Shop Small. Buy Local. Do Good.

A few weeks ago I visited Linvilla Orchards, a kind of wonderland in the world of farm markets.  In addition to fresh, homegrown produce, fresh baked goods and locally produced products, they have an array of family activities that keep the children happy while visiting the farm.  My girls loved the train ride, petting zoo and playground and were totally tuckered out by the time we left.  While buying our goodies on our way out, my eyes were drawn to the Buy Fresh, Buy Local signage that was hanging all around the market.

BuyFreshBuyLocal

I’ve been thinking a lot about the Buy Local movement lately and this was just the push I needed to look into it further.  You see, though I have heard a variety of campaigns that push consumers to Buy Local, I never really paid attention to the reasons behind the campaigns.  Instinctively, it just seems “right” to buy from small, local businesses, but how do these campaigns compel you to do so?

The Buy Fresh Buy Local program’s goal is to make it easier for consumers to find, choose, and appreciate great local foods while supporting the farmers and lands that produce them.  If a store, restaurant or market features a Buy Fresh Buy Local® sign or label, the consumer can be certain that the business has committed to feature local foods and support local producers.  This is one of many programs across the nation that encourage consumers to purchase locally grown and produced foods.  Consumers who patronize local farm markets or restaurants that utilize local foods are directly supporting the local agriculture community.  Further, consumers who buy local produce are reducing their carbon footprint because locally grown fruits and vegetables require far less transportation than those shipped in from great distances.  So, get out there and buy some local produce.   I prefer farm markets or CSAs, but you can also shop the “Buy Local” section of your grocery store and support the movement too.

Shop Small

Shop Small (Photo credit: afagen)

The Buy Local movement stretches well beyond agriculture though and encompasses small business in general.  I’m sure you’ve heard of Small Business Saturday. Conceived by American Express in 2010, it is a “shopping holiday” on the equivalent of Black Friday for big box retailers and Cyber Monday for e-commerce retailers.   Small Business Saturday’s purpose is to drive consumers to local business in an effort to help stimulate the local economy.  Small Business Saturday has morphed into a Shop Small movement that encourages local shopping all year round (though I am sure there will still be a push for that Saturday after Thanksgiving.)   This makes sense.  After all, these businesses need to pay their employees and keep the lights on throughout the year, not just during the shopping season.

Still, I wanted some cold hard facts about why this is an important movement to get behind.  Here is what I found on ELocal.

– Throughout the United States, only about 33.6% of the revenue from national chains is reinvested into the community, which is very low compared to the 64.8% return from local businesses. (2009)

– A study in Austin, Texas found that $100 spent at a local bookstore produced $45 worth of local economic activity, and $100 at the chain store Borders brought back only $13.

– National chains often bring loss of employment. The opening of a Wal-Mart reduces retail employment by an average of 150 jobs in the county of its location.

– If the people of an average American city were to shift 10% of their spending from chains to local businesses, it would bring an additional $235 million per year to the community’s economy.

These numbers are pretty compelling.  Small businesses create local jobs.  Small businesses return more money to the local economy than larger chain retailers.  Small businesses are more likely to be active members of the community, supporting local causes and participating in local events.  And, in patronizing small businesses, you are supporting your neighbors who work there or the family that owns it.  Shop Small.  Buy Local. Do Good.   Now that is a campaign I can get behind.

How does small business fit into your life?  Do you work for one?  Shop at one?  Tell me about it!

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Pick Up a Ghabit

Light switch in the bathroom

Light switch in the bathroom (Photo credit: anotherpioneer)

Pick Up a Ghabit: Ghabit is short for Green Habit and is the creation of Milesh Jain, aka Dr. Ghabit. I love this concept of empowering children to be active participants in preserving the environment. By simply establishing a habit of turning out the lights upon leaving a room or walking to and from school, your children can be proud that they’ve reduced their carbon footprint and are actively helping the environment. So, get your family together and pick up a Ghabit. Carry a bag on your walks to collect litter, turn off the lights, use less water, walk more and drive less, the possibilities are endless and Mother Earth will thank you.

via Do-Gooder Kids Activities.

