19 Tiny Things You Can Do To Make The World A (Slightly) Better Place

make the world a better place

We’d all like to live in a kinder, cleaner, less stress-filled world, right? Well, your mom was right when she said that the only thing you can control is yourself.

And while I fantasize about the day that I’ll levitate with goodness and grace, that day might be a while in coming. With that in mind, here are 19 super doable, non-intimidating, tiny things we can all do (today!) to make the world slightly better.

1. Wipe off the public sink after you use it
Are you using a paper towel? Why not wipe down the sink after you’ve dried your hands? Public bathrooms frequently go hours between cleanings and I’m sure the next person will appreciate the lack of splashed water and soap scum.

2. Return shopping carts to the corral
Last year, my car incurred a $200 scratch thanks to a windy day and one errant shopping cart. And isn’t it insanely annoying when you turn into what looks like an empty parking spot, only be confronted with one very smug and misplaced shopping cart?
3. Save your recyclable trash
If you’re on a road trip, save those plastic bottles and aluminum cans till you get find someplace to recycle them.
4. If you see some (not totally disgusting) trash, pick it up
I’m not suggesting you peel hamburger wrappers off the street, but if you see an empty plastic bag blowing around or a cleanish plastic bottle – pick it up and deal with it accordingly. Nearly 6.5 million tons (!) of litter and garbage end up in the ocean each year.
5. Let people merge and/or courtesy wave
Let’s merge like a zipper – taking turns and letting people in. And if someone lets you in after you’ve been waiting for ages? Courtesy wave.
6. When someone’s good at their job, praise them to their supervisor
This is one of my absolute favorite things. It takes five minutes and it’ll make three days better – yours, the employee, and the supervisor. Win/win/win!
7. Post a thank you note on an event’s Facebook page
If someone took the time to get out of their yoga pants, clean the bathroom, and cook something for you, they totally deserve a thank you. Let’s take a moment between changing our profile photos and stalking exs to write something kind on that Facebook page.
8. Make eye contact with and smile at your barista/cashier/parking ramp attendant/wait staff
We’ve probably all worked in the service industry at some point and it’s a million times more enjoyable when customers take the time to say hello and interact.
9. Report things that break in your apartment building
Are you guilty of doing that thing where you assume someone else has said something? And then you get all annoyed because clearly the management is incompetent? Me, too. 90% of the time when I call my building manager to tell him that the washing machine’s been unbalanced for a week, it’s the first he’s heard of it.
10. Report potholes, abandoned cars, etc to the city
The same as above. We all assume someone else is going to do it, but let’s make a pact to be the person who really, actually does something. Most cities have a super easy form on their website for reporting things like this.
11. Move to the right when driving slowly
So many fewer middle fingers!
12. Offer directions to people who look lost
If someone is wrinkling their brow, looking down at their phone, and then up at the street sign, why not see if you can help?
13. Be nice to people who are older than you
Sometimes I have to take deep, calming breaths when I’m in the express line behind someone who is sorting through coupons and paying with a check. But everyone deserves and appreciates kindness and patience. (I repeat to myself, regularly.)14. Bring an extra bobby pin/tampon/condom/hair binder/safety pin
You will be the captain of Team Lady if you do this. I cannot count the times my mood has depended on the desire to just get my hair off my neck already! Or the discovery that this top is actually quite boob-y. You will have a friend for life if you help a fellow lady out of a too-boob-y shirt predicament.
15. Put your phone on silent, in your bag when you’re hanging out with someone in person
16. When someone on a dating site sends you an email they’ve clearly put time and effort into,  respond (even if you’re not interested) kindly telling them that and wish them luck. (Thanks to my friend Laura for this suggestion.) 
Because haven’t we all experienced that unique heartbreak that comes with slaving over The Perfect Email to someone we’re convinced is our next Someone – only to hear crickets? It’s polite and considerate to acknowledge you got the email, thank them, and wish them the best of luck in their endeavors.
17. Hold doors for people pushing strollers or carrying heavy things
18. Let people with one or two items go in front of you at the grocery store
Retail karma 4eva.
19. Biggest one: realize that everyone is doing the best they can with what they’ve got (emotionally, professionally, financially, physically) at that moment. If they knew better, they’d do better. 
It is so, so easy (so easy!) to get annoyed/disappointed/straight-up pissed off by humanity at large. OMG WHY ARE YOU DRIVING 40 IN THE FAST LANE? Do you think the ’10 item limit’ doesn’t apply to you? Why are you not holding the elevator, ya dick?

But, ultimately, you never know. Maybe they lost their glasses and can’t read the elevator buttons. Maybe they just got dumped and they’re cry-driving. Maybe they’re about to pitch a huge client and they’re too deep in thought to realize they stepped into the express lane. Most of us are doing our best – in whatever shape that takes.

What tiny things do you do to make the world an ever-so-slightly kinder, better place?

P.S. How to be less judgemental + more empathetic 

photo by Hernán Lucio // cc

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Great List!!! The one thing that I always do for great service is over-tip. I have a close friend in the service industry and always think of her when I'm giving that little extra.


I could not disagree more with #16. If I email someone on a dating site who isn't interested, I would MUCH rather get no response than get a rejection. I've never cried over not getting a response, but I actually have cried over being flat-out rejected. I don't need to know why someone doesn't want to go out with me- I'd rather not think about it. Not responding, in my opinion, is much kinder than sending a rejection.

