always thought it was called Tradelands, with an E. It was just in researching this post that I discovered I was mistaken! Whoops! I love the concept that built the brand: “Rather than taking cues from the runway or trends, I focused on perfecting essentials for women, inspired by thoughtful tailoring, expert details, and quality fabrics. A modern approach to foundational pieces that become the canvas of your wardrobe and personal style. That remains the heart of every Tradlands garment. Clothing to make you feel like yourself, however you choose to wear it.”

Why I Want Support Tradlands: Their focus on quality translates to a focus on sustainability. They encourage their customers to invest in pieces that will stand the test of time and last more than a few rounds in the washing machine. Their pieces are an investment with my budget, but I’d rather buy one cream jumper that will last me years than replace a ratty one (or not replace it and feel self-conscious about its state) every season. They use natural fibres and produce small batches to reduce their waste. The goal is “to create better products for you and a better future for the planet and the people we work with.”

The Products I Want: Everything, please! I love their basic staples and I’m so into their colour scheme. I want to build a capsule wardrobe that works for me and my style and items like Tradlandsgirlfriend t-shirt, fisher sweater, and henley will help me get there.

WHO GIVES A CRAP

My friend Emily mentioned Who Gives A Crap to me a few weeks ago when we were talking about new subscription services. I haven’t yet purchased from them because we haven’t needed to buy new tissues, toilet paper, or paper towels, but I’m hoping to start using them when it comes time to restock.

Why I Want Support Who Gives a Crap: Who Gives a Crap started when the founders learned that 2.3 billion people across the world (40% of the world population) don't have access to a toilet and means that around 289,000 children under five die every year from diarrhoeal diseases caused by poor water and sanitation. That’s one child every two minutes. They launched Who Gives a Crap in 2012 with a successful crowdfunding effort and were able to start delivering products in 2013. They make their products with environmentally friendly materials (no trees!), but most importantly, they donate 50% of the profits to build toilets for those in need. To date, they’ve donated over £1,000,000 (or $1.8 million in Australian dollars).

The Products I Want: They carry tissues, toilet paper, and paper towels and I would love to try all of them. You can get the toilet paper in 100% bamboo or 100% recycled and you can order in bulk.

What are some ethical and sustainable brands on your radar right now? You can download the Good On You app to find out how sustainable your favourite brands are.

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American Houses vs. British Houses

At HomeHannah DrakeComment

I’ve been thinking a lot about this as we consider buying a house. It’s come up in a few conversations I’ve had with American friends who live here and especially my little brother when I post something on Instagram like my kitchen sink and he can’t believe there are two different taps. I wanted to compile a list of the differences that I’ve noticed from my experience living in Colorado (in houses and a townhouse) and in Birmingham, England (in a terraced house, also visiting flats and semi-attached houses). This is only my experience in the places I’ve lived, so it might not—probably doesn’t—apply to everywhere in the UK or the US.

THE TYPES OF HOUSES ARE CALLED DIFFERENT THINGS

We live in a terraced house, which is basically what a townhouse would be in the States. In the city, these are really common and actually most of our friends live in terraced homes. My mom moved into a townhouse in the States when I was a freshman in high school, so in a lot of ways, I’m used to that type of house. You know, not having windows on two sides of the house, sharing a wall with the neighbours, etc. My mom’s house, though, was one of five in a separate building, even though the whole street is lined with townhouses. Our house, on the other hand, is one of I don’t even know how many. The building pretty much runs continuous down the street. Unlike the States, you’re more likely to have a decent sized back garden (yard). My mom basically just had a patio with a couple of flower beds while we have a small patio (I guess you could call it that even though there’s no space to put patio furniture) and a longer yard.

In the UK, what would be considered duplexes are called semi-attached. They seem to be a lot more common than duplexes, at least where I’m from compared to where I live now. To be honest, I’ve always found the thought of a duplex a little strange. But in Birmingham, with them being so common, it’s just kind of a fact of life. To me, it feels like more of an “upgrade” from a terraced house to a semi-attached then a townhouse to a duplex. Maybe they need rebranding in the States. Or maybe I’m too judgemental. (Probably.)

And of course we all know that Brits call apartments flats, which just seems so posh, right? But like if an American called their apartment a flat it would seem really pretentious and try-hard.

THE FLOOR PLANS ARE MORE OPEN IN THE STATES

I’m not sure if this applies to older houses in the States, but most of the houses I lived in or visited had really open floor plans. The downstairs would often just be one big open space, combining the living room, dining room, and kitchen. There might be some half walls or entryways, but the rooms don’t feel completely separate from one another. In the UK, especially older houses, are more likely to have completely separate rooms. For example, in the house we live in now, the dining room, living room, and kitchen are all in a row. There are two doors into the living room, so you could close both and be completely closed off from the rest of the house. It’s come in handy when we’ve had foster cats, but it’s really annoying when we’re hosting friends, especially bigger groups. Our house just feels so small sometimes. Newer builds in the UK are moving toward more open floor plans though, from what I’ve seen.

