Thursday, February 24, 2011

Small Shift No Chicken Scratch for B.C.'s Economy

This post is an excuse to share this clip from the show Portlandia. (A great show with lots of evidence that Vancouver is quite a bit like Portland.) Since I feel the need to have a point when I write, I came up with one that fits in pretty well with the clip.

Watch it first, then I'll make my point:

As you can see, this is taking the whole idea of going local to ridiculous (and hilarious) extremes.

There's a new "shop local" campaign that recommends a far different course. Instead of going to extremes, it recommends making a small change, a small change that could make a big difference to B.C.'s economy.  

The Ten Percent Shift is a campaign aimed at encouraging B.C. residents to shift just 10 percent of their household spending to locally produced goods and services and locally owned businesses.

Think 10 percent wouldn't accomplish much? Think again.

The B.C. campaign ties in with many other "Shift 10" campaigns in the United States. A study recently completed in Michigan found that if the 600,000 residents in the area studied shifted 10 per cent of their spending the results would be dramatic.

In just one year the shift would:
  • Create 1,600 jobs.

  • Create $137 Million in new economic activity for the area.

  • Create over $53 Million in new wages.

  • The point is, you don't have to know your chicken's name to make a big difference to B.C.'s economy.

    Thursday, February 17, 2011

    Spend report-a-palooza: Spend Reports #16 to #21

    I've gotten incredibly far behind on my posting, specifically my spend reports. I got derailed after Christmas. Going through two months of receipts is not fun, but I've done it. December and January were the months of both shopping at Wal-mart and at a whole bunch of fast food joints. I must have never said no to my son when he wanted to go to Tim Horton's or McDonald's. I have to work on my resistance to letting him get his way. Him saying, "Wow, you're letting me get away with so much stuff," one day really drove that point home. And let's face it, I don't think I ever said no to myself either when I felt like eating out.

    I've decided to do one condensed spend report for Dec./Jan. and then catch up on February later.

    In February, I'm not shopping at any big chain grocery stores, so I will put together a post on how that's going. Sneak peek: I have paid $5.99 (!!!) for 4 litres of milk and .99 cents/100 g for Black Forest ham (also !!!, but in a good way).

    My last spend report was from way back in December, so this one covers from Dec. 17 to Jan. 27.

    From Dec. 17 to Jan. 27, I spent approximately $3,000 in New Westminster. (Wow, that's a big number. Bear in mind two things: this includes Christmas shopping and covers six weeks.) I bought:

    • Groceries at Safeway, IGA, Donald's Market, PriceSmart, Save-on, M&M, and Kin's
    • Baking supplies, mostly nuts, at Galloway's. Their nuts are so reasonable compared to grocery stores.
    • Food/drink at Hi Dozo Sushi, Indian Star, Taco Del Mar, Boston Pizza, Starbucks, Opa Souvlaki, Tim Horton's, Schanks Sports Grill, Great Wall Tea, Graze, Dairy Queen, McDonald's, and Queensboro Pizza
    • Christmas presents at: Fraser River Discovery Centre gift shop, Black Bond Books, Home Outfitters, Purdy's, Wal-mart, Pedagogy Toys, Chatters, London Drugs, Moores, and Shoppers Drug Mart
    • Clothes at Laura
    • Winter boots at SoftMoc
    • Toner at BestBuy
    I also did some non-New West spending, including a trip to the Vancouver Aquarium, which is a pre-Christmas tradition for my family. After my husband's Christmas party, we stayed downtown at the Hyatt. We could not resist taking advantage of the grandma in-home babysitting, which is not available to us very often. I also went to a movie and to the Burnaby Village Museum. I've never really settled on what I'm doing about stuff like this, which is not exactly shopping, but it is spending money outside of New West. I do want to make more of an effort over the upcoming months to go to New Westminster events and entertainment.

    I also took a trip up to Dawson Creek for my uncle's funeral and a trip to Kamloops for a fundraiser at my high school. On trips, I'm buying only essentials: food, gas, lodging and not doing any other shopping.

    Thursday, February 3, 2011

    Great idea, but you're doing it wrong! What does "local" mean anyway?

    I get a variety of reactions when I tell people about my shopping in New Westminster experiment and those reactions generally fit in to three broad groups.

    1. "Oh my gawd, that's going to be impossible!"
    This reaction is the one that is most surprising to me. Also surprising is that I've gotten this reaction from some merchants in New Westminster. While I certainly can't deny getting swept up in a consumer frenzy now and again, it's always at the back of the mind that most of the stuff I buy fulfills wants, not needs. I didn't (and still don't) see giving up shopping outside New West as any sort of particular hardship. There's plenty of food here after all and if there does end up being something I can't get here, going without for a year doesn't seem like such a big deal.

    2. "Uh-huh. Huh. Interesting."
    These are the people, who, like me, don't think limiting myself to New West is a hardship.

    3. "Ooh, good idea. But you're doing it wrong."
    People who have this reaction generally have difficulty with how I have defined "local." I've always been clear that I was using "local" in its geographic sense, not in the "independently owned business" sense that some would prefer. It's not that I disagree with organizations like LocoBC, who both praised my experiment and chastised it (albeit gently) recently. Far from it. I think it's fabulous that more and more people and groups are promoting shopping at independent businesses and making more informed consumer decisions.

    It's just not exactly what I'm doing. It's not that I didn't think about shopping only at New West's independent businesses this year. I decided though that I really want to deal with New West as it is, not as I (or others) may wish it to be. (And let's face it, I knew I would have to buy my toilet paper and light bulbs somewhere. Cutting out all big chains would probably have meant my family and I would end up sitting in the dark sometime this year, wiping our butts with newspaper. I'm into this experiment, but I'm not that into it.)

    Sure, I've got a picture in my head of an ideal New Westminster: one full of dozens of unique, diverse, independently owned small businesses that attract not only local residents but people from all around the Lower Mainland. But that's not reality, at least not right now. Not yet.

    I want my experiment to reflect the reality of what shopping in New West for a year looks like for the average consumer. And that means my choices are between some locally owned businesses and some big chains. It's fascinating to me that if I stuck to shopping at stores only within walking distance of my home my choices range from as local as one can get (produce and flowers grown at a tiny farm about two blocks away) and, well, Wal-Mart, where much of the merchandise is imported from China.

    I want my experiment to deal with the reality of New Westminster's retail landscape as it is today. That's not to deny I'm hopeful it will look different tomorrow.