I have always valued supporting local stores but this particular action started ruminating about two weeks ago when my partner asked if I had listened to a recent Canadaland podcast about Loblaws (linked here if you want to listen). I hadn’t, but I downloaded it and listened soon after. And folks, it was terrifying and frustrating and I want to burn shit down. But I started with what I know, what I am a professional at: grocery shopping. I spend 90% of my grocery dollars at Loblaws stores, and I want to divert some of these dollars to more local and independent stores. So I did a little ask and shout out on Instagram and got some ideas. And then put these into action. To be honest, this was the easiest “take action” I have ever done.
TRYING NEW STUFF IS HARD
When I was younger and much more anxious than I am today, I would have had a really hard time going into a new store that I wasn’t previously familiar with. If that sounds like you, I have some ideas to try. Do your research ahead of time, including finding photos of the interior of the store on Google maps. See if they have an online store or list of products. Invite a friend along!
The nervous feelings still show up today, but are less pronounced and easier to push past. Both of the local shops I hit up that weekend were ones that I had been to before, so I knew what items on my list would be available there. One of my stretch goals in 2021 is to try some new-to-me stores. In order to prepare for that, I am going to look on their website and social media for items that I’d like to try, and start from there.
WHY IS THIS IMPORTANT
There are literally loads of articles and research that detail why shopping local is so beneficial to the environment, for our communities, for ourselves. For me, the two big areas I focus on are the environment, and the neighbourliness (which I thought was a made up word, but actually is totally 100% real).
Some of the top environmental impacts of shopping local are:
Less food miles, less carbon impact for transporting that food to the store, less refrigeration
Fresher and more nutritious because it had to come a shorter distance
Supporting small scale farms that often have better land stewardship policies than larger farms or “factory farms”
Less plastic packaging
Of course, if the food itself doesn’t come from a local farm, then none of those reasons apply! And that is often the case where I live at least. Many of the smaller grocery stores are specialty import stores, where the food is coming from across the world. Which is why I also like to focus on the neighbourliness. This in itself is hard to describe without getting into economics and capitalism (not a fan), but I will try.
I know that when I shop at the store up the road, my money is supporting folks who live in my community. The owner buys a lot of products from other small businesses in and around our city, so my purchases impact other community members as well. And all of this means jobs! Capitalists are obsessed with job creation, fine, but quality trumps quantity my friends. I’d much rather work for a person invested in my community than a faceless CEO in another country who counts me up in his profit and loss statements as a number only. These local shops help create vibrant, walkable neighbourhoods, donate to local non-profits, enhance safety, and strengthen community bonds.
GAT DAMN PANDEMIC
COVID’s health and economic impacts have shattered (and shuttered) many local businesses. The paltry assistance that our governments have provided so far is shameful. And so we must take things into our own hands. If capitalism is the system we’re stuck with for now, we might as well make the most of it. And get money into the hands of people who will keep it in our communities, and use it to benefit their neighbours.
My challenge to my readers is to divert some of your dollars this week or month to a local store, maker, or farm. I know that so many folks are struggling right now, but I also know that a lot of folks are thriving. I am asking those folks in particular to be especially mindful about how you are contributing to your community. And to consider your neighbourliness the next time you shop for your family.
I found dozens of articles and lists online detailing the reasons why shopping local is so beneficial. A lot of them were good and some were filled with nonsense (farming increases biodiversity um how?!). While I won’t be providing any links, I encourage you to do your own searching with a critical lens.
And the podcast that inspired this post and action: “Loblaws will eat us all.” Canadaland Show. December 6, 2020 (Episode 350)