Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Buy Local: Another kind of American Revolution!

I got a message on facebook the other day about ditching the Chinese-produced gifts for a more “American” Christmas. And, okay, I couldn't resist forwarding it on, but I was uncomfortable with the “us against them” mentality. That's just not my style. You know, the whole "we are all connected" yogini thing doesn't mesh well with antagonism.

In its original form, the message denigrated Chinese products and factories, insinuating that what’s economically wrong with America is China’s fault. It also implied that Christmas had been hijacked by Chinese, mass-produced products. May I suggest that it is not anyone’s fault but our own? We make our own decisions about what we buy. Yes, Made in China is synonymous with inexpensive, or dare I say, cheap, but, who says we have to buy as much crap as our $20 can buy? Aren't we sick of tripping over all the stuff we don't have enough drawers to contain? Why not invest in a gift that is of local quality and non-cluttery?

And while we’re doing that, we can quietly start an American Revolution and economic recovery with our dollars. So, here's my spin on making our holidays a locally supportive affair.

“As the holidays approach, the giant Asian factories are kicking into high gear to provide Americans with monstrous piles of cheaply produced goods”, says our intrepid, anonymous facebooker. Frankly, I throw away so much of this stuff throughout the year that the thought of all those prettily wrapped plastic crippity-crap toys coming into my house makes me nauseous. I’ve been pondering the alternatives. I’ve contemplated the idea of donating money so a goat can be given to a family in Zimbabwe, but I believe in staying local, so, where does that leave me? I already buy most of my birthday presents from local businesses, so keeping my dollars local for the holidays is the logical leap. And, think about this, I will not only be buying a unique gift for someone, but also helping to keep someone employed and maybe even helping to create new jobs.

As our facebooker put it, “Who says a gift needs to fit in a shirt box?” Let’s think outside the box, and focus on services, rather than objects for a moment. Keep it local and here’s a quick list of gift certificate ideas to get your neurons firing:

Haircut, mani/pedi, car detailing, dining out, gym membership, personal training, massage, spa services, golf, bowling, oil change, local maid service, computer services/tune-up, lawn care/mowing, local nursery plants, drive-way sealing, and yoga classes

I am emphasizing LOCAL because supporting small businesses, owned and operated by local residents, supports your community, keeps it alive and economically stable. But, remember franchises are locally owned; just look into the business before you buy.

So, you just have to have something wrapped under the tree Christmas morning? No problem. You can still buy local and kick the economy into overdrive. Go to your town’s downtown district to buy something local. Maybe a nice gift basket from the local wine and cheese shop? Get even more local, make it local wine and cheese. Support your local artists - painters, musicians and craftsmen and buy their pottery, jewelry, textiles, paintings, and all manner of arts and crafts. Most churches have Christmas bazaars showcasing local craftsmen and artists. You’d be surprised at the wonderful things you can find there. Hey, and don't forget your local farmers: eggs, milk, cheese, and various other farm-raised goods. Maybe some local beef for the freezer?

Keep your holiday celebrations local, too. Our facebooker suggests, “Plan your holiday outings at local, owner operated restaurants and leave your server a nice tip. And, how about going out to see a play or ballet at your hometown theatre? Musicians need love, too, so make a point of going out to see the local bands.” Love this. In other words, whatever you can do to use a local service or buy a local product helps spread the revolution.

But, shhhhh, let’s not make Christmas too overtly political. Let’s keep it about spreading the love and the money, and let the revolution quietly take over.

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