Are Independent Bookstores Really Important?

Are Independent Bookstores Really Important?

Independent bookstores are a hidden gem in our communities
49
views

Bookstores are a reader's wet dream. Shelve upon shelve is filled with books from every genre and sub-genre. It's heaven.

Independent bookstores are a fading literary art. The atmosphere provided from these stores' coffee bars and books rival that of big corporations. Shopping local matters. Shopping independently matters. It gives more money to the local economy, which in turn can drive down costs for product.

Personally, I work for an indie bookstore, and the crowd it draws are the local hipsters and older men in the area who are too lazy and or too cool to drive twenty minutes into a neighboring city to their Books a Million and Starbucks. Most patrons of today's bookstores are the stereotypical freaks and geeks, however, our storefront does not see a lot of them. Why is that?

Why does our community drive

Why give your money to a corporation that does not truly care about your name, or the quirky ways you like your coffee? To the people who could care less if you get your book on time or not? Or the people that scowl every time you ask them a question and or pull through their drive thru line for your morning coffee run?

The baristas and booksellers at indie bookstores care. They remember your orders, how you prefer your coffee with a certain cream or flavor, or how you like your pastries warmed for thirty-five seconds instead of thirty. Most of these stores even have loyalty programs and cool discounts.

The most fun I personally have ever had has been at independent bookstore release parties for different series. It's more close-knit and tightly ran. The promotions are not "in your face and down your throat" at all. Just book lovers coming together with other book lovers for an afternoon of trivia, food, etc.

Recently, the bookstore I work at, has started working on bringing in tabletop RPGs like Dungeons and Dragons, Pathfinder, etc. to market more to the area's nerds who never really stop by. We want the community involved and in our store, because without the community we are going to disappear. Shopping local should always come first over big corporations. We can order the same books chain bookstores can order. We can make almost every drink (I say almost, because I have no idea what people are talking about when they ask if I can add chocolate chips to their frappucinos) chain coffee shops can make.

Independent stores matter to the community. Independent stores matter because the workers care if they get your beverage 100% correct or not.

I challenge you to shop local at your indie bookstore and see what treasures you can find.

Cover Image Credit: Cold Water Books

Popular Right Now

5 Companies That Still Use Slave Labor

Let's talk about the modern slave trade.
85744
views

Growing up in a country where freedom is always a right and expectation — whether you live in the United States or one of the other 86 "free" countries — it is easy to believe that, compared to the well-known 1800s slave trade, we are doing pretty well when it comes to civil liberties, freedom, and overall social welfare. Documents such as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (1948) have been approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations, meaning that the vast majority of nations have agreed that every individual has the right to basic human dignity.

Despite this significant progress, however, there are 45.8 million people enslaved today, more than any other time in world history. The United States Department of Homeland Security has launched the Blue Campaign in light of this growing industry, hoping to raise awareness of the human trafficking that persists in local communities. Additionally, you can watch this video for a summary on the Global Slavery pandemic. I will write about the problem of human trafficking in the United States on another day; however, global slavery affects us whether it is in our city or halfway around the world. In fact, companies that you purchase from every single day use slave labor for their work instead of paying employees a fair wage.* Don't believe me?

Here are five companies that are using slave labor to make their products TODAY, and where you should shop instead.

Nestle

Nestle is one of the largest companies that has consistently carried out human rights violations all over the world. Not only did they illegally take water from California during the drought in 2015, but in the 1970s they got third-world mothers to use infant formula by selling it at reduced prices, and then when the mothers could no longer breastfeed, they raised the price of formula so much that many children were malnourished and starving.

