Use your purchasing power with purpose
November 28, 2014
It is the season of discretionary spending — which also means that shoppers can exercise a lot of discretion about what kinds of merchants they choose to support with their hard-earned cash.
For residents of smaller, close-knit communities, ‘shopping local’ is an important mantra. Not only does it beat elbowing through the sale-crazed crowds at big-box retailers, it come with a tangible payback.
Dollars spent at small businesses in your zip code generate sales taxes that support a variety of amenities. In Park City, for instance, sales tax revenues help fund Main Street enhancements and open-space purchases.
Local purchases also keep shop owners, many of whom are your neighbors, in business. Those merchants, in turn, are major contributors to the community’s schools and nonprofits. If you need proof, look at the thank-you letters on The Park Record editorial page, or the lists of sponsors at nearly every charity event in Summit County. From raffle prizes to pizzas that feed local volunteers, small businesses give more than their share to our numerous nonprofits.
There are other criteria too, that should be considered in our increasingly interconnected world. How goods are manufactured, how long they last and how they are disposed of are also important. There is no better way to get a company’s attention than to boycott their products if, for instance, they use unfair labor practices or their products include toxic materials.
In recent years, consumer pressure has helped to curtail child labor, reduce plastic packaging and to demand better labeling regarding potential health hazards.
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So take a close look at the labels as you peruse the racks at your favorite department store. Look for logos that indicate whether a product can be recycled or meets fair labor standards to improve working conditions in the clothing industry. Support businesses that are actively working to reduce their carbon footprints by rewarding them with your patronage.
Many of our favorite products — winter sports equipment and technology tools — are labor intensive and are made of difficult-to-recycle materials. Unfortunately, searching for the best bargain may come at a high price for the environment and that is not the kind of gift you want to give to your kids or friends. Pick the socially responsible alternate and you will be giving a much more meaningful present.
One person’s modest holiday shopping spree might not seem important, but it is one of the most powerful political tools, second only to voting, that a citizen can wield.