Do-Gooder Company: DoGoodBuyUs

photo4_large

I just came across a really interesting online store called DoGoodBuyUs and wanted to share my discovery with you! It is a marketplace for charity-made products and, according to its website, 50% of the proceeds from each purchase are fighting poverty, hunger, disease, environmental degradation and other ills plaguing the world.   With a wide array of products, including coffee, tea, jewelry, clothes, soaps and so much more, this is the perfect place to buy a gift for the next big event in your life!

Mother Earth is our Chores for Charity Beneficiary in May!

brain

brain (Photo credit: natalia love)

It’s May 9th and we have not even talked about this month’s Chores For Charity Beneficiary.  And that’s mainly because Josie and I have only talked very briefly about it.   We’ve been doing chores for the unnamed green charity.  In Josie’s words, “you know, mom, we should help the earth, like vacuum up all the trash and stuff. Hey! I have an idea.  Let’s take the Dustbuster on a walk [like we can put it on a leash like a dog] and we can vacuum up the trash.”   And then the conversation turns to her “rainbow brain,” her words not mine, and I begin to wonder what life in the Technicolor mind of Josie must be like.  Of course, this leads me to believe that my brain is utterly boring with all its gray matter and white matter.

English: The Nature Conservancy logo

English: The Nature Conservancy logo (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

All that aside, we did decide to choose a conservation type charity and I confess that this is not an area of expertise for me, so I selected a big name charity for this month:  The Nature Conservancy.  Their mission is simply stated, but complex in practice:  To conserve the lands and water on which all life depends.   They are making a conservation impact in all 50 states and 35 countries around the world.   The Nature Conservancy is in the business of protecting habitats, from Rainforests to Coral Reefs to the Rivers and Lakes in which my kids discover frogs and toads.  I like this.  Every child should have the chance to let the mud squish between their toes as they walk along the banks of a lake or river in search of their next adventure.

Photo Credit: Flickr - (Hoyasmeg)

Photo Credit: Flickr – (Hoyasmeg)

Given my background in urban education, I LOVE that they have a conservation education initiative, complete with paid internships, in partnership with environmental high schools in urban centers in 9 states.  This program, called LEAP, opens doors for students who reside in cities with very few natural elements to become leaders in the nature conservancy movement.  Straight-up awesome!

Boardwalk on the Wolf River in the William B. ...

Boardwalk on the Wolf River in the William B. Clark, Sr., Nature Preserve (Nature Conservancy of Tennessee) in Rossville, Fayette County, Tennessee. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

So folks, as you saunter through the month of May, remember Josie’s commitment to “vacuuming up all the trash on Earth” and do your part to protect Mother Earth.  Put your trash in a trash can, recycle and, if you have some dollars to spare, support The Nature Conservancy.

 

What are your favorite environmental conservation charities?  I’m going to use this month to learn more about this topic and could use all the help I can get!

Happy Earth Day!

Happy Earth Day!  This is one of those holidays that is made for kids – there are so many ways you can teach a child about the importance of caring for our planet and the environment and today is the perfect day to do it.  Below are some of my favorite ideas for showing the Earth some love with your kids!

The Earth seen from Apollo 17.

The Earth seen from Apollo 17. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Scavenger Hunts:

What child does not love to do a scavenger hunt?!  These are a great, interactive way to get kids of all ages involved and teach about the importance of nature conservation.

  1. Photo Scavenger Hunt:  Let your child be a photographer and shoot 10 nature images that show the beauty of our planet and why we need to protect it.
  2. Pieces of Nature Hunt:  Create a list of 10 naturally occurring items (leaves, rocks, plants, flowers) that you might find in your neighborhood and have your child check off the list as you find them. If the items are collectable, your child can bring them home as a souvenir of the hunt!
  3.  Nature ABC Scavenger Hunt:  The goal of this hunt is to find natural items that start with each letter of the alphabet.

Litter Cleanup:

This is a timeless Earth Day activity.  Unfortunately litter continues to be a problem despite an ongoing anti-littering campaign.  It is imperative to ingrain in your children at a young age that littering is wrong and this activity can open up the conversation and help beautify your neighborhood or local park!

