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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 start again with just a few  hours spent each week on a cause close to your heart. The UN Volunteers site has lots of useful resources– but start by contacting organisations near you to find out what they have available. And how about an ICS Team Leader placement

Time: 3 hours a week 

Seven plastic cups lined up against blue background, with one of them crushed
© Shutterstock
Next year the fight against single-use practice will be ramped up with an EU ban on cotton buds and straws

2. Go for a week without single-use plastics 

Next year the European Union will impose a complete ban on items like straws and cotton buds. Kenya, Rwanda and the UK have already made moves towards banning plastics, but consumer action, like boycotting single-use plastic is still helpful. 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 local media about your time on ICS, we can get more people like you interested in taking part. Fill out our quick, five-minute form – then copy and paste the press release we create and send this to your local newspaper for them to publish. 

Time: 5 minutes 

A patient has her blood taken by a nurse
© Shutterstock
More than half of the world's population belong to O or A blood types. Which are you?

4. Donate blood 

Hospitals need a regular supply of the four main blood groups. More than half of the world’s population belong to O or A blood types – but rarer groups are always needed. Start by checking out Facebook’s feature showing where to find local blood donation groups and sign up online. 

Time: 30 minutes 

5. Do your bit for international development 

We’ve got a fight on our hands to defend international development. If you’re passionate about the difference volunteers can make, get yourself familiar with the stats behind the work we do – thenhead out to the streets to practice what you’ve learnt and help us win public support. 

Time: 1 day 

Wooden cutlery lined up with an assortment of 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 

ICS volunteers pose for a photo with their host family in mountainous Nepal
© VSO / Suraj Ratna Shakya
ICS volunteers Smriti Bhattarai (M) and Emily Green (R) pose with their host family in Surkhet, Nepal

7. Visit your host family and local partners 

In 2020, why not reconnect with your host family or the local partners you worked with while on ICS. We’re always interested to hear how volunteers have continued to build on the relationships theymade while on placement. But before you go, speak to your country office

Time: 2 days 

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. Find your nearest one and see how you can get involved – then share your stories of impact with us. 

Time: 5 minutes 

A group of Indian children sit with schoolbags around them
© Ruairi Kerrigan
ICS volunteer Ruari's team lobbied politicians on childhood education by sending schoolbags to elected officials

9. Lobby your local politicians 

We’re all about making fundamental changes. Politics is one way to achieve that. Whether that’s making your views about the environment or unemployment heard – your politicians are paid to represent you. Find out who they are and reach out to their office. 

Time: 1 hour 

10. Skill up 

Join one of FutureLearn’s free, online, month-long courses on international development and global politics, taught by world-leading lecturers and gain skills and training that you can include on your CV and in future applications. Browse what’s on offer

Time: 1 month 

11. Offset your carbon emissions 

If you’re worrying 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. Six trees need to be planted to offset a tonne of CO2. Calculate your footprint. 

Time: 30 minutes 

A recycling bin of vegetable scraps to be composted
© Shutterstock.com
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 

More than a third of all food produced in the world is wasted. Say no – by using the tech that’ssprung up to tackle the problem. Olio connects you with your neighbours, so you can both give and receive food that would otherwise end up in the bin, and Chowberry enables Nigerian retailers todonate food getting near the end of its shelf-life to those in need. 

Time: 1 hour a week 

13. Sign a petition 

Petitions have mobilised millions in the wake of natural disasters and helped prompt historic environmental progress with the Paris Climate Agreement. Your support online can change things offline. See what’s trending – or even start your own petition.  

Time: 15 minutes 

A cocoa farmer spreads the harvested beans along a drying rack
© 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 the biggest banks invest in the arms trade, gambling companies and Big Tobacco, but there are plenty that don’t. Take Dutch bank Triodos – 38% of their loans were spent on environmental projects.

Time: 2 hours

An ICS volunteers speaks to a group of children about 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.  

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, an area home to many ICS projects. Resources are available online to host your own events and raise awareness of the importance of Fairtrade products 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 what everyone is up to and use your contacts to help each other. Then get them to sign up to the ICS newsletter to find out what’s coming up.  

Time: 30 minutes 

ICS volunteer Lilian poses for a photo alongside a group of farmers
© Lilian Sospeter
Environmental planner and ICS alumni Lilian set up a project helping farmers become more resilient

18. Start your own project with ICS funding 

If you’ve got ideas for a social action project of your own, we might be able to help. Every year wegive up to £1000 in funding for in-country volunteers with good ideas. Make sure you’ve got this link ready for when applications re-open in early March. 

Time: 1 week 

A woman looks through a rail of old clothing
© Ron Ellis / Shutterstock.com
This year why not sign the #NoNew20 pledge - to avoid buying fast fashion?

19. Ditch buying new clothes this year 

Of all the textiles in landfill, 85% are from the fashion industry. “We don’t have enough resources to keep feeding this monster,” says Maria Chenoweth, CEO of UK charity 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. Give your CV a makeover 

Whether you’re trying to pin down your first charity role or aiming to move up the ladder,international development membership organisation Bond have a great blog on how to make sure your CV will get you the jobs you’re applying for. Learn how to use it to your advantage

Time: 2 hours 

Stay involved with ICS

Click here for more ways to change the world

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ICS is funded by the UK Government's Department for International Development (DFID) which leads the UK’s work to end extreme poverty.

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