How Buying Local Benefits your Community

Posted by Natasha Derezinski-Choo on Tue, Dec 17, 2013 @ 08:38 AM

This is the time of the year when advertisements are being thrown at us from more angles than usual.  Most of these advertisements come from campaigns directed by big box chains, and it’s always nice to score some nice deals on gifts for your loved ones. However, let’s also not forget that hidden gem whose sparkle is increasingly neglected amongst the flashing billboard.  In the spirit of holiday giving, be sure to spend some time buying local as a way to give back to your community.  

Buying local helps support your local community.There are a lot of benefits to your community’s economy when you purchase locally.  Supporting small businesses keeps more money in your community and usually helps money circulate faster.  Buying local means that small businesses flourish and create jobs and opportunities for people in your neighborhood, rather than outsourcing jobs overseas.  Additionally, local businesses tend to rely on other local businesses for services such as banking, printing advertisements, supplies, and legal services.  When you spend money at a local vendor, the portion of your money spent that the business uses to pay its expenses stays in your community by circulating to other small businesses. (Source: Time Magazine “Buying Local: How it Boosts the Economy”)

David Boyle, a researcher for the New Economics Foundation, explains how money circulates differently when you spend locally, rather than at large chains.  He uses an interesting analogy: “Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going," but when spent at large, multinational businesses, “it flows out, like a wound."  The force pumping that money is you, the consumer.  

Buying local can also prove better for the environment. Local stores are less likely to import product, reducing the need for transportation. An infographic by the website eLocal emphasizes that airplanes account for more carbon dioxide emissions than any other form of transportation. This is startling, considering that shipping accounts for one billion metric tons of Co2 emissions a year. The hundreds of miles that a product travels to get to your local big box store is a hidden cost to the environment, your health, and your wallet.

Buying locally isn’t just about where your money goes.  It’s also about what you get in return.  If you try to explore local shops you’ll find unique merchandise that can’t be found in the big box stores.  There’s something quaint about visiting a small shop rather than a large department store. The “buy local” movement is about understanding your options as a shopper and informing yourself about the impact of your decisions.  

For example, if I want to buy a book I have a few options nearby.  I can check out my local used bookstore and get it for $3.  If I purchase it brand new at the large bookstore chain, it will most likely cost me double, or triple, the price at the least.  For me, a brand new book and a used book aren’t too different in value.  I could get it used on Amazon for pennies, but the shipping will set me back $4, and I’ll have to wait a week for it to come, which I’m not too keen on doing.  There are ebooks, but I’m sentimental and like to read with pen in hand to write in the margins.  In this case of buying locally, I’ve considered the options and found that buying locally is my best option.  In addition, the woman who owns the used bookstore is much friendlier than the bookstore chain. If I talk to Amazon, I don’t think the website will respond.

Now, granted, with the success of big box stores, local vendors can’t always compete with the prices of larger chains.  However, buying locally is does not mean sacrificing your wallet.  It means being aware of the benefits of buying locally versus shopping at large chains.  It entails understanding the value to what you’re buying rather than just the price.  Some things are more easily accessible at a large store because many small businesses have been run out of town by the bigger ones. In other cases, a local restaurant may offer better and more unique dining options than a chain restaurant or fast food option.  

When given the option, don’t forget to support local businesses. Paying it forward is not just about service.  It’s about the lifestyle choices you make each day that impact those around you.  It’s important to focus on where your money is spent, and make decisions about more than a price tag. As a consumer, your money is your vote.

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Topics: Buy Local, Christmas gift ideas, community engagement, America, community partners

Six Ways to Throw Holiday Parties with a Purpose

Posted by Dolly Duplantier on Sat, Dec 14, 2013 @ 08:49 AM

It’s that time of year. Seems like there are multiple parties every week between now and New Year’s Day. Cookie exchanges, office parties, tree trimming parties, ugly holiday sweater parties, neighborhood get-togethers, family events, New Year’s Eve and don’t forget Festivus for the Rest of Us!

‘Tis the season to be jolly and spread good cheer with friends and family, but how about your community? This year why not have a holiday party with a purpose – one that shares good will to all men, women and children?

Let’s face it. While we may love getting gifts, we really don’t need one more candle, another box of candy, or a tin of popcorn. As the saying goes – it’s better to give than to receive. So in the spirit of the season, here are six simple ideas to truly enhance your holiday parties.

Pajama Program1. Instead of Secret Santa, collect new pajamas and books.