THERE IS MINIMAL STORAGE SPACE IN BRITISH HOUSES

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: one of the things that drew me to our current house was the pantry under the stairs and the closet above the stairs. Those two things are a serious rare find. There is obviously minimal space to build on, so they often try to maximise living space and the storage place suffers. If you can fit a cupboard under the stairs, they’ll absolutely do it. (I see you, Harry Potter!) But one of my coworkers said there is literally no where in his house to put his vacuum cleaner. It seems like in the States people often have walk-in pantries, a closet in every bedroom, a linen closet in the hallway (maybe both upstairs and downstairs), a coat closet, etc. That’s right, most bedrooms in the UK don’t even have closets. That’s why we need wardrobes!

SINKS SOMETIMES HAVE TWO SEPARATE TAPS IN THE UK

This is what baffled my little brother the most. This is also something that I find incredibly annoying. Both our kitchen sink and our bathroom sink have two separate taps, one for hot water and one for cold water. So yeah, you can’t really wash your hands in warm water. Though Luke tried the other night by switching back and forth between the two taps while they were both extreme in their respective temperatures.

MOST ROOMS WILL HAVE A RADIATOR IN THE UK

Instead of vents in the floor or ceiling, there’s probably a radiator on the wall in every room. We have one in every room but the bathroom. They take up a bit of space on the wall and have to be considered when arranging furniture, but it’s also kind of nice that we don’t have to heat the whole house. In the winter, we usually just heat the living room and our bedroom.

AMERICAN HOUSES HAVE A LOT OF BATHROOMS

I never realised how much I appreciated a good 3.5 bath house! Even in my mom’s townhouse, all three bedrooms were en suites, plus there was a powder room on the main floor. In our house, which has the same amount of bedrooms, but is only two stories (it doesn’t have a basement), we only have one bathroom. We’ve seen house that have a powder room on the main floor as part of an addition or that the space under the stairs is actually a small bathroom. We’ve also seen some en suites, usually part of a renovation. But most of the time, there’s one bathroom. The idea that Luke and I could get food poisoning from the same meal haunts me and is something that I think about probably more than I should.

THE WASHER IS PROBABLY IN THE KITCHEN IN THE UK

Okay, maybe this is the weirdest one. Almost every house I’ve been to in the UK has a washer, as in a clothes washer, in the kitchen. People often don’t have a dryer and have to hang their clothes to dry. Or maybe they have a two-in-one like Luke had in the house where he lived before I moved. It obviously takes up cabinet space, but Luke says it’s because all of the plumbing is contained to one area. Just think, if your kitchen has a dishwasher and a clothes washer, that’s two cabinets gone! And they’re already precious for storage! I have seen a handful of homes with a utility room and I really wanted to buy a house I didn’t love because I was blinded by the massive utility room. (Spoiler Alert: We didn’t.) Our current house doesn’t have a dishwasher (or a microwave!), so we’re only “missing” one cabinet for our clothes washer, which does not double as a dryer. But if we buy a house without a utility room, you better believe it’ll be a part of my renovation plans. One time my father-in-law asked me if I’d rather have a dishwasher or a dryer and I think my answer still remains true. I’d rather have a dryer, but only to dry sheets and towels. I hate having the linens hung all over our house after laundry day, especially in the winter when it takes forever and we can’t use our clothing line outside.

25 (More) Acts of Kindness

Self CareHannah DrakeComment

One of my little pet projects has been to do an act of kindness every day. I started 9 November 2016 and I've continued on for nearly 1,000 days now. Sometimes I worry what people who know me might think. Maybe they'll think I'm a really cold, bitchy person so how dare I? Maybe they think I'm being disingenuous. But those fears only exist to keep me from continuing the project, and I don't want them to win. I'll be the first to admit that I can be very cold, I can be a total bitch. But there is nothing wrong with bringing more kindness and love into the world. We all need it. Even me.

Last year, I compiled a list of 25 Acts of Kindness and 5 Acts of Kindness for the Digital Age. Today, I've got 25 MORE ways that you can give kindness in your own life with gestures of all sizes. Kindness is kindness and it doesn't matter how big it is, you never know the effect you may have on someone's life. And I've learned over the last two and a half years that you never know what effect you may have on your own life. It feels really good to be kind and loving to people and sometimes it snaps me out of my foul mood or my funk and makes me realise that life isn't so bad, really.

