Supporting local this holiday season benefits the economy and the environment

November 9th, 2020

Doing your holiday shopping at locally owned independent businesses indirectly benefits non-profit organizations like Peterborough GreenUP, since local business owners tend to provide greater support to local charities and also are more likely to shop locally themselves. You can also support local by shopping at the GreenUP Store at 378 Aylmer Street in downtown Peterborough, which carries eco-friendly products from several local makers. (Photo by Ben Hargreaves)

By Kristen LaRocque, GreenUP’s Store and Resource Centre Coordinator

No matter what your normal holiday traditions are, it’s likely they will look a little different this year due to COVID-19. We must adapt the way we connect with loved ones during this special season, but we also need to recognize that our buying habits need some adaptation as well.

Big box stores or online marketplaces like Amazon can be tempting ways to satisfy our loved ones’ wish lists. Many of the common arguments for shopping this way have to do with convenience. In a time when Peterborough’s economy is suffering, please consider – if you are able – making your holiday purchases locally rather than supporting multi-national companies and sending your dollars outside “the Patch.”

You will likely find that the experience of buying from local makers and businesses is actually much more enjoyable, and just as convenient. Many local makers have responded to the pandemic by setting up online stores, delivery, and curbside-pickup options. Some orders are ready the same day.

Perhaps you have questions about inventory or delivery time. There’s a good chance you can get the owner or local maker on the phone to answer your questions directly, without even being put on hold! Don’t underestimate the gift of connecting with a real, local, wonderful human being when many of us are experiencing more isolation than we’re used to.

“When you choose to shop at locally-owned, independent businesses, more money is kept in our wonderful community,” observes Terry Guiel, Executive Director of Downtown Peterborough. “Local businesses often purchase from other local businesses, service providers, and farmers.”

“The same is true of local artisans, craftspeople, and artists,” continues Guiel. “These people are the fabric of our community and, like you, they pay taxes, access health care, and live their lives in this community. They care about our community. They’re invested, and they’re more accountable. We really are in this together.”

Many locally owned independent businesses have responded to the pandemic by setting up online stores, delivery, and curbside-pickup options. To encourage Peterborough residents to support local, the Peterborough Downtown Business Improvement Area (DBIA) launched theboro.ca website earlier this year, where you can connect with local businesses including restaurants, order online, purchase gift cards, and more. (Photo: Joon Kim / Peterborough DBIA)

In addition, choosing to shop local indirectly benefits non-profits, like us here at GreenUP. Charities typically receive greater support from local business owners, who are also more likely to shop locally themselves. Additionally, non-profits and charities often offer local programming and services for little or no cost, making these organizations a tremendous boon to the community. By supporting local business, you are driving an ongoing cycle of local support that includes local charities.

Consider sending lightweight locally-made gifts and cards to friends and family members living farther away. This could include a set of beeswax food wraps, to kick-start a waste-free journey, or a gift card in support of a small business in their own local community.

We can also call on our own creative capacities (perhaps newly discovered during lockdown) and make miniature paintings or drawings that can be sent by mail and hung up in the home. Paper crafts, such as origami or snowflake cut-outs, are excellent gifts that add holiday cheer and can engage children in the gifting process.

“When I’m able, I prefer to make gifts for the holidays,” says Jenn McCallum, coordinator of GreenUP’s water programs. “A favourite is cookies or brownies in a jar. I save my dry ingredients inside the jar, add a nice reusable bow, and write out the cooking directions.”

“We are making candles this year with thrifted teacups, soy wax and a few drops of essential oil,” says Natalie Stephenson, coordinator of Green Economy Peterborough at GreenUP. “Also, instead of stuff, I love giving intangible things like services and experiences – like music lessons, memberships to B!KE, a workshop at the Endeavour Centre or Johnston’s Greenhouse.”

It’s not just local businesses that need support during the pandemic. Some non-profit organizations, such as the Market Hall Performing Centre in downtown Peterborough, have been severely affected by the pandemic. Consider gifting someone a membership or making a donation on their behalf to help ensure the local arts community can survive the pandemic. (Photo: Joon Kim / Peterborough DBIA)

If you are sending a parcel, there are lots of eco-friendly packing materials available in your own home. Check your recycling bin for newspaper and cardboard boxes. Find some pieces of worn-out clothing destined for the scrap pile. There are plenty of instructional videos online that can help you craft a fun envelope or fabric bubble mailer from repurposed materials like these.

As we look ahead to Black Friday and the holiday shopping season, here’s a handy list of ways you can manage your purchases, keep things sustainable, and support our local economy:

  1. Participate in White Monday and Giving Tuesday: in response to the consumer wave that Black Friday brings, White Monday encourages people to be circular consumers and avoid disposable purchases. Giving Tuesday asks people to consider donating their time or money to a non-profit charity or someone in need.
  2. Support marginalized communities: COVID-19 has highlighted and exacerbated the disparities in our world. Consider supporting local organizations that help those in need and fight for equity. If you are able to, please donate to local food banks. You may also consider supporting organizations like the Nogojiwanong Friendship Centre and Black Lives Matter Nogojiwanong.
  3. Shop local and support local businesses: keep your money circulating in the local economy by supporting local business owners, makers, and artists that live in our community.
  4. Make a list and check it twice: avoid impulse buys and purchasing things you don’t need; stick to a pre-planned gift list.
  5. Less is more: buy less and be thoughtful about your purchases. Consider gifts that are useful and not frivolous.
  6. DO stuff, don’t BUY stuff: consider an experiential gift instead of more “stuff” for your loved ones. Look for online options, like a gift card to upcoming online workshops with the Art School of Peterborough, or outdoor experiences that can be done safely, like a Parks Canada Pass.
  7. Support retailers taking climate action: purchase goods from retailers who carry organic, reusable, sustainable, local, and renewable products and who are making climate action part of their business model.

However you plan to adapt your normal holiday traditions to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please do what you can to support local. Be on the lookout for an article in early December about local gift-ideas to help even last-minute shoppers buy sustainably.

Posted in GreenUP Store