Saturday, June 18, 2011

Another good reason to shop local

As if creating jobs in your local economy and supporting businesses which generally pay fairer wages wasn't enough, I've been thinking lately of the many reasons I don't want to buy from giant corporations. It really comes down to one thing: fairness. I don't think it's fair that they're allowed to pay most of their workers such piss-poor wages. I don't think it's fair to nickel and dime customers to give their CEOs enormous bonuses and show off better profits. I don't think it's fair that they can get people sick, or even allow people to die, in the name of Profit. Think of insurance companies, who won't cover some claims because it's not profitable to cover even life-saving procedures. It's also not profitable for coal and energy companies to reduce the heavy metals and toxins their products emit, but they're also not the ones paying for children's asthma treatments or respiratory infections in elderly people. They generously leave that to the families. Isn't that sweet? I don't want to be supporting a business model that puts money before people's lives and health. It's just...wrong is really the only way to say it. It's wrong, and I refuse to support it. I know I don't have control over all of these things (I have to buy my insurance through my job, and the campus has a coal-fired power plant so all of the heat and electricity during my working hours are through coal) but it feels quite nice to take charge of those things I do have control over. Driving less makes me feel so good in so many ways, but giving less of my money to oil companies is a big part of that.
I also don't think it's fair that companies are allowed to contribute as much as they want to politicians, and can lobby congress with impunity, so that they don't have to pay any taxes. None. How is that even remotely fair? In fact, I'm downright pissed off about it. It seems to me like the largest companies get all the benefits of the American society without having to contribute anything meaningful. They are not deserving of my money then. They get enough through my tax dollars.
I'd rather spend my money where it's both needed (and what small business couldn't use a few more customers?), efficient (there are lots of reasons they're more efficient, but one is that small businesses don't need to hire human resources people, whose only real job is managing everyone else on payroll and isn't actually tied to how well the company performs; inefficient), and actually helpful to my community. Small businesses, by having ties to one community, tend to be bigger supporters of things like local arts and charities than big corporations. And they tend to do it without all the press and fanfare that big companies shine on their charitable works. (Remember, kids, it isn't "charity" if no one sees you doing it. Then it's just altruism, and no company wants to be accused of that! Horrors!)
As for my claim of necessity, I don't think it's outrageous at the moment to say that we're in a jobs crisis (how many people do you know who are un- or under-employed? because I know lots). Buying from local businesses increases the number of people in your area who need to be hired. These are jobs that can't be shipped to Asia. Additionally, when products are made locally (and small businesses are more likely to sell locally made items) you end up supporting a broader network of people who then have money for things like their children's educations. And when people have money and access to education, there's less crime and fewer illegal drugs. I would love to see my entire community pulled out of poverty. I would love to see those who feel disenfranchised, hopeless and ignored with hope on their faces. And I honestly do believe that one of the ways to do my part toward that goal is to buy what I need to buy from small, local businesses. Of course, time and money to charities is also helpful.
If you're ever feeling down about your efforts to go greener, or get mocked by anyone, there's a really great article in the Huffington Post (I love that news site!) about keeping going in the face of adversity because, ultimately, you're right. And it's impossible to make the world a better place for nothing.

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