One of the biggest criticisms of internet activism is that it does nothing except make you feel good. You can share a status, sign a petition or change your Facebook profile pic and feel your job is done when it’s anything but. I Can Go Without hopes to change that with a new app that gives conscious consumers the chance to go without daily purchases like a cup of coffee or a cab ride and give that money to the efficient, sustainable charity of their choice immediately.
“The conscious consumer is the single largest potential force for good in the world,” said ICGW co-founder Paul Rowland in an interview at this month’s Jeudi d’Apollo. “They’ve already revolutionized the whole cosmetics industry to be more aware of what they’re doing. Everybody recycles now, that’s conscious consumerism.”
The team came up with the idea over breakfast. There was a famine happening at the time with a billion dollar shortfall in aid. Realizing that Facebook was close to getting its billionth member, they thought that one group of people could help the other.
“What if everybody today went without one coffee and just gave that money to this fund? Let’s say it’s a three dollar coffee,” Rowland recounted their thinking, “they would have three times the money they needed. It’s this social hive philanthropy of people getting together. That’s the ultimate dream.”
While the ultimate goal may take a while to reach, ICGW already works with charities like the Quebec Breast Cancer Foundation, Dans La Rue and Oxfam. They’re also in talks with businesses whose models they find ethical and sustainable, to have them match donations the organization receives from individuals.
“When you get involved in this stuff you realize there are a lot of ethical companies trying to do some good,” Rowland observed, explaining that “if you go without, they will go without, too.”
That doesn’t mean that ICGW would take money from just anyone. Access to water, health care, shelter, food and education are the five pillars of the organization and companies whose practices counter any of these pillars wouldn’t be a good match.
But what if, say, a company that makes plastic water bottles, which is not sustainable and works against one of their pillars, came to them with a million dollars? Knowing all the good that they could do with that money, Rowland admits that it wouldn’t be the easiest decision they would have to make, but their principles would definitely play a huge part in it.
“It’s a whole jigsaw puzzle,” he explained, “and all those pieces interact with each other and have an effect, so if we’re supporting water and trying to make sure that it is accessible to everyone, then advocating plastic bottles, it doesn’t make any sense.”
This could be one of the reasons why their focus remains squarely on small amounts from individuals. After all, it’s not like they’re asking people to give up their Ferraris (though Rowland admits they wouldn’t say no if someone did want to go without a sports car and donate to a cause).
“I love beer, I love wine,” Rowland says, “but I’m pretty sure that in one month I could drink one less beer or have one less glass of wine. It’s not really a big ask.”
For more information or to download the app, please visit ICanGoWithout.com