Shopping Local Will Save the World
In January I read an article by Rick Newman from the U.S. News and World Report entitled 17 Ways Consumers Are Changing. The article detailed how consumers have changed in light of the economic turmoil we've been experiencing the last several years. The current assault on the middle class, thanks to tax breaks to the very wealthiest of Americans, the greed of said wealthiest Americans as evidenced by the banking industry, and the out-of-control, non-regulated, no-competition healthcare industry (see #14 on the list) - has left most Americans holding their wallets close to their chests. Go figure.
Reading this article made me think, "This doesn't have to be all doom and gloom." If there's one thing that I learned from this economic downturn it's that American over-consumption keeps the world going round. The tchotchkes we purchase for next to nothing (and don't even need) allow China to pay their workers next to nothing, and allows them, in turn, to put American workers out of business and out of jobs. So when we stop shopping...when we pare back to what's necessary..omigosh...all hell breaks loose!
Who knew the world depended on Americans killing themselves, working way too may hours, just to buy plastic baubles? It turns out hoarders were right...crap is very, very important.
I loved learning about how my fellow Americans are changing based on the economy. As a mother, many of these changes give me hope for how my children's generation might learn from our mistakes: more resourcefulness, smaller is bigger, decluttering, food frugality, and gardening. How awesome and sensible!
But there was one item left off of that list, a way I've noticed I've changed as a result of this economy. And I wonder how many others have been changing in this way as well: shopping locally. Remember what I said about "most Americans holding their wallets close to their chests." Most Americans means everyone in this country, and the world for that matter, is counting on middle class Americans (that's all of us...since I'm assuming Bill Gates and Paris Hilton aren't reading this) to start spending again. With that in mind, we've all been given a clean slate to decide what's important to us, and the kind of community we'd like our kids to grow up in. And then...start spending consciously.
I started this past holiday season. I definitely spent less this year; I gave myself a budget and I stuck to it. But it was where I spent that made all the difference. Think about this: when I was growing up, record stores used to be a big hang out. Slowly they have disappeared, until recently, on Valentine's Day I wanted to buy my husband a CD and because the CD was released that week, and was not John Mayer or someone else generic, I was forced to buy the CD from Amazon.com.
I don't want this happening to books. If my kids couldn't meander around a local bookstore for an afternoon, when they're teenagers, I think I would cry. Amazon.com is not going to go out of business if I don't buy from them, but Kepler's or Hicklebee's might. So for the holidays I only bought books from those two local stores. And it was a joy to spend time in them. Far more joyful than sitting at my computer with my credit card. And it allowed me to pay CASH. HA! Big Banks, take THAT! For the remainder of my baby and kid shopping, I went to Baby Buzz, another favorite local store in Willow Glen. Cute, well-made, original gifts. No useless tchotchkes.
I could go on and on about all of the wonderful local stores we have in the Bay Area, stores that deserve my business far more than WalMart or Target. I'm not saying WalMart and Target don't have their place, but local businesses are the core of our community. I want my children to be able to grow up knowing that they needn't spend their sweets splurge on a Hershey bar, when we have Schurra's candy store right here in downtown San Jose, where it's been since 1912! The chocolate is so worth it, I don't even feel guilty afterward.
This economic downturn has given me the opportunity to press the reset button and really focus on not only how I spend my money, but where. When we spend less with big businesses (who tend to be the ones who source their products from China) China will be forced to become increasingly reliant on their own society to be at least partial consumers of their creations. And because they have less to spend, they will purchase things of value, which will, in turn, mean China creating better quality items. Even if all of this changes only a bit...it's a bit in the right direction. A 5% change in all of our spending habits rolls up to a big difference. Ask Kepler's, Hicklebee's, Baby Buzz or Schurra's what kind of difference 5% of your spending budget would mean to their business.
But like I said, the world is waiting on us, which means we are all in a rare moment of power. As parents, I hope we all use that power wisely.
When she's not shopping locally, Paige Bayer spends her time gardening, canning, visiting Farmer's Markets, and arguing with people about politics. Paige will be publishing a new blog on Canning with Kids mid-March and she looks forward to sharing all her food rants over there! If you are all about the local, you should follow Paige on Twitter! This is an original post to the Silicon Valley Moms Blog.Continued on the next page