GET COFFEE FOR A COWORKER

In the States, my experience was more like pick up something from Starbucks for your coworker. In the UK, it’s more like make your coworker a cup of tea in the office kitchen. Regardless of what coffee (or tea) culture is where you work, think about your coworkers next time you want a cuppa.

SWITCH TO BIODEGRADABLE OR REUSABLE PRODUCTS

Don’t forget about kindness to the planet! Mother Nature probably appreciates a good act of kindness most of all. You can make simple swaps in your everyday products, like investing in a reusable coffee cup (which often get you a discount at the coffee shop these days), reusable straws, utensils to keep in your car and/or at your desk, etc. It’s also easy to switch from plastic to something more sustainable and eco-friendly like bamboo for items like your tooth brush, cotton swabs, cleaning brushes, etc.

COMPLIMENT SOMEONE ON THEIR CHARACTER TRAITS

Our society seems to put so much value in someone’s looks. Especially when you operate in a digital world where beautiful people thrive, it’s nice to take a moment to consider what about a person you admire. Tell someone you think they’re courageous or creative or loyal or trustworthy or compassionate or humble or forgiving or authentic or generous. The list goes on and on!

TACKLE YOUR PARTNER’S TO DO LIST

At our house, we’ve divided up regular household chores. We actually did it before we even moved in together. We know that Luke is going to take out the trash and recycling. We know that I’m going to do the laundry. We agreed that the person who doesn’t cook will do the dishes. We don’t have to check some score card to see who has done those things the most or the most recently. If your partner or roommate has regular chores that they do every day, every week, or every month, why not do a few of them while their out to take something off their plate and probably make their day.

SPEND QUALITY TIME WITH SOMEONE WITHOUT SCREENS

Times are a’changing, my friend and it’s becoming more and more difficult to function without all of our screens. I am 100% guilty of looking at my phone in the middle of a conversation or on a date with my husband. But what would it look like to leave your phone in your pocket or your bag? What would it look like to not even bring your phone when you meet up with a friend for coffee? If you think you need your phone to pay, what about cash? If you think you need your phone for GPS, what about Map Quest? (Wait. Does that even exist anymore? Ha!) If you think you need your phone to know when they’ll arrive, think about what people used to do before cell phones! And consider that you probably don’t need to take a photo of everything you do to share with your followers. (I’ve been there, I get it!)

CATCH UP WITH AN OLD FRIEND

I would betcha that a name just popped into your head. Someone you haven’t spoken to in a while. Maybe someone from a different season of your life. What are they up to these days? Reach out on social media or give them a call if you have their number. Arrange a time to meet up for coffee and not just in the “let’s be honest, we both know that’s never gonna happen” kind of way.

PROMOTE SOMEONE’S PROJECT

We all know people who are all about that entrepreneur life. They’re always posting about their #sidehustle and how they’re a total #girlboss. If you really believe in someone and the vision they have for whatever their project—or larger career—is, promote it! Share their work on your own social media, encourage your followers to give them a follow too, let them know that you believe in them and support them. Even if you’re not in a position to help them out by buying what they’re selling or it’s simply not your thing—maybe even especially if that’s the case—you can still support them by expanding their audience. I also think it’s important to reserve that kind of promotion for people you really believe in. People can tell when you’re being disingenuous, even on social media.

FEED THE METER FOR A STRANGER

If you grab a handful of coins to put into the meter when you’re parking, what if you stuck them in someone else’s meter if they’re running low instead of walking them back to your car?

MAKE DINNER FOR SOMEONE IN NEED

Maybe you know of a family who is really struggling to make ends meet and have a good, healthy dinner on the table every night. Maybe you know a couple who just had a baby. Maybe you know someone who is working exhaustive hours at the office. Take them a meal they can stick in their freezer and pull out when they need it. You should probably ask first, if only to get dietary restrictions and preferences, but it will probably save them a lot of trouble one evening.

DONATE USED CLOTHES

Instead of trying to sell gently used items, you could give them to a friend or sibling you know would love them. You could take them to a charity shop for them to be able to resell. It not only gives people the opportunity to expand their own wardrobe and possibly help a good cause, but it gives the garment a new life instead of ending up in a landfill somewhere.

GET TO KNOW YOUR NEIGHBOURS

A few years ago, my church had a whole series on neighbours. They sent us all home with a magnet to put on our fridge that had eight places to write down neighbours’ names. I think it’s still on my mom’s fridge to this day! We say hello to our neighbours on one side and even exchange Christmas cards, but we don’t ever really see the students who live on the other side. You don’t have to do much, but it doesn’t hurt to be friendly. Though, if I’m being honest, I dream of living on a street where everyone knows each other and has block parties and such.

