A toilet paper movement
By Jennifer M. Latzke
I live in Dodge City, Kan., with a Walmart, Alco, Hastings and Hobby Lobby. It's just a five-minute drive from my house to the big Dillons down the street. We also have an Orscheln's, a True Value, and a Tractor Supply Co. We even have a mall.
In short, I live in a hub city where people from surrounding communities come to buy their groceries and run their errands.
Now, I'm more than happy to live here and spend my money with my merchants here in town, both big and small. I don't buy organic or locally grown just because of a label. But if it tastes good and the price is right, I'll spend my money in Dodge instead of a larger town. Sure, it may cost a few dollars more, but I'll buy certain staples at the smaller grocery store that's a block farther from my house because they have a better quality. And, the gift shop in our little mall may not be able to compete with Amazon on price or throw in free shipping, but I like to mark the special occasions in my life with them.
But, more often than I'd like to admit, I can usually be found in the bigger box chain stores buying my groceries and picking up the necessities. I justify it to myself that they have better values, or that I just don't have time to drive around all Saturday from store to store and that it's quicker to just pick it all up in one place. It's not like I'm hurting anyone; I'm still spending my money in town where it will re-circulate six or seven times in our local economy. Right?
But then, I attended the SmallTown 2012 conference in November, where one of the speakers made me realize that I had been forgetting the smaller towns that surround Dodge City and how I could vote with my dollars for their prosperity too.
I learned about the Chamber of Greater Franklin County in Hampton, Iowa, and its program, "Buy One Product Local." It's meant to motivate their citizens to shop at the local general stores, convenience stores and marts. But they aren't advocating any old item. No, they want you to buy a particular item, and one we all use.
They'd like you to buy your toilet paper locally.
You see, they crunched the numbers and found that on average a person uses about 105 rolls of toilet paper each year. At an average cost of $1.25 per roll, and with about 14,900 people in the county (give or take a hundred) that comes to roughly $1.9 million spent each year just on toilet paper by the citizens of Greater Franklin County.
Now, not all of that toilet paper was bought in the county, so they also figured that the amount actually spent in-county on toilet paper was about $335,800. That means the great citizens of Greater Franklin County lost out on about $1.6 million a year in annual toilet paper sales, of which would have been $114,187 in taxes.
That's $114,187 in taxes that could have been spent on infrastructure in the county, on jobs in the school district or in law enforcement. That's $1.6 million in sales that could have provided local jobs in the community, and kept the doors open on those general stores for underserved citizens who rely on them for bread, milk and other necessities.
All from toilet paper.
Too often, we drive through our local towns to get to some place else. I'm as guilty of it as anyone. We're in a hurry and if we do stop it's usually to buy gas and then we're on our way. Or, we lament that another store has closed up on Main Street, "isn't it a shame?" Or, we hear about a new family that has opened a cafe, and we tell ourselves, "we'll have to stop by there the next time company is in town." But we drive by it on our way to the drive-thru in the city before the football game because we just don't have the time.
The beauty of the Greater Franklin County toilet paper movement is that they aren't asking you to give up your excursions to the bigger hubs for your bargain shopping at the warehouse. There are no guilt trips, no holier-than-thou preaching about locally grown this or organic that. No one is outlawing Starbucks and McDonald's runs.
They just ask you to buy one product in the county.
What if we all did that? What if we all committed to buying our toilet paper from the grocery store in our small town? What if while we were there we tossed some toothpaste and laundry detergent in the basket too?
We'd have healthier small towns, with services that could support our agricultural and natural resources industries. We'd stop having "food deserts" in the middle of farming country. We'd employ our neighbors, we'd keep our schools open, and our hospitals staffed.
Don't get me wrong, I'll still shop in Dodge City. But, I think it's about time I took a trip to Cimarron, or Spearville, or Jetmore or even Bucklin. I've got some toilet paper to buy.