“Put A Face On It”
When I asked the “mitten lady” how much time she put into making each pair of mittens her response of an hour and a half sounded fair. Almost too fair for the $20, very fashionable and well crafted pair of mittens we had just bought for Joelle. It helped put my mind at ease that we had just made a small but meaningful investment, not only in ourselves for the impending winter, but toward a skill, an art, a product, our community…. A person.
This past summer we challenged ourselves to “put a face” on our purchases as a family and this was just one of so many positive, personal, face to face interactions we had.
What do you we mean by “put a face on it?”
What lies behind the concept is intentionally choosing what and who your dollars are supporting. We often only think of our purchases as a means to obtain the thing we want. We don’t often associate our day to day purchases with a purposeful choice that we are supporting a company, cause, or even an individual person. For instance, the last time you purchased say a book from Amazon, your thinking was likely along the lines of, “this is the quickest and cheapest way for me to get this book.” I’m guessing not many of us are actually thinking, “I actively choose to support Amazon as an organization over my local book store.” But in essence, this is exactly what you have done…. And I know because the last purchase I made was a book from Amazon 🙂
With this in mind, our goal this past summer was to buy as much local food, clothing, and stuff as possible. We picked up the phrase, “put a face on it” because the natural outcome of this lifestyle was to grow closer to the stories, businesses, and faces that are making a living right here in our community. We joined 4 different CSA’s (Community Supported Agriculture); one for meat, one for vegetables, one for fish, and one for apples. We picked up the rest of the food we needed each Saturday from our local farmer’s market where we also tried to purchase goods and gifts from. Roughly 90% of our weekly and monthly purchases were turned from supermarkets, box stores, and online shopping to local producers of food and goods. Each had a face. Each had a story. Each dollar was well spent.
Not only were many of these local interactions and shopping excursions some of our favorite times together as a family, but here are a few specific benefits we stumbled upon as we went:
We used EVERYTHING we purchased.
Part of the mentality we picked up with quick, convenient shopping at supermarkets and box stores was to “stock up and save.” Often times this accumulating of inexpensive and easily available goods can lead us to believe the things we buy are disposable. How many things are sitting in your fridge or pantry right now that you’ve been meaning to check the expiration date on? We generally only had enough food for the current week and then when we ran out it was about time to stock up for the next week. Since everything was quality nothing went to waste!
We made real connections and friendships.
This is the obvious one when you think “put a face on it”. But we were still surprised! How cool was it to have conversations about and taste test cheese each week with the people we purchased our cheese from? We loved seeing the entire farm family that supplies our meat in their element as they invited us out to their home for a farm fair. It was always fun to ask the nun who made our homemade organic bread what bread she would recommend for different soups! We never caught a hint of any of our local vendors being after riches or fame. Rather, what we came across time and and time again was a sense of purpose, service, and sacrifice.
Our dollars supported families and local businesses.
Seeing your money go toward energetic and hard working people in your community is just fun! They have produced something of value and you support them with dollars. You have invested in real people in your community. Contrasted to our big box store experiences, we rarely consider what slice of each purchase goes toward, say – the already wealthy executives let alone where they are in the world. And the person we did interact with at the register – are they making a livable wage? Shopping has become quicker, more convenient, and cheaper than ever and we so easily lose touch of the people, places, and organizations we are investing in. Every purchase became a means to show who and what we supported.
We increased our quality of living, not our budget
Maybe the biggest surprise of all is that as we began buying quality, hand crafted or grown goods over mass produced, inexpensive goods, we didn’t have to raise our budget at all! If anything, we spent less because our purchases were less impulsive and more intentional. We were unaware that we had so often become passive consumers driven by the weekly ads, coupons, and advertisements that constantly showed up at our doorstep… literally! As we started to track the purchases coming in and the dollars going out, so few of the things we ended up with actually lined up with our family values or our vital needs. During our Buy Local Challenge, we began buying the highest quality of everything and only spending what we needed…. Which isn’t much!
This past year was a major step and lifestyle adjustment for our family but there are so many smaller steps that can help you “put a face on it” also! A good place to start is by taking one item you purchase regularly and find a local producer to buy it from instead. We’d love for you to comment with your experiences!