If everyone picked up a few bits of litter every day, there would soon be a lot less litter on the street. So, can we find a way to encourage more people to litter-pick?
That's one of the goals of a new site called Kindness.org, from a Brooklyn nonprofit of the same name. Through a series of challenges, it hopes to promote random acts of charity, and make the world a slightly better place. A week after opening, it seems to be succeeding—albeit on a small scale. About 400 acts, including plenty of litter-picking, had occurred so far.
"We think kindness transcends race and economic status and that even the smallest acts of kindness can make a change," says the site's founder Jaclyn Lindsey. "Our vision is to test what initiatives are resonating with people and why. For example, why is it that litter is a popular theme? Should we be doing more ideas focused on the environment?"
Other initiative ideas include giving a favorite book away to a friend, leaving art for someone to find, and asking an elder for advice (as a way to making someone feel needed and respected).
Kindness.org launched the project together with research showing that kindness-acts have a small, but persistent positive impact on happiness. The study, led by Oxford University academic Oliver Curry, looks at 21 previously published studies and finds that people are markedly altruistic under certain conditions.
"The caricature of evolution is that everything is nasty, brutish, and short, and it's all competitive struggle for survival," Curry says. "In the last few decades, we've discovered that's not always the case. There are lots of ways animals, including us, can make a living through cooperating. Humans form families and teams and return favors and sometimes compete to be the most heroic."
If you feel like being a little heroic today, Kindness.org is here.