Earth Day Online Games:

Josie and I played Michael, Michael Go Recycle this morning and had a great convo about what we recycle and how we do it here at home.  It is kind of old-school, but just right for your preschooler or young school-age child.

http://funschool.kaboose.com/globe-rider/earth-day/games/game_michael_recycle.html

PBS Kids also has a variety of games available under the Earth Day theme.

http://pbskids.org/games/earthday.html

Earth Day Crafts:

zearthday3[4]I love this craft idea because every kid loves to use their hands to paint and it gives them a chance to say how they will love their Earth.

http://thefirstgradeparade.blogspot.com/search/label/Earth%20Day

11Jan21_crayons_29-300x268This is a great example of Reduce, Reuse and Recycle.  Take those old broken useless crayons and bring them back to life.

http://betterinbulk.net/2011/01/melting-crayons-give-new-life-to-broken-crayons.html

recycle gardenRecycled Gardens are so creative and a great way to reuse everyday household items.

http://laughpaintcreate.blogspot.com/search?updated-max=2011-03-28T09%3A02%3A00-05%3A00&max-results=7

Featured Do-Gooder Company: REI

Feel Good FridayIt’s Feel Good Friday and this week’s Do-Gooder Company, REI, is all about nature conservation, the environment and outdoor education.  With stores in 33 states, REI is currently one of the nation’s largest purveyors of outdoor sports and activity equipment.  But they are so much more than that too.  They offer learning opportunities through classes at the REI Outdoor School and online through their blog and expert advice series.  Through REI Adventures, you and your family can embark on a guided trip that connects you to the outdoors in some of the world’s most awesome natural environments.  You can also download a Kid’s Adventure Journal from their website as a way to help your kids connect with and enjoy outdoor activities.

REI Store, Bellingham, Washington

REI Store, Bellingham, Washington (Photo credit: Reg Natarajan)

I know, I know.  Their product and program offerings are very cool and hip, but this does not make theme a Do-Gooder Company.  Well, folks, hold onto your hats because their Do-Gooder initiatives are just as exciting.   Built into REI’s corporate values is a commitment to connect people to the outdoors and protect nature through active conservation projects.  REI uses a multi-prong approach to address this social need:  1. Volunteerism  2. Grants and Giving and 3. Sustainable Operations.REI in community

  • Volunteerism:  REI both hosts and promotes volunteer opportunities for employees and the public at large.  In 2012, REI stores promoted more than 750 outdoor volunteer projects in which more than 87,000 people participated.  Moreover, programs supported through REI grants engaged nearly 397,000 people in 2.8 million hours of volunteer work on public lands.
  • Grants and Giving:  Aiming to help conserve natural spaces in order to enhance opportunities for outdoor recreation, REI dedicates 3% of the previous year’s operating profit to it’s annual giving budget.  In 2012, this meant that REI awarded $3.9 million to over 260 nonprofit organizations.  In addition to grants, REI empowers stores to engage with local nonprofits by raising awareness of the organizations among REI customers, providing gear loans and product donations.
  • Sustainable Operations:   REI has adopted a targeted approach to reducing their environmental impact.  For instance, with regard to Greenhouse Gas Emissions, REI aspires to become climate neutral in operations by 2020.  Some of the ways they are working toward this include utilizing solar technology in stores and incentiving the use of public transit by offering a 50% transit subsidy to employees.  Want more details on REI’s other plans in support of Sustainable Operations?   Read about them here.

    REI meetup at Leschi Starbucks for Bike to Wor...

    REI meetup at Leschi Starbucks for Bike to Work Day (Photo credit: jcolman)

My Bottom Line:  REI offers products and programs that encourage individuals to enjoy the outdoors.  At the same time they incorporate socially responsible business, encouraging volunteerism among employees and customers, supports local non-profit efforts to conserve open, natural spaces and is conscious of their impact on the environment as a whole.  Though they don’t claim it, I feel comfortable saying that engagement with the outdoors leads to a healthier lifestyle and ultimately a healthier planet.  In this age of technology, there are many who prefer “screen time” over outdoor activity and REI (and their partners) are working to combat this status quo.  So, in support of their mission, STOP READING MY BLOG, TURN OFF THE COMPUTER AND HEAD OUTSIDE!  Get your family together and go for a hike, a walk, a bike ride.  Climb a rock wall or kayak across a lake.  Engage with nature – you won’t regret it!

Hiking

Hiking (Photo credit: Moyan_Brenn)

Oh, and, when I said “stop reading my blog,” I didn’t mean forever.  Please stop back soon to check out my newest post, but take some time to enjoy the outdoors between visits!