The year is almost at its end, and I’m sure most people would agree it has been a tumultuous one. As always, breaking news and big headlines bring our attention to all things wrong with the world, and unfortunately there seems to have been a great deal of negativity circulating this year.
In spite of this, there are so many things to celebrate as there are a lot of people doing good and making a positive impact on the world, however big or small. Therefore, in the spirit of Christmas and due to my personal desire to focus on stories that give us joy, hope and faith in humanity, here is a selection of innovations and ideas that have inspired me, which I would now like to share with you.
Drink Beer and Save the Reef!
A social enterprise from down-under called The Good Beer Co. brews and sells beer to raise awareness while maximising benefits for good causes. This year, they have launched Great Barrier Beer, which is brewed exclusively with local Australian ingredients and raises funds for environmental research and efforts to protect the Great Barrier Reef by donating 10% of every carton sold to the Australian Marine Conservation Society – a charity and community of ocean conservationists and scientists that have been working for more than 50 years to protect marine life. As well as donating to the charity, they also raise awareness about the severity of the coral bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, one of the greatest natural wonders of the world and a fundamental necessity for marine life and the underwater ecosystem.
Team Work Makes the Dream Work
As the tale goes, vagrants in France used to travel through towns looking for work, leaving symbols engraved on buildings to help and inform each other of whether they would be welcomed or kicked out. Le Carillon has transformed the idea of the “langue des trimardeurs“ (language of the hikers) into a modern day solution to support people in need. Participating shops, cafés and the like have joined Le Carillon network by displaying certain symbols in their windows to indicate to the homeless what services they are able to offer. These services can be anything from use of the toilet facilities, to having a free meal or getting a haircut. In doing this, a positive relationship is created between businesses, working citizens and the homeless, thus decreasing the feeling of societal rejection among the homeless, integrating them more into the community, as well as providing some of their basic necessities. The network is already large, active and successful in Paris, Lille, Nantes, Marseilles, Lyon, Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Melun.
Who Gives a Crap?
This profit-for-purpose company is “good for the world, good for people and good for your bum”! While doing your business in a clean, functioning toilet is something we don’t even consider a luxury, around 40% of the earth’s population do not have access to a toilet. Not only is it a basic human right but it is also imperative to health, sanitation, and prevention of disease and death. Who Gives a Crap therefore produce toilet paper and donate 50% of their profits to charities and organisations such as Sanergy, WaterAid Australia, Shining Hope for Communities and Lwala Community Alliance in order to build toilets and implement effective sanitation solutions for those in need in developing countries such as Kenya. Furthermore, instead of cutting down trees to make their toilet paper, they use environmentally friendly materials (either recycled paper or forest friendly bamboo) and avoid artificial dyes and scents.
Employed and Empowered
Producing high-end fashion with 100% natural material and cutting-edge Danish design, fashion line Carcel have a fantastic mission to empower imprisoned women. The production facilities are currently operating in the women’s prison in Cusco, Peru and the women’s correctional institution in Chiang Mai, Thailand, where the majority of women there have been detained due to crimes driven by poverty. Carcel’s entire production process has been created to offer these women the choice to improve their skillset and grounding for a better life: they teach them to sew, employ them under humane working conditions and pay them fair salaries as recommended by the International Labour Organisation. Additionally, the company advocates slow-fashion, quality over quantity and timeless designs to last a lifetime. Their supply chain and pre-order system is such that they only produce what they sell, so there is no overstock or material waste.
A Smile is a Big Issue
Last but not least, and bringing it back to Christmas, I will share a little personal story of mine. About five years ago, I used to work in central London and would walk to the office from Waterloo Station. I would walk across the Golden Jubilee Bridge everyday and pass a man named Steve selling the Big Issue at the end of the bridge, who was always smiling no matter what the weather, and wishing everyone that passed him a pleasant day. After some time of just saying “good morning” to him as I walked past, I began to linger a little longer to have more of a conversation with him. Spending more time there, I was pleasantly surprised to see that several other businesspeople would also pause to chat with him and wish him a good day, despite being in a rush to get to work.
Like many other commuters crossing the bridge, I became friends with Steve and looked forward to seeing him every morning. A year later I moved abroad without having the chance to say goodbye to Steve, but to my amazement, he still remembers me each year when I come back for Christmas! He is always excited and happy to see me again and is genuinely interested to hear what I have been up to. I wanted to share this story as his unconditionally cheerful attitude always puts me and other commuters in a good mood, and it is clear that this joy is equally shared both ways; evidence of the simple power of the happiness ripple effect.