ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Why Don’t We Just Donate Instead of Wasting Water? Because We Won’t

As the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge continues to spread, critics ask why people are wasting water in a drought and why they don’t just give money instead. Simple answer – the critics don’t really care about water conservation, and people won’t just give, because we’re not that generous.

It Was About Raising Awareness, and It Did

Before the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge went viral, how many people knew what it was? Did you? Even after it has gone viral, do you know what it is? Do you know what it stands for? Have you bothered looking it up to learn more? Chances are, no to all those questions.

Because what you saw was a quick video or picture in your news feed about someone dumping water over their head. Then you saw a bunch of people doing it and news articles on it. You may have watched a video or two, read an article or two. Learned that ALS is some kind of disease, and people are dumping water on their head instead of donating money to help.

But it got people talking. Whether you’re for it or against it, there are discussions around it. And for the first time, Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis, or Lou Gehrig’s Disease, which affects 5,600 Americans each year, is brought into the spotlight. And by the way, it attacks motor neurons in your brain and spinal cord so that you lose control of movement, including walking, eating, and even breathing. People die within 2-5 years and there is no cure, which is the reason there’s a desperate need to raise money for medical research.

It’s Not Really About Wasting Water

One of the biggest criticisms has been that it’s wasting water, because we’re in a drought right now. But that’s probably one of the weakest arguments I’ve heard. For the philosophers out there, it’s a straw man fallacy. Before the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, how much did you care about the drought? Seriously?

Were you actively conserving water? Were you shortening your showers? Were you loading your dishwasher more heavily? Did you water your plants less? Did you wear some clothes twice so you could use the washing machine less? Did you flush the toilet only on poo-poos, and not pee-pees. Did you talk to your friends, family, and co-workers about doing their part to conserve water? Answer is probably – no – definitely, a big NO.

But now you’re suddenly the biggest advocate for water conservation. Say a small bucket of ice and water is 5 gallons, give or take. Your average 10 minute shower this morning used 20 gallons of water with a low flow shower head – 40 gallons if you like the turbo jet stream. When you flushed the toilet for your tiny tinkle, you used 4 gallons. When you run your Energy-Star dishwasher, that’s another 4 gallons (12 if it’s older). And washing off those skid marks in the laundry uses 27 gallons in an Energy-Star washer, and 43 gallons in regular models.

Water conservation in a drought is serious, and we should all be doing it. But it needs to start in our everyday usage of water – that’s what actually makes the difference. A bucket of water once is nothing compared to the water we use on a daily basis. So if you’re gung-ho about saving water, start with yourself before criticizing others. That includes me – I haven’t done the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge yet, but I probably waste more water than I should on a daily basis.

(Water stats can be found anywhere, I used ones from here)

Without a Stunt, We Just Wouldn’t Donate

The second part of the criticism is why people just don’t donate if they care so much. It doesn’t make sense to do the challenge just to get out of donating money. The reality is, most people who do the challenge donate anyways.

When was the last time you donated to an organization? Exclude tithing if you go to church. $5 to a homeless man doesn’t count. Buying Girls Scout cookies don’t count either. Not rounding off your change at the store, or dropping coins into a bucket. I’m talking about intentionally and thoughtfully writing a check or entering a credit card for a decent amount of money to an organization that addresses a cause that you care about. For most people, it’s been a while, if ever.

The truth is we’re just not that generous. Without the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, people wouldn’t know about the disease, and people won’t just donate. We need something stupid, fun, and viral to do in order to spur us into action. That’s why organizations need to spend money on marketing campaigns to get attention and raise awareness. Though they get criticized for wasting that money, they get more donations than if they hadn’t. Up to this week, the ALS Association has raised over $15 million since the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge started, compared to their less than $50,000 in the same time period last year. I’d say the stunt was worth it. Because people just don’t give. And a simple bucket does matter for not just money, but hope and morale of those suffering from ALS. Watch this video:

So before you criticize people for wasting a bucket of water, look at your own water conservation habits and see where you can save. And before you criticize a marketing campaign for wasting funds, make regular contributions to charity that you care about, so they don’t have to spend so much money to get you to care in the first place.

If you want to donate, here are some excellent organizations I recommend, ones that I personally donate to on a monthly basis:

2 thoughts on “ALS Ice Bucket Challenge: Why Don’t We Just Donate Instead of Wasting Water? Because We Won’t”

  1. this was really good steven. i definitely agree with what youre saying. its a cause worth discussing about FOR SURE. i personally have been conserving water the last few months and ive encouraged others to do the same, whether or not they wanted the solicited advice. i watch this guys als video today and i reposted it because i think its finally a story behind the cause. i still believe the ice bucket aspect of it could be minimal in the state of california personally because i still see it wasting water. but i get it, people waste water. we just do.

    i appreciate your frankness about giving towards others who are serving causes and people we are called to love and fight for. i can always do more. and i should do more. the question for me is, ‘will i’.

    anyway, very insightful piece.

    1. Thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it. That’s great that you’ve been actively conserving water, and definitely justifies your reason on why we need to be saving.

      And the other side of this post, there are a lot of people doing the ALS challenge just because it’s fun and they see everyone else doing it, without any real knowledge of the reason behind it. Those people are wasting water, because it doesn’t serve any purpose.

      I think all of us, including me, are with you in knowing that we can do more. Thank you for your insightful feedback

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