Today I received one of those anonymous E-mails that spin their way around the Internet. I generally don’t pay much attention to the broadcasts, but this one really resonates. It encourages readers to shop locally for Christmas gifts.
I’m a strong advocate for supporting local businesses whenever possible, and this timely message is a reminder how every consumer has the power to improve the economy at the hometown level.
The message is simple: As we prepare for the gift-giving holiday season, American consumers have the power to improve hometown economies by buying presents that are produced locally with materials made in the USA.
Use Products and Materials Made in USA
I was beginning to feel quite smug as I read through the E-mail. For years now, my husband and I have shunned the traditional trek to the mall for buying commercially-made gifts for family and friends. Instead we spend our time preparing homemade presents. I do some sewing, quilting, handcrafts and photography; my husband loves to bake, make holiday decorations and dabble in various forms of artwork. We place our gifts in baskets or on festive plates and deliver them in person whenever possible. Gifts may include a collection of baked breads, cakes, candy, cookies and perhaps some wine or other beverage. Other presents may include a medley of quilted placemats, runners, handcrafted decorations, holiday-themed pillows, holiday wreaths, framed photos from my gallery or a painting created by my husband.
At first it seemed that we were ahead of the curve, regarding giving gifts made in the USA. Then I started to think about what goes into the trappings: baskets made in China, trays made in India, wrapping paper made in Taiwan…. I even checked the materials we use to bake the goodies. Do you know that the parchment paper I use under the baked cookies is made in France and packaged in the USA. The metal foil we use to wrap the cakes is packaged in the USA; however, the metal is imported from Russia. Okay, how about the ribbons I use around the plastic wrap (which, by the way, really is made in the USA)? They are sold by an American company, but imported from China. Many of the sewing fabrics I use for sewing projects originate in Asian and European countries.
Challenge Yourself to Buy Locally
So my challenge to myself is to start a new holiday gift-giving tradition: Try and use as many locally and USA made items as possible. It could be considered a painstaking chore, instead I prefer see the activity as an interesting and important game that will ultimately help the local economy.
Where do I start? Well, instead of using inexpensive (cheap) baskets that are made in Asia and usually cost $3-$8 each, I can buy handmade baskets at the holiday bazaars that are popping up every weekend or at one of the area Native American gift shops. They usually sell for $5 to $15 each, and are original works of art. Last year I spied locally-made decorator plates that were $10 each, and will use that artist’s creations this year for our baked-goodies gift platters. Instead using foreign-made ribbon for crafts and tying basket covers, I’ll purchase yarn from our local knitting shop & spinning guild. Fabric for crafts and sewing projects? Every bolt of material that I see in the fabric stores has a label that tells me where the fabric was woven — I now will be looking for “Made in the USA” signs. Even handmade wrapping paper can be purchased at our local stationery store. It just takes a little time to ferret out. As far as the baking goes, checking the labels for USA grown and packaged ingredients also can be part of the game.
Start for the Holidays; Make it a Year-round Quest
Of course, the next level will be asking where the materials are manufactured for these locally made items. But one step at a time. I’ll do my due diligence for shopping, and if I spread the word, maybe those who are creating the items will make an effort to purchase raw materials from local and USA resources. Who knows? Start with 2011 holiday gift-giving, and It could spread to year-round awareness.
Will You Join Me?
Helping the economy grow at the local level is within the power of every consumer. Start with the holidays, and awareness may stimulate year-round shopping habits. I will make a concentrated effort to think locally when crafting and buying holiday presents. Will you join me in purchasing gifts that really are made in the USA?
Sources: Personal Experience