07/23/2009 05:12 am ET Updated Nov 17, 2011

Buy Local, Buy American

Last night I went into a Lowe's for the first time. I needed to buy a cat door for the chicken coop I'm building (long story, I'll save it for later!). I'd never been to Lowe's before. It was fine. Big. It had that stinky chemical smell. I wouldn't rush to go back for any reason. (If it's hardware I need, I have two favorite stores that are locally owned, and so quirky and helpful I just love going to them.)

So while I was there, I thought I would pick up some knobs for a project in my garage. I found some really pretty stainless steel ones with leaves on them. I put 24 of them in my cart and went to the checkout counter.

At the checkout counter I put on my glasses (yes, I'm getting old). As the lady was ringing up my order I noticed the knobs were made in China. She finished ringing me up and I handed her my credit card.

But I stood there looking at those knobs and in my head, I could see the sweet face of the lady who owns a knob-selling store in downtown Emmaus, House Splendid -- a store that even sells knobs made in Pennsylvania, including some made out of recycled materials. She is probably struggling through this recession and could use the business my 24 knobs would bring. What had I been thinking? I felt sick.

"You don't have to get them," the register lady said. "I can take them off your order right now."

"Yes, please take them off."

It's going to cost me a little bit more, and I'll have to make another stop (although it's on the way to 10 other things I have to do today). And I might even have to wait a week or two until all the knobs come in...but every time I go into my garage and see those knobs, I'll feel better about the world.

I'm not against China, or globalism. I love to travel and bring things back from all around the world. But right now, America needs all the money we can give it. And we need to reward the very few Americans who are still making things here.

If I knew a local source for a cat door, I would have gone there too.

For more from Maria Rodale, go to

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