Home for Christmas

December 7, 2001

By Michael Jessen

As retailers worry about the "r" word (recession) this Christmas, the best advice for shoppers is "keep your money at home." In other words, support your local economy.

This gift-giving season is the perfect time to choose presents made by local people, gifts that help us live more simply, efficiently and with less impact on the environment.

A dollar spent in the local economy circulates an average of three times in that economy. A dollar spent outside the community is likely gone forever. So imagine the power that every dollar you spend this Christmas has to enhance your community's economy. This is timely information since we spend more dollars at Christmas than at any other time of year.

Every community has local artisans that build with wood, clay, and almost every other type of material you can imagine. There are artists that work in a variety of mediums. Search them out and buy their paintings, drawings, pottery, and furniture. You'll find much of their work at local galleries and craft stores.

In almost every locale, someone makes textiles -- clothing, towels, or dishcloths. Buy them for your relatives and buy them for yourselves. It all keeps the local economy growing.

There's locally produced foodstuffs like honey and herbs, and health items like salves, tinctures, and soap. Once you start looking, it's amazing how many of the necessities of life are locally made.

Here's a quick shopping list of West Kootenay merchants. In Rossland, Joe Bye makes all kinds of elegant wood creations, much of it out scavenged wood. Contact him at 362-7272 or visit his shop at #2 - 2167 Columbia Avenue.

Or how about some garlic or garlic syrup from the organic farm of Scottie Miller in Sheep Creek. Call him at 362-3386. Ask your local chamber of commerce for the names of other such businesses.

Looking for a good cause to donate money to in the Rossland-Trail area? How about the Kootenay Columbia Trail Society, Box 1179, Rossland? Donations go to the maintenance of the myriad of trails in the Rossland-Trail area used for all forms of non-motorized recreation. The society is selling maps of the trails (which were produced by students in the publishing course at Castlegar's Selkirk College) at many local stores for only $5. What a great stocking stuffer!

Another great cause in the West Kootenay is the Harrop-Procter Watershed Protection Society which was awarded one of the first BC community forest tenures that allows them to manage a piece of public forest land. The folks of Harrop-Procter are literally growing their own economy in a forest producing 'eco-certified" wood and a botanical farm and herbal products division. They are also developing a network of hiking trails for eco-tourism.

If you need some wood to renovate your home, e-mail office@hpcommunityforest.org to order your customized material. Need herbs or tinctures. Make sure your local store carries Sunshine Bay Botanicals or call them at 229-2271.

The watershed society is also raising funds through their Adopt-A-Tree program. The money goes to support the goals of the society. You don't actually get to keep a tree -- they belong to the people of BC -- but you will get a beautiful picture of a tree by local photographer Crystal Smienk. The cost is $50 minimum and there are also $250 corporate trees for adoption. The Nelson Daily News purchased the first corporate Adopt-A-Tree.

One product that almost everyone loves is chocolate and stores from Rossland to Kaslo sell the best (in my humble opinion) -- Nelson Chocofellar chocolates.

In an essay entitled "The Idea of a Local Economy" available online at www.oriononline.org/pages/om/archive_om/Berry/Local_EconomyPR.html, author and farmer Wendell Berry writes that the basis of a sustainable economy is the vitality of local economies.

"In a viable neighbourhood, neighbours ask themselves what they can do or provide for one another, and they find answers that they and their place can afford," Berry writes. "This, and nothing else, is the practice of neighbourhood."

Berry continues: "A community, if it is to be viable, cannot think of producing solely for export, and it cannot permit importers to use cheaper labour and goods from other places to destroy the local capacity to produce goods that are needed locally."

In light of 9-11, it is common for people to ask "What is the world coming to?" We answer that question ourselves every day through our actions, our purchases and what we teach our children. This Christmas, teach them that local is where it is at.

ONE SMALL STEP - Gift certificates are great ideas. Give one for the services of a local massage therapist. Tickets to the local swimming pool or the local theatre are always welcome. Visit the web site http://eartheasy.com/give-menu.htm for more sustainable gift-giving ideas. It's made in BC. Support the Kootenay Barter Faire in Nelson on December 8 from noon to 5 p.m. at the Nelson United Church. Spending Kootenay Hours (Barter Bucks) is the ultimate in supporting the local economy.

All columns archived here are copyright © 2000 by Michael Jessen, all rights reserved. If you wish to print an individual column for your own use, please do so. If you wish to publish any of the columns in either print or electronic format, please contact the author at toenail@netidea.com to arrange appropriate payment.