Give Back to Your Community This Holiday Season

Here we are again: Thanksgiving week, the start of holiday shopping and giving season, and the time of year many people think about year-end contributions to their favorite charities and nonprofit organizations. Once again, Sustainable Woodstock urges you to “act locally” by supporting our own community’s businesses and nonprofits as much as possible.

Buying gifts for family and friends is a seasonal ritual, meaningful in many ways, which also happens to have a huge economic impact on society. Most of us are spending more money this time of year than at other times, and the choices we make about what to buy and where to shop transfer wealth and resources to specific places.

A sustainable community requires an economic base of healthy local enterprise. Wealth that leaves communities to purchase products elsewhere is no longer available to provide employment or to support nonprofit endeavors.

Online shopping and the brand-name cheapness of big box chain stores are certainly seductive, but buying from distant sources sends money away. When we act solely as consumers, interested only in price or selection, we actually pay a hidden price and lose some of the richness in the place we live.

Vibrant downtowns are inviting public spaces that bring communities together, and thriving food growers and producers maintain a local working landscape, a sense of place. Let’s promote these elements of sustainability by buying gifts from local merchants and producers, and keep resources circulating closer to home.

Talk to merchants in their shops, and the growers and craftspeople at local markets, and see how they can accommodate your gift ideas. Local merchants and farmers are your neighbors, and they want to serve you.

The same holds true for local nonprofits. For sure, there are pressing needs all over the world, and the other half of the sustainability slogan to “act locally” is to “think globally.” By all means, send philanthropic help where it is truly needed. Just don’t forget that there are genuine needs close to home, too, and if we don’t build up our own community assets, some of our own neighbors will struggle.

Relocalization is not an isolationist, parochial withdrawal from the world, or an absence of caring about other people and places. Rather, as writers like Wendell Berry have eloquently explained, the task of building a more sane and sustainable culture begins in our relationship to the soil, water, wildlife, and social connections in our own place on the earth. If we do not care for these, then we cannot address global problems in any grounded way.

We can’t rely on political leaders (even those who will soon be gathering for the climate talks in Paris) to make transformative changes in our culture. Sustainability thinkers and activists recognize that the transition to a more ecologically wise way of life requires all of us, in our daily choices and interactions, to shift from careless consumption to mindful stewardship of resources. Where and how we choose to circulate money is a key element of that shift.

To help build a more resilient community, please support local businesses and nonprofits (including, we respectfully ask, Sustainable Woodstock) in your year-end shopping and giving.

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