Some of the Most Socially-Impactful Things You Can Do for the Holidays
Despite all the turbulence in the world, there’s so much to be thankful for.
As the holiday season is now here, community members have been asking what the best things we can do this holiday season are.
Donate to one or more of the best charities for marginal donations:
These are also some of the most solutions-oriented and impactful nonprofits out there. They are composed of dedicated professionals working on tragic and neglected issue areas. I’m lucky that I could fundraise and give some small donations throughout the year. Please consider giving to impactful nonprofits if you can. Every bit does matter. If you can’t afford to donate and are more money than time-constrained, consider volunteering!
Here are some of the most effective, and impactful organizations by cause areas that I’ve come across.
Annually, billions of farmed animals are suffering due to negligence, improper policy, and our demand for their “animal products.” Trillions of fish are suffering as well and the oceans are depleting at a catastrophic rate. This year, we saw the great barrier reef mostly die. Overfishing and industrialized animal agriculture are largely the biggest problems we’re facing as a civilization, and what I’ve decided to dedicate my life to mitigating. After attending the Animal Consciousness research conference, I can confidently claim that their subjective experiences are similar to ours. Luckily, the following groups are solutions-based and gaining tons of traction.
The Humane League — does institutional interventions to increase animal welfare and grassroots change in the US and beyond.
The Good Food Institute — creates a better infrastructure for a world with less animal suffering through accelerating market innovations.
(They are airing on the side of over funding for individual marginal donations, but a FANTASTIC group).
Farm Sanctuary — a rescue and education center that demonstrates how animals should be loved and cared for. Feel free to support a local farm sanctuary like Rooterville in Florida or my local sanctuary, Poplar Springs if preferred.
Mercy For Animals — an educational outreach and undercover investigation organization exposing cruelty and sharing it with consumers and changemakers who are most likely to stop supporting it.
Better Eating International — they create innovative and inclusive educational content that pushes towards animal liberation. They also are incredibly rigorous and data-oriented in their content creation.
Encompass — an accelerator for inclusivity and diversity in the animal protection movement. They empower other organizations to be inclusive in their staff and provide advocates the skills to succeed in the movement.
Their parent company A Well Fed World is great as well. They provide micro-grants to grassroots advocates and organizations (like Encompass) that are doing excellent work in their communities or niches. They take the guesswork out of funding small groups by personally vetting with rigor.
These are things that could destroy society if we’re not careful within our lifetime. At any moment, an infection we barely understand could become a pandemic. We could fall to nuclear war. AI could become very powerful and radically alter our civilization in unmanageable ways. The world could heat up so much that… wait, that one is already happening. The point is, our civilization has a small chance of destructing every year. If you think that as a society, our contributions are net-positive (or will be in the future), you should probably care about protecting us from destruction.
Programming and research here are extremely cheap considering if no one does the work, our existence would remain on the line. Climate Change is an immediate and immense, catastrophic risk. Luckily, there’s a lot we can do there. Unfortunately, “C-Risk” remains a highly neglected area despite the gravity of the related issues.
Cool Earth — creates climate change mitigations through Effective carbon offsetting and conservation.
Future of Humanity Institute — does very high-brow foundational research on AI and other existential risks. Based out of Oxford U.
Global Health / Economic Development:
Globalization has arguably been mostly good, but we’ve been quite lucky with our access to health care, housing, clean water, birth control, education, and a multitude of other resources and infrastructures here in the “developed” world. Small donations have an extreme compound effect outside of the US and will largely come back to our pockets tenfold, as they bolster the global economy. The internet has made things easier for many but 70% of the world lives off less than $10 a day. The roots of imperialism and colonization still stand and we have a strong obligation to empower others who don’t have equal opportunity for success, health, wealth, and happiness in this world.
Give Directly — gives to people who need it the most. Some of the smartest data scientists are working on economic development in systems like this
Population Service International — provides empowering services like birth control and education to help empower woman and families
Village Enterprise — They’re basically a more impactful Kiva where donors give micro-loans to female entrepreneurs in developing areas.
Against Malaria Foundation — provides low-cost nets to those at risk of catching malaria. We’re so close to eradicating it!!
Schistosomiasis Control Initiative — they are a similar effective org as AMF but with schistosomiasis (a very common and deadly gut infection)
Nutrition Facts — does actual scientific analysis on research developments in nutrition science told with blogs and videos free for all. Dr. Gregor is also a renowned Dr, Speaker, and joke teller (I ran into him at the PCRM holiday party last winter).
**Disclaimer: I recognize how there is also a multitude of interventions that have wide-scale implications to the “developed” world. However, at the time of writing, it seems most initiatives abroad would have a larger impact.**
Meta Effective Altruism & Research:
We all have limited time and resources and it’s incredibly difficult to determine how to do the most good. Whether in our careers, volunteering, donations, or personal choices, they’re a breadth of choices out there these days. Also, we all have the capacity to do more good or do good better. This framework combines rationality and empathy to empirically determine what’s going on and what to do about it. I’ve spent a great deal of time movement-building in DC and would be much less focused without finding the movement during college.
