By Ben Carpenter, HTA Program Associate
My little brother is getting married in July. I know, poor timing. If only he had considered the possibility of a global pandemic upsetting his years-long engagement. However, the show must go on, albeit from a distance. This is a situation in which a thoughtful gift from his older brother might help soften the prospect of a significantly shortened guest list.
Under most circumstances, I’m the environmentally-minded brother who prefers to cook meals rather than shop for gifts. And, when it comes to shopping for myself I typically turn to the 4 Rs:
– Reduce consumption (do I really need that new coffee maker for myself?)
– Reuse what I already have (the coffeemaker I have works just fine.)
– Refurbish old and used stuff before buying brand new (Mom’s coffee maker from college would probably work well if I cleaned it.)
– Repair what is broken (don’t electrocute yourself.)
With that said, the 4 Rs have their limits. Maybe that toaster you picked up 10 years ago is simply, well, toast. Maybe you’ve acquired so many homemade masks during the stay at home order that a wall mounted organizer is the only way to declutter your kitchenette-turned-home office. Maybe your brother’s wedding gift shouldn’t be a repurposed coffee maker? So where to turn when you can’t run to the store?
Online shopping is something we’re all doing more of
Even before the stay at home orders, Americans haven been spending more money online in recent years. That has only increased since March, when many of us began using home delivery services to reduce in person visits to everywhere from the hardware store to the grocery store. Maybe you’ve noticed the larger than usual fleet of delivery trucks zipping around your neighborhood.
This is responsible. The only way we can continue to “flatten the curve” is if we stay at home as much as possible. With that said, online shopping can be somewhat fraught from social and environmental perspectives. The more links between the factory or farm and your front door translates to greater carbon footprint and more products changing hands in distribution centers where workers already have trouble maintaining appropriate social distance.
Watch where your online dollars are going
My brother’s wedding gift ought to be something a little nice and my first impulse is to log onto a certain gigantic online retailer to do some initial browsing. For the sake of the story let’s call this company Blamazon.
Blamazon is a good place to research gifts, especially if you don’t have a specific gift in mind at the moment. But that’s about all the business I feel comfortable doing with Blamazon. The companies that make those products have their own websites from which you can order that product directly and often include a 10% discount if you’re a first-time customer.
Wait a minute though, why not step up your game just a bit more? Why not spend that dollar of yours locally, maybe even on your own block? Plenty of artists, makers, growers, and brewers in the Kansas City metro are taking their businesses online and we here at Bridging The Gap want to make sure you know where to start looking.
Tools for Supporting Local Businesses in the Age of Online Pandemic Shopping
For the lawn and garden:
As the weather gets nicer, working on that native plant garden can be a healthy way to get out of the house and stretch your legs. Longtime Bridging The Gap partner, Deep Roots KC, has compiled a list of native plant specialists, garden centers offering native plants for your yard, and even nurseries that are offering curbside pick-up and delivery options.
It is also the time of year that many local farmers host plant sales. Many of those have been moved online, offering a great way to jumpstart your new Victory Garden and support local businesses. Check out the online stores from farmers at the Brookside Farmers Market or Overland Park Farmers Market, or look for farms in your area that might be offering online sales of plants.
For the groceries:
Groceries have been a challenge for my household, particularly when it comes to goods like fruits and veggies. Limiting grocery runs means we run out of perishables first, and it can be a week or two before we stock up again.
Kansas City Food Circle is an organization that helps folks locate farmers markets near them that offer locally grown produce. This keeps the money you spend circulating locally and reduces the need to visit packed grocery stores. As the market season gets underway, many markets are still planning on operating under adjusted guidelines, so be sure to call the market manager ahead of time.
There are also dozens of local farms offering CSA shares readily picked up or delivered with minimal contact. Here is a crowdsourced Google Doc listing many such options throughout the metro. A neat example of Kansas Citians organizing mutual support systems with their neighbors, this is a document that can be added to, so if you are a local food producer be sure your information is made available.
For when the only thing that sounds good for dinner comes with a side of fries:
Food and drink are central local Kansas City identity. They provide a source of pride and community for locals and a huge draw to out-of-towners. Local Kansas City restaurants, cafes, and breweries need our support more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. Many businesses are now offering curbside takeout and/or delivery and Curbside KC is making sure we all know who is open. If you haven’t found them already, you need to check out their list of eateries, breweries, bakeries, roasteries and other purveyors of local flavor who are now doing curbside food pick-up and delivery. Similar to the CSA list, businesses who don’t see themselves listed on Curbside KC’s list can and should have their information added.
The Happy Apple Cafe is one place I’ve been enjoying lately. Their innovative vegan take on classic American cooking is a welcome break from my home cooking, which does not seem to be improving, but that’s a different problem.
For everything else in between:
Finally, Kansas City is home to some amazing artists and makers, sewers, woodworkers, printers and ceramicists, all of whom were busy before the pandemic and many of whom continue to produce now. Shop Local KC is where you can find many of them, and begin your hunt for that wedding gift, your wall mounted, facemask organizer, or a rug that really just ties the room together.
Supporting Black and minority owned businesses
Small businesses across the board are being hit hard right, but the burden is not evenly shared. The coronavirus is not an equal opportunity illness, disproportionately impacting low income communities, as well as Black, Indigenous and communities of color. The BBC Reported that in Chicago, “Black Chicagoans account for 70% of coronavirus deaths, despite making up 30% of the population.” These grim numbers are reflected in our home community as well, according to the Kansas City Star. The economic impact will hit no less hard and there are many reasons to support businesses that build wealth in Black and Brown communities that have suffered historically from disinvestment as the result of racist municipal policies and market practices. For information on Black owned businesses in Kansas City, check out the Kansas City Black Business Facebook page. Here, Black business leaders from around the metro work to raise up local entrepreneurs and keep dollars circulating locally.
It feels a little strange talking about something so routine as shopping in the midst of a national tragedy, but here we are. Inevitably, with such an extended crisis we find ourselves faced with dire events placed right up alongside the banal and routine of everyday life. Nowhere do these two cross paths more than in our day to day spending habits. That’s why we felt these resources would be helpful. Hopefully this offered a small window into a local economy moving increasingly online.
For anyone wondering about the wedding gift for my brother, he will be receiving some very nice prints in July. They were made by a friend, an artist from the Historic Northeast who lost her job in March and is struggling to make rent. Now more than ever, when dollars are spent locally it can literally hold your neighborhood together.