23 ways to spend your tax refund that can make you happy and the world a better place.

It's April, which begs the question how are you going to spend your tax refund this year?

(If, of course, you're fortune enough to get a refund. My condolences if you end up owing Uncle Sam.)

Bills need to be paid. And the zeroes in your student debt total should, at least in theory, keep dwindling. You should probably stock the pantry while you're at it, and make sure the gas tank is filled, too.


But if you cross off all the boring payments on your "being a responsible adult" list and still have a good chunk of change at your disposal, I have a few suggestions that could make you feel good about where your money is going.

Here are 23 seriously rewarding ways you can spend your tax refund this year:

1. Buy individual sets of flowers and visit a senior center.

Image via iStock.

Bring a friend if you like, too, and pass them out room by room. You'll definitely make (at least) one person's day.

2. Find a cool and important project helping teachers and students on DonorsChoose.

The online platform allows educators, mostly in underserved communities, to raise funds for neat learning opportunities for their students — from getting new computer tablets to providing enough instruments to create a drum line for music class.

3. Donate it to a local nonprofit helping your own community.

Big, national, or international nonprofits do vital work, of course. But there's something pretty special about seeing how the people in your own city can benefit from a little generosity.

4. Pay it forward in the drive-through line — or, better yet, the grocery store.

You've seen the viral stories of folks grabbing the tabs of other patrons ahead of or behind them in line. You could be the person who starts the next chain reaction.

5. This one isn't immediately gratifying, but ... your savings account may need some padding.

Image via iStock.

Just because something doesn't give you instant gratification doesn't mean it won't eventually be rewarding, right? Save up to pay off that loan, buy that car, be prepared for a rainy day, or be less burdened when next semester's tuition bill arrives. It'll be worth it.

6. Sponsor a person or group that has been taken advantage of by our flawed justice system.

News flash: The power structures at play in our law enforcement and justice systems favor white and wealthy people. Funded Justice is a crowdfunding platform where donors can help foot defense expenses — like legal and bail fees, for example — for those seeking a fair shot.

7. Throw a pizza party at your local food bank.

Ask the Pennsylvania man who did just that in 2016 — it's great knowing every cheesy bite is greatly appreciated.

Image via iStock.

8. Reach out to that friend you've been meaning to call and take them out to dinner and a movie.

You both deserve each other's company.

9. Chocolate.

Hey now, it's good for you. Indulge a little.

10. Give cash to a friend or family member who could really use it this month — in the form of a money cake.

Image via Jodi McKinney, used with permission.

OK, this is a bit lavish, but if you're feeling especially generous, here's how to make it, courtesy of Jodi McKinney's blog, "The Creative Life In Between."

11. Buy new socks and feminine hygiene products to give to a homeless shelter.

They're always among the most requested items, but — because you can't donate these sorts of items used — many donors don't realize how tremendous the need is. (Here are other vital products to donate you maybe haven't thought of.)

12. Donate to Meals on Wheels, then grab a friend and volunteer for the group locally.

After seeing President Donald Trump's proposed budget, the organization may need all the help it can get in the years ahead.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images.

13. Commit to guilt-free purchases for the week.

Shopping for food, clothes, and other products that are fair trade, locally sourced, and produced by ethical companies can be an expensive, exhausting privilege not everyone can afford.

But with some extra cash on hand, try to take the leap for a few days. You may be able to work in some better long-term spending habits, too.

14. Book a solo weekend getaway on the fly.

Depending on whether you're an impulse buyer, this probably sounds either exciting or terrifying. Either way, you should indulge in some R and R. In today's 24/7, on-the-go world, recharging mentally and physically is important. (Plus, solo travel rocks.) Quick, go!

Image via iStock.

15. Donate to an organization that helps people who are particularly vulnerable in the era of Trump.

So many groups — immigrants, LGBTQ people, women, people of color, Muslims, and others — are facing a hostile administration attempting to strip away their rights and send us backward. Help them out.

16. Buy house plants and bulk up on garden items just in time for spring.

Research suggests that greening up your living quarters can actually benefit your health and boost happiness. If you're new to the plant game, maybe start out with some succulents (they practically take care of themselves).

17. Order a bunch of Girl Scout cookies for the neighbors you love or the ones you haven't met yet.

Photo by John Moore/Getty Images.

What's a better icebreaker than "Hi, here are some Thin Mints"? Another option: Hoard all of the Samoas and Caramel deLites for yourself (no judgment). Either way, you'll be supporting an important organization doing great things.

18. See if there's an Amazon Wish List registry for an animal shelter near you.

Animal shelters need lots of specific items to care for their four-legged friends — things like outdoor, durable furniture, cat and dog food, and specialized collars to keep pups (and their humans) safe.