Organizations in this area work on promoting this rational and compassionate framework, doing research, or normalizing giving.
80,000 Hours — gives career advice to people like you and me so we can make the world better. All for free thanks to donors.
Faunalytics — creates foundational research and research syndication on advancements in understandings of non-human animals and how to best protect them.
ACE — does foundational research on interventions and analyzes existing programs and organizations in the animal protection movement based on their effectiveness.
Sentience Institute — does foundational research on how to help animals the most (the head researchers are friends of mine and came from Google).
Please comment and let me know if you’re donating to a group not listed and why!
Try a vegan/ plant-based diet:
Eating a simpler, less cruel diet has allowed me to live much more authentically. Since going vegan, my nutrition, mood, and digestion are all better. Plus,I know I’m living with less of a negative environmental impact, and mitigating some of the worst sufferings on earth. If you’re looking to eat more veg*n or just healthier here are some great programs to help you:
If that’s too much commitment, try meatless Mondays or a “reducetarian” diet
I think we can all agree that animal products are bad for us, the environment, and of course, the animals. Taking one day out of the week to leave animals off your plate can make a HUGE difference. Every plant-based meal is worth celebrating. If jumping on a totally veg diet is too much right now, try for just before dinner, or just on Mondays, or leave the meat for the weekends. There are many strategies but signing this pledge will help you stay true to your intention.
Read one of my favorite books (from this year):
These are the top books I read this year. The criteria for choosing was weighted on:1) knowledge gained, or how enriching it could be 2) how much it improved my wellbeing 3) how much it updated my personal framework.
After you read one of these, be sure to let me know so we can chat about it!
Why We Eat Pigs, Wear Cows, and Love Dogs (or listen to the podcast)
Wellbeing: The 5 Essential Elements
Zero to One - notes on how the best start-ups exist and dominate by “PayPal Mafia” Member Peter Thiel
The Humane Economy: Animal Protection 2.0
Or read one of the books that are high up on my list:
How to Create a Vegan World: A Pragmatic Approach
Four Futures: Life After Capitalism
Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind
Life 3.0: Being Human in the Age of Artificial Intelligence
See the full list Amazon list here
Divest your personal, retirement, or other savings into Socially Responsible Investments:
Traditional funds can be problematic as they prop up whoever is valued the most in the market, not necessarily those who are providing us or society the most value. Socially Responsible Investments or SRIs for short take a look on an index, who has better gender parity for positions of power, who is the most efficient with resources (or green for you fellow leftists), or otherwise progressive or conscious of market implications. They make good financial sense as well as they typically outperform the market.
I’d advise a robo-adviser for more hands-off, automated investing with some planning assistance. This is great for either under $10k or over $100k due to lower management fees. They’re also pretty liquid if you have to pull out with short notice.
WealthSimple and Swell (referral link to come) both offer SRI options.
For a more hands-on approach, I’d recommend the following funds / ETFs
SHE — gender parity index
DSI — resource efficiency / green index
KLD — excludes morally questionable companies” like tobacco
CRBN — companies with a lower carbon footprint than average
SPYX — S&P 500 minus the carbon reserves (outperformed the traditional in 2016 and 7% over 6.3%)
iShares has a few worth exploring as well
Update Your Will:
It’s not something we think about, especially if we are young. I strongly recommend leaving some of your wealth (or more) to effective organizations if you can. However, this small act can make an enormous impact on the occasion that we have a surprising death. If you’re already planning your legacy, it might be time to revise and update your strategy.
If you’re looking where to give, I’d still loosely advise the same organizations. Those above are my top recommendations but there are others with impactful solutions in many different issue areas. There are also great programs that could use larger donations. This is one small way to ensure a lasting impact. I currently have this in my will and plan on making updates as well.
Life is incredibly fragile. I hope we all have many MANY years left but car crashes, suicide, and heart disease can strike when we least expect. Rates of degenerative diseases are slowly decreasing and whether we like it or not, we all will die at some point.
Above All, Happy Holidays!!!
Whether you are celebrating Thanksgiving, Hannukah, Christmas, Winter Solstice, Ramadan, Kwanzaa, New Years', or just watching a movie, I hope it’s a good one! I wish you all success and happiness in the new year.
Remember, you are valid, and your subjective experience means something. Regardless of what your paycheck, friends, loved ones, or strangers say, you are fantastic! You ARE worth something. You are each capable of making a huge change in this world. Many of you already have. I’m beyond excited to watch it happen over the next year.
What can I do for you this holiday season? I always have an open-door policy. Shoot me an email at SammyFries@gmail.com if you want to collaborate.