The Right Way to Spend

We all know we should “buy American”, “shop local” and “support environmentally–friendly businesses”, but knowing what to do doesn’t make doing it easy. Easy is going to the local Big Box store and buying what you need at that moment without thinking too much about it. But then if you’re like me, you feel guilty knowing there must have been a better product that supported local American jobs and did not use gallons of oil to transport.

Globe in a shopping cart

Finding the elusive local eco-business that makes the product you need is hard. Often these companies don’t have the budget to advertise all over and they rely on word-of-mouth to let people know their product and service is out there. So how do you find out about them?

My best advice is to not be afraid to ask! It seems silly, but many people don’t. My favorite place to go to is one of my local Mom’s groups. Since what I am looking for has inevitably been found by another mom first, it is easy! A bonus is I often know the person I am getting the referral from. Even better, sometimes I get several opinions and a discussion will start about it, which makes my job even easier. If I am looking for a service often a local Mom will be in that business or will have a go-to person for that service that they absolutely love.

Another way of finding what you need is to go to a local Farmer’s Market, co-op or natural food store. All of these are great places to find local crafts people. Whether it is veggies, soaps or clothing, you may be in luck and find someone who has what you need. If you see a product on the table or shelf, it is still important to ask! Sometimes the origin will be posted but other times it is hard to know if it is a local product or a national/global one, although stores often highlight local goods.

If you see a green festival or craft show, you know you will find a lot of great local products! When you go, be sure to pick up business cards or carry paper to write information down. You may go to find a new necklace or holiday gifts, but writing down the name of a local eco-friendly baby store may help when your best friend announces she is *surprise* pregnant… and she has given all of her baby things away after what she thought would be her last.

When the above fails, try a search engine. To test this out, I typed in my city, “soap” and “eco” and after scrolling through a few ads I found a local soap company I’d never heard of and a local company that sells shea butter (which I need but haven’t gotten around to actually researching/buying yet).

Last but not least, plan ahead; if you think you will run out of something in the next month, start searching now! If you need it immediately, the chances are pretty good (if you’re like me) that you will give in to easy and grab it at the grocery store or at the store on the way back from the library.

Two things to watch out for are 1) buying something you don’t need and 2) buying something that says it is natural or eco-friendly when it is not. The former is just wasteful, both of your money and all of the producer’s time, effort and energy as well as any packaging and gas. the latter is called green-washing and it happens when companies jump on the “green” bandwagon and package their products as if they were environmentally-friendly because there are regulations or rules about using some terms on packaging. The best way to avoid this is (yes, I’m going to say it) to ask.

Remember it is possible to find most things from someone local, and even if they don’t purport to be eco-friendly they often are by default. Now is the time to stop feeling guilty about your purchases and support your local workers and craftspeople!