Posted by: mesabimisadventures | December 26, 2010

Think Globally, Shop Locally

This Christmas season I found myself picking up goods at stores, flipping them over, reading “Made in China” and putting them back on the shelf with a shake of my head.  It’s not hard to wonder what the people in China think about when they’re mass-producing knick-knacks for us over here.  But we buy their goods, lots of them.  And then we complain about China – the human rights abuses, the environmental devastation, the end of American manufacturing jobs and labor unions.

We all want to buy the cheapest goods we can find, without stopping to think about why they are cheap.  We fret about Americans losing jobs, without recognizing the role we play in the decline of living wage jobs.  We pretend that our individual consumerism doesn’t matter, neglecting to see that it matters more than any government stimulus program.

We are all in a hurry, a rush and we don’t want to be bothered with responsible consumerism.  We would rather complain about the decline of America than face the mirror and realize how we could contribute to a better one with small, simple choices.  The problem is, sometimes we don’t even have a choice.  For certain products, finding one made in America can be almost impossible. 

On Thanksgiving, we went up to Ely for their annual shopping event.  For those of you not familiar with Ely, it has marketed itself in recent years as the “Coolest Small Town in America.”  It deserves the title; the leaders of the city have done an excellent job creating a new identity for the city.  One of the stores that was open and offering discounts that evening was Wintergreen.  Wintergreen is a prime example of why we should really stop and think when we purchase goods.  The products they manufacture and sell aren’t cheap, either in quality or price.  And that’s the key point that we forget as consumers sometimes – cheap doesn’t always equal a smart purchase.  Wintergreen products are made in America and are incredible products.  Their jackets may cost more than something made overseas, but they will last longer and they’ve been produced more sustainably – socially, environmentally and economically.

And it’s not just Wintergreen, it’s all the products that are out there if you’re willing to look.  Think about the lifecycle of the goods you buy and about all of the hands that have touched them.  It’s hard for me sometimes to watch proud union members purchase easily broken, non-sustainably created goods from other countries that aren’t union-friendly.  If we want our companies to pay living wages or continue to be unionized, we ourselves need to be willing to pay for it in other industries.  In an area loaded with unions, we should strive to be leaders in buying American products.  Once upon a time, you wouldn’t dare to drive a vehicle made overseas to work at the mines, but what about our homes, garages, clothing, entertainment systems, etc.? 

Yes, buying American will typically cost more .  Consider why though instead of just putting it back on the shelf and reaching for the other product.  What’s the lifecycle of that product?  Is the extra cost going to pay for health insurance, scrubbers and dust collectors on exhaust stacks, wastewater treatment, pensions, living wages?  We cannot expect others to make the sacrifices necessary for us to keep our jobs if we don’t make the sacrifice ourselves.  Each purchase matters to someone.

It’s too late for this Christmas, but next year instead of buying someone a mass-produced knick-knack, consider supporting one of our many local artists or artisans.  When you spend that extra money, think about the person on the other end of that product who invested their time and creativity in making a one-of-a-kind product for you.  Recognize the love and passion that created the photograph, the painting, the pottery. 

Support companies such as Wintergreen and see the families behind the clothing.  Consider that the investment you make will get reinvested in the local community.  Put your money where your mouth is  in 2011.  If you believe in fair wages, environmental protection, and fighting the decline of American manufacturing, do as you would wish others would do – buy American.

Time to go strap on my Crescent Moon Snowshoes (Boulder, Colorado) and get out in this beautiful snow!


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