Making a Difference – Eco Humanitarian and Charitable Aid collection projects

Many are concerned about climate change and look for ways to reduce their carbon footprint. We know that by increasing  recycling we can  reduce the amount of items sent to landfill.  What if some of the items we no longer need could  could make a huge difference to others in need?  There are a growing number of recycling initiatives where unwanted items are gathered and sent to those who do without, others where items are donated to fund raise for worthy causes.  These groups have found ways care for the planet in ways that also benefit others. Eco-humanitarian projects are an exciting way to work together, to help to protect the planet and meet the sometimes desperate needs of others, either close by or overseas.


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Not all of the projects listed are currently actively collecting and working in the Calgary area.  They demonstrate existing projects and hopefully share and inspire us of the possibilities for further projects by local groups, organisations or individuals.



There are a number of groups using donated fabric that is no longer needed, one such group make Little Dresses for Africa – Changing lives one little dress at a time.  They explain, “Little Dresses for Africa is a non-profit Christian  organization, which provides relief to the children of  Africa. Simple dresses are made out of pillow cases, and distributed through the orphanages, churches and schools in Africa to plant in the hearts of little girls that they are worthy!   LDFA has received more than 3 MILLION LITTLE DRESSES and donations from all 50 states across the USA, and 31 other countries.   3 MILLION!  That’s a lot of little girls!! 47 countries in Africa.   31 other countries. Imagine it!  All your beautiful little dresses out there planting in the hearts of little girls that they are worth it! You are changing the world, one little dress at a time!”


They use pillowcases because

  • Easy enough for a novice seamstress.
  • Already has the hem and sides in it and easily available new and gently used.
  • Brightly colored sundresses are perfectly suited for the African climate.  They also use other fabrics.   They also make and distribute shorts, and distribute washable -reusable menstrual hygiene products for the girls.


There are also numerous clothing banks which will send items of clothing and other items to people in need at home or overseas. It is wonderful to think that people are committed to donating fabrics, their time and skills to help others – fabric that may other-wise end up in landfill.


Eye glasses

There are a few organisations which collect used eyeglasses which are no longer required to be sent to areas of need. The Canada Lions Eyeglass Recycling center  The CLERC accepts the following glasses. : Reading, Single Vision, Bifocal, Children, Safety, non-prescription Sunglasses New and Used. They also collect hearing aids, adult soft eyeglass cases, safety glasses, recycled eyeglasses, non-prescription sunglasses, and prescription sunglasses, and uncut lenses.

They explain “Recycling is about taking any reusable pair of eyeglasses and giving it a second chance at usefulness.”

2002. Saw the program reach a milestone in the shipping of its 1 millionth pair. The program received the Premier’s Silver award of Excellence for program initiatives.

2006. September saw the second milestone and celebration of the distribution of its 2 millionth pair to a recipient in Haiti.

2010. October saw the third milestone and celebration of the distribution of its 3 millionth pair to a recipient in Mexico.

2012. Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Center started a new initiative with respect to processing used eye glasses, we now have work parties where Lions from District clubs sort, clean, read and package glasses ready to be send to various missions as required.

They have sent pairs of recycled eyeglasses to: Angola, Bangladesh, Burkina Faso, Cambodia, Cameroon, El Salvador, Ghana, Haiti, the Ivory Coast, Liberia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, Samoa, Tanzania, Togo, and Zambia, as well as providing them to Canadians who are in need.

When requesting quantities of recycled eyeglasses from the Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre for mission use, the organization is responsible for assuring Lions Clubs International that the eyeglasses will be given to needy people at no charge to them, providing shipping instructions, arranging customs clearance and covering the cost of shipping the eyeglasses overseas. Eyeglasses shipped from the Canadian Lions Eyeglass Recycling Centre (Calgary) are only shipped to pre-approved organizations within Canada only.

Another project is


Computers and Lap tops

What would we do without computers and laptops?  When they are no longer useful to us, or we are upgrading, unwanted computers can be collected to be sent overseas. They are as useful there as they are here!  One organization which does this is the World Computer Exchange.

“World Computer Exchange ships donated refurbished desktop and laptop computers (as well as many other new and used items) to groups who choose to become our Partners. Partners can be NGOs, government ministries, schools, orphanages, libraries, youth centres, telecentres, universities & entrepreneurs. The WCE Board of Directors has approved 900 Partner organizations in 79 developing countries. Computers from WCE are for use in public settings to help connect more youth in developing countries to the Internet at low cost. Most of the computers need to be used most of the time to connect youth (up-to the age of 24).

Volunteers to collect and refurbish computers, load them with educational content for shipping and recycle any dead equipmentRepairs


Medical supplies and equipment

There are organisations devoted to sending medical equipment to developing countries.  Medshare is one which does this.  They explain, it started “from a modest beginning as a one-person operation in donated warehouse space, MedShare has grown into a leader in the field of medical surplus recovery and redistribution supporting the healthcare of hundreds of thousands of people in 95 countries over its 15-year history. To do this takes the leadership, passion and hard work of many people, each of whom plays an important role.

Another organisation is Remedy  who also send surplus medical supplies and equipment to developing countries.  They explain “Gloves, sutures, drapes, gowns and many other items prepared but not used during a medical procedure are discarded because they are considered “un-sterile” even if there has been no contact at all with the patient. Due to legal concerns and regulations, these supplies are not usable in this country but are enthusiastically accepted by many charitable organizations for distribution to healthcare personnel throughout the developing world where they are so desperately needed”


School and Hygiene Kits

Sometimes projects are able to meet their goals through larger companies with surplus goods and materials.   When they become available with some creative thinking, and contacts in the right places, organizations can make sure these surpluses can be used, or reused, rather than wasted.  One such project began when someone became aware that a major airline was replacing their fabric seat covers across their fleet. Normally these would have ended up in landfill but instead were donated to the humanitarian aid project.   The fabric seat covers were laundered, then  sewn by volunteers into bags following an agreed pattern, and filled  with donated basic school supplies—pencils, paper, and  writing slate -for students, or basic hygiene products,  and sent overseas.

The contents were also donated following appeals to companies with products they couldn’t sell due to damaged packaging or for other reasons. Some were donated by individuals, including unwanted shampoos and other ‘freebies’, from hotel visits.  These were transported to areas of need through existing humanitarian aid organizations with experience in logistics and local requirements.

One example of this project.


Things to Consider

Whilst anything that encourages recycling is generally good, it is important to check out the organizations we donate to,  and their eco credibility.

Check transportation methods.  Are they as efficient as they can be?  Is sending these goods the best way to help?  How useful are our unwanted  goods to others – for example an old smart phone with a failing battery will probably be less useful than fund raising and sending up to date goods, or goods which can be purchased closer to the area of need.

Does the equipment really end up where it should?  Is it freely available when it arrives at the destination, or are there unreasonable expectations in return for the items, monetary or other?

There is so much waste in our society.  Stores cannot sell goods with even slightly damaged packaging, or have items that simply haven’t sold and need to be disposed of to make way for new ones.  Equipment is regularly upgraded by commercial, medical, educational organizations, and individuals. Clothing and other fabrics may be no longer required, due to fashion changes, or interior colour scheme changes, moving home etc.  There are people, communities and charitable organizations who can use these goods.  Things we no longer need or want can make a big difference for someone else.  Recycling, repairing, and repurposing them to send to places where they are desperately needed is a great way to make a difference, whilst following eco-friendly principles and contributing to taking care of the environment.



Like what we’re doing? Want to share your story or tell others? Do you have a green business in Calgary and want to get in front of a large local audience? Let’s build a green community together!