To Buy or Not to Buy? This is Not the Question

I’ve long been convinced that one of the most significant things we do is spend (or not spend) money. What we buy is an expression of what we value. It’s a direct vote in the ongoing referendum on the type of economy we want.  These last six months have made this clearer to me. Years ago I remember being scandalized when a national leader (a president or something) urged everyone to respond to a crisis by going out and buying stuff. I still think the advice was misplaced, but I am now a little more sympathetic.

The things and services we purchase enable others to put food on their tables—at least if we’re willing to pay a fair price. Yes, I still think that the environmental crisis demands us all to practice serious self-restraint, or what Sallie McFague calls a “kenotic” way of life (see her book Blessed are the Consumers). But what we all saw five or six months ago was what can happen when many of us try to opt out of the economy. Of course the purchasing nosedive was never going to continue. Yet there seemed to be lots of people who suddenly lost their income, not because they didn’t provide useful goods or services, but because some of us forgot about the people our purchases support.

For me this has sharpened the obvious point: caring for our neighbours (including our larger ecosystems) can’t be about buying or not buying. It has to be about spending our money in ways that make it clear what kind of any economy (and ecosystem) we want. One of the things this has meant for me is a deepening conviction that we need to spend our money in ways that support a local and resilient economy. When I couldn’t get flour at the national chain grocer several months ago, I could still get it from a local farmer (see links below). When supply chains for meat were disrupted, one of our local markets still had good stuff available.

Two thoughts by way of a conclusion:

First, and again, the money we spend is always a vote for the kind of economy we want and the business ethics we support.

Second, here’s a short list of local producers my household has come to appreciate:

A veggie farm: Rochon Garden  

A honey producer: Crerars Honey

A farm market: Russell Farm Market

A grower of great grains: Against the Grain Farms

If you’re in the Ottawa area, check these folks out. They’re great!

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