Practicing Community Care: Curating Better Habits

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New Habits For A New Year

Hello everyone! 

My adorable foster Willow (in the basket) and I are here to talk about an experiment that I’m going to be undertaking this year that is near and dear to my heart. This year I’m going to hold myself accountable to practicing community care by curating better habits. I’m looking to #shopsmall, #shoplocal, and work towards a #zerowaste lifestyle. 

I need an accountability partner so I’ve decided to bring y’all along for the ride! I’m hoping together within this amazing bookish community we can share ideas and wins with eachother. 

The Alchemy Philosophy

You may have seen us discuss our philosophy here and there on the blog. We’ve written about how independent bookshops are an important part of our communities. We started Alchemy Bookshop because we believe in creating a sense of community via books.

Our dream is to create a living for ourselves and others by running a business that puts community first, values second, and profits third. Obviously, this is a business and we will need to be able to support our families, but all three of us feel strongly that we want to run this business with our values at the forefront. 

We really want to create something that adds value and meaning to our lives and the lives of our bookish community.

My Philosophy

I look around the world and there are a few things that really matter to me. Equity, the environment, and the shared human experience are my top three. I’ve been thinking hard about what I can do to contribute as an individual. I know that a lot of our issues are systemic and I won’t be able to make all the change, but I can make SOME change.

So it came to me late last year. What if I run a year-long social experiment with myself. What if I make a commitment to practice community care via #shopsmall, #buylocal & #zerowaste practices? Habits are learned after all, and if I want to get away from my Amazon two-day delivery addiction I am going to need to actively work on it.

What Is Shopping Small?

Shopping small is a movement wherein you don’t shop less, but you instead focus your shopping superpowers towards local businesses instead of large chain stores. This includes coffee shops, hair and nail salons, corner stores, spas, boutique stores, consignment shops, restaurants, craft stores, bars, farmers markets, shoe/bike/tire repair shops, laundromats, art supply stores, gift shops, gas stations, pet stores, and the list goes on.

Essentially you are shifting your dollars back into your neighbor’s pockets by providing a livelihood for the owners as well as the employees. The Small Business Administration (SBA) reports 28 million small businesses operating in the U.S. alone. And since 1995, those small businesses have generated 66% of all new jobs in the United States.

What Is Buy Local?

So buying local has two definitions if you look it up on the internet. The first is more in line with the #shopsmall concept, but just #shopsmallocally. So selecting a local business over a chain. For the purposes of this experiment, I’m going to separate the concept into its second definition.

The other definition of #buylocal is to prioritize purchasing locally manufactured and produced goods. Some examples here are buying produce from your local farmer’s markets, honey from a local beekeeper, art from a local artist, gifts from local makers, and the list goes on.

Buying local helps stimulate the local economy and has the added benefit of being good for the environment. By buying local produce you eliminate all the carbon waste of transporting produce to you from another state or even another country.

What Is Zero Waste?

In simple terms zero waste is the effort to send nothing to a landfill. According to the EPA in 2018 the US produced 292.4 million tons or 4.9 pounds of waste per person per day! Some of that was composted and some recycled, but the majority of it went into a landfill.

That’s a lot of plastic and materials that don’t easily breakdown. Zero waste is a movement about being intentional in your purchases to try to eliminate as much single use plastic as possible. Such as buying foods in bulk, bringing your own produce bags to the grocery store, bringing your own bags when you shop, using glass containers when possible, composting etc… There’s actually quite a bit that we can control that will cut back on what we send to the landfill.

Why Community Care Matters

When you spend $100 at a locally owned small business, $67 of that stays in your community. For a locally owned chain, the estimate is $14 stays in your community. Compare that to buying online without any sales tax collected, not one penny stays in your local community. Local businesses create jobs for your neighbors, and local taxes ensure a reinvestment in your community.

Buying local could mean less packaging, it allows for less transportation and has an overall smaller carbon footprint. During this global crisis and our current economic crisis, it’s more important than ever to make sure that we are helping to support your neighbors and not support billionaires. We have the power to help one another just by shifting a few of our habits around and we absolutely should.

My Community Care Epiphany

Since we are still living in a capitalist society, it occurred to me, let me be more intentional with my dollars. Please keep in mind that there are other ways to practice community care. I’m focusing on the economic, but community care can also be practiced in a multitude of ways. Such as volunteering, redistributing your wealth or privilege, activism, protesting, etc… 

For a really long time, I was very broke and had curated some habits that weren’t necessarily “bad” but were just what I was aware of at the time. I would buy fast fashion because it was what I could afford, I ordered a lot of things online because it was convenient, I bought furniture new because I didn’t feel like I had the time to search for good used furniture. The list goes on. I’ve slowly changed a few of these habits over time, but I don’t truly feel like it’s enough. SO, this year I’d like to do an experiment.

Further Reading: How To Read More Books

How I'm going to practice Community Care (AKA "the rules")

Okay, so I think I need to have some boundaries and rules in place to make this successful. It’s just so easy to otherwise cheat a few times.

  • I will order nothing from big box online retailers that don’t benefit my community. No amazon. No Wayfair. No Instagram ads. Nada.
  • I will prioritize online retailers that have an impact on small businesses or locals (, Etsy, direct purchases from small businesses)
  • I will prioritize BIPOC locally owned, small business over large retailers as often as possible
  • I will try to buy vintage/antique/used items BEFORE I purchase new items
  • I will prioritize local artists/makers
  • I will work to eliminate packaging and environmental waste
  • I will be transparent with my spending and with lessons learned!

What I'm Hoping The Result of This Experiment Is

What I’m really hoping to achieve with this experiment is a renewed connection to this place I call home and a sense of shared responsibility to care for it. I grew up in this area but left for ten years. It has really changed in the time since I’ve been gone, mostly for the better. I’ve lost my connection with all the local businesses that I used to haunt and I feel so far removed from this community.

I really hope that after the end of this year I can point you to the best places to find books, plants, doodads, gifts, nature, coffee, and food within my community. I want to explore the little nooks and crannies that I’ve lost touch with. I want to support my neighbors in the process by putting my dollars into their pockets. I want these efforts to go hand in hand with best environmental practices.

Further Reading: 2021 Queer Releases

Building Lifelong Habits

Ultimately I am looking to create some new good habits that I can take with me for the rest of my life. Habits around how I purchase food, clothing, art, and furniture. So my first instinct isn’t to browse a big box retailer first, but rather to go out in my community first to find those unique and interesting pieces that are so much better than a mass manufactured one.

Lessons Learned: January

January Spending

$ 166
This Month
  • Books $72.44
  • Thrifting $39.36
  • Wellness $55
We Got This

Okay, I’m going to be honest with you. January was such an intense month I barely dipped my toe into the waters of what I wanted to achieve. I am pretty happy though because I cut off our Amazon Prime in December and I didn’t buy anything from Amazon in January! 

I spent $77 on books and this was primarily my husband buying books on his kindle with my credit card and a few pre-orders that came through. I’m debating where I fall on Kindle books. This was a super interesting read by an author on what nets them the most money. Hardcover seems to be the consensus, but obviously, any purchase of a book is good for the author. We are looking into alternate ebook formats at Alchemy that we feel good about supporting. I think at this time personally I’ll continue to buy physical copies of books so we can support stores AND authors. But I won’t be too harsh on myself for the odd ebook here and there. 

I went thrifting! I haven’t done this in forever and I’m so proud of myself. A lot of the items in the cover photo I found thrifting. That adorable basket being the big win, but I also found some beautiful white candles for photo props. I’m really looking forward to expanding my thrifting abilities. It’s a little overwhelming at first and I haven’t dared to expand into clothing since we are still in a pandemic and I don’t want to be inside as long as it would take me to look through the racks. 

The final line item was a high-quality CBD I purchased to try to help with sleeping. I’ve been overly stressed lately and I wanted to give it ago. It’s an all woman-owned CBD company where they control all aspects from the growing to the manufacturing. This one is a bit of a cheat, I technically ordered it like the last day of December but it went onto my credit card statement for January and due to full transparency I added it here. If I decide to continue with CBD I’ll try to source some locally! 

Community Care Goals For Next Month

Okay, so I didn’t start January off in the blaze of glory and energy as I had hoped, but I’m actually super pumped for February. I found this YouTuber Isabel Paige, who has been really inspiring me. She focuses a lot on zero waste and living sustainably and honestly, the food she makes has got me really excited to start February off focused on the way I source and eat food. 

Here is what I would like to accomplish by the end of the month: 

  1. Purchase locally sourced in-season produce from the farmers market
  2. Check Out a Local Bookstore that’s been on my list forever
  3. Source a local version of my hair mask that ran out
  4. Thrift for containers for Zero waste food
  5. Buy some bulk food items
  6. Source one to two kitchen  appliances used

Have you guys had any experience in any of the above? Any tips or tricks for me? I’m really excited and can’t wait to share the fruits of this year with you! 🙂 


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