Sunday, July 10, 2011

Local-Washing is Gaining Ground in Phoenix

Just like "greenwashing" became the bane for the environmental/green building movements, so too it seems that "localwashing" is set out to bastardize the hard work of many community activists and independent small businesses.

This isn't a new phenomena.  We've been seeing it creep in more and more over the past few years.  What it means, is that the activists behind the push to support local business have done a kick ass job - and the corporations, along with all of the high-priced analysts and consumer research firms they employ - have taken note and reported back to their six-figure earning superiors.

Wal-Mart promotes Local - photo via Grist
"We need to jump into the "LOCAL" market and follow the trend!"

* If you want a good glimpse into how and why we became this "want-based" society we are now, versus the "need-based" society we once were, I highly suggest you watch the 4-part BBC documentary "The Century of Self."

For those of you who don't know, or maybe don't choose to acknowledge it, corporations will find ways to tap into our emotional psyches so we can feel good about what we're buying.  It's big, big business.

Numerous examples of localwashing abound...  Especially in the food industry.

Fresh and Easy, your "neighborhood market"  is actually a subsidiary of Tesco, the 3rd largest retailer in the world.  From Walmart, to Barnes and Noble, localwashing is all around us.  It's getting plugged into big corporate names and identities left and right.

Downtown businesses, such as the newly-opened Oakville Grocery are touting the term "local" by offering roughly 300 products which are made in Arizona, which is another way "local" is being used.  Oakville Grocery Co. was purchased by New York company Dean & DeLuca in 2007.  Oakville Grocery previously had a north Scottsdale location, which closed, apparently because there was an assumption business would be more lucrative in downtown Phoenix.

While the 300 AZ products and jobs created by Oakville Grocery is great, true LOCAL in my opinion would be the Phoenix Public Market, which operates as an Arizona 501c3 non-profit, sells almost all locally grown/produced products, operates the bi-weekly open air markets, and serves as a community hub and meeting place.

Which of these two downtown grocery stores do you think will keep more money in our community and our State?  Which one is more invested in our community?

Phoenix Public Market - Photo: Stacey Champion

Who are you giving your money to?  Do you know?  This country was founded on Mom & Pop shops who made money in their community, then spent money in their community.  I try my hardest to do the same.

For example, there's a different feeling you get going to see a flick at FilmBar downtown, than going to the movies at AMC.  And again, which of these is more committed to community?  Your choices in local Phoenix abound!  There is a true local counter-part to every large corporation out there.  From places to eat, service providers, business services - you name it.  Local First Arizona can be your starting point.  My company Champion PR + Consulting is a member of Local First Arizona because I am committed not only to serving those in my community, but also because I want to do business with others who are doing the same.

FilmBar - Photo: Stacey Champion

Please don't get me wrong, my goal isn't to make anyone feel bad about going to Target, or shopping at a big supermarket or eating fast food on occasion.  I too am a consumer + a single mom, so in no way am I purporting to never do these things.  But I will say that I try very hard.  I am on a first name basis with almost every single person I do business with - the owners of the businesses,  the majority of which are within 2 square miles of my house.  We need to be each other's cheerleaders at all times.

Corporations aren't going anywhere, and on occasion they can even be beneficial to our communities.  My monthly educational/connection/project Rogue Green which is focused on sustainability issues, is up for a $10k grant through the Pepsi Refresh Everything project.  I had mixed feelings about even applying for inclusion due to my opinions surrounding large corporations, but the thought of how much I could help our community with $10k ended up clinching it for me.  Sometimes we have to pick our battles...

The message I want you to leave you with is this:

Just because something says it's LOCAL, doesn't necessarily mean it is.  There are plenty of great articles already out there on localwashing.  Read them.  Do your homework.  Try to keep as much of your hard-earned money in the community as possible.  Do business with those who give back to the community.  Get involved.

Keep it real.

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