TAKE A PHOTO FOR TOURISTS

This is one of my go-to’s and I 100% blame my time at Disney. If I see people taking a selfie, I almost always offer to take a photo for them. It often ends with them reciprocating for me, but even when it doesn’t, isn’t it nice to have some photos of you (and your partner or family) that’s not a selfie?

REGIFT A GIFT CARD YOU WON’T USE

I did this one time and I loved the reaction that I got from the woman I gave it to. Before I moved, I had one or two gift cards that I wouldn’t use since I didn’t want more stuff to have to move across the ocean. One of them was for a home goods store, so I drove over there one day and offered it to the first person I saw in the store. She almost didn’t believe it was happening at first, but she happily took it. I knew I wasn’t going to use it, so it was better than it going to waste.

PARTICIPATE IN A CHARITY DRIVE

You know, like a backpack drive or a food drive or a clothing drive. You can probably find an organisation taking things like backpacks around the end of the summer or turkeys around Thanksgiving or jackets at the start of winter. Check in with local charity organisations or even churches to see what’s happening and how you can help out.

DONATE YOUR HAIR

Locks of Love is probably the most famous organisation that accepts hair donations, but there are others as well. Look into their qualifications for donations before you decided to grow your hair out and/or make a big chop. They usually have a few guidelines, but note that coloured or permed hair might not disqualify you.

VOLUNTEER AT AN ANIMAL SHELTER

Animal shelters often need a lot of help and they’re a really fun place to volunteer. Like walking dogs! I used to volunteer at the local Humane Society working with cats—cleaning their cages and giving them some socialisation. I’ve also been a kitten foster mom since 2009, first through the Humane Society and now through a charity here in Birmingham. Both places gave me everything I needed, so it was no cost for me. I was able to volunteer without even leaving my house. Plus…kittens!

DONATE PLASMA

Like donating blood, donating plasma is really important. It’s probably the lesser known of the two, but you might get paid for it depending on where you go.

LEAVE A NOTE FOR A STRANGER TO FIND

One of my favourite Instagram accounts is Love Everywhere. You can purchase encouragement cards to write on and leave around your city or while you travel. My friend Gennean introduced me to the account and has been leaving them all over Europe as she travels. I love this idea!

LEAVE UNUSED COUPONS NEXT TO THE ITEM AT THE STORE

I love this idea! We get coupons from our grocery store that are connected to our rewards card, but you could also cut out coupons from the newspaper and leave them around the store for someone else to take advantage of the savings if you can’t.

SEND COLOURING BOOKS OR STUFFED ANIMALS TO A CHILDREN’S HOSPITAL

You should probably call first to see what they need/can accept, but imagine the joy you could bring those children who are in the hospital. Not to mention the likely financial strain on the family. Little things like that can make a huge difference.

LEARN THE NAMES OF THE PEOPLE YOU SEE EVERY DAY

If you come into contact with the same people in your daily routine, take the time to learn their names. If you feel like it’s too late to ask their name, it’s not. Just say something like “You know, I see you every day and I am so sorry but I don’t remember your name.” People like the office security guard, the front desk staff at your gym, the barista at your favourite coffee shop, etc.

GIVE SOMEONE AN “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY” LETTER OR GIFT

Hear me out. You could write an encouraging letter or put together a little box with someone’s favourite things—or both. Seal the envelope or box and write on the outside “open in case of emergency”. Tell them when they’re having a bad day or feeling sad to open up your letter or gift for a little pick me up. Hopefully they’ll respect the instructions and you could really turn someone’s day around without even knowing it in the future.

PRAISE YOUR COWORKER IN A MEETING

When appropriate, give you coworker who you see working really hard some recognition in front of the team. Especially if that hard work is going unnoticed by the rest of the team or the boss. You may not want to go on for too long, for risk of embarrassing them, but just let it be known that they’re doing good work and helping out the team a lot.

GIVE GIFTS OUTSIDE OF THE HOLIDAY SEASON

You know how the holidays roll around and suddenly you have to buy gifts for everyone you’ve ever met? If you’re the type of person who feels guilty because you don’t leave a little something for the delivery man who brings all your packages from Amazon or have a little gift to send to school for your kids’ teachers, think about them outside of the holidays when finances aren’t so tight. If you love to shop online and it’s the same delivery man every time, give them a Starbucks gift card or something small to let them know they’re appreciated in what’s probably a mostly thankless job.

LET SOMEONE KNOW THEY MADE A DIFFERENCE IN YOUR LIFE

Most of us have people who come to mind when we think about who and what shaped us. It’s quite possible that we’ve fallen out of touch with those people, even if we might feel somewhat connected through social media. If there’s someone from your past—a teacher, a mentor, a youth group leader, a family friend, etc.—who helped turn you on the path you’re currently on, tell them. Send them an email or even a letter and let them know the impact they had on your life.

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