Sunday, November 09, 2008

best choice: Target?

I've been procrastinating writing this month's APLS carnival entry, because I'm not sure how to write something honest that doesn't make me feel guilty.

The topic is:
Do you feel buying locally plays a large role in healing our environment? Are you a true locavore or do you make exceptions for certain items? What obstacles to buying locally do you face? Do you have any tips for others looking to buy locally? Or are there other factors, such as cost or limited selection that force you to buy items made in other parts of the world?

I shop very rarely, but I had Tuesday off (no school on election day around here) and needed to run some errands. My shopping list was eclectic: battery powered alarm clock, rechargeable batteries, bottle brush, bras and chapstick. One mile down the road from my apartment there is a shopping center with big name stores (Target, Borders, Home Depot, Walmart, Marshalls). Ten minutes away there is a strip with lots of stores, still all big names. Fifteen minutes away there is a mall, honestly I don't know what's in there, but I'd assume all big name stores. Ten minutes in another direction is the 'historic' part of town, which offers an antique store and a record store. They're small and local, but I don't need anything they offer. There is a Salvation Army 15 minutes away where I might have found the alarm clock, but none of the other items. So, after contemplating all of my options, I decided that the best I could do for the time being was shop as locally as I could in terms of driving distance, which landed me at Target. I was able to find everything on my list, making only one trip, which was exciting. But, I felt badly that I went to a super-store that has no investment in my area. Yes, I do know that the plastic alarm clock, in a plastic box, will probably break in a year, just like my last one did. I wish that my purchases hadn't traveled so far, and I know that me cutting down on travel to pick them up doesn't counteract that issue. But, I don't know what else to do. My area has no cute little Main St. with locally owned shops where I could get to know the owners and bring my items back for repair, rather than replacing my broken alarm clock with a brand new one. What do you do if you arrived in your area too late to support all the small businesses? There may be a few hiding out there somewhere, but even my friends who have been in the area for a long time don't know where to find a small coffee shop. Apparently all the nearby choices are Starbuck, Borders Cafe and Panera.

While grocery shopping I but local and organic whenever possible. There is one local business, an orchard just down the road from me, which I try to support. When considering what items I need to buy, first I reduce (really, I don't buy many non-consumables at all) and then I try to find the most sustainable choice (buying a bottle brush was smarter than replacing my bottles which weren't getting clean). In the end though, I'm still left buying things made someplace far away, by someone who is seeing very little of the money I'm spending.


  1. I think what matters is that we think about it instead of just running to Target. Sure, I have to go there every now and then for similar reasons. But reducing (most important, imo) and then trying to support local businesses is probably the best approach.

  2. I've always heard good things about Target (and Costco). They treat their employees well (all hearsay so correct me if I'm wrong). So I don't mind shopping there if I need to. I avoid Walmart like the plague because of their often inhumane treatment of their employees.

  3. Your situation sounds a lot like my parents, who live in a small town in Kentucky right on the Interstate. So the only grocery store is Walmart, and all the restaurants are chain fast food. When I mention "green" things that I've bought (like Seventh Generation cleaners or organic cheese or whatnot) to my mom, she always says, "Where do you buy that? I don't even know where to get that stuff?"

    I've thought about that a lot, and I think their situation is probably very common. But I don't think they should give up on living a more green lifestyle. Maybe they can't shop locally, but they can choose to be less wasteful. Maybe they can't find some of the products I take for granted, but they can ride a bike instead of drive. And they can always write letters to their congressman and their state and local governments. Maybe they could petition their local government to open up a farmers market in their area.

    I say, don't give up, just do the best you can in your situation.


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