All politics is local.
— Thomas P. (Tip) O’Neill
As the holiday shopping season kicks into high gear, please consider making as many of your purchases as you can from local merchants and businesses. Sure, going to the big sales at the malls, or online shopping may seem to save you a few dollars, but if you factor in the cost of shipping, time and travel, the savings fizzle quickly. And there are other repercussions to consider.
Shopping locally helps reduce your carbon footprint, transportation emissions, and food miles. And when you shop locally you are helping to build connections that sustain your community’s businesses, and the health of your local economy.
Local stores are more likely to carry locally produced foods and products. Business owners contribute to more local fundraising initiatives; and they provide a majority of jobs.
Local shops usually provide much better, personalized customer service, which creates a more pleasureable shopping experience for you. Money spent locally contributes to supporting the community tax base, which means those dollars that fix our roads, maintain our recreational facilities and fund our schools.
Competition and diversity result in fair prices and more choices. And local business owners invest in the community and have a vested interest in the future of our communities.
It is true that Wal-Mart, Whole Foods, GE, and Macy’s have all recently made some significant green commitments. From Wal-Mart’s push to sell millions of CFL light bulbs and its commitment to purchase only sustainably-caught wild fish to Whole Foods’ elimination of disposable plastic bags and commitment to renewable energy, these companies are leading the way to green in the business world.
With their tremendous purchasing power and their ability to advertise to millions (if not billions) of consumers, the potential for effecting positive change is tremendous. Yet these large, centralized companies control more and more of the economy. They are no longer connected to any individual community and therefore do not feel any obligation for its health and wellbeing. When big box stores take the place of small, independently-owned companies, communities lose jobs, cash flow is diverted away from the community, and the local tax base shrinks.
When consumers shop at local stores, on the other hand, more money re-circulates in the community because local businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers, etc. Locally-owned and operated businesses also add character and uniqueness. And where large stores and malls often set up shop on the fringes of town, local businesses thrive in more high-density areas, where consumers can come and go using public transportation, local walking paths, and other low-impact transportation methods.
If you must go to the big chain stores, using some of your holiday shopping dollars to purchase green products will help to send a signal that the market supports their green changes.
But the best choice is to spend money that will stay in your community with local vendors who will keep your local economy diverse, healthy and strong. Vote with your money to support your local friends and neighbors who are working hard to serve you.