It started as an idea: “wouldn’t it be nice if…”, and then Covid happened. We started to realise that the virtual world was going to be our only world.

Jeff Bezos became the richest man in the world. Zoom became a thing. Pijama bottoms became a staple. Live performance disappeared. Air travel became a memory. Small businesses started to fold. Restaurants became takeaways. Yoga classes were given online (the link points to my first podcast on the subject).

We dreamed of alternatives, we clung to the more environmentally friendly opportunities of the post-covid era, to redefine our habits and our expectations. And yet, we kept worrying about our own livelihoods: what will we do when we’re no longer useful?

Usefulness in the covid era has taken on some strange meanings – virtual communication in particular has become essential, dragging even reluctant luddites and oldies into the digital sphere for basic banter and social interaction.

Everyone is also buying more than ever on Am**on (a rude word for some), particularly in the pre-Christmas period, getting deliveries of over-wrapped plastic goods by plane from China. They may be hoping that these things that they are purchasing with their current salaries will somehow make up for the lack of bars, theatres and light-hearted chit-chat that makes a community.

Even during lockdown, people still need to communicate in person, to be together, to share meaningful moments. A simple ring on the doorbell by the postman provides unprecedented heights of elation – I wonder if he realises the joy he brings.

So how can we bring joy to our communities without using (too many) fossil fuels or (being too reliant on) the silicon valley? Most of us agree about this: we need to buy from small businesses locally, who deliver nicely.

Some of these “non-essential” shops are actually pretty essential to me and I’d be quite upset if they didn’t make it through to the other side.

If you live in Brussels, do support my herbalist for instance – I can’t get my usual dose of friendly chat, nice ideas, new supplements to help me sleep at the moment but at least she offers an online service with pick-up/delivery. There are more links on the right so some of my own local favourites.

Are you setting up your virtual business? Need help to make it low-labour high-impact? Or finding “green” delivery partners? Let’s figure this out together.

My favourite L-O* businesses

Yoga by Kristina

L’herboristerie de Louise

Bistrot Le Damoiselle

*L-O = Local-online

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