Responsible Online Shopping

This time of year, gift-giving is on most people’s minds. Let’s say you want to shop locally and support local artisans and businesses—great! But what if you live in a remote area with limited offerings? You can only give your relatives the same crocheted pot holders so many years in a row. And if the roads are too treacherous to go to the nearest city (in our case, more than an hour away)? You might have to resort to online shopping.

But that doesn’t mean you have to throw your values out the window. There are online options that still honor the idea of “Buy Local,” even if it’s a little less direct. I am partial to Etsy, where makers of handmade things can create their own “shops.” Like this shop, ithaka literary ephemera!

ithaka literary ephemera

Yes, this is a thinly veiled plug for my collage art

But I don’t just sell things on Etsy—I have also purchased soap, lotion, pajamas, oven mitts, clothing, jewelry, Christmas tree ornaments—even an iPhone case made in Michigan of Forest Stewardship Council-approved cedar! Currently, I’m considering handmade dog beds and collars …

Etsy isn’t even your only option! I found an article that sizes up different sites pretty well, here.

Etsy sells some food items—I have bought bitters, vanilla extract, and honey—but not groceries per se. Which brings us to the food-buying clubs! They are popping up all over the country. The basic premise is a bunch of consumers banding together to qualify for discounts on food, usually organically grown. Sometimes the purveyor is a farmer or rancher, sometimes an amalgamator, sometimes both. There is usually a drop-off site; the food delivery does not go directly to your house but to a central location in your community, and you go pick up your box. Buying clubs differ from CSAs (community-supported agriculture) in that there is no up-front cost and no risk—you only pay when you have purchased a delivery. Further, you choose what you receive. Buying clubs are often run by volunteers, like cooperative grocery stores, so you might be asked to help here and there with a delivery.

One of the biggest buying clubs in the Pacific Northwest is Azure Farms, based in Dufur. They are a “both”—they offer a number of processed items, even non-food items, and also sell the grain they grow in north-central Oregon. I requested their catalog when I was still in Portland, and haven’t signed up yet, but plan to this week! A friend who lives in Pendleton, about one and a half hours from here, is in a buying club that works with organic farms in the Southwest United States and Mexico—last week she posted photos of her avocados and grapefruits. I was more than a little envious; might need to establish a buying club stop in Enterprise …

People in cyberspace are trying to collect information about small farms and co-ops in directories and “food hubs.” Here are a few:

Local Harvest

USDA

Healthy Food Access

The greenest business transaction is one, in cash, that supports a neighbor. But when that isn’t possible, buying responsibly using the internet is the next-best thing!

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