Why Shopping Local Matters

Shopping locally and giving to local charities. It’s in the holiday spirit, but these should be year-round values and practices.

To quote from Michael Shuman’s book, “Going Local”: “Going local does not mean walling off the outside world. It means nurturing locally owned businesses which use local resources sustainably, employ local workers at decent wages and serve primarily local consumers. It means becoming more self-sufficient and less dependent on imports. Control moves from the boardrooms of distant corporations and back into the community where it belongs.” 

That’s where we’re aiming: keeping resources on Maui.

Courtesy Adobe Stock

The first, most obvious tier is donating to the Maui Food Bank, for example, or the Maui Nui Marine Resource Council, or any number of other organizations listed in the following pages. They help sustain our most at-risk community members and our environment. Plus, giving makes you feel good.

That’s not just feel-good jargon: a Harvard University study found that giving money to others elevated people’s happiness more than spending it on themselves.

After that, though, you should keep your dollars here by spending at local businesses. According to a study by the American Independent Business Alliance, 48 cents of every dollar spent at a local, independent business are recirculated locally, compared to 14 cents for every dollar spent at corporate chain stores.

That has a ripple effect, especially on a small island. When money stays here, it doesn’t just help business owners and their employees. It helps ensure we can retain teachers, firefighters, and other essential workers. It makes Maui work.

Products produced on-island—many of which we’ll highlight in this issue—are more ecologically sustainable. And they represent and sustain local people, rather than arriving from afar in a shipping container.

Of course, it’s nearly impossible to only buy local. Big-box stores have an allure. And it’s always tempting to grab things with a click. 

As Sen Brian Schatz told MauiTimes in our April Green Issue, “It’s hard to look anyone in the eye and say with a straight face that we’re going to generate all our own materials for a modern life. We first need to focus on low-hanging fruit.”

That said, especially during the holiday season, it’s a worthy goal to shop as much as possible at small businesses and to purchase things made on Maui. That’s the low-hanging fruit (or fruitcake). Local edibles and drinkables are fresher. Local wearables and decorative items are more unique. 

So: give generously. Shop Locally. Help those in need. Sustain the ‘aina. Keep your dollars on Maui.

It feels good. It is good. It’s the right thing to do.

Why Buy Local? Here Are Some Stats


Cents of every dollar spent at small, independent businesses that are recirculated locally


Cents of every dollar spent at chain stores that are recirculated locally


Percentage of small business owners who said the holiday season is essential for their financial viability

1 billion

Metric tons of CO2 generated by shipping every year

Jacob Shafer