3 Easy Actions to Improve the World

We all want to make a positive difference in the world. But, many laudable actions like reducing one’s carbon footprint or making donations to charity involve significant personal costs. Luckily, sometimes it’s very easy to improve the world substantially — here are 3 examples.

1 — Become a blood donor

Blood donations are often vital for medical procedures such as liver transplants. Moreover, the US is currently facing a blood shortage, prompting the Red Cross and others to urge donations. Demand is growing faster than supply (at a growth rate of 6% versus 3%) so it’s important that new donors sign up.

In order to be a blood donor in the United States, you typically have to be 17 years old and weigh 110 lbs (50 kg) or more. You can donate once every 56 days, or about 6 times a year.

The American Red Cross has a tool for finding donation sites here.

2 — Sign up to be a posthumous organ donor

Chinese doctors bow to a 11 year-old boy who chose to donate his organs after death, knowing he would die of a tumor. Source

As of 2014 over 120,000 Americans are on organ donation waiting lists. It’s unclear how many deaths are caused by organ shortages in the US, but one of the lowest figures I’ve seen puts it at 18 deaths a day. By signing up to be an organ donor, you agree to let doctors use your organs upon death if they can be safely transplanted to someone in need. This simple action might save up to 8 lives!

The United States organ donation system is known as opt-in, meaning that donors must actively sign up to the donation registry. Doing so is incredibly easy. You can register at the DMV when getting a driver’s license, or register through this online page. The only requirement is that you are 18 or older.

3 — Register to Vote


In the days and months leading up to the November election, we all reminded each other of the importance of civic participation. Let’s not forget about that now that the election is over. Voting is an easy activity that has a huge impact on the world. The winners of US federal elections (namely, legislators and the President) decide the allocation of a $3 trillion budget, and control the most powerful military in the world.

As such, even a tiny chance of affecting an election (casting one vote) has a huge expected value. The impact of a vote varies depending on what state you live in and your assessment of the likely outcomes of electing both candidates. But one estimate by 80,000 Hours found that

[A] single vote with a 1 in 10 million chance of changing the election outcome would be worth $300,000 to US shareholders as a whole.

If you live in a non-swing state, your chances of affecting the election are about 1 in 1 billion. But even this would yield a $3,000 expected value, and I can’t think of anything I would do in an afternoon that has a higher value.

Registering to vote is pretty easy, and you can do it here. If you live in California, you can register here.


Thanks to Erika Siao, Maya Kandell, Ameet Rahane, and Arjun Tambe for their suggestions and edits.

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