"Is it cheap, and is it convenient?" These are the questions we used to ask ourselves when deciding what to buy. Now, there are a whole bunch more, such as, is it organic, free-range, fair trade, eco-friendly, humane, green, cruelty free, hormone-free, carbon neutral, sustainable, bird friendly, ethically grown, Rainforest Alliance Certified, bio-friendly, etc., etc., etc.?
Shopping for things as simple as groceries has become an unnerving, guilt-ridden battle between our values and our wallets. There seems to be no way of winning, no perfect choice. You can pick a cause like only buying meat from farms with humane practices, or buying organic produce for its health benefits - both great causes - but you are likely to lose when it comes to sustainability because much of these products are shipped thousands of miles in oil-guzzling, smoke-belching container ships in order to make it to your table.
So, do we simply say, "Sorry, Al Gore, your cause is simply not that important. Fighting GMOs is more important than climate change right now." Do we have to accept that no matter what we do or how hard we try to make the world a better place, we will still be hurting society and the planet? Absolutely not!
No, you can't take on all of the world's issues at once, but you can find a good place to start. Luckily, that place is right here. Yep, these wonderful islands we call home. Simply shop local. You're probably thinking, "Isn't that just another cause?" Yes, it is a cause in itself, and one that competes with all of the others for our attention. However, shopping local doesn't just help out your local mom and pop store. It isn't just about the warm fuzzy you get by supporting your community, although that is pretty nice.
Shopping at locally-owned businesses and attending local community events is extremely powerful. Here's why: locally-owned businesses know their customers on a personal level. We see them at football games, picking up our kids at school, walking on the beach, at church, and dozens of other places. If they do something that goes against our values, we can easily tell them that we don't like it. Because we are their lifeline and they know it, they are going to listen. Even if we don't see them or know them personally, chances are we know someone who does. This is the beauty of a community, particularly our communities here in Hawai'i. We have a strong sense of pride in our communities here in Hawai'i and we take care of each other. No one wants to be seen as the person not doing the right thing.
I'm not saying that local businesses are always better than national or multi-national chain stores. Many of us shop at Whole Foods because the company has built a reputation of sustainable practices. However, like everyone else they aren't perfect. The local store manager may listen to your complaint or suggestion, but it may have little or no effect in the end. It's a large company with a lot of customers, and you are just one of them. Your voice simply isn't that loud, especially in comparison to their shareholders.
At a locally-owned business, however, your voice is often heard loud and clear. You are both their customer and their neighbor. This is the reason that I am a localist and happy to live here in Hawaii where people are proud to support their local communities. We, as community members, have the power to make changes that match our values and see them implemented in our towns. What's even more is that local actions go far beyond the shores of our islands. As our actions combine with actions in other communities around the planet, we can make changes on the global level.
Are you interested in supporting your local community? Do you want to be a part of something new, something big that could change the way the world works? Over the next few months, I will be rolling out a new system to help do exactly that, and I'm looking for individuals such as you to help make it a success. Intrigued? Send me an email at NathanAlbritton@hotmail.com and let me know you're interested in being a part of it, or stay in touch by signing up for my newsletter at TheSocialSeed.org.
This blog was originally published on TheSustaianbleLeader.org.