The Pajama Program provides new pajamas and new books to children in need. Millions of children live in poverty and don’t know the comfort and security of a simple bedtime ritual. Many live in group homes or temporary shelters and have never even owned a pair of pajamas. 

Contact the Pajama Program or a local chapter to determine their needs and where to send your donations. Ask your guests to skip the hostess gift and bring new pj’s and books to your party instead. Want to do more? You can also volunteer to read to children at one of their reading centers or help sort donations.   

2. Collect jeans for homeless teenagers. This is a great project for middle school, high school and college students. In 2008,® partnered with Aéropostale to create Teens for Jeans. Similar to food drives, teens collect new and gently used jeans to donate to homeless youth. Over a million young people under the age of 18 experience homelessness in the US every year.

“We called homeless shelters across the country and asked them what young people entering homeless shelters often requested and found that jeans were one of the most requested items,” said Nami Mody, Homelessness and Poverty Campaign Specialist for for Jeans

Teens can bring their jeans to any Aéropostale store. The jeans will be distributed to local homeless shelters. Mody is not surprised by the success of the program and its impact on local communities. “Young people want to take action in their communities, and homelessness is one of the causes they care about the most. The campaign is so inspiring because it's all about young people helping young people.”

You can collect jeans now during the holidays and drop them off at local Aéropostale (and P.S. from Aéropostale) stores from January 12 to February 15, 2015. Each store is paired with at least one homeless shelter or charity in your community. Jeans of all sizes are needed and should be in good condition.

3. Chances are someone in your family or circle of friends will find a new cell phone under the tree this Christmas. You may even have a few old cell phones in your “junk” drawer. Now you can put them to good use. Instead of exchanging ornaments at your holiday party, tell your friends to bring their old cell phones!

Cell Phones for Survivors encourages people to donate their old phones to be refurbished, sold, and turned into funds to help survivors of domestic violence. Simply collect and mail in old cell phones. Sign up at Do and print out postage paid shipping labels.

HopeLine® from Verizon is another similar program. Since 1995, Verizon has refurbished phones and equipped them with minutes, texting capabilities, and a variety of services before giving them to survivors affiliated with participating domestic violence agencies. Phones can be from any provider. Drop off donated phones at local Verizon stores or ship with their postage paid shipping label.

4. Whether you’re in charge of the office party or planning the end of year club or team celebration, share your joy with others who need your support. Find all those holiday greeting cards you keep buying on sale and never send out or create your own. Ask your guests to send Season’s Greetings to military personnel away from home and family. Or, send cards to your local nursing home, children’s hospital, or shelter, etc.

Every year, Operation Gratitude sends over 100,000 care packages filled with treats and letters to deployed U.S. Service members, their family members, and wounded soldiers. See their website for specific details about what to write and where to send your cards.

A asks individuals and groups to write cards and letters of appreciation for the military. Review their guidelines, find a location near you, and send your cards and letters to our troops. Contact your location via phone or email to be sure they can accept your cards and letters.

5. If you’re having a cookie exchange, ask your guests to also bring an extra pair of gloves, socks, a hat or some basic toiletries. When dividing the cookies, assemble extra bags for your local homeless shelter. Fill reusable grocery bags or old backpacks with items like toothbrushes, toothpaste, soap, shampoo, deodorant, and hand sanitizer, etc. This is a great way to use all those little hotel shampoo and body wash bottles! You can also find hand warmers in the dollar section of many stores. Don’t forget to add the cookies!

6. This season brings a lot of celebrations filled with our favorite dishes, treats, and traditions. What are yours? If you’re getting together with family and friends to bake or cook your special recipes, have everyone bring duplicate non-perishable items for your Thanksgiving, Christmas, or New Year’s Day dinners and donate them to a local food bank. Or, check with your local church to sponsor a family in need. Collect items they might need to brighten their holiday. You can also stop by your post office to pick up Letters to Santa. Help bring joy to children around the U.S.

Whether you're celebrating with family, friends or co-workers, give thanks for what is truly important. Remember to share your joy with your community and those in need. How do you celebrate this season of giving? Tell us what you do as a family, with friends and with your community.

Topics: Thanksgiving, Food Banks, Food Pantries, Food Drives., Christmas gift ideas, holiday party ideas, volunteering, community engagement, outreach, community service, youth impact, engagement, high school, service, community, civic engagement, parents, opportunities, connecting communities, involvement, nonprofit, charity, Parties with a Purpose

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