Tithing tied to consumption

November 20th, 2013  |  Published in Ideas

A Facebook friend shared this critique of TOMS shoes today and it reminded me that ethical consumerism is kind of a fail in terms of substantial economic or environmental justice.  However, as much as my consumption has serious consequences, often not felt by me, I still buy stuff.  Rather than having my “lesser of two evils” consumption prescribed by producers, I’d like to have my consumption offset by pushing resources to strategies that offer the most leverage toward economic justice.

I image a system that integrates with a service like Mint, or other banking API that calculates a tithe as a percentage of my consumption in certain categories.  This would be weighted based on the harmful externalities associated with a particular type of purchase.  I think it’s really difficult and perhaps dangerous to try to model the actual consequences of consumption, but its still important to have a reminder that consumption isn’t neutral.  After a certain threshold is reached, I’d be notified by the system and could then push the calculated tithe to recommended projects, or some other project of my choice.  As an added feature, I could get recommendations of non-monetary ways (volunteering, taking part in an action, attending a government hearing)  as a way of fulfilling the “tithe”.

One technical constraint is how to get access to my spending data.  I found this Stack Exchange thread about Mint APIs and this mention of an Open Bank API.