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Five Cool Reasons to Think Outside the Big Box

Now that the holiday season is underway and people are being bombarded with offers for savings and incentives to shop, shop, shop and spend, spend, spend, we’re going to continue our conversation about shopping locally. We want you to try, this season, to think outside the big box and, when possible, shop locally, sustainably, and responsibly and keep your money out of the big box stores and give it to the small, local, independently-owned stores instead. Here’s why.

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1. When you make a purchase in a non-chain store, you’re making a human connection. It’s a smaller store. You can’t be anonymous and get in and get out quickly. You’re talking to a person for more than five seconds with a transaction that goes beyond the obligatory “how are you” and then, the comment that drives my father crazy, “have a good one” (A good one what?) after your purchase is completed. You’re talking to the store owner, asking questions about the product, and becoming accountable. You’re a real human being whose dollars will a difference and help keep a (hopefully) viable business open during a tough economic time.

2. When you shop locally, you may just be making a choice that helps to save space in a landfill or someone’s closet. You may be helping to save energy, especially if you walk, or just park the car in one place, and walk through one of our many downtowns. If you shop at a store such as Twice Chic Boutique and Salvage Goods in Easton, Little People Repeats in Stockertown, or Home and Planet, for example, you’re giving things a second or third life, whether that means something straightforward like clothing and toys or repurposed, recycled items for use in your home.

3. When you shop locally, you may just be helping to further someone’s secret dream if you’re buying something handmade and therefore, one-of-a-kind, rather than a mass-produced item that just comes off a conveyer belt. Take for example, the new Allentown Art Works at Fegley’s Burrito Works in Allentown. This gallery space is collaboration between the Fegleys and Diane Teti of the successful pop-up consignment art gallery Allentown ArtMart, and provides much-needed space to artists in Allentown. Or the second annual Secret Art Space Black Sunday craft fair that took place last week in Bethlehem. Or the nonstop creativity that fuels the must-have handmade goodies from Mercantile Home. Or, sheesh, even behind the walls at your favorite restaurant: lucky for us, the Lehigh Valley seems to be really good at displaying the work of local artists.

4. When you shop locally, you’re putting money back into the economy right here in the Lehigh Valley. According to statistics from the Alliance for Sustainable Communities in the Lehigh Valley, 45 cents of every dollar spent locally stays local, whereas only 15 cents of every dollar spent at a chain store stays local. Need it broken down into simpler terms? Here’s the thinking behind the 3/50 project: pick three locally owned businesses you would hate to see disappear and spend $50 on each–even if it’s just $50 per month. According to the 3/50 project, if half of the employed population did this every month, it would generate $42.6 billion in revenue.

5. When you shop locally, it just feels good. It feels right. It feels old-school. And in all the best ways.

How do you think outside the big box? We wanna know!

Public Service Announcement: Curious about these issues? Want to stop big box stores from taking over farmlands, destroying habitats, and pushing out the deer even further? Check out the Big Box Tool Kit. And the Institute for Local Self-Reliance has been helping communities get stronger since 1974.

Carrie Havranek is a writer in Easton who will shop locally as much as possible this Christmas, and despite the fact that she dreadfully misses Toy Magic in Bethlehem, will not step foot into Toys R Us this year.

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