Their most recent problems revolve around slavery in the cocoa industry. In 2009 several former child slaves sued Nestle because they were trafficked and forced to work on Nestle farms in Cote d'Ivoire. Another suit was filed by former child slaves in 2014, stating that "Studies by International Labour Organization, UNICEF, the Department of State, and numerous other organizations have confirmed that thousands of children are forced to work without pay in the Ivorian economy." In 2016, the Fair Labor Association executed an assessment of Nestle in Cote d'Ivoire. They claimed that 70% of Nestle farms were not trained on the prohibition of forced labor. Further, they stated that "there is no process in place to monitor, report, and remediate cases of forced labor at the farms." With this in mind, they did find evidence of potential forced and uncompensated labor. Additionally, they found evidence of child labor—many of these children never enrolling in school — in which children were getting paid little to nothing, and often working in dangerous conditions.

INSTEAD: buy from Ben & Jerry's or Theo. They will satisfy your sweet tooth and are Fair-Trade guaranteed.

Nike

Nike has REALLY cleaned up their act in the last several years, but with a standard of no slave labor, they still have quite a way to go. In 1992, activist Jeff Ballinger published an exposé in "Harpers" that revealed the story of a child in Indonesia working in disgusting conditions, and for a mere 14 cents per hour (far below the minimum wage in Indonesia at the time).

Since then, Nike has begun to report supply chain information. The most recent report claims that, in 2016, only 86% of their factories were up to the minimum standards they set. Though they give a good indication of how far the company has come, these standards are set by Nike and assessed internally, making it difficult to compare standards to a universal one.

INSTEAD: shop at Patagonia! All products here are Fair Trade Certified!

Starbucks

Starbucks claims a mission for ethical sourcing, meaning their company policy requires them to abide by a standard of "ethical sourcing" that they have created. They only have two Fair-Trade coffees available for purchase. After the development charity Oxfam reported that Starbucks was depriving Ethiopian coffee growers of $90 million every year, Starbucks was challenged by the public eye to “clean up their act,” and did so by creating their own “ethical sourcing” standards, that they implement themselves, and certify 99% of their coffee with. Whether or not these standards are viable, they are not Fair Trade Certified at this time.

The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of locations and goods that use forced and child labor. Starbucks lists coffees from countries such as Guatamala, Kenya, Costa Rica and Panama; however, none of these single-sourced coffees are certified by them as “Fair Trade.” Rather, they are all regions that are known to use child labor.

INSTEAD: buy the Starbucks Italian Roast and Café Estima; they are certified by Fair Trade! You can also order online from Café Justo, Jurang and Equal Exchange —entire companies dedicated to producing Fair Trade coffee.

H&M

A 2016 report stated that as of December 31, 2015, 31 out of 72 H&M suppliers were using illegal contracts. In other words, these contracts allowed for wrongful termination. Now I know what you are thinking: the current system of hiring/firing in the U.S. is full of problems, and it takes way too much work to fire a bad employee in most cases. Well, the situation in countries like Cambodia and India are a little different. Often times, employees of H&M will be forced to work for excessive overtime hours—far beyond the legal limit—with no increase in their weekly take home pay. They are also often working in sweatshop conditions, with no breaks and unsanitary environments. Moreover, the contracts allow the factory to fire a worker for refusing to work these long hours. In fact, a garment worker in Cambodia stated: "We often get sick around once a month. We don’t eat enough and work too much trying to maximize the piece rate. Also, we don’t stop to go to the bathroom. We often work through lunch breaks or go back into work early, so there is hardly any time to rest."

INSTEAD: shop at one of these other retailers that are guaranteed to have fair-trade labor!

Walmart

Well, this one is probably the least suprising yet. According to a 2016 report by the Wage Alliance on Walmart's value chain, Walmart refused to sign the 2013 Accord on Fire and Building Safety in Bangladesh that 200 companies signed following the collapse of Rana Plaza. It also stated that all 14 factories in Cambodia were studied, and they all violated local overtime laws consistently, with some forcing 14 hour work days without overtime pay "in sweltering heat, without adequate supply of clean drinking water or any breaks." These same conditions were expressed by workers in factories in India, Indonesia, and Bangladesh. The report continued to list countless instances of workers given severely less than they were promised, or even cases where owners of factories fled without paying workers at all.

