As you're putting together a holiday gift list and checking it twice, instead of making sure you haven't forgotten anything or anyone, check to see if the items are made in America. How many do you think will be?

It's the rare story about retailing that doesn't garner reader comments about where the products are made. It's also the rare retailer that makes the effort to stock only American made goods. Deborah Leydig is one of those retailers. Her Barrington, Ill. business stocks exclusively products made in this country, something that has become increasingly difficult to do.

"Deborah Leydig is in search of a can opener manufactured in the U.S.," opens a story in the Chicago Tribune. "The artist-turned-merchant had been stocking the iconic Swing-A-Way can opener, but had to stop this year when production moved overseas."

For decades, American companies have been outsourcing labor and relying on foreign production to stabilize businesses at home. Over time, it incurs cost to the environment, negatively affects our employment rates, and discredits our claims of sustainability. In a utilitarian sense, trade and commerce with other economies are of course necessary, but, is it healthy for us to rely on foreign systems? Especially when we are so proud of being self-reliant.

Leydig is just one example of a well-intentioned business owner trying to save jobs in the U.S., and she is not alone. Conscious consumerism is on the rise. Americans are buying environment-friendly goods, fair-trade products, and locally grown or made food at increasing rates.

Increasingly, products labeled "made locally" or "made in America" are becoming strong selling points to consumers. As recession weary Americans have shifted from consuming mindlessly to more consciously, shoppers are paying much more attention to how, when, and on what they spend money. John Gerzema contends, in The Post-Crisis Consumer, that American values matter to people, and we've moved from a state of anxiety to one of confidence.

According to statistics provided by Gerzema from a database he oversees (the BrandAsset Valuator), Americans already prefer U.S.-made goods over products made in Italy, Japan, or China. According to their research, Americans find products with U.S. labels seven times more trustworthy. Recalls are running rampant and fear of poisonous consumer products are not unfounded.

So in advance of Black Friday, I dare you to buy only American and locally-made goods for the holidays this year although it may take a lot of hard work and self-control to research and locate these products. If you choose to accept this challenge, you likely won't be able to buy many electronic devices, and you may have to seriously compromise your clothing purchases. You'll need to some some research, and AmericansWorking.com and LocalGoods.org are good places to start.

This is not to be mistaken as a vow of misplaced patriotism or hostility toward foreign economies, but essentially a challenge for us to be mindful of what we purchase in the name of being more appreciative of the production of our goods and to directly invest in both our local and American economy and workforce.

If you can manage, try to become more aware of what products are made in your community and the U.S., and if you can, as the holidays approach, can you buy American?

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