About a month ago, we watched “Wal-Mart: The High Cost of Low Price” (good flick, check it out). Many people know the reasons we should avoid shopping at big-box chains; artificially low-prices, low wages and benefits for workers, killing local businesses, but I was surprised to learn about other concerns such as global economies, surrounding property values, and environmental impacts.
Wal-Mart isn’t the only culprit when it comes to these issues, but they are among (if not THE) worst.
To us, it seemed like the next logical step in our lifestyle changes… buy local means buy local, right? So we should avoid buying products from national big-box chain stores that don’t support local business owners, and often don’t stock any products even made in the USA.
But it gets tricky. I mean where do you find alternatives? And with the box store’s buying power, they really DO have lower prices, so will I have to pay more? Well, there are alternatives, and yes, you might likely pay a bit more. But you can be comforted knowing your extra few pennies or dollars went to support a local business or family, not line the overly large pockets of the Walton family.
Here is the list of store Rick and I are avoiding:
-Wal-Mart & Sam’s Club
-Home Depot & Lowes
-Sports Authority & Dick’s
-JoAnn’s, Michael’s & Hobby Lobby
So where can you shop instead? Well, we recently got canning supplies, pieces to repair the sprinkler system, a yellow jacket trap and a shower organizer at A&A Tradin’ Post, a local hardware store. Instead of getting bike accessories/locks/inner tubes/helmets at Sports Authority, we shop at Treads, Arapahoe Cyclery or Campus Cycles. I get fabric from Denver Fabrics and scrap booking supplies from locals as well (though I have to find a new store since Scrapbook Destination closed down :( ).
I wanted to add Costco to the “do not shop” list as well, but we are still taking advantage of our membership there at the moment. Though I do hope that we can eventually eliminate that as well, we just need a local store that stocks organic cane sugar in large quantities for canning season. We generally avoid King Soopers and Safeway in favor of the slightly more local Sunflower Market to buy our milk and grains (and we usually buy Colorado products over organics), and try to grow/CSA/farmer’s market all the rest.
What about restaurants? There are so many great local places to eat instead of typical chain restaurants. And the food is almost always, fresher, tastier and prepared to order. Instead of ordering from Pizza Hut or Papa John’s, try that little pizzeria (we recently ordered from Frank the Pizza King here in Englewood, and often miss Sal’s up in Thornton). Instead of Panda Express, spend a few extra bucks at Heaven Dragon (our fave!). Don’t get steak at Lone Star or Outback when you can try Bastien’s Steakhouse or The Capital Grill. Why eat at Old Chicago, Chiles or Applebees when you can get better eats at Pearl Street Grill, Wash Park Grill or The Hornet. Olive Garden and Macaroni Grill can’t hold a candle to Undici down the street. And Mile High Coffee (or Stella’s or Kaladi Bros.) brews a tastier and less expensive cup-o-joe than Starbuck’s ever could. And seriously, I-HOP can NOT compare to Toast or even The Breakfast Queen.
These are, of course, baby steps in supporting the local movement. And it does take some extra effort. Sometimes we do without for a while until I can locate a local source for what it is we’re looking for (I want some storage tubs, but I don’t want to get them from Wal-Mart or Target, for example). And sometimes we have to come up with creative alternatives (like using repurposed cardboard boxes instead of those tubs). And, yes, sometimes it costs a bit more. But I don’t mind paying more than rock-bottom prices, if it means supporting my local economy, neighbors and community. Do you?