50 ways we can make Bristol (and the world around us) a better place

Have you ever wanted to make an improvement to the place you live but feel powerless and confused on how to do this?

I recently asked readers on the Bristol Mum facebook page for practical ideas of ways we can all make Bristol – and the world around us – a better place to live.  They came back with many wonderful ideas!

So today on Bristol Mum are 50 positive actions we can all take to make Bristol – and the world around us – a better place.

I hope this list will enable people to all take at least one positive action, however small!

1) Volunteering and donating to Baby Bank Network
Baby Bank Network redistributes pre-loved baby items to families that cannot afford to buy them.

You can help Baby Bank Network in several ways: by donating pre-loved items or money, volunteering or organising a fundraising event.

Email volunteers@babybanknetwork.com.

2) Get to know your neighbours
Say hi to each other on your street and do favours for each other. You could even organise a street party!

3) Volunteer at Home-Start Bristol
Home-Start Bristol is a charity which matches parents with at least one child under 5 with specially trained volunteers in their own homes who provide support, friendship and practical assistance.

If you would like to volunteer, Home-Start Bristol will provide you with full training to enable you to do so.

4) Bake birthday cakes for kids
Spread the word and bake for Free Cakes For Kids Bristol – a voluntary community service that bakes birthday cakes for families who can’t provide one for their child.

5) Pick up litter
Pick up litter if you see it, especially in green spaces. A little bit less litter makes a big difference to our environment.

This doesn’t have to take any time out of your day as you can pick up litter whenever you see it and it’s great to get your kids involved. For example, one reader explained that she had just start to litter pick on the school run.

Bristol Waste provide free litter picking packs for people to organise street clean ups. These contain litter picking sticks, high visibility tabards, bags for collecting recycling or waste and hoops to help keep your bags open.  Plus, they will take the collected waste away for free!

6) Donate blood
Blood Donor Centres are ALWAYS in need of blood donations.  One reader explains the positive impact you can have by donating blood:

“Donate blood – neither my husband nor brother would be alive today if it weren’t for blood donors (transfusions needed during major heart surgeries – my husband was stabbed in a mugging and my brother had a hole in the heart and a valve replacement).”

Find your nearest Blood Donor Centre: https://my.blood.co.uk/

7) Join the Bone Marrow Register
Along the lines of donating blood, why not join the bone marrow register? All it takes is a cheek swab.

One reader was matched as a donor in 2016 and describes it as a “very personally rewarding experience“.

8) Freecycle
Freecycle Network is a grassroots, non-profit movement of people who are giving (and getting) stuff for free in their own towns and neighborhoods. The aim is to reuse items as much as possible to keep good stuff out of landfills. Each local group is moderated by local volunteers and membership is free.

9) Leave things you don’t want outside your house with a ‘free’ label on them for others to take
Following on from the suggestion above, the old adage: “one person’s rubbish is another person’s treasure” is often true.  This is something I often do and it is astonishing how quickly how unwanted items are taken!

10) Volunteer your repairing skills
Are you adept at repairing? Bristol Repair Café reduce landfill by providing free pop-up repair cafés in Easton, St Pauls and Bedminster.

Visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/bristolrepaircafe/about/

There are also regular repair cafés on Horfield Common: visit https://www.facebook.com/groups/126850650686957/

11) Become a School Governor
School Governors play an important role in leading, supporting and improving schools.

Visit https://www.bristol.gov.uk/schools-learning-early-years/becoming-a-governor

12) Visiting lonely elderly people in residential/nursing homes
One major thing often missing for most residents is company as staff just don’t have time.  Reading, chatting, lending an arm to lean on or going for a brief walk in the garden makes a huge difference to an older person’s health mental well-being.

13) Help refugees and asylum seekers
Help refugees and asylum seekers who are fleeing war-torn countries. Borderlands is a charity that supports refugees, asylum seekers, refused asylum seekers and anyone else having problems with their immigration status.

14) Host a refugee or asylum seeker
If you have a spare room in your home consider hosting a refugee or asylum seeker via the charity, Refugees at Home.

