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Go Local for the Holidays – and Every Day

November 26, 2015

Well before Halloween, overeager merchants began their yearly bombardment of holiday marketing. While this is certainly nothing new, it seems that earlier every year we see Santas peeking out from behind plastic jack-o-lanterns or even back-to-school supplies, just waiting to leap out for the post-Thanksgiving spend-o-rama.

Kudos goes out to the growing number of people rejecting the holiday commercialism that brought even Charlie Brown down as early as the 1960s. I also applaud those who speak out against the big-box corporate management that decided it’s okay to open their stores on Thanksgiving, thus forcing most of their lowest paid workers to miss spending our holiday of gratitude with their families.

Author and sustainable food advocate Anna Lappé said, “Every time you spend money, you’re casting a vote for the kind of world you want.” We can vote and speak loudly with our wallets. Small Business Saturday was first observed November 2010 to encourage people to spend their holiday dollars at locally owned and small businesses, versus big-box and chain retailers where the cream stays at the top. The Small Business Saturday movement has grown rapidly since its inception as people realize the buy local advantages:

  1. For every $100 spent at locally owned businesses, $68 returns to the community.
  2. Small business owners have a real stake in their businesses and strive to provide great customer service, as they cannot afford to dismiss a couple of disgruntled customers with the idea that a thousand more will walk through the door anyway.
  3. Most small businesses specialize in particular items such as clothing, jewelry, books, health and spa merchandise, sporting goods or hardware, so they really know their stuff and can answer questions thoroughly.
  4. Many small businesses offer unique options and  quality merchandise, as well as goods made by local artists, union workers and co-ops that partner directly with producers that provide living wages.
  5. A pleasant shopping experience in a civil atmosphere—we’ve all seen the Black Friday news footage proving how an extreme bargain can bring out the playground bully in grown adults. (Personally, I’ve never heard streams of profanity nor seen push-and-shove matches break out in a locally owned, small business setting.)

Shopping local can be more expensive initially as local merchants don’t have the buying power of big-box stores. The same holds true with artisan and fair-wage items, but that’s where one must evaluate quality versus quantity; fairness versus exploitation; or a vibrant community where everyone prevails versus a race to the bottom.

And there are local budget-conscious options: many small businesses run sales and offer coupons; and vintage and resale shops are loaded with economical fun finds and are great resources to score arts and crafting materials for one-of-a-kind homemade gifts. If 50-plus years of mass consumerism has shown us anything, it’s that there’s an abundance of goods everywhere that can be repurposed or upcycled.

Happy Thanksgiving, and may your holiday season be filled with locally sourced goodness!

Sheila Julson is a freelance writer and regular contributor to Natural Awakenings magazine.


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