The main online retailers are attractive, with perks like two-day shipping, the ability to try at home before paying, and the convenience of shopping in your pajamas. The problem is that these amenities come at a cost to individuals, communities and the environment. But there’s the good news: You can do anything, and you have more control than you think.
Traditional voting — with your ballot — is more important than ever, but there is tremendous power in deciding where and how you spend your money. Mindful shopping is one way of making small choices that add up to big changes.
Stay close to you
Buying locally is the best way to support your community. The U.S. Small Business Administration launched National Small Business Week in 1963 and has co-sponsored Small Business Saturday with American Express since 2011. AmEx launched Small shop, which includes Small Business Saturday, in 2010 to help retailers during the recession and spent $ 200 million to support small businesses during the pandemic.
Bill Brunelle is co-founder of We are independent, developed to celebrate local brands and provide small businesses with marketing toolkits that offer infrastructure and support. Members receive everything from graphics with slogans like “Buy good things from real people” and tips on social media to tips on point of sale systems. IWS is now a network of over 10,000 mom-and-pop stores, and it has a mobile app to help consumers locate stores.
Brunelle says there is an emotional component to shopping near home, and since the pandemic people are more motivated than ever. “Keeping more money in the community means better roads, better schools, better parks, better paid teachers,” he says. “Your hard-earned dollar goes even further when it stays local. For additional motivation, IWS provides a list of 10 things this happens when you shop locally.
The Andersonville Retail Economics Study, published in 2004, determined that for every $ 100 spent locally, $ 68 stays in the community. When that same $ 100 is spent on a national chain, only $ 43 remains in the community. Brunelle cautions consumers against “local cleaning,” when big box stores use “local” in their marketing but are vague on how they define it.
“You know the power of local is real when national and international chains like Walmart and Target use the word local in their marketing because they realize that people want to buy local, “says Brunelle. He encourages shoppers to think critically to avoid falling victim to the local wash.” A supermarket can advertise products with ‘us let’s buy local, “” says Brunelle, “but their definition of local might be 500 miles away. You just can’t buy a locally grown pineapple in Minnesota in January. “
Buy a second hand
Shopping at local stores is a start, though there is a caveat, and it’s a tough pill for many Americans to swallow: while you might want to new things, you don’t necessarily need novelties. Shopping at yard sales, thrift stores, estate sales, flea markets, and antique stores use up products already in circulation and are also a great way to get to know your neighbors.
In Missoula, Montana, where I lived most of my adult life, we have stores like The cellar door, which uses the hashtag #nothingnewforyou and whose mission is to “conserve space and place with what is already there”, and @room, which restores pieces of wood, leather and rope and modernizes upholstered furniture with amusing, funky Fabric. Chances are there are second-hand stores operated by charities or similar stores in your area, and you don’t always have to go directly to Goodwill or the Salvation Army, although these are also options.