Sarah Von Bargen

I wasn't suggesting you say "Hey you seem nice but you're not cute enough for me" 😉

Something more along the lines of "Hey! Thanks so much for emailing! I, too, love XXX and your dog looks incredibly cute. I'm not sure that we'd be a great romantic match but I appreciate the fact that you sent me a Real, Actual Email (rather than 'Hey how r u?') and I wanted to wish you the best of luck out there."

When my friend made it a policy to respond to every email-written-with-effort men would regularly thank her for not leaving them hanging.

Different strokes for different folks 🙂


My thoughts exactly, Katie! Especially since I think #16 sends a message that "putting together a coherent sentence" is the same as "slaving away over an email, looking for your next soulmate." I expect, bare minimum, that a guy can write a complete sentence with some thought behind it; if I'm not interested, I don't respond. I do agree that, in general, most Americans could stand to be more courteous – but honestly the dating site is not the first place I'm going to start, because as a woman I don't want politeness to be confused with interest or obligation (which it does in my dating life, routinely).


Maybe it's because I'm Canadian …… I disagree with not responding to someone's email message when not interested in continuing a relationship. As proposed in a previous Y&Y post , it's kinder and (dare I say, less cowardly and much more adult) to thank the person for their message and say that, unfortunately, there isn't a match-up, wish the person well, and then let them go. There is no need to engage in "reasons why there is no match-up", to feel obliged, to feel "put upon", or any other emotions, unless feeling these satisfies something in you.


8 – YES! i worked as a restaurant hostess for a while, and it's a terribly boring job. it would make my whole day when someone took the time to ask how my day was going, or comment about something as mundane as the whether, just to acknowledge that i am a human being with interests beyond giving them the corner table by the window! i still remember my favorite regulars, a couple that came in for brunch every weekend and would always seem genuinely happy to see me, and take the time to have a conversation with me.


Yes, definitely this one, I love chatting to the ladies in the Starbucks at the train station in the morning. It lifts my morning.

On the same note – mop up spills! The amount of accidents from spills on the stairs, completely needless…


I love this! I'm pretty good about some of these, like letting people merge, recycling and rounding up nearby carts. I'm not so good with the phone one or offering people directions. Usually I'm the one looking lost haha.

Holli Moncrieff

I love #15. I've actually dropped some friends because they couldn't be bothered to shut off their phone when we were together. It's so annoying and disrespectful! It clearly sends the message that their time is more important than mine, and that our time together isn't that important to them.

I've actually picked garbage out of the ocean while on vacation and attempted to smuggle it home in my suitcase so I could recycle it. The cleaning women always end up finding my stash and throwing it out. 🙁


"You will be the captain of Team Lady . ." Completely killed it with that line. Thanks for a great list. Some of these things I do and some I don't. I will add that if I interact with people with name tags on, I always use their name. It feels more personable and friendly.


I loved every point of this post, especially from a totally selfish point of view as a barista who knows what it's like to be shouted at 75% of the time on a bad day. Something I am proud that I am doing already: being right up there in Team Lady! I always have the spare tampon or kirby grip.



Love this list!! #14, just make sure the condom and safety pin aren't stored in close proximity to each other 🙂

Alisha - the.wineglass.manifesto

I swear to god, the world would be a better place if we ALL just merged.like.a.zip.

Also, I agree re the online dating email reply. I tried it a few years back, and remember writing this nice little email to a guy. He replied back saying 'thanks for the email but I don't think it'd work out between us' or something along those lines. I remember being quite affronted and wanted to know WHY exactly he felt that way since I'm awesome (obviously) and he seemed pretty cool, but at the end of the day he probably saw something I didn't in the situation and saved us both any further effort towards something that wouldn't work anyway. Sorted.

m e l i g r o s a

nice compliments: when you think it, say it.
i drink a lot of coffee, also means the waiting-lifetime within my lifetime, is quite long.
i have never given for granted when people/strangers compliment me on hair or outfit or whatever.

so i leave my observant quiet self aside and often pay a simple and genuine compliment to strangers on something they are wearing, or a fresh-looking haircut. I've made tons of coffee-goer pals & baristas all over the city, oh and all ages too. it's such a great kind investment, endless payments of the priceless kind ;-]


I so agree with this! I am kind of shy so I tend to think nice things about people (strangers or people I know) often without verbalizing it. I've been trying REALLY hard lately to just say it. Sometimes it ends up being awkward (guess I need practice), but ultimately I think that even if I end up blushing or stumbling over my words, the other person still gets a boost.


This is a wonderful list. Love every suggestion. It's really all about the golden rule, treat others like you'd like to be treated. Furthermore, the best biz advice I've heard is "the best way to get what you want is to help others get what they want."


Ugh, I can't believe you got a scratch from a wayward shopping cart! That one stuck out to me especially. Great list!


Nice list!

One of mine is to confront issues in a service industry-type of situation in the moment, not like a coward on Yelp (or some other internet-y way). Bad service? Food too salty? Wrong drink delivered? SAY SOMETHING. Give the establishment a chance to right their wrong. Not only should they go out of their way to right their wrong, you'll probably even get something comped. Who knows. The point is you're getting what you really want & they're getting constructive criticism. A win for all.

And if they don't take your comment to heart, then feel free to start an internet smear campaign 😉

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