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Shift your shopping logo[Excerpt]: According to the National Retail Federation, Americans will spend an average of about $700 per person on holiday season shopping this year and, despite the hype surrounding Black Friday, the busiest shopping week immediately precedes Christmas. But rather than enduring long lines and sparse service at chain stores, we urge you take a different approach: seek out your local independent merchants and service providers, meet your neighbors and fully integrate your values in your purchasing decisions.

This is not a call to "get out and shop" -- far from it. In fact, we encourage you consider many great gifts that don't increase consumption: a meal at an independent restaurant, tickets to a local concert, durable locally-made goods. Most of all, consider the many benefits of patronizing local independent businesses for whatever you choose. Among the benefits:

* You'll create local jobs. And not just any jobs. While chain outlet's create mostly positions for clerks and cashiers, local businesses are hiring accountants, graphic designers, webmasters and many other positions the chains (or online giants) centralize at corporate headquarters. A multitude of small entrepreneurs provides a more vital and durable financial base than dependence on a few large corporations.

* Local businesses typically require less driving, consume far less land and have a lighter environmental impact. Because they focus primarily on local markets, local businesses place a high premium on being easily accessible by local residents. They tend to bolster community character and vitality, rather than segregating residential areas from clusters of big box development...

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Post Carbon Fellow Michael Shuman is research director for the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies and author of the upcoming  book from Chelsea Green and Post Carbon Institute Local Dollars, Local Sense: How to Shift Your Money from Wall Street to Main Street and Achieve Real Prosperity. Jeff Milchen is a co-founder of the American Independent Business Alliance, , which helps communities develop effective buy local/independent campaigns and many other pro-local initiatives.

Originally published December 16, 2011 at AMIBA

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