15) Volunteer for Bristol Child Contact Centre
Bristol Child Contact Centre in Henleaze is a neutral, safe and impartial place where the children can meet with their parents (or other relatives) they no longer live with after relationship breakdown.

Saturday volunteers are needed to prepare the hall and toys, serve refreshments and welcome parents and children.  Training and ongoing support is provided.

16) Become a Foster Carer
Bristol City Council are in need of people to provide foster care or short break care to children.

Visit: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/social-care-health/fostering-and-short-break-care

17) Provide breaks for carers
You can also provide breaks for carers of adults, helping them take a break from caring, whether it’s for an hour, a day, or a week.

Visit: https://www.bristol.gov.uk/social-care-health/carers-breaks

18) Support local schools
Join the Parent and Teachers Association and donate books, toys and your child’s outgrown school uniform to your local schools.

19) Dog walking at Animal Rescue Centres
Here are a couple of animal rescue centres in Bristol that need volunteer dog walkers.

20) Volunteer at an animal rescue centre
As well as dog walking opportunities at animal rescue shelters, there are other ways you can help. For example, there are volunteering opportunities at Holly Hedge Animal Sanctuary (including cat cuddlers!) and Avon Riding School for the Disabled.

21) Donate food to local food banks
Every time you do your weekly shop buy a couple of extra things for your local food bank.

22) Donate food to animal rescue organisations
Animal rescue organisations are always grateful for donations of food for the animals they look after.

23) Find local volunteering opportunities at Volunteer Bristol
Visit https://do-it.org/organisations/volunteer-bristol for a great range of volunteering opportunities.

24) Join Good Gym
The Good Gym helps people and projects in Bristol.  From hanging curtains for someone who can’t do this by themself, to shovelling a compost for the Food Growers Group so they can grow vegetables –  the idea is to take your exercise by helping others through volunteering rather than in the gym.

There are also group runs: meet others, run together and do something good!

25) Volunteer for your local Scout organisation.
Volunteers are always needed at local Beavers, Rainbows, Cub and Scout groups.

Visit https://scouts.org.uk/home/

You can also volunteer at a local Guiding group: https://www.girlguiding.org.uk/get-involved/become-a-volunteer/

26) Join Helpful Peeps
Helpful Peeps is a group of people who share their time, skills and knowledge to help each other for free. On joining, you will find a whole variety of ways to help other people in Bristol.

27) Be a reading champion
Volunteers are often needed at local schools to help children learn to read. Contact your local school to do this.

28) Help homeless people in Bristol and beyond
Keep Bristol Warm are a group of people who set out to challenge the perception that homeless people are any different from the rest of us and cares for homeless people in a variety of ways. To volunteer please contact the group via their Facebook page. Volunteer drivers are also needed.

Help Bristols Homeless differs from other homeless charities in that they believe housing must come first, and then everything else comes after.  The group builds safe, stable and comfortable accomodation to be used by residents while they access the help they need to secure a permanent home, empowering them to take an active role in improving their own situation.

The group needs specific donations, plus have several other volunteering opportunities.

29) Make sandwiches for homeless people
Make sandwiches for Street Life Sarnies (SLS), an organisation which distributes sandwiches to the homeless. There is a roster and you sign up and commit to what you can do for a specific date, for example, ten cheese sandwiches for Saturday 30th September, etc.

30) Be nice to people you don’t know
Smile and talk to people whom you don’t know. Make a someone’s day by telling a total stranger if you really like their hair, clothes or jewellery.

In one reader’s words: “It perks me up no end when this happens, small kindnesses are such a gift, I spread the love all day!” 

31) Refer someone vulnerable to Avon Fire & Rescue Service for a free Home Fire Safety Visit
Avon Fire Service offer free Home Fire Safety Visits where they give practical advice and education to prevent fires starting.  Anyone can request a free visit and smoke alarms will also be fitted free of charge if needed.

Visit: https://www.avonfire.gov.uk/our-services/home-fire-safety-visits

32) Care for your elderly neighbours
Visit older residents in your road/area for a cup of tea and a chat for company. Just knock on their door with a little box of biscuits… the rest is easy.

