Left Coast Voices

"I would hurl words into the darkness and wait for an echo. If an echo sounded, no matter how faintly, I would send other words to tell, to march, to fight." Richard Wright, American Hunger

Archive for the tag “350”

Support Independently Owned Businesses.

I saw the following pitch on the Afikomen Judaica home page the other day.

Think about which three independently owned businesses you’d miss most if they were gone. Stop in & say hello. Pick up a little something that will make someone smile. Your contribution is what keeps those businesses around.

If half of the employed U.S. population spent $50 each month in independently owned businesses, their purchases would generate an estimated $42.6 billion of revenue. For every $100 spent in independently owned businesses, $68 returns to the local economy. Spend it online and nothing comes home.

Pick 3. Spend 50. Save your local economy.

This initiative is being driven by the 3/50 project that was initiated by a blog entry from Cinda Baxter and it is clearly compelling.

Living on a limited budget I often struggle with how to finish the month financially and support local businesses and the philanthropy I believe in. The theme of big business encroachment is an integral theme of my novel, The Accidental Activist and is based on a true story involving McDonald’s.

I want to support local business. My father was a shopkeeper and the bespoke tailor of his community. However I do think that there needs to be something reciprocal, that our ideology should not be taken for granted. The local independently owned business might not be able to compete over price, but I think I would be willing to spend a bit more for similar or better quality/service/experience.

Here’s an example. I enjoy coffee from Peets and (yes) Starbucks. I enjoy the product (choosing exactly what I want), the clean environment (bathrooms), and the ambiance (good music). I seem to always receive cheerful service and, if the coffee doesn’t taste right, quick no-nonsense redress.

I will support a local coffee shop before entering either of the aforementioned chains if they can reach the same standard. I am even willing to pay a bit more, but often there is a problem with the quality of the experience in one of the factors listed above. For the record, I love Java on Ocean in Ingleside (SF) and Local123 in Berkeley.

Nothing can make the experience worse than the consumer feeling that s/he is being taken for granted. I have read a lot of Starbucks literature and am impressed with their customer-driven culture. I need to feel this from the local competition. I have recently had two negative experiences in small bookstores. It is frustrating. I could easily have purchased the books I sought on Amazon quicker, more efficiently, and cheaper, but I chose the local option.

It is not enough to procure my, or anyone else’s, business just because you are small, local and independent. I need to feel the love. When I do, I will come back for more without a second thought. Is there a future for the independently owned business?


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist (now available on Kindle) and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com



10.10.10, 10th of October 2010, now how often does that happen? Seriously, today a colleague of mine, Kristen Caven, has helped initiate a day of awareness for the number 350. It sounds like a nice number to me, but Kristen has found out something rather more sinister.

The thing I want you to know about is a number. That number is 350, and it is significant because 350 parts per million is the safe upper limit that scientists have determined as the amount of carbon that can be present in our planet’s atmosphere to maintain stability. Throughout human history, 272 ppm has been the norm. Today this number hovers around 390. Surprise, surprise, our glaciers are melting.

Even though global warming makes me want to run around waving my arms and screaming, I know that being shrill turns people off. But this is too important to shut up about. I’ve got a kid, and he’s awesome, and I don’t want his future to be about sheer survival, but it very well could be. So I’m keeping my voice low and asking you politely to speak the fuck up.

Kristen and her friends have organized a “global work party” wherein writers, communicators, teachers, and anyone who signs up, will dedicate 350 words to this topic on 10.10.10. So here is my contribution.

Actually, mention science, and my eyes kind of glaze over, so I am going to cheat and offer the link to someone more articulate on such matters. There is even an idiot’s guide through a simple chart to enable people such as me to feel adequate.

Kristen, a professional illustrator, has also provided a cartoon from her latest collection.

Now cartoons, I understand.

With another fifty words still to write, allow me to refer you to the an excellent environmental blogger, Bill McKibben, who I believe has initiated the 350 movement. Thank you, Bill and Karen, for the innovative way of keeping the destiny of our future in our present.

There is a Jewish parable which tells of a man who, walking down a road, sees an old man planting a small tree in his orchard. He stops and watches as the old man struggled to dig the hole, push the small tree in, and cover up the hole.

“Old man,” he says. “Why work so hard? Surely you don’t expect to see that small tree bear fruit?”

The old man looked at him and then gestured at his orchard. “Just as my parents and grandparents planted these trees so that I may enjoy their fruit, so do I plant trees for my children and grandchildren.”

Happy 10.10.10, everyone.


Alon Shalev is the author of The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. He is the Executive Director of the San Francisco Hillel Foundation, a non-profit that provides spiritual and social justice opportunities to Jewish students in the Bay Area. More on Alon Shalev at www.alonshalev.com


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