I care a great deal about neighborhoods and local community. As someone who started participating in local politics around the time I turned 18, building strong neighborhoods is one of my deepest core beliefs.
But like many things, over time the actions one takes to support a belief can erode. People’s church attendance slackens, they miss PTA meetings, etc. In my case, over the past few years I stopped participating in the community. In particular, I did more and more of my spending on Amazon.
To make matters worse, I live in a neighborhood that has staunchly and successfully avoided being overrun by national chain stores. It’s a 10 minute walk to any chain store from my house (which is really long in NYC time!), and on the way you’ll pass lots of local alternatives. So why was I ordering mouthwash and basic essentials from Amazon? Why wasn’t I going into the local bookstore just a block from my house? Why was I ordering my groceries from FreshDirect and Amazon?
Over the past few months, I’ve started to be more concerned about this habit. In the back of my mind, I knew it wasn’t the right thing to be doing. You can Google for yourself some of the reasons why Amazon is bad for the economy, but I don’t want to dwell on it. The bottom line is that a company which pays its workers very little and is intent on dominating many realms of commerce might not be good for you and your neighbors. (And Amazon isn’t the only guilty company of course.)
As someone who cares about my neighborhood (and the importance of neighborhoods and local economies), I wasn’t doing enough to support mine. So this year, I’m working to keep more of my money local. Specifically, I’m reducing the amount of spending I do on Amazon. Unless I can’t find something locally, I’m not going to buy anything other than digital videos (and maybe a few Kindle books) from them.
That’s going mean more money for my local bookstore, pharmacy, grocery store, hardware store, and more. Unlike spending on Amazon, money I spend in locally helps the neighborhood by supporting entrepreneurs and allowing them to pay employees, many of whom are often also neighborhood residents.
I’m not trying to be perfect – the point isn’t to never order from Amazon, it’s to put my neighbors first and Amazon last. So far, I’ve been to the hardware store twice more than I otherwise would have been (I’d have ordered plumbing supplies from Amazon for sure), and the local grocer once more than usual. The toughest thing to figure out is books – I really love my Kindle and don’t have room for many books in my little NYC apartment. But I am going to try to move some of my book purchases to paper from local book stores.
I’ll be exploring new ways to spend locally throughout the year, and I’d love to hear from you. How do you support your local economy? What are ways I can increase my participation?