As you may have heard, today is Amazon Prime Day, meaning Amazon Prime members can get discounts online on tons of products and get them shipped (for free!) right to their house in two days or less.
Sounds nice, right?
While this era of fast and easy online shopping makes many aspects of our lives more convenient, the cost of this convenience and the detriment to the environment and to local economies comes at a high price.
Why should we prioritize shopping locally?
One key reason why it’s so important is that your money goes directly into the local economy, and it impacts your community in ways you can see and benefit from. Keeping your money local means that you’re investing in the community around you, which will manifest itself in improved communal resources like roads and schools, and more local jobs, which gives everyone a boost. In economic terms, spending money at small businesses creates a multiplier effect, meaning that from each dollar spent at an independent local store, 2 to 3.5 dollars recirculate in the local economy. By contrast, shopping online from large retailers takes away local jobs and it’s hard to trace exactly what or whom your money is supporting (for instance, there are several troubling reports of Amazon workers being paid unfair wages while Jeff Bezos has become the wealthiest man in the world).
When you shop at small businesses, your money is going directly to your neighbors and peers, and you can make a more educated choice about the products you’re buying. Not only are you able to know more about where these products come from, you can vote with your dollar and support products and business practices that you can get behind. When businesses rely on local workers, these companies are invested in the wellbeing of the surrounding community, and this means everyone benefits together.
By buying local products, you’re also significantly reducing your environmental impact in several key ways.
Firstly, home deliveries and shipping have a tremendous carbon footprint, and studies are showing that the faster the delivery, the more significant the impact. This is compounded with the problem of people making many individual orders instead of buying several things at once, which multiplies the amount of shipping needed to deliver their purchases. Commercial trucks are big polluters, and are much less fuel efficient than passenger cars. To make matters worse, this pollution is disproportionately affecting underprivileged communities because they are situated closer to warehouses and transport routes and therefore bear the brunt of the air, noise, and land pollution coming from trucks and trains.
Speaking of transportation, small businesses are more likely to be in city centers, while larger “megastores” (think Target, Wal-Mart, etc.) get pushed to the outskirts. Shopping at small businesses makes it more accessible to skip the car ride and opt instead for more eco-friendly methods of transportation like walking or public transportation.
When thinking about the impact of transportation, including boats (according to the International Maritime Organization, CO2 emissions from boats were 2.2% of global emissions), by planes (4% of global emissions), and heavy-duty trucks (about 8%), it becomes critical to think about the ways we can reduce the shipping distances of the products we buy.
For instance, think about the impact of buying grocery staples from local vs. international producers. Products like pasta imported from Italy or olive oil shipped from Spain are marketed as fancier and higher quality, but they’ve had to sit on a plane, boat, train, and truck just to get you. This is especially problematic with products in heavy packaging, like glass, or when products are packaged inefficiently, because they add unnecessary space and weight to their shipping containers and therefore increase the fossil fuel demands. Of course it’s ok to splurge on French wine every once in a while, but especially when you’re stocking up on your household basics, try to stay as local as you can.
I’m sure most of us have had the experience of buying something tiny online and finding it delivered in a nearly-empty cardboard box.
Choosing to shop in-store instead of online reduces your carbon footprint by minimizing the single-use packaging waste you create (especially if you bring along your own reusable shopping bags to the store!). Contrary to the confusing recycling symbol on those Amazon bubble wrap packages, much of the packaging used for shipping ends up in landfill or clogs up recycling centers which are already over-capacity. When you go to a store in person, you have more options to avoid unnecessary plastic and paper waste.
All Fillgood, we’re working to keep our products local and single-use package-free.
Over a third of our products are based in California, like laundry detergent from Puretergent, sunscreen from Raw Elements, and our Dr. Bronner's Castile Soaps. If we can’t get a product from California, we do our best to source from within the US, like our Sappo Hill soaps from Oregon or our Biokleen powders from Washington. We're currently switching all of our liquid cleaning products to Puretergent (based a short drive away in Oakland!), because it's important to us that our heaviest products have to travel the shortest distance to reduce the carbon emissions of their transport. This not only reduces shipping demands and fossil fuel use, but helps us support other growing businesses who are also working on reducing their carbon footprint!
We're also taking other steps to reduce our impact. For instance, we only deliver once a week, and we encourage our customers to order all of their products at once instead of making small individual purchases. We also have a few pickup locations around the Bay Area to reduce our driving distances, and by the end of the year we'll have several more. Also, we've expanded the hours in our Albany Refill corner to allow local customers in the East Bay to come do their shopping in person and not rely on deliveries, so if you're local, come on by!