When I hear the term “global citizen,” I think of someone whose sense of belonging extends beyond the borders of one nation state. I think of wanderlust and cosmopolitanism. I think of travel blogs and mixed-cuisine restaurants. I think of growing international migration and the fact that today, over 46 million people living in the U.S. were born in other countries.
When I hear the term “global citizen,” I think of modern media and communications platforms like Twitter and Facebook, and the unique sense of connectedness they allow you to feel to the people you’ve never met and the places you’ve never been to. I think of solidarity, peace, and unity of effort in international politics. I think of gender equity, religious pluralism, and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
When I hear the term “global citizen,” I think of our deep interconnectedness as a society and what it means for each of us.
“Global citizen” might not be a legally legitimate political status but that does not mean the concept of global citizenship is ill-founded. Whether you embrace the idea of global citizenship or dismiss it, that doesn’t change the undeniable truth that different societies across the globe are gradually becoming more interdependent and more homogenous. As globalization transforms the world as we know it into one big global community, we all become responsible for each other and for our shared future. Here is a list of small steps we all can take to help make this global community the way we’d like it to be—socially respectful, economically just, environmentally conscious, politically supportive, and protective of diversity, of equality, of our rights and freedoms.
1. Stay informed
Nurture interest in international news. Events happening across the world from your country can have a real impact on your life.
2. Be a conscious consumer
Buy local: it’s better for the local economy, for your health, and for the environment.
Eat organic: the less processed ingredients in your meal, the better. Just think of all the nasty components in chemical fertilizers and herbicides some of the imported produce gets sprayed with—do you really want all of that in your salad?
3. Share things
Give away what you no longer need. Before you throw stuff away, think about if someone else might get some good use of your old toaster, worn-out jacket or beat-up pair of roller skates.
4. Share knowledge
Get to know the world! Learn about other countries, other cultures and their history. It will make you a better critical thinker and let you be deeper engaged in the world around you. And then take what you’ve learned and pass it on to others. Be generous with knowledge and experience—share it!
5. Be present
Put your smartphone away, turn off the TV, close the laptop. Experience the world in a different way—not through technology. Spend more time drawing, reading, making music, looking at art. Socialize offline!
6. Help the healthcare system
Participate in a charity event that raises money for medical research.
Join the national bone marrow registry. You could turn out to be a potential match for someone requiring a transplant and save that person’s life. In fact, if this is something you would like to do right now, go for it!
7. Only use what you really need
Do you really need that extra paper towel?
And those plastic bags? You know they’re not biodegradable, right?
And what about that coffee stirrer? Seriously, pour your milk and sugar into the cup first and then add the coffee. I promise it will be well-mixed.
Some important documents obviously need to be printed on one side of the page only, but for most other things, print double-sided.
8. Spend to save
Rechargeable batteries—a bigger investment at first but pays off quickly since you’ll never need to buy a new alkaline battery again.
Reusable bags—stronger handles for your heavy groceries; and with the number of creative designs out there, it can pretty much be a fashion statement.
Personal portable coffee cup—steel, ceramic, or glass, it’s guaranteed to keep your drink hot for longer than the coffee shop’s cheap paper cup. Some places actually offer you a discount if you come with your own cup.
Volunteer—there are so many ways to get involved; just pick something you enjoy and find meaning in. Volunteer Match can be your useful guide to finding the best opportunities for you based on your interest, availability and geographic location.
Make monetary donations—there’s endless debate about which charities you can trust your money with, or which would use your donation most efficiently. Thankfully, there are people whose job it is to evaluate charities, and their findings are available online—just check CharityWatch or Charity Navigator.
If you want to connect with people from different cultures, different backgrounds, different belief systems and different worldviews, respect is key. Remember that individuals are not representations of their cultures. There’s nothing more segregating than judging people based on unfounded stereotypes. Before anything else, we are all humans and all members of the same global community.