Go Local this holiday season and help protect and preserve the St. Johns River. Shopping at your local retail store, farmers market or restaurant can help create a stronger, more unique, independent and vibrant city while benefiting our waterways. When you choose to support local businesses that use local resources and employees to produce goods and services, you can reduce your overall impact on the environment. The “ecological footprint” of a person shopping in a walkable community like historic San Marco, 5 Points, at the Riverside Arts Market or any other artisan venue is much smaller than those shopping at big-box retail chains on Black Friday. Here’s why:
Deepening the St. Johns River
The proposal to deepen the St. Johns River is one of the biggest threats to the health of the river we face today. JAXPORT wants to deepen the river to compete for the larger container ships from Asia that will pass through the newly expanded Panama Canal. We risk significant harm to the river due to an increase in salinity from the dredging, resulting in likely damage to valuable wetlands, submerged grasses, and fisheries. Shopping local reduces the demand for cheap foreign goods that are manufactured overseas at a fraction of the cost because of lower wages and less protective labor laws and environmental standards.
Environmental Protection Laws
In the United States, we have worked for decades developing fair labor standards, minimum wages, and environmental regulations to protect our water, lands, air, and human health from pollution and exploitive manufacturing practices. Not all countries have taken these same measures. Because of that, goods can often be produced more cheaply than those made in the United States. Shopping local means you respect and appreciate that the cost of a product includes the work that went into it. That may mean paying a fair wage, or making sure the factory that produced the good was not dumping pollution directly into the nearest river or creek. By shopping local, we can choose to buy products from those companies who are treating their employees fairly and operating their business in an environmentally responsible way.
Transportation of Goods
One of the biggest sources of carbon dioxide emissions in the United States comes from the transportation of goods around the globe, across the country, and then to the stores where we shop. Going with the big-box name brand means a much larger carbon footprint and much more pollution from the transportation of goods. Shopping at your nearby crafter or artisan often requires less transportation and the resources used to make local products are also often local. You can give the gift of something unique and from Florida. Transportation isn’t eliminated, but it is reduced, and that can have a big impact on our air quality from emissions and water quality from road runoff.
The #GOLO hashtag isn’t just a trend, it’s a movement. If you support local businesses then you are supporting your community. You are helping to create and sustain jobs in northeast Florida, and you are protecting the global environment.
While you can only vote in the ballot box a few times each year, you vote with your dollars every day. Vote for the Florida you want to see, and shop local this holiday season. We’ve got the goods, the talent and the determination, so go vote!
SHANNON BLANKINSHIP is the Outreach Director, St. Johns Riverkeeper