In today's modern world there is little doubt that online shopping is the way to shop. I love to look for clothes and home decorations online. Online retailers like Amazon.com are the new shopping malls, as those brick and mortar sites are quickly closing their doors since they are unable to compete with the prices and selection offered online.
There is a downside to the online shopping trend: we are watching our communities shrink as more small businesses close their doors - and as a result we lose jobs and a sense of character in our neighborhoods. Time Magazine did an article investigating the effects on local economies and its writer made a thought provoking analogy, stating:
"Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," ... noting that when money is spent elsewhere—at big supermarkets, non-locally owned utilities and other services such as on-line retailers—"it flows out, like a wound."
That's a powerful image that makes a lot of sense. When you go to shop do you find it hard to find a lot of the things that you want in a local store? Every neighborhood has plenty of super markets, but how about unique things, regional crafts, and even motor oil and school supplies. Now with stores like Macy's, Kmart and Sears closing, where will you find those basic items for your family?
When we continue to look at economic impacts, the tax dollars generated can mean better maintained roads and public works as well as investment in local schools. Ultimately it could also mean lower local sales taxes. It's been shown that local businesses tend to reinvest their earnings back into the local economy by purchasing raw materials and local services, creating more jobs. In fact, according to the American Independent Business Alliance, buying local produces three profound impacts:
-Direct impact is spending done by a business in the local economy to operate the business, including inventory, utilities, equipment and pay to employees.
-Indirect impact happens as dollars the local business spent at other area businesses re-circulate.
-Induced impact refers to the additional consumer spending that happens as employees, business owners and others spend their income in the local economy.
There are benefits beyond job creation when you shop locally. One is the environmental impact. All those Amazon packages arrive in a cardboard boxes filled with bubble wrap and Styrofoam peanuts, quickly making their way to a landfill. That's on top of the gas burned by a delivery truck to bring a single small item to your door. That is a lot of carbon emissions over the course of a year, and with global warming a real threat simply upping the fuel economies of cars is not enough. This blog had some startling data on the effects:
"According to calculations by Steve Winkelman of the Center for Clean Air Policy, even if we achieve a major improvement in fuel economy (new vehicles averaging 55 mpg), cut the carbon content of fuel by 15 percent, and slow the growth rate for driving significantly, by 2030 greenhouse-gas emissions from transportation will be only slightly below 1990 levels"
Shopping locally, especially in a well planned community, could mean walking or biking to a local store, bringing health benefits to to a increasingly obese population. Local businesses can offer a one on one approach, insuring you get the right product for your needs, that an online retailer cannot. Local businesses also reinvest into charitable endeavors :
"In a study for the Small Business Administration, Business Contributions to Community Service (1991), Dr. Patricia Frishkoff of Oregon State University analyzed charitable giving by firm size. She found companies with fewer than 100 employees gave an average of $789 per employee in cash and in-kind donations, compared to $334 per employee at firms with more than 500 employees."
So when we shop online, we put all of our eggs in one basket. Spending all your money in one place, like Amazon, might seem wise at first because of the great prices but eventually the lack of competition will actually cause a rise in prices. This happens because the giant corporation has full control of the price and can charge what ever it wants. That's what we call a monopoly, the very thing that happens in the oil industry. You have to pay what ever gas costs because you need it and have no alternative option.
With any change in behavior, it starts with small steps. Next time you need household items, try looking around your neighborhood to find a shop you didn't know existed. Need a book? Try the small local bookstore. Cute dress for spring? How about a local boutique? Decorations for the new apartment or first house? Why not visit the local craft store and see what masterpiece you can create. Little by little we can bring the uniqueness back to our neighborhoods while reducing our global footprint and see new jobs created. Comment below and tell us what ways you have found to shop local.
Brooke Bailey is a personal trainer, masseuse, and student in health and wellness.
She currently resides in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Follow her on Facebook.