This article originally appeared in The New York Times.
© 2021 The New York Times Company
As the pandemic and lockdowns dragged on and on over the past year, many people longed only for the day when the world would return to the time before COVID-19 entered our vocabulary. For others, though, the months of seclusion led them to search for ways they might be able to make the world just a little better than it was before.
Here are a few ideas to improve your little part of the post-pandemic Earth, or maybe you have some ideas of your own.
Donate your flowers
Heather Lawson got her good idea while watching bad TV. She was unwinding after work in front of an elaborate wedding show, and she was struck by a couple who had flown in $100,000 worth of tulips from the Netherlands for their big day.
“I realized that these flowers were going to be enjoyed for one night and thrown out the next morning,” she said. “I thought, ‘There are people who’d love these. What if I could get them to someone else?’”
In 2013, she founded Petal Share, a nonprofit organization that aims to do just that. With a team of volunteers she calls “pollinators,” Lawson picks up leftover floral arrangements from weddings and events in the Washington area, repurposes them into smaller bouquets and delivers them to residents and workers at hospitals, nursing homes and women’s shelters.
“People always ask, ‘Where did these come from?’ and they get a kick out of hearing it was a wedding,” she said. “I like to think that some of the magic and joy from that special event is passed on.”
The pollinators have even worked their magic on funeral arrangements.
“We had one woman who donated flowers from her father-in-law’s service,” Lawson said. “We made them into bouquets and brought them to the senior care facility where he had lived.”
A lawyer by day, Lawson runs Petal Share as a passion project and is always seeking volunteers to pick up flowers, remake bouquets and deliver them. But she wants to spread the flower power even further.
“I’d love to train people to start chapters of Petal Share across the country so we can bring more comfort to those who need it,” she said. “Let’s keep passing the good vibes forward.” — Holly Burns
Participate in food rescue
Every day in the United States, an average of 1 pound of food per person is thrown away, which translates to 30% to 40% of the country’s food supply, according to the Department of Agriculture. And yet more than 40 million people will experience food insecurity and go hungry, many of them children, according to 2021 projections by Feeding America. Food waste also contributes 8% of total global greenhouse gas emissions.
Organizations like Food Rescue US help close the loop, taking fresh food that would otherwise go to waste and delivering it to communities that can use it. Food Rescue US uses an app to connect donors — including grocery stores, restaurants, farms, schools, caterers, and other food-related businesses — with nearby food pantries, soup kitchens and shelters.