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SUSTAINABLE LIVING- 'True Spirit of the Holidays' PDF Print E-mail
Written by SHAWN DELL JOYCE, Creators Syndicate   
Tuesday, 23 November 2010 20:38

Simply by redirecting $100 of your holiday spending to locally owned retailers, you could help pump more than $10 million into your local economy.

Thanksgiving week, the major news in our country is shopping and if retail sales will top last year. Judging from our media, you would think that Americans made the holidays specifically for shopping. We spend an average of $856 per person on the holidays, according to the American Research Group.

Most of those hard-earned dollars will go straight to China, since more than 70 percent of the goods on store shelves are from there. If we multiply that by the current U.S. population, that's $257,775,794,632 dollars leaving home for the holidays! I was surprised that shopping wasn't an Olympic event this year, considering how skilled we have become at sending our money overseas.

If you shop for the good of the economy, keep in mind that buying products made outside of your community means that your money also leaves home for the holidays. Instead, feed your local economy by making your own gifts, and buying what gifts you can't make from local, independent stores and artisans.

A recent economic study conducted in Austin, Texas, found that if each household in Travis County (population 921,006) simply redirected just $100 of planned holiday spending from chain stores (carrying cheap imports) to locally owned merchants, the local economic impact would reach approximately $10 million. Imagine how $10 million would boost your community's economy.

It used to be that time was less important than money in our culture, but we have become a nation of workaholics. A recent survey found that 70 percent of us (making more than $30K a year) would gladly give up a full day's pay to have that day off from work.

If you are buying gifts, or giving money, you are cheating your loved ones. Instead, give gifts of time. Offer to change an elderly parent's light bulbs to compact fluorescents, or give them a coupon good for a free day's worth of caulking and winterizing.

This is something they could really use, and time spent together will benefit you both.

On average, we spend between 20 and 40 hours shopping for holiday gifts and waiting on long lines. You could easily make most of your holiday gifts in that time and have the added bonus of time shared as a family.

Climate writer Bill McKibben, in his excellent book "Hundred Dollar Holiday," says: "I can remember almost every present that someone's made for me since we started doing these Hundred Dollar Holidays. And that's testimony in itself — I have no idea what gifts came in all those great piles under the tree in previous years.

They didn't attach themselves to particular faces, particular memories." Holidays should be about time well spent, not money. "Give things that are rare; time, attention, memory, whimsy," notes McKibben. In the land where we have plenty of food, noise, gizmos, stuff, those are the things we cherish.

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wall kill River School in Orange County, N.Y. You can contact her at This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it .