A scissors glides across peppermint-patterned wrapping paper. Tape secures it to the box. One big, red bow marks the top of the gift. It looks beautiful. What will you put inside?
We are in an age where you can order anything in the world on the Internet. Toys, clothing, spices and gag gifts are easily acquired with almost no effort. But is ordering something online the best choice? Not if you care about the people in your town or our planet.
St. Joseph is a town where you can walk down the street and see many small businesses. Drive down the street and see even more. Food, clothing, books and more are easily acquired with almost no effort. Consider buying something from a small business.
Imagine you are buying some socks for your sister. They have cute kittens on them. These socks might be manufactured overseas, flown to a packing center, hauled via train to a warehouse, packed up for you, driven to your house, unwrapped by you and re-wrapped for her. All those vehicles burn fossil fuels. All that packaging will rot in a landfill. Does this seem convenient?
Does your sister need those specific kitten socks? She probably doesn’t even know they exist and won’t mind if you choose something else. Instead of ordering them online, you could simply pick up a pair of socks with some other cute animal on them at the Minnesota Street Market or one of the boutiques. Although there is still some shipping involved, since these places had to acquire their stock from somewhere, there is a lot less shipping when you go yourself to a store and buy things made in the area. Picking something up without grabbing an extra bag or using a cloth bag you brought with you will minimize packaging further. The more local you go, the less waste you create.
Buying local can be economically as well as environmentally smart. Where does your money go? Let’s say you want to order some coffee for your coffee-loving friend. A dollar popped into the cash register of a small business like the Local Blend will have a very different journey than a dollar transferred into the account of a major business like Amazon. The Local Blend will use the dollar to pay the employees, buy more local products and keep the lights running. Amazon will use a tiny portion of the dollar to pay an employee or acquire more products from all over the world, but most of it goes toward things like narcissistic space tourism.
If you give $100 to an artist, that artist will probably use it to buy groceries. Assuming the artist is local, their money will go to your area’s grocery stores. That means your money could remain in your city! If you give $100 to Walmart, they will probably knock down another tree in a rainforest. Your town just lost that $100. How do you want to spend your money?
No one wants to feel guilty about Christmas. Let’s say you just Googled “best gift 2022” and clicked “add to cart.” Imagine the horror your son will feel when they open their gift to find some plastic-wrapped garbage off the internet. While you gifted your son an object, you also threw your money at a big corporation. Now, even if the son likes the gift, they will feel a little bad because the object hurt the planet and the local economy. And there’s always a chance he won’t like the gift.
People want to feel warm at Christmas time! Instead of buying something online, go to literally any small business in the area and ask “what should I get my son?” Tell them his age and they will give you ideas. Your son might not like the gift. But, he will like the gesture. He’ll feel good about the source. You can’t control if he likes the gift or not, but you can control where it comes from.
Those big stores will go on thriving with or without each individual’s choice. But your individual choices can make a huge impact on a little shop. It’s time to fill your boxes. A big, red bow sits on peppermint-patterned wrapping paper. What will you put inside?