The ripple effect: The difference one person can make

It’s a big world. But even though you’re just one human being among 7.4 billion others, Joyce Kwan knows from experience that a single person can make a sizable difference. And the biggest way is by influencing the people around you.

Joyce in Yosemite National Park © Joyce Kwan
Joyce in Yosemite National Park © Joyce Kwan

Take the example of a shoreline cleanup. When Joyce heads to the beach or river with gloves and garbage bags, she’s doing much more than picking up toxic cigarette butts, plastic bits and other pieces of litter that can harm wildlife. She’s also inspiring her friends to do the same — and they, in turn, inspire those around them to take care of the natural world.
And while the cleanup takes only a few hours, the impact lasts much longer. Anyone who has spent an afternoon collecting other people’s garbage knows it leaves you with a lasting commitment to putting garbage in the right place. (There’s even a bystander effect: Seeing someone else pick up dirty refuse prompts bystanders and passersby to think a little more carefully about where they’ll toss that empty bottle or soiled food wrapper.)    
If volunteering creates ripples, Joyce is a ripple-maker extraordinaire.
Joyce and her team from HP Canada at a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event. © HP Canada
Joyce and her team from HP Canada at a Great Canadian Shoreline Cleanup event. © HP Canada

Over the past two years, she has rallied her colleagues at HP Canada for two cleanups of Etobicoke Creek, which runs behind the office where she works (and where she regularly sees deer, wild turkeys and geese wander by.) She has also organized a Toronto Islands cleanup through the Adventure Club she founded for outdoor enthusiasts and young professionals to give back to the community.
Contributing to conservation comes naturally to Joyce.
“People tend to forget that we are part of a larger ecosystem and that our actions can have a huge impact on our environment. I believe we have a choice whether that impact is a positive or negative one. We are living in one of the most critical moments in the history of our planet. Every action counts, no matter how small, and is a step toward a more sustainable future,” she says.    
Her volunteer efforts don’t stop with cleanups. When WWF-Canada’s Spring Things fundraising campaign ramped up at HP Canada, Joyce not only signed up for the Polar Dip and served as team captain for the CN Tower Climb, she also developed a communications campaign to encourage her colleagues to join in.
More recently, Joyce applied for an HP Community Support Grant — a program that gives employees a paid week off to volunteer for the charity of their choice. Much to our delight, Joyce proposed to help WWF-Canada encourage volunteerism. You can imagine how thrilled we were when HP gave her the green light.
Joyce with the Living Planet @ Work team at WWF-Canada's head office. © Joyce Kwan
Joyce with the Living Planet @ Work team at WWF-Canada’s head office. © Joyce Kwan

Joyce dug in, helping us lay the groundwork for a new WWF volunteer leadership program that focuses on skill-based volunteering and nature-based conservation activities across Canada. She also put together a Living Planet @ Work toolkit to help other companies across Canada encourage their employees to volunteer for nature, too. Watch for its launch in 2017.
Joyce’s motivation is simple.
“I think it’s really important for us to give back to the community,” she says. “I want to be able to make a difference and create a bigger impact by being part of the solution.”
On International Volunteer Day, we’d like to salute all the ripple-makers who contribute to conservation. You inspire us year-round.
Want to take action and volunteer for nature? Here’s how you can get involved: