We live in a world where mass-produced goods are just one quick click away. Not that there is anything necessarily wrong with that. In some cases, things manufactured in massive quantities are necessary to meet demand.

But what’s the other option?

This year is the perfect space to discover that and to lean into shopping sustainably. Let’s explore embracing small makers, their impact on the community, their passion, knowledge, and the unique small quantities they produce.

Community (a sustainable economy)

Shopping and supporting small businesses within your community and the local economy has an impact. When you choose to purchase food or goods from independently-owned businesses, that money goes back into the community. It helps pay for schools, parks, transportation, and emergency services. A higher percentage of small business owners source locally, return their investment to the community, and sustain the local economy. Studies also indicate that independent business owners tend to donate to local charities, teams, or organizations. By supporting these small businesses, you can see your money trickling right back into the community.

People (social sustainability)

Makers are as unique as the handmade items they create. In the varying colors, you can see slightly altered textures, attention to detail, and ever-changing product shapes of the individual pieces that they craft. When an item is handmade, you are investing in a one-of-a-kind piece. That uniqueness increases its value far beyond any item produced for mass consumption.

When you shop local, customer service is better. You can skip the 1-800 consumer line and generally connect directly with a shop owner or an employee they have invested in. Business owners may even recognize you at the grocery store or on the hiking trails; there is a personal investment, a connection, and a willingness to share in your shopping experience.

Planet (environmental sustainability)

How far have your goods traveled? When we purchase from a large national chain store, items are probably produced outside your community, are sourced, boxed, and shipped worldwide. Those extra miles and materials used to ensure your goods are safe are responsible for increased fuel emissions and air pollution. Buying from local vendors, especially those who source locally, can cut down on those emissions and, in return, benefit the environment.

If you are shopping locally, you can often skip packing materials entirely or bring your own bag or container to transport goods. Not only is that less waste in your household but it is also less material in our landfills.

There are thousands of small businesses and local artisans right here in NCW. They create one of a kind goods, provide space for other makers, embrace the practice of creative spirit, and believe that handmade matters. They can help you change your shopping experience this year.

Jenny Montgomery is a board member of Sustainable Wenatchee, a nonprofit that promotes a culture of environmental stewardship and social sustainability in the Wenatchee Valley. She works for LocalTel.