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Want to make a change this year? Here’s 20 things you can do in 2020

Whether you’re on track with your New Year resolutions or not, here’s 20 things you can do to make the world a better place this year.

1. Start volunteering regularly  

If you’re no longer volunteering, why not pick up a few hours each week on a cause close to your heart. Begin by checking out, a national database with roles on offer from Scout leadership to befriending for older lonely people. (Or how about a Team Leader placement with ICS?)

Time: 3 hours a week 

A line up of plastic cups, with one crushed in the middle
© Shutterstock
Next year the fight against single-use practice will be ramped up with a ban on cotton buds and straws

2. Go for a week without single-use plastics 

Next year the EU will ban some single-use plastics credited with causing the most harm to the planet: items like cotton buds and straws. We know it’ll work – sales of plastic bags have plummeted by 90% since the 5p levy – but is it enough? Do more, by learning how to de-plastify your home.

Time: 1 hour a week 

3. Speak to the press about your ICS experience

It’s so important that we can reach the next generation of ICS volunteers. By telling your local paper about your time on ICS, we can get more people like you interested in taking part. Fill out our five-minute form and we’ll send a press release straight to journalists near you.

Time: 5 minutes

The outside of a blood donation centre with NHS signage
© James W Copeland /
Half the UK population belongs to blood group O. Find out yours and donate at the same time

4. Donate blood 

The NHS needs a regular supply of the four main blood groups. Half the UK population is group O – but some rare types are more common in black, Asian and minority ethnic communities. Find out your blood type and sign up to donate online or by phone on 0300 123 23 23.

Time: 30 minutes 

5. Do your bit for UK Aid

We’ve got a fight on our hands to defend international development. If you’re passionate about the difference volunteers can make, get in touch to see if we have an upcoming training event near you to learn how to campaign and promote public support then take your skills out onto the streets.

Time: 1 day 

A row of wooden cutlery with assorted vegetables
© Shutterstock
We should all try to eat more veg. This month, join the Veganuary movement to see how you do

6. Give Veganuary a go 

However you feel about meat, there’s a good case for giving it up for a month to help your body, wallet and the planet. With hundreds of recipes, Veganuary’s site is a good bank of tasty and healthy recipes to get you through these bleak winter days.

Time: 1 month

Three t-shirts hang from a tree in a green forest
© Humantra
ICS volunteer-founded ethical clothing company Humantra sells shirts that look - and do - good

7. Shop ethical

There’s power in your pocket – your spending choices can shape retailers’ policies and improve the rights for staff across their supply chain. This month find out what they’re doing about sweatshops or whether they allow staff to keep their tips. Then shop VSO’s range of ethical products.

Time: 10 minutes a day

8. Join our alumni network carrying on the work of ICS 

Our ‘National Youth Engagement Networks’ – groups of returned ICS volunteers arranging their own social action projects while networking with like-minded young people – have been set up all over the world. Now, it’s coming to the UK and we’re looking for alumni who want to be on the committee. Register now.

Time: 5 minutes

The Houses of Parliament taken close to the building, looking up
© Drop of Light /
Politics may be going through a wild moment, but that's not a reason to disengage

9. Lobby your local politicians 

Politics affects all of us in our daily lives, and it’s vital for our democracy that young people get involved. Contact your local MP to lobby them about an issue you care about.

Time: 30 minutes

10. Take slow and local travel

This year we’re wanting to think about how we holiday. Aside from cutting your carbon emissions, travelling by coach or train lets you connect with the world around you.

Time: 1 month

11. Offset your carbon emissions 

And if you are thinking about your carbon footprint, why not look into carbon offsetting – compensating for your CO2 emissions by paying to reduce the equivalent amount through actions like planting trees. Offsetting a year’s worth of gas and electricity costs around £45. Calculate yours.

Time: 30 minutes

A food recycling bin of vegetables ready for composting
Over a third of the world's food is wasted. Apps let you donate individual items, like milk or eggs, going to waste

12. Cut your food waste

Over a third of all food produced in the world is wasted. Say no – by using the tech that’s sprung up to tackle the problem. Olio connects you with local people to give and receive food that would end up in the bin, while Too Good To Go lets you buy unsold food from restaurants.

Time: 1 hour a week

13. Take action on food poverty

Another record-breaking year for food bank network Trussell Trust. Their 1,200 centres across the UK need constant donations this winter. If you’re not able to give food or cash, give time as a volunteer supporting those on Britain’s breadline. Find out more.

Time: 1 hour a week

A cocoa farmer spreads the harvested beans across a wooden frame for drying
© Seb Howarth
Banks like Triodos work with companies like Hai Tanzania, which provides workers to the cocoa farming industry

14. Bank ethically

You might be helping make the planet better – but what about those who look after your money? Many of our biggest banks invest in arms, gambling and tobacco industries, but there’s plenty that don’t. Find out how to choose a bank whose funds are spent on environmental projects.

Time: 2 hours

An ICS volunteer leads a session with young students on the SDGs
© Daniel Grabowy
Talking about your work on placement is a great way to make the Sustainable Development Goals relatable

15. Spread the word about the SDGs

Tell your local community about the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals, how you helped work towards achieving them through ICS, and why they should care too. We’re looking for speakers to talk to schools and community organisations about ICS.

Time: 1 hour

16. Celebrate Fairtrade in their fortnight of activism

Fairtrade Fortnight takes place from 24 February to 8 March. This year the event focuses on West African cocoa farmers in many of the regions where ICS works. Order your free resources to host your own events and awareness of Fairtrade at work and in your local area.

Time: 2 hours

17. Reunite your ICS team

Whether you came back seven years or seven months ago, reignite that WhatsApp group and get a reunion organised. Now’s a great time to find out where everyone is working and use your contacts to help each other. Then get them to sign up to the newsletter to find out what’s coming up.

Time: 30 minutes

A row of refugee tents in 'the Jungle' in Calais, France
© IDN /
As the weather gets colder, refugees need warmth - donate good quality clothing you have lying around

18. Donate your unwanted belongings to refugees

As winter weather sweeps across Europe, refugees urgently need warm clothes. Help Refugees regularly update a list of the items most needed – including men’s underwear and sleeping bags. Drop your items off at a centre near you so they can be used for good.

Time: 1 hour

A woman browses a rail of vintage clothing
© Ron Ellis /
This year why not sign the #NoNew20 pledge - to avoid buying fast fashion?

19. Ditch buying new clothes this year

Every week we buy 38m items and 11m go to landfill. “We don’t have enough resources to keep feeding this monster,” said Maria Chenoweth, chief executive of Traid. Commit to #NoNew20, the movement to only buy second-hand fashion and meet the people renting or giving their clothes.

Time: 1 hour

20. Join in with a beach clean

Nowhere in the UK is more than 70 miles from the coast. Let’s keep this island nation tidy and plastic-free. See a definitive list of upcoming beach cleans happening across the country and get stuck in. Normally equipment is provided so all you’ll need is a good coat and shoes!

Time: 2 hours

Stay involved with ICS

Click here for more ways to change the world

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Funded by the UK Government.

ICS is funded by the UK's Foreign, Commonwealth and Development Office (FCDO), which projects the UK as a force for good in the world, including reducing poverty and tackling global challenges.

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