Support Houston, shop local
Within the hedges of Rice University, it is possible — and thanks to online shopping, sometimes easier — not to venture out and explore the city that Rice calls home. However, treating campus as separate from Houston fails to recognize the impact that we have on the larger community that we are a part of. To support the relationship between us and Houston, the Rice community should make a consistent and concerted effort to shop at and support local businesses.
Many local businesses create community spaces that we can be a part of, like Houston-area bookstores hosting book readings and other literary events. They provide goods and services; we pay for them, contributing more directly to the local economy than ordering packages from Amazon ever could. Shopping locally helps to solidify those ties by engaging in a mutually beneficial relationship with local businesses.
Sometimes, as a smaller university, we seem to overlook our buying power. We’re a primary market in the area around Rice and have the ability to contribute to a business’s growth. With Yoyo’s Hotdog, for instance, Rice students are known for flocking to its late-night lines. Soon, they will be opening a permanent location; the success of their stand is ultimately due to the efforts of its staffers, but it is reasonable to believe that Rice students’ fanatic appreciation was a contributing factor. How we spend our money is a direct and tangible way for us to choose who we want to support, and we should focus our resources on our local community.
Beyond that, our purchasing choices have an impact on our environment, one that can be mitigated by avoiding the waste of fast fashion brands and shopping at local thrift stores. Buying locally produced food allows us to avoid purchasing goods that have been shipped from across the country, causing fuel emissions and a greater use of packaging materials. Visiting mom-and-pop shops allows us to forgo overnight or two-day shipping, which results in more carbon emissions than lengthier shipping times.
Finding the perfect alternative to Forever 21, familiarizing oneself with local shops and navigating the city of Houston can be daunting — we aren’t denying that. However, the best way to get to know Houston is to actively explore the city, aided by Rice’s free METRO card for all undergraduates. Besides, with the Thresher regularly publishing articles highlighting local businesses, from our full list of Rice Recs to local bookstores, coffee shops, thrift stores and more, there’s no reason our community shouldn’t have an idea of where to start exploring. Plus, food journalists, for instance, make a career out of reviewing and featuring the best restaurants, cafes and bars in the city, so engaging with their content gives the added bonus of supporting local journalism. Even for those averse to reading articles, a quick Google search of “places near you” should yield plenty of results to sift through.
Setting aside the sustainability and the opportunity to support Houston-area businesses, shopping locally is, frankly, more fun. While it might be easier to make an Amazon order in class, it’s a lot less memorable than taking a shopping trip with a group of friends. With so many options at our fingertips, there’s no reason not to try to shop locally whenever possible.
Editor’s Note: Thresher editorials are collectively written by the members of the Thresher’s editorial board. Current members include Savannah Kuchar, Ben Baker-Katz, Ivanka Perez, Nayeli Shad, Talha Arif, Morgan Gage and Daniel Schrager.
More from The Rice Thresher
The social media app Fizz made its way to our campus earlier this semester, offering an anonymous discussion platform for exchanging messages and memes amongst Rice students. In recent weeks, antisemitic and racist posts were made by members of our community on this app. It is entirely hateful and dangerously intolerant.
Anyone who walked through the academic quad on Monday encountered the statue of William Marsh Rice visibly covered by sheets of A4 paper that read “习近平下台,” which roughly translates to “Resign Xi Jinping.” Other signs read “No emperor in a republic” and “Not my president.” These signs are part of larger protests happening in mainland China — that are being echoed by Chinese people across the world — in response to nearly three years of aggressive COVID lockdowns across the country.
The words “free speech” will likely elicit groans from Thresher readers. Over the last three years, there have been three articles in the Opinion section bemoaning the need for a “classically liberal” political discourse at Rice. Unfortunately, between their self-righteousness and needless wordiness, they read more like whiny lectures than conversation starters. However, despite their condescension, their existence does suggest something unsettling about not just our campus politics, but politics at large. As the electorates of democracies around the world have become more sharply divided, the way we speak to each other, not just across the aisle but to our similarly minded partisans, has become more accusatory, exclusionary and violent. Put simply: we do not want to talk to each other, and understandably so. It is exhausting, and, more than that, we just don’t seem to know how to.