We are all painfully aware of the Black Friday crowd scenes, and as an avid shopper myself, I can tell you the stores are still jammed all week with people looking for the best deals of the season. And while some of the gifts I buy are only available at a big box store, this year I made a conscious decision to shop local.  I love art and craft shows, so this really is a no brainer for me. But as I was shopping at a local event this weekend, I was struck by something—a real sense of community. I have written about community many times, as in a group of people you surround yourself with, but now I am talking about the community as in the one you live in. By shopping local I was not only supporting the individuals, but the community I was in as well. Many of the art and craft shows are part of a bigger holiday event where you have the opportunity to check out the local restaurants, drinking establishments and brick and mortar stores that are located within. After you shop the artists, you may stop in for a drink, grab some lunch, or decide to browse a store and it all benefits the local proprietors and community.

I also very much enjoy talking to the artists about their work, and they are always happy to discuss their passion. My conversations with the artists are so fun that I usually end up buying something just because I want to support them! You don’t get this type of conversation in a big box store. You are lucky to find an employee to ask for help, and usually you get your answer and off they go to the next customer.  

As someone who really appreciates having one of a kind anything (art, clothes, jewelry) I love the idea of giving someone something they won’t see anywhere else. In the same vein, I think food gifts made locally from local ingredients is a great way to support the community. So many ideas for unique gift giving!  

If my reasons aren’t enough to get you shopping local, check out the following list from http://www.sustainableconnections.org:

Top Ten reasons to Think Local – Buy Local – Be Local

1. Buy Local — Support yourself: Several studies have shown that when you buy from an independent, locally owned business, rather than a nationally owned businesses, significantly more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses, service providers and farms — continuing to strengthen the economic base of the community.(Click here to see summaries of a variety of economic impact studies; these include case studies showing that locally-owned businesses generate a premium in enhanced economic impact to the community and our tax base.)

2. Support community groups: Non-profit organizations receive an average 250% more support from smaller business owners than they do from large businesses.

3. Keep our community unique: Where we shop, where we eat and have fun — all of it makes our community home. Our one-of-a-kind businesses are an integral part of the distinctive character of this place. Our tourism businesses also benefit. “When people go on vacation they generally seek out destinations that offer them the sense of being someplace, not just anyplace.” ~ Richard Moe, President, National Historic Preservation Trust

4. Reduce environmental impact: Locally owned businesses can make more local purchases requiring less transportation and generally set up shop in town or city centers as opposed to developing on the fringe. This generally means contributing less to sprawl, congestion, habitat loss and pollution.

5. Create more good jobs: Small local businesses are the largest employer nationally and in our community, provide the most jobs to residents.

6. Get better service: Local businesses often hire people with a better understanding of the products they are selling and take more time to get to know customers.  

7. Invest in community: Local businesses are owned by people who live in this community, are less likely to leave, and are more invested in the community’s future.

8. Put your taxes to good use: Local businesses in town centers require comparatively little infrastructure investment and make more efficient use of public services as compared to nationally owned stores entering the community.

9. Buy what you want, not what someone wants you to buy: A marketplace of tens of thousands of small businesses is the best way to ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. A multitude of small businesses, each selecting products based not on a national sales plan but on their own interests and the needs of their local customers, guarantees a much broader range of product choices.

10. Encourage local prosperity: A growing body of economic research shows that in an increasingly homogenized world, entrepreneurs and skilled workers are more likely to invest and settle in communities that preserve their one-of-a-kind businesses and distinctive character.

Think local first + Buy local when you can = Being a local!

You have about 10 days before the start of gift GIVING season. I highly encourage you to stop by your local stores or attend an art/craft show to find a gift that gives back—to your community.  

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