Think globally, act locally.
— David Brower, founder of Friends of the Earth, 1969
Winter Solstice is less than two weeks away and, as in past years, my response to the holiday intensity is to create for my visitors a daily haven of calm and an oasis of peace. But peace comes from our actions. So with our Graces guiding us, I invite you to become a candle of hope and peace, by performing one daily act of kindness.
Today’s suggestion has to do with shopping. Yes, I know. We need to be more circumspect and everyone agrees that this holiday period has become over-commercialized and too focused on consumer consumption.
But let’s face it. Even the craftiest amongst us are probably going to buy some presents, for someone. So let me urge you, no, beg you – please support your local merchants and independent businesses and artists.
Remember — you “vote” with your purchasing dollars.
In an economy that is turning downright bleak, small businesses are often the first to suffer. But when you support locally owned businesses, you’re doing more than helping those nice folks who serve you. You’re giving back to your whole community.
For instance, locally owned businesses build strong neighborhoods by sustaining communities, linking neighbors, and by contributing more to local causes.
Local ownership means that important decisions are made locally by people who live in the community and who will feel the impacts of those decisions. And local shops are more likely to support local providers – artists, small manufacturing, growers, and creators. For instance, local bookshops are absolutely vital to the success of new, untried authors and small press publishers. (For much more about independent bookstores, go here).
Estimates say that about three times as much money stays in the local economy when you choose a locally owned business instead of a chain. When shopping locally, you simultaneously create jobs, fund more city services through sales tax, invest in neighborhood improvement and promote community development.
Locally owned businesses create more jobs locally and, in some sectors, provide better wages and benefits than chains do.
Entrepreneurship fuels America’s economic innovation and prosperity, and serves as a key means for families to move out of low-wage jobs and into the middle class. Local stores in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure and make more efficient use of public services relative to big box stores and strip shopping malls.
This doesn’t make Internet shopping obsolete. In fact, according to one marketing research report, 6 out of 10 consumers do their product research online, then go make their purchase in a “bricks and mortar” shop.
We can ensure innovation, low prices, and new “green” priorities by supporting local businesses that offer the products and services we value. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based, not on a multinational conglomerate’s strategies, but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.
So this holiday season, get off the beaten track, and avoid the sprawling mediocre sameness. Find the local artisans, shops, and independent entrepreneurs in your area. You’re more likely to find those really unique goodies that your loved ones will treasure, and you’ll be doing a world of good for your community, too.