I’m passionate about living my life as sustainably as possible without sacrificing comfort. That’s why I’m posting all the tips and tricks I’ve learned over the past 8 years right here. I want to help you achieve a sustainable lifestyle too!
You can’t buy love but you can buy local and that’s pretty awesome. In other words, every dollar spent at local businesses creates wealth and jobs in your community, sometimes even three to five times as much money as multi-national businesses. As for job creation, almost 70% of employees across Canada were employed by small businesses in last decade. To top that off, local businesses also purchase from other local businesses helping them to grow. This in turn, increases the local tax base which means lower taxes for everyone in the long run. With every local purchase you make, you are personally injecting an economic stimulus into the Calgary economy. We all benefit and that’s just the beginning.
There is a positive environmental impact as well. Small businesses usually set up shop along main streets, near neighbourhood squares or downtown, providing centralized variety which increases the community’s walk score much more than shopping malls do. This means less sprawl, traffic congestion, pollution and habitat loss.
Small businesses offer more unique products. The more unique offerings, the more character your community will have. Your community is defined in large part by the businesses that operate there. This plays a big role in your overall satisfaction with where you live and directly affects the value of your home and property. Character also draws more tourists. Tourism brings even more money into our local economy.
Competition is good for business and you too. Diversity leads to more consumer choice. With thousands of small businesses a community can ensure innovation and low prices over the long-term. Car manufacturers and furniture stores already know this. Have you ever noticed how they all set up shop close to each other?
Local business owners are people who live in your neighbourhood and are therefore more invested in your community’s welfare and future. They contribute more to local charities. They also require comparatively little infrastructure and more efficiently utilize public services relative to chain stores. Supporting smaller businesses will help lower your municipal taxes more than shopping at big box retailers.
Finally, you will receive better service from a small business. Small business owners hire people with more specific expertise and pay them more. You’re going to see these people around your neighbourhood and thus they will more likely to be helpful since they will see you day after day. Because these same employees live close, they will commute less which means even greater pollution reduction and less congestion. This is all community building stuff.
And it’s easy to do with your regular support. In my own life, I always try to make my purchases as close to home as possible. From the time I wake until I go to bed I’m supporting local small businesses. Sure, it’s a little more expensive up front but I know in the long run it will save me money. I buy local roasted coffee and tea from independent shops instead of chains, I look for bulk Canadian grown produce and usually cook from scratch. If I do buy prepackaged meals, I find them at local producers. Community Natural Foods carries a number of different options many of which are made in-house. Co-op does a great job of identifying local made products too. Local bakeries make the best bread and it’s always a special treat to a grab a loaf hot out of the oven. Sidewalk Citizen Bakeryis one my favourites but there are many more excellent local bake shops.
I must admit that food makes up the bulk of my spending after shelter. I have learned how to spend those dollars carefully so as not to waste them. I used to make big shopping trips and buy too much. I ended of throwing out a lot of stuff out because it went bad before I had a chance to eat it. Now I only buy large quantities of stuff I use a lot of like olive oil or rolled oats. I buy from zerowaste refilleries such as nude market or The Apothecary (there are many more throughout the city). Not only does this reduce waste but you will enjoy a better price than pre-packed items. For everything else, especially fresh produce, I purchase from local grocers on my way home that day. In the summer, I have started buying a half farm share or food box. (Try YYC Growers or contact small local farms to find out what they offer.) I receive just enough fruits and vegetables for the week. Also, since I get to meet the farmers, I make an effort to use everything even it means I have to learn how to cook a new item. I don’t want to waste anything knowing how hard those farmers worked to put food in those boxes for me. This costs about $35 per week and is just enough to feed my daughter, husband and myself. This food is fresh, healthier, safe and creates less pollution than imports. Plus, it’s an investment in local food security not to mention the local economy. Buying food right in your neighbourhood also eliminates the need to drive. I pick everything up on foot or by bicycle. If we want the convenience of neighbourhood corner stores and grocers, we need to support them by buying stuff from them.
I could grab gifts from my own shop but I love the variety I find in others so I make an effort to support them on a regular basis. I want them to stick around too. Some of my most treasured shops include Outside The Shape, Steeling Home, Crafted Goods,Moonstone Creation and the Galleria. These shops all feature a variety of local made arts and crafts.
Same goes for sporting goods, the smaller the shop the better quality, selection and service. I have purchased several bicycles from Bike Bike over the years as well as parts and repairs from The Bike Shop, and ski accessories from Lifesport. There are many more independent shops to choose from all with unique specialties.
Books can be a bit trickier as many of the independent sellers have closed but Shelf Life Books is close by and I can usually find what I’m looking for at Fairs Fair Books. You can even trade in old books for credit towards purchases of new ones.
Support local artist and musicians by attending craft markets and buying tickets to shows at public venues. Calgary Folk Music Festival hall features many great performers and the popular New Craft Coalition art event. cSPACE is another great option. You can take a workshop or attend their popular Saturday market. Independent coffee shops like Gravity Café also feature live, local musicians every week and they hang interesting art by visual artists on their walls.
Luckily for my pocket book, I’m not a big shopper but from time to time I do have to buy new clothes or furniture. When I do, I prefer to frequent small consignment shops like Salvedge Boutique or Antiquaire Vintage Boutique and the ReStore for furniture. If I can’t find something there, I will search out stores that I know sell items made in Canada. Espy has a number of Canadian clothing brands at affordable prices. Revolve Furnishings is 100% Canadian owned with an assortment of Canadian made items.
Another way to generate local economic and environmental benefits is to try using a local currency. Consider joining Calgary Dollars. Calgary Dollars is a local currency that you can only spend with local members ensuring your dollars are staying in Calgary’s economy. Buy or sell digital or paper Calgary dollars for goods and services with friends, neighbours or businesses like mine. I currently take 100% Calgary dollars for all coffee bar drink purchases and 10% for giftware purchases. The more members and money circulating the higher percentage I’ll be able to accept. I can use my dollars to pay for part of my City of Calgary business license or to buy goods and services from other members for myself or my business.
If you're an online shopper, consider checking out what local shops have to offer first. Many already have online shops. Plus, you can save the shipping cost by taking advantage of free pickup. Visit their brick and mortar locations to grab your purchase when it's convenient for you.
With every purchase you make at a small business you are exerting your influence or “voting with your dollar” for a stronger more resilient community. Small businesses are much more effective at responding to your values and desires than big box stores will ever be. In my opinion, buying local is one of the single, most effective actions we can take to building and maintaining a vibrant, thriving, sustainable community. Keep in mind that most of the suggestions I have made here are in the neighbourhood that I live in. If you live an another neighbourhood, I encourage you to go for a walk or ride your bike and discover all the local places that operate close to your home. Support them. Love local.