33) Support elderly people via Contact the Elderly
If you know of a lonely or isolated elderly person, recommend them to Contact the Elderly for a once a month afternoon tea with people of their own age from their surrounding area. You can also volunteer by becoming a driver or a host.

One reader shared her experience of volunteering with Contact the Elderly:

I’m in my fifth year and I love our monthly tea, cakes and chats, it’s very rewarding.  I’ve been with the same group this whole time, some of our guests have changed but the day stays the same every month.  It’s a lifeline for some of our guests.”

There are also similar volunteering opportunities via the charity, Bristol Age UK.

34) Take your toddler to visit residential/nursing homes for old people
Acorns and Oaks enables the oldest members of the community to spend time with the youngest members of the community by arranging pop-up playgroups in settings for the elderly.

35) Help organise a lunch for elderly people
Why not volunteering at a lunch for elderly people or even set one up yourself; there are not many such events and more are needed.

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36) Volunteer for the APE Project
The Ape Project recently took on the management of St Paul’s Adventure playground but receive no funding – volunteers are desperately needed.

If you would like to get involved in any of the projects that the APE Project runs as a volunteer for one session per week for a whole term, do contact them.  They are always looking to recruit new members to join their Management Committee which meets quarterly to discuss operational and strategic issues.

37) Green fingers? Help maintain food growing areas
Incredible Edible Bristol is a group for those involved or wanting to be involved in Bristol’s food growing movement. They turn small unused green spaces into food growing areas, free for the local residents to harvest. They rely on volunteers to maintain them.

38) Organise a Playing Out event in your road
Consider setting up Playing Out event in your road. It’s where you close the road to cars for a few hours so the children can play, and you can meet your neighbours. Is really easy to do. There is a very knowledgeable playing out person who will come to your road to assess it and help you set it all up.

39) Support Breast-Feeding Mums
If you are a breast-feeding mummy, offer support to other mums on the Bristol Breastfeeding Mummies Facebook page. A supportive comment if you are struggling in the middle of the night can make a big difference.

40) Acknowledge homeless people
Take a moment to smile or speak with someone sitting on the pavement rather than hurrying by, even if you can’t offer money very often.

41) Volunteer at your local hospital
Why not volunteer at your local hospital? There are a variety of way you can do this. Contact Southmead Hospital Charity to find out about volunteering opportunities.

42) Declutter and donate
If you have any pre-loved clothing or items you no longer want or need, don’t chuck it, charity shop it!

43) Volunteer for the Family Cycling Centre
Bristol Family Cycling Centre need volunteers to help in lots of areas. If you can offer a day, or a week, or something more regularly, they would love to hear from you.

Training and support is provided, as are volunteering placements.

44) Take part in a river clean-up
There are regular river clean ups organised by Frome Fairies, a group of like-minded people who enjoy hoiking rubbish out of the River Frome as it meanders through Eastville Park.

45) Put together an Information Pack for bereaved people
This was a request from a reader for a positive action which is yet to be done but which would support and help bereaved people.  She explains:

“I don’t live in Bristol, but my brother did. However, when he died last year, I found myself coming up against so many hurdles in the process of trying to sort his funeral arrangements.  My suggestion is some sort of leaflet or information pack of agencies that can help, to be placed in public facilities such as: health centres, libraries, community centres etc.

“I found the whole process was extremely difficult and stressful dealing with matters concerning council housing officers, hospital staff, funeral departments etc.” 

Is this a positive action that YOU have the skills and expertise to do?

46) Cut down on plastic
Use re-usable bags and drinking bottles, don’t use plastic straws or disposable cutlery, avoid unnecessary food packaging and recycle whenever possible.

47) Get involved in local politics
Getting involved in local politics is an effective way to work towards achieving some real changes in your local area.

48) Find volunteering, funding and training opportunities
Voscur help start-ups to find their feet and equip them with the tools and guidance they need to flourish. Volunteers are needed!

49) Shop local
Support local businesses wherever possible!

50) Be nice!
It might sound obvious, but being polite, pleasant and respectful to the people you live with, work with and come into contact with makes such a big difference to someone’s day.

Please contact me if you have more ideas to add to this list!