Giving back is an often-used term. For corporates, it is in the form of corporate social responsibility or CSR programmes — where they earmark a certain amount for social causes. It could be waste management programmes, afforestation projects, or perhaps helping the less privileged with essentials such as food or clothing.
But on an individual level, are we practising any form of giving back? Are we giving due importance to ‘personal social responsibility’ or PSR?
PSR efforts do not need large corporate backing nor does it require associating with a non-governmental organisation. In fact, it does not even need to involve any money. Rather, it can simply comprise acts of service, where one gives of their own time towards not only socio-economic uplift but also towards lowering one’s individual carbon footprint.
Giving of one’s time
When time is at a premium, it only makes sense to make a monetary contribution. But where even an hour a week can be set aside, giving of one’s own time is priceless. In fact, in a recent interaction with the scion of a Chennai based conglomerate, what first struck me was his humility. He engaged me further with his narration of how his organisation was making a difference in several spheres.
The baron also owns a production company that focusses on creating content around positive stories that inspire. For example, one was about a UK based not-for-profit called Bat for a Chance. Founded by a young lad, its objective was to collect donations of used cricketing equipment from across the UK. These would then be shipped off to Sri Lanka where less privileged, but budding cricketers, could use the cricketing gear.
Likewise, ensuring drives to collect used study material or clothing, that are still useable, can be a blessing for many.
Waste Segregation is a Crucial First Step
In India particularly, most families take great pride in maintaining squeaky clean homes. When festivities draw near, the cleaning process picks up in greater earnest with even walls being scrubbed down.
There is no problem with the heightened intensity in cleaning rituals but ultimately, in the absence of waste disposal frameworks and almost non-existent waste segregation, we have super clean homes on one end of spectrum. Unfortunately, on the other, every town and city has an embarrassing dump site that has open untreated garbage. It is, as if, a higher power is going to descend and initiate a dump site clean-up.
But what we can do, as responsible citizens could, is to use technology to learn more sustainable, yet simple practices. Taking the initiative to only compost kitchen waste can go a long way in keeping large amounts of waste away from dumps. Fortunately, there is growing focus on reusing, recycling and upcycling. There is a also growing subset who are embracing minimalism.
Volunteering in the community
A large part of the global population is still unable to access quality education. This major enabler towards escaping poverty has only been exacerbated by the pandemic’s onset. An entire generation of school age children risk their futures being jeopardised if they cannot make up for lost time.
In this regard, an educated individual, with a spare hour or two on their hands, can allocate this time towards mentoring the less fortunate. It need not necessarily be in the form of traditional academic content. But it can also be in the form of teaching a vocation or skill.
This, as the old saying goes, is better than “giving a person a fish”; rather he or she is being taught “how to fish” or become self-reliant. Even so much as making a Facebook business page for your apartment complex’s sweeper or gardener can help them generate more earnings.
The best time to start is now
It is suggested to form easy-to-achieve PSR goals. Just as a personal trainer in a gym advises taking small steps towards a chiseled physique, similar is the case with acts of service. And giving of one’s own time to benefit a fellowman, or the planet, is invaluable. There will likely be no direct material gains but it will sure leave you with a ‘warm and fuzzy’ feeling.
With hectic daily schedules, setting aside time is difficult for most. Therefore, it is suggested to begin by only earmarking one hour a week. That’s right, just 60 minutes a week can make a world of difference.