5 Sustainable Reasons You Should Support Small Local Businesses

If you follow me on Instagram, you know that I recently attended a local Plant and Pottery Pop Up in my neighborhood. I learned about it by sheer luck, while driving home on Saturday after running errands. I happened to notice a series of low lawn signs and I saw the words “plant and pot sale” “Sunday” “Mayfield.” There was no way that I could fully see the address, but I knew that it must be nearby, so all it took was a quick search on Facebook when I got home and I found the event! I couldn’t believe it when it was a 5 minute drive from my house!

Living in a smaller suburban city, I don’t often think of pop up events like this happening, but it made me realize that maybe I have been sleeping on some cool events going on in my own backyard. Although I am always hyping up small businesses, this pop up made me realize that I was not making the efforts to see what was available locally, which is a more sustainable option.

Being an event that was also accessible to me, and being on the hunt for some new plants, I was instantly excited and knew in that moment that THAT was going to be a part of my weekend plans, even if I did nothing else the entire weekend.

What Did I Get?

The pop up was small, with about 5-6 vendors, combined selling a mix of plants, seedlings, macrame, handmade jewelry, crystals, and local honey from their own beehives!

I knew that, at a minimum, I was not walking out of there without one new plant, but I ended up coming out with a considerable haul, making purchases from 4 different vendors. Here is a quick look at what I bought:

A thriving ZZ Plant (curious cat not included) and jars of honey that were locally grown from a woman near my house who has her own beehive.

Celestite. I will admit, I choose this crystal solely based on aesthetic, but it’s calming blue colors are appropriate as it is said to have healing properties.

“The String of Pearls that never dies.”

Handmade Rainbow Monstera Leave Earrings. These are plastic (probably resin) and super light, I have been wearing them almost every day this week.

Syngonium Coral or “Arrowhead Vine Coral”

What Made These Small Business Purchases So Exciting?

While I had a lot of excitement surrounding this small business pop up event and these purchases, which eventually subsided, I also found myself being incredibly fulfilled by these purchases, even days after the event.

In reflecting it is because I made purchases that were substantially more sustainable, for the environment, for the local community, and for my own personal life. There is a more profound depth to supporting small businesses as opposed to a purchase from a larger corporation.

Regardless of where you are in your sustainability journey, you have probably heard some mantra of “shop small,” “support local,” “shopping local is good for the environment,” etc. But, do you know WHY supporting small local businesses is a great way to practice intentional, ethical living, and work towards a more sustainable lifestyle?

Here are 5 Reasons Why Shopping Small Local Businesses is More Sustainable:

1.Lower Carbon Footprint: Your carbon footprint is a measurable way of expressing the impact that each of us has on the environment, determined by our daily activities such as travel, food consumption, and day to day practices. If you are interested in seeing what your carbon footprint is, you can use this tool to measure it. We, as individuals, want to keep our carbon footprint as low as possible, that is, to use the least resources of the earth possible at a time and to promote a lusher, longer life of the planet. When we shop at small local businesses, typically it helps to reduce our carbon footprint. By making purchases at businesses in closer proximity, as opposed to larger distances or having it shipped to our homes, we use less of our own energy and require less energy from the business to obtain those items. Also, depending on the type of small business, they may also be sourcing their products from other local sources, which means from start to finish, a lot less energy was used and there was a lesser impact on the environment. The honey that I bought was made from a woman who has her own beehives at her home in a neighboring suburb. She packages the products herself and sells locally. Not only is the product fresh and delicious, but it is a much shorter supply chain from the source to the buyer.

2. Clearer Supply Chain: Every business has a supply chain; this is the journey that all products take from idea until they are in your hands as the purchaser. When trying to assess the sustainability and ethical practices of a business, you want to see a supply chain that is “short” and “transparent.” Typically, the fewer steps within a supply chain the better, because that means it passes through fewer hands and uses fewer resources to be produced (building off of having a smaller carbon footprint). Transparency is also important. A shorter supply chain makes it easier to see the steps and people involved, and to make sure that businesses are accountable for fair and ethical practices.

3. Ethical Wages: When buying from small local businesses, the cost of an item may appear to be higher than what you may find in a larger corporation. The ZZ Plant that I purchased was $25, which compared to a $5-$10 plant at Wal-Mart, seems really high. But there are important differences between those two products. The plant that I purchased has a higher price point because it was already potted, had considerable growth, and was fairly paying those involved in preparing it. The cheaper plant at Wal-Mart was most likely mass produced, and those who helped to prepare it were being paid considerably less. When we talk about ethical wages, it is not that we are calling for exorbitant wages, but simply for those involved to be paid fairly and at livable rates – not paying people less just to make it cheaper for the rest.

4. Sustainable Local Economy: Supporting small local businesses also help our own communities to flourish. These purchases directly impact the livelihoods of those near to us, allows more resources to stay within our own communities, provides an important voice of what our community finds important, and account for more jobs and more revenue.

5. Slow Living: Slow living refers to how we consume products. By making more purchases from small local businesses, you may find yourself making purchases less frequently (spending more on a higher quality product often lasts longer than the less expensive, but lower quality product). You will begin to form relationships with your neighbors and you may eventually audit your own needs in terms of purchases. For example, if you are committed to sourcing your new plants at a local pop-up that occurs four times a year, you will become less inclined to make impulsive purchases at larger stores that have a high turnover of products; you may even find yourself visiting those stores less often. Any level of supporting small local businesses helps you to become more intentional in not only your purchasing habits, but also in how you are living out your day to day.

What You Can Do

If you aren’t sure how to get started, here are three great ways you can start incorporating the support of small local businesses in your sustainability journey.

  1. Research: Find small local businesses in your area. Social Media can be a great place to start, but also look on community boards in spaces such as libraries and cafes, pay attention to signs that pop up, and talk to your neighbors. Not all small businesses have a large social media presence and rely on word of mouth.
  2. Honor Your Routine: Depending on how many small businesses you find, you may suddenly be overwhelmed and feel obligated to support them all. After all, isn’t that what we should be doing? But, that likely is not realistic. Instead, you can especially look for ones who supply items that are already a regular part of your routine. Do you cook with a lot of vegetables? Maybe there is a small farmer or farmers market in your area. Do you love splurging on earrings? Maybe there is a handmade crafter or supplier in your area. Do you need to repair your lawn mower? Visit the local hardware store instead of Home Depot. Don’t make it harder on yourself by feeling obligated to support every single type of small business that comes your way. Not every small business is going to meet your needs, and that is okay.
  3. Tell Your Friends: Maybe you feel that your purchase alone is not enough of an impact. Maybe you just realistically cannot purchase from them at this time. That is okay. Supporting small local businesses does not always have to mean making a purchase. (If I regularly purchased from every single small business that I hype up, I would have no money for rent, way too many things, and would be defeating the purpose of sustainability.) But you can absolutely support small businesses in other ways. Refer your friends; does the business have social media accounts? Like, comment, or share their posts so they can continue to gain exposure.

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