Buoy Economy; Shop “Smaller”

Last week in the Foghorn, we featured undergraduate Caitlin Dally’s call for students to move their money from large national and multinational banks to community banks. The idea was to responsibly stimulate and repair local and underserved economies by extending to them “access to credit, equity, capital, and basic banking products that these communities would otherwise lack.”
We want to embrace a broader version of that scale down mindset by generalizing that student’s suggestion: make an investment in local and independent retail operations whenever possible. In other words, shop small and responsibly.
In the City, it isn’t hard to shop locally or independently. A quick visit to Haight Street, Clement Street, or Mission Street puts one in the reach of many local (and eccentric)vendors with strong community ties and, often, a refreshing sense of social awareness.
But even in our City, we’ll inevitably, and maybe without thinking, bypass a smaller operation for the large scale and likely heavily advertised name. And, arguably, there’s nothing wrong with that; after all, large banks, restaurant chains, retail chains and supermarkets fulfill a consumer demand. Realize, though, that these smaller establishments you have chosen to pass on have lost your business.
At USF, the university’s commitment to the principle of social responsibility is reflected in the use of vendors who tend to be small, locally based or who themselves are known to have an eye for social responsibility.
Have you ever had to put a poster idea through the Graphics Center? Orders for prints and copies go through Copy Mill, an operation based in the City which has been certified by San Francisco’s Human Rights Commission. Should you be reading this on newsprint, the page you’re holding rolled off the Hayward presses at Folger Graphics, a family-owned business across the bay.
As an individual, the chances to make a direct and immediate (if small) community investment are more numerous than one would think. Within walking distance of campus, there are three different neighborhood hardware stores; one might first consider patronizing these stores for a can of paint, a trowel, or a roll of duct tape before trekking to San Francisco’s very own Lowe’s Home Improvement Warehouse for those same items. Likewise, a Sunday visit to the Civic Center farmers market or to a Clement Street greengrocer might yield a more satisfying inventory of fruits and vegetables than if you were to make your weekly rounds at a chain supermarket.
If you’re a student whose hometown is far and away, where small stores and comfortable proximity to neighborhood shopping districts may not be the norm, make the extra effort to skip the trip to Wal-Mart or Home Depot and put your money to work for local businesses. In these areas, independent business will definitely appreciate your patronage; you’ll gain the satisfaction of making a responsible investment and the likely bonus of friendly, personalized service, an area where many large-scale operations fall short.
Clear or easy financial decisions are very hard to come by when the economic climate bears down on nearly everyone. But going off the beaten retail path, actively seeking small and responsible businesses to support, and making a local, perhaps slightly more expensive purchase, even every once in a while.

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