Ask Eartha Steward: Shopping locally |

Ask Eartha Steward: Shopping locally

High County Conservation Center
High Country Conservation Center

Why do you think supporting locally-owned independent businesses is important to our community?

” Katie Roberts, Frisco

This question was posed at a community meeting held this week to feel out the interest in starting an Independent Business Alliance in Summit County. And, while my initial answer centered on the overall environmental impacts of local stores versus big box stores, the real answer is a little more subtle and perhaps a lot more important.

Maybe it’s just me, but buying a book at a local bookstore instead of a gigantic national chain feels good, almost like an act of defiance or a protest. Sure, the price is the same and the book was still printed and published is some far off land, but for some reason buying that very same book at a small, locally owned store feels like I’m standing up against the faceless corporations that seem to rule our world.

Maybe I won’t get that fancy plastic rewards card or my name, address, e-mail, mother’s maiden name, and taste in literature entered into a national database. But do I really want that anyway? Usually all I get is more junk mail, more spam in my inbox, and a potential addition to the “watch list” because I’ve read a little Edward Abbey.

I think I’d rather have the reward of recognition and a real smile when the store owner recognizes me, asks how my dogs are, and tells me that I might enjoy a new novel on the shelf because she noticed that I like similar authors in that genre.

Locally-owned, independent businesses are the core of our community. Just like Mr. Rogers neighborhood, they are our neighbors and our friends. They have children in our schools, participate in our Town Clean-Up Days, and really do care if there is a place for their employees to live in our community.

But these intangible feelings of community aren’t the only reason to shop locally.

Every $100 spent in a local business can generate an additional $200 to $300 of spending in the community. In other words, shopping locally keeps money in our community, recycling through other stores and restaurants and businesses.

Some statistics show that 73 percent of every dollar spent locally stays local and keeps circulating in a community, while only 43 percent of every dollar spent at a national chain stays in the local community. That other 30 percent goes to corporate headquarters in Des Moines or Chicago or Boston. Not that those cities aren’t fine places to inhabit, but I’d prefer to see that money go to a local restaurant or a nonprofit or a new bike path in Summit County.

In addition to keeping money in our community, locally-owned businesses are huge supporters of the valuable nonprofit sector. Locally-owned businesses donate an average of 350 percent more to community causes than non-locally owned businesses do.

Speaking from experience, it is much easier to get support, whether it’s lunch for a workshop or a donation to a fundraiser, from a local business than it is from a national chain. And, locally-owned businesses seem more eager to support sustainable business practices since the effects of a better recycling program and less traffic can be seen locally.

Shopping at independent, locally-owned businesses helps to preserve our community character and keeps dollars in our community, but it also helps keep our communities livable and more sustainable.

Local stores can replace big box stores and help to keep our towns walkable, bikable and compact, reducing traffic congestion and pollution. As mentioned above, local stores can also make decisions to recycle, forgo the single use disposable bag, or switch to energy saving light bulbs without going through a long chain (pun intended) of decision-makers.

The benefits of shopping locally are enormous and are multiplied throughout the community, like a web. So remember that the next time you’re considering a major purchase, like a piece of furniture, or a little one, like a cup of coffee.

It’s usually easy to identify a local business, there may be a dog lying on the floor or an assortment of flyers for community events on the window, or maybe it’s just been there “forever.”

But, soon, you may see colorful window stickers identifying locally-owned businesses in Summit County as part of the new Summit County Independent Business Alliance.

For more information on how you can get involved to support local business in Summit County, contact Katie Roberts at

Eartha Steward is written by Carly Wier, Jennifer Kirkpatrick and Beth Orstad, consultants on all things eco and chic at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit 501(c)3 organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation in our mountain community. Eartha believes that you can walk gently on our planet, even if you’re wearing stylie shoes.

Submit questions to Eartha at with Ask Eartha as the subject or to High Country Conservation Center, P.O. Box 4506, Frisco, CO 80443.

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