Updated: Jul 31, 2019
Often we are really busy and we can't spare a few hours to volunteer each month - let alone run a conference, start an organization etc. But I haven't met a single person who doesn't spend several minutes on their phone now and then. Did you know that you can use that time to make an easy difference? Here is my list of change-making apps.
Support blind people accomplish daily tasks
"Be my Eyes" is one of these initiatives that I was simply blown away by: it allows blind people to "see". Using their camera and microphone it connects them with volunteers who help them complete tasks that are difficult or impossible to do if you are blind. From essential things like reading expiry dates, picking out correct medicine to simply finding a thread that matches the color of a blouse, this app empowers blind people to live their lives better.
"Help blind people through short Video-calls!"
You can be one of the people answering their calls and making a difference. Just download the app. And don't worry - you can make modifications to your settings that it wouldn't interrupt you in an important meeting or class. The call would simply go to another change-maker.
Browse the web
This is the best browser ever! It works exactly like other search engines but the company plants trees with the money they make. On average you need about 45 searches to plant a tree.
Since I installed it on my computer a couple of months ago, I have helped Ecosia plant about 14 trees! That's about 305kg (672 pounds) of carbon dioxide per year. To put that into perspective: that's a little less than the CO2 emissions I caused flying from Indiana to New York. But it's A LOT better than nothing.
"You browsing the web helps Ecosia plant trees!"
Also: the browsing results are good but occasionally I do have to switch to google. But this is an amazing initiative that has planted more than 56 Million trees to date and that you can support by taking a few seconds to install it and use it to make a difference without spending any money or time.
Check the working conditions and environmental impact on the brand you are considering to buy
Find more ethical alternatives
Continue shopping and put pressure on large corporations to stop cruelty and environmental pollution
Let's face it. We know that most of our clothing is produced under inhumane conditions - sometimes even by children - not even mentioning how unsustainable the it is. But we have accepted our helplessness - because it's so hard to know which brand does NOT engage in unethical activity. Good on You changes that. You can just type in any brand and it gives you a summary of how they score in terms of paying their workers a living wage, reducing their carbon footprint etc. And if reading about the worker-conditions of your favorite brand makes you never want to look at your closet again, the app also gives you alternative brands that produce similar items but are more sustainable.
"Check how ethically you shop"
Okay, I have to admit - ethical clothing is expensive. Of course it is. What I have found, though, is that ethical clothes are often of better quality, I buy less of them (because of price) and I treat them with more respect. That means they also last much longer and I can reduce my carbon footprint by consuming less. If you want to look more into sustainable fashion, I also recommend this blog - and be on the lookout for sales :)
Chat with interesting people
Help them learn a language (thus improve their employability!)
(Learn a language yourself)
With tandem you can help people learn languages. Particularly if you speak English (which I assume you do, since you are reading this) you can actually enable people to get critical skills that will help them get better jobs and live better lives.
But as its name implies, Tandem actually benefits you as well. You are connected with someone who speaks the language you want to learn and wants to learn the language you speak. In other words: I am a native German speaker and I want to learn Bahasa. So the app will connect me with Bahasa-speakers who want to learn German. But if you just want to help people others you can simply select that you want to learn a variety of languages and connect with people from all over the globe.
"Help people learn your language"
Personally, I LOVE this app. In the beginning you may find yourself having the same conversations with everyone, but they can become really deep and meaningful if you give it some time. People are super friendly and I have had great interactions using this app.
P.S For safety reasons you can specify the gender and age range of the people you can communicate with and it's easy to block people who are inappropriate. However, I have been using the app for more than a year now and I have never had any inappropriate encounters.
Take a photo
1$ to a cause of your choice
This is a simple idea to explain: you take a photo, upload it to the app and Johnson&Johnson donates 1$ to a charity of your choice. As I am writing this they are supporting neonatal resuscitation programs (helping newborns breathe), the LGBTQ+ community, children hospitals, red nose day and others. Fun. Simple. Impactful.
"One photo = one dollar to charity"
This is, by the way, the only app I am featuring here that has to do with you - in a way - donating to charity. There are many apps that allow you to donate to charities by filling out surveys or simply running and working out. I am writing another post about donations and charities in general, that will look at that more critically (it's always important to think critically in philanthropy). But I am going to explicitly name my bias here: I used to intern for Johnson&Johnson's Community Impact team and believe that they are making great things happen. There you go. I said it. I want to acknowledge my bias but for now the app stays on the list :)
Rescue delicious, fresh food destined for the trash (eat it or deliver it to hungry people)
"Help reduce food waste"
Has it ever occurred to you how much food restaurants and grocery stores are wasting (and yeah, also how much food we are wasting individually)? There are many apps that are trying to fight this! So many, in fact, that it was worth to write a whole new list with it. Click here.
Take action (speak up, sign petitions, email world-leaders...)
Win tickets to amazing concerts
"Speak up, make a change, earn rewards"
Global Citizen is a nonprofit that works with large corporations and governments to implement change through financial contributions towards the Sustainable Development Goals or policy changes. A big part of making that happen are young people who tweet, sign petitions, write emails and urge governments and corporations to do something. This way you cannot only make your voice be heard but also gather points that you can exchange for rewards like tickets to concerts and their annual festivals, where they often have famous celebrities lined up (Oprah, Beyoncé, Jay-Z, Ed Sheeran (and others!) were for example part of the 2018 festival in South Africa).