(This blog entry is my two cents worth for the November APLS Carnival.)
I used to be a Walmart shopper. I loved walking down the aisles looking at all the cheap consumer goods for sale. During the Christmas season, I especially loved the aisle that had packaged gift sets such as his & her matching cocoa mugs or a ceramic John Deere tractor filled with cookies. I’d go there just to look, and sometimes I’d buy.
Then, one fall, our local paper did a series of expose type articles on Walmart. One article was about how Walmart treated their employees (what overtime?). One was how they treated their US suppliers (sell it cheaper or go out of business). And one was how they treated their overseas manufacturers (sell it cheaper or we’ll buy from another country). The comment that stuck, and the one that really got to me, was a quote from a lady who worked for a clothing company in Honduras. Every year, Walmart required the company to cut costs further. They could reduce their profit or cut the quality, but the cost had to go down. The Honduran lady said, and I have to paraphrase, "I just can’t believe that people in America really care if they save 50 cents on a pair of shorts."
Maybe it's because I've visited Honduras, but that one comment made me realize that there is a hidden cost to our cheap consumer goods and it is a cost I don’t like. I have no desire to gyp Hondurans out of the 50 cents they need to make a profit so they can buy tortillas for their kids, so I quit shopping at Walmart.
I occasionally purchase similar merchandise, but I buy it from a locally owned store, or at least one that has a reputation of treating people better. I figure that if they treat their employees well, they probably treat their suppliers better, too. It costs more, so I buy less stuff. I’ve done a complete 180 from searching for the cheapest price to searching for a quality product, fairly paid for. I’m buying much less from the lady in Honduras (or China or ??), but hopefully I’m paying for what I buy. If we all did that, we would need to manufacture a lot less stuff, we could cut out the junk, and we could bring back the quality. I think the world would still go around.
That began my journey. Through reading books I soon also learned about the state of our food production in this country and was similarly horrified to find out what system I was supporting. It was around the same time as a bunch of e. coli scares, I had a baby who was starting to eat solid foods, and I was concerned about what I was feeding my family. When I learned about the abuse of animals, the land, and the farmers and immigrants who do most of the work, I started looking for other options.
My search took me to local farms, the farmers’ market, and even to a friend who offered me a share in their pig! I learned about locavores and their "eat local" challenges from fellow bloggers. I started out unconvinced, but soon I was hooked and just had to try it.
I’m not a purist when it comes to eating local foods – I still shop at the grocery store every week – but I’m now buying about half our food from the people who grew it. I love that. The food is better. It’s so much better that I notice when for some reason I eat the old stuff. I don’t care what anybody says about how it’s cheaper to eat whole foods – it’s been waaaay more expensive. I’m still making compromises because of price, but when I buy locally, I know where the money is going. I’m supporting farmers who are trying to care for their people, land and animals instead of trying to milk every penny out of them and leave the problems to the next generation.
I buy locally grown food as much as I can. On some other things, I try to buy fair trade or the equivalent. I’ve got a long ways to go, but I figure that if everyone did what I’m doing we would strengthen our communities, save our land, and we’d have a lot more social justice.