INSTEAD: OK, I know it's hard to pass up Walmart prices. However, here is a full list of companies that are fair trade. Even if you start small, I know you can find a way to cut back on your slavery footprint! Want to know how many slaves work for you now? Visit the Slavery Footprint mission to find out.

*I use the term “fair wage” because many people who are enslaved are trapped in a cycle of debt bondage. This means that an individual or family works for pennies per hour to pay off an ever-increasing debt. Oftentimes this debt is passed down for generations. To learn more about debt bondage and other forms of slavery, visit the non-profit End Slavery Now, here.

Cover Image Credit: iragelb / Flickr

Related Content

Connect with a generation
of new voices.

We are students, thinkers, influencers, and communities sharing our ideas with the world. Join our platform to create and discover content that actually matters to you.

Learn more Start Creating

15 Items You'll Actually Need For Your Dorm Room

You can thank me later.

194
views

When my parents helped me move into my dorm room, I realized that there were a lot of items that we didn't think about. I ended up purchasing a lot of these items later on because I didn't realize how necessary they were until I was fully settled into my dorm.

1. Extra-long drawers

If you're like me and have a thousand t-shirts and pairs of jeans and leggings extra long drawers are essential for clothing storage. Having four of these drawers helped me store all of my items with ease.

2. An ottaman or stepstool

This is one thing that I totally did not think of when I moved into my dorm. Looking back, I really wonder how I thought I was going to get into my bed. After I moved in, my parents quickly ran to Target and got an ottoman so I could get into my bed. It spruces up the room while also being able to hold my snacks in it.. which is essential.

3. A vanity mirror

I ended up paying a pretty price for my vanity mirror, but its worth it. It has a light, so it became so easy to do my makeup in my room at any time of the day.

4. A planner that works for you

First of all, don't be like me and get a planner that is too small to even write anything in it. I did that and saw my grades suffer. I ended up asking for a planner for Christmas and I couldn't wait to start using it. It has a page to set goals every month and to-do lists for every week.

5. A nice water bottle

I was that cliché student and got a nice Hydro Flask water bottle before I started college. Even though I had to get a special kind with a nozzle, it was completely worth it knowing it would keep me hydrated.

6. Felt hangers

This is one thing that my mom suggested, and I am so glad she did. It may seem like a small change but felt hangers truly make a huge difference in closet space. I have most of my winter clothes and some summer dresses all in one closet thanks to these hangers.

7. Assorted command hooks

These are essential for every college student. I used command hooks for my jewelry, my bathrobe and toiletries and my Christmas lights. They may be a little pricey but its worth it for storage and aesthetic purposes.

8. A toaster

I didn't get a toaster until the second semester of college but it's been a lifesaver. Because of my toaster, I was able to have breakfast in my dorm instead of using my meal plan or spending extra money.

9. A collapsible laundry basket

My roommate actually bought this after the first semester because she liked mine so much. It was not only super easy to store but made doing my laundry so much easier.

10.  A rug

It sounds simple, but its amazing how a rug makes everything look more cohesive and cozy.

11.  A memory foam mattress cover

The mattresses in college dorms are pretty uncomfortable, so getting a foam mattress topper was key. It's made my bed so much more comfortable.

12.  Printed pictures

I printed off many pictures at the end of my first semester. I had pictures from back home, but also from my first semester. Sometimes when I'm feeling down, I like to look at those pictures and realize how grateful I should be for the people in my life.

13.  Spinning toiletry organizer

I ordered this off of amazon a few weeks into my freshman year and it minimized my storage so much.

14.  Large luggage bags

I didn't realize how many clothes I had until I came home from Thanksgiving break. These luggage bags are essential for easy traveling.

15.  A winter coat and boots

This is SO important. I got a winter coat for Christmas during my senior year, and felt really silly wearing such a long coat outside. However, once I got to college I realized that everybody wears these winter coats and so important. So many of my friends bought boots after the first semester of college because they realized how important they are. They not only keep your feet warm but have super good traction which prevents you from slipping while walking to class.

Related Content

Facebook Comments