Choose Where You Shop

We’ve tackled some big topics so far this year at Postconsumers – from a hundred things to do instead of watch television to ways to de-clutter your entire life. This month is no exception. One of the pieces of advice that you frequently hear us give at Postconsumers is to shop locally and avoid big brand monopolies. What you haven’t seen us do is offer some advice for how to exactly accomplish that goal. This month, as consumer season begins to kick into full gear, we’ll be focusing on giving you concrete ways to avoid big box stores and big brands and support local initiatives that are better for the planet, better for society and better for distancing you from the addictive consumerism that plagues so many Americans.  Today, we’re featuring five tips on shopping locally by choosing where you shop more wisely.

Number One: Obviously We Have to Say That You Should Find Local Merchants

It seems as though this one should go without saying, we agree! But the devoted Postconsumer may actually be surprised at how many people don’t realize that just because a certain department store has a local retail location that employs local people, it isn’t necessarily local. In particular, Big Box stores are guilty of feeding into society’s addictive consumerism. Not only do most big box stores keep prices low by selling products that are created using questionable social practices, but their entire model is about keeping prices down so that you buy more and more and more. It’s that myth that buying more makes you happier that does the most damage. Meanwhile, while local stores certainly appreciate your business, they don’t have the reach or the pricing capability to constantly have you purchasing more and more and more. You may have to do some research, but chances are that you have at least some nearby options for choosing local vendors over big box stores.

Pro Tip: Big Box Store is a term that gets thrown around a lot, but not everybody really understands what it means. Get our full explanation of what a Big Box Store is.

Number Two: Visit the Thrift Store, Flea Market or Garage Sale

We definitely do not mean to suggest that in order to avoid mindless consumerism and the manipulation of big, global brands, you shouldn’t buy anything that’s brand new. That’s not true at all! In fact, even if you want to buy some things at big box stores or items that are part of a global brand conglomerate, that’s fine, too. Everybody needs to find their own point of comfort on the Postconsumer scale. That said, increasing the number of items that you buy second hand diminishes the amount that you feed back into the mass consumption loop. When a piece of clothing or another item gets a second life, that’s one less instance of “buy more, more, more” that larger chains and bigger stores initiate. We have plenty of designer and great pieces that we picked up second hand. We love this strategy.

Number Three: Avoid the Bulk Shopping. More is Not Always Better.

We want to firstly say that there are some bulk shopping stores that we truly applaud for their ability to put things like fair wages and healthy employees ahead of company profits. If more companies did that, the world would be a better place. But at the end of the day, bulk shopping stores employ many of the same mind tactics that get people into trouble with addictive consumerism: The idea that more is better and that the less you pay, the better. These aren’t concepts that help you find the satisfaction of enough and separate the idea of personal happiness from that of “stuff.” And, be sure to keep in mind that in order to keep prices low and make bulk shopping appealing, bulk stores are purchasing products from many of the same locations that practice bad social and eco-policy to create affordable products. Instead of the bulk store once a week, consider the local grocery once a day!

Number Four: Get Social and Organize a Swap Meet

We love any way to “shop” that’s both alternative and also encourages social or community interaction. That’s why a swap meet is such a great idea. Not only can you obtain items that you need or want, you can also reduce your own “stuff clutter” by giving away items that you’re done with. In addition to keeping you out of the Big Box Stores, this also helps you to embrace the idea of “enough” instead of “more.” When you give away items in a swap meet and minimize how much stuff comes into your house, you tighten the consumer cycle and bring it closer to home.

Number Five: Look for Local Products in Larger Stores

We’d love a world where everybody had the option to shop at local vendors instead of Big Box Stores. However, the reality is that we’re in an era we refer to as post-BB. That obviously stands for Post-Big Box and, more importantly, it refers to the period of time after Big Box Stores have pushed out many local vendors. Particularly in more rural areas, there often aren’t a great deal of options beyond Big Box Stores. In one of our mother’s hometowns, for example, the only options are a Target, a Wal-Mart and a full-size shopping mall. But in a spark of goodness, many Big Box Stores are responding to consumer demand for more local and socially conscious products and you can find them within the store. We always hesitate to talk too much about Whole Paycheck, but they were among the first to embrace this trend with locally produced products included in each store. However, even larger chains are beginning to incorporate local vendors, artisans and food producers into their shelves. And if your local Big Box location hasn’t yet, be the one to organize people to petition them to get smart. Every dollar you spend is a vote, and if you spend your dollars on locally produced items within larger chain stores, the chain stores will respond.

It can take a little bit of work, but it is possible to separate yourself from the physical manifestations of addictive consumerism and focus on local and sustainable purchasing habits. Come back for part two of this series when we discuss one of our favorite topics … food!

Did we miss a way to shop locally that you’d like to share? Tell us about it on the social media channels below.

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