19. Buy some Dogsbutter for your pup. Your purchase will helping another sweet doggo in need.

Dogsbutter — made from peanuts and flaxseed (minus any sugar, salt, or hydrogenated oils) — is a healthy snack for your pup they'll certainly enjoy. For each item you buy, Dog for Dog also gives an equal amount of food to a pet shelter, so dogs in need will benefit, too.

20. Buy "(R)evolution: The Girls Write Now 2016 Anthology" and help underserved teen girls pursue their creative dreams.

The book of essays and poetry was published by Girls Write Now, a New York-based after school program that connects girls with accomplished female writers, who serve as mentors. All proceeds of the book benefit the program.

21. Donate to a bowling team that's helping fund abortion access.

The National Abortion Access Bowl-a-Thon allows people to set up bowling teams and fundraise on behalf of abortion access across the country. Donate or — better yet — join a team. It's a sort of unconventional but equally awesome idea.

22. Get your neighborhood excited about books again, and snag some supplies to set up your own Little Free Library.

Once you build and stock one of these (ridiculously adorable) mini-libraries in your yard — or any other public-facing space you think might be a great spot — readers take a book from the stockpile and leave a different one in its place.

23. And last but not least: Treat yo' self.

GIF via "Parks and Recreation."

Get that flat-screen. Book that massage. Splurge a little (or a lot).

You work hard, and you deserve it.

Correction 4/12/2017: Several references to "tax return" in this article have been corrected to "tax refund."

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Amazon

Shopping sustainably is increasingly important given the severity of the climate crisis, but sometimes it's hard to know where to turn. Thankfully, Amazon is making it a little easier to browse thousands of products that have one or more of 19 sustainability certifications that help preserve the natural world.

The online retailer recently announced Climate Pledge Friendly, a program to make it easier for customers to discover and shop for more sustainable products. To determine the sustainability of a product, the program partnered with third-party certifications, including governmental agencies, nonprofits, and independent labs.

With a selection of items spanning grocery, household, fashion, beauty, and personal electronics, you'll be able to shop more sustainably not just for the holiday season, but throughout the year for your essentials, as well.

You can browse all of the Climate Pledge Friendly products here, labeled with an icon and which certification(s) they meet. To get you on your way to shopping more sustainably, we've rounded up eight of our favorite Climate Pledge Friendly-products that will make great gifts all year long.

Amazon

Jack Wolfskin Women's North York Coat

Give the gift of warmth and style with this coat, available in a variety of colors. Sustainability is built into all Jack Wolfskin products and each item comes with a code that lets you trace back to its origins and understand how it was made.

Bluesign: Bluesign products are responsibly manufactured by using safer chemicals and fewer resources, including less energy, in production.


Amazon

Amazon All-new Echo Dot (4th Gen)

For the tech-obsessed. This Alexa smart speaker, which comes in a sleek, compact design, lets you voice control your entertainment and your smart home as well as connect with others.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.


Amazon

Burt's Bees Family Jammies Matching Holiday Organic Cotton Pajamas

Get into the holiday spirit with these fun matching PJs for the whole family. Perfect for pictures that even Fido can get in on.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

Naturistick 5-Pack Lip Balm Gift Set

With 100% natural ingredients that are gentle on ultra-sensitive lips, this gift is a great gift for the whole family.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.


Amazon

Arus Women's GOTS Certified Organic Cotton Hooded Full Length Turkish Bathrobe

For those who love to lounge around, this full-length organic cotton bathrobe is the way to go. Available in five different colors, it has comfortable cuffed sleeves, a hood, pockets, and adjustable belt.

Global Organic Textile Standard: This certifies each step of the organic textile supply chain against strict ecological and social standards. Each product with this certification contains 95%-100% organic content.

Amazon

L'Occitane Extra-Gentle Vegetable Based Soap

This luxe soap, made with moisturizing shea butter and scented with verbena, is perfect for the self-care obsessed.

Compact by Design (Certified by Amazon): Products with this certification are packaged without excess air and water, which reduces the carbon footprint of shipping and packaging.

Amazon

Goodthreads Men's Sweater-Knit Fleece Long-Sleeve Bomber

For the fashionable men in your life, this fashion-forward knit bomber is an excellent choice. The sweater material keeps it cozy and warm, while the bomber jacket-cut, zip front, and rib-trim neck make it look elevated.

Recycled Claim Standard 100: Products with this certification use materials made from at least 95% recycled content.

Amazon

All-new Fire TV Stick with Alexa Voice Remote

Make it even easier to access your favorite movies and shows this holiday season. The new Fire TV Stick lets you use your voice to search across apps. Plus it controls the power and volume on your TV, so you'll never need to leave the couch! Except for snacks.

Reducing CO2: Products with this certification reduce their carbon footprint year after year. Certified by the Carbon Trust.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.