How to Support Sustainability & Small Businesses
By Curtis Harding
What does “local” mean in 2021? Does it encompass our neighborhoods? Metro areas? States? Is it buying produce from the farm in our county, or buying a handmade clock from a shop on Etsy?
In an ongoing series, D.O.B will be exploring the meaning of “local” in the modern world. These are questions that couldn’t be more important as the pandemic has driven home the need to support small businesses, even as it’s pushed more of us to shop online in a digitally connected world.
When asked why they prefer to shop local, most overwhelmingly say that they want to support their local community and economy. But our communities don’t end at the edge of our towns. We no longer live in a world where we spend our entire lives in the same small area. We move around, find new homes and new communities, collecting bits of identity as we go.
While I consider myself a New Yorker, I still have strong ties to the exurban and rural areas I grew up in. And on a more personal level, my community extends to every LGBTQ+ person across the globe.
That’s why I just bought handmade jewelry from an online store based in a hometown I haven’t lived in for nearly two decades. And it’s why I’m supporting the push for my LGBTQ+ sports league to shift purchasing our team shirts from the big name apparel brands that we’ve been using since our founding, to an LGBTQ+ brand in our own backyard.
Are those both local examples? I would say so. One was a digital purchase made in another state, but my money went to a small business in a town I still care deeply about. The other supports the community that I love in the city that I’ve adopted as my home.
At D.O.B, we believe that sustainability, diversity and local support all go hand-in-hand. That’s why we’re proud to support brands like Yema, founded by Yema Khalif, who grew up in Kenya’s Kibera slums, and his partner, Hawi Awash, who was an Ethiopian refugee in Kenya. For them, local support means giving back to their childhood communities, supporting and educating orphaned children in Ethiopia and Kibera.
Then there’s ONE432. Growing up, founder Ammar Belal moved between Chicago, Geneva and Lahore, Pakistan, before relocating full time to Pakistan and starting a fashion company. Though he now lives in New York City, Belal wanted ONE432 to be a local business, based in Pakistan, employing Pakistani artisans, and supporting Pakistani children’s education.
It’s worth highlighting companies like these because they show us how we can shop local even as we spend globally. We can buy clothes that support children in Eastern Africa or South Asia, or purchase designs that tell stories of African heritage or Pakistani pride.
Yes, we can and should still support our favorite stores in our towns and use our money to strengthen the communities that we live in. But we can also support our favorite brands around the world that strengthen the local communities that they and we care about.
The digital world hasn’t transformed or destroyed our idea of local businesses. It has expanded it. We’re no longer limited to our own backyards. These days, our spending can have an incredible impact on lives across the globe. We’re now free to go wherever our hearts take us.
D.O.B strengthens local communities by supporting small businesses and by sharing stories and experiences that bring us all closer together.
Follow our series on the evolution of what “Local” means for our future.