A community’s quality of life is maintained, and indeed improved when people keep some of their money local
I am sincerely grateful that I am able to get just about anything I need or want, any time day or night, summer, spring, winter, or fall. World Trade is a welcome thing! But I shop locally whenever possible and practical. Local means local to wherever you are, whether at home, on holiday, or traveling for work. I give it a loose several hundred or so mile radius - I don’t believe it needs to be a science as much as a mindset, an appreciation, and an understanding that you are doing good by going local.
My favorite way to get to know a town is to have one drink and one appetizer at each restaurant, pop into every shop, taking in the architecture, the gardening, the window displays... you know, the “local flavor”, while walking, walking, walking. Strolling down the street in a cool little neighborhood, the business owners are often on the premises, they probably know everyone in town, they support other local entrepreneurs, and the place is unique. Unique items can hold more value, so you may take better care of them, or they may be more cherished gifts. Pride of ownership shows through these products and services, and there is added value in that too.
We embrace the seasons around here with farmers market favorites - When it’s strawberry season, we go through a quart a day without blinking an eye because Maryland strawberries are seriously the best - they are sweet little ruby colored gems, and are crazy delicious! I’m the first one in line at the farmers market when pea season hits because my daughter will eat a pound before we even leave the market, and we serve them with a simple blue cheese dressing, or in a mint salad, make pea soup, and throw them into practically every dish for those few short weeks in spring. Heirloom tomatoes go into at least two meals day during tomato season. There is anticipation and excitement wrapped in these rituals. I’m sure you’ve got some of these too.
When a local business hires local people, not just in the front of the house, but accountants, marketers, laborers, and other jobs to keep the business going, the “local multiplier effect” comes into play. Basically the theory is that for each dollar spent at a local business, more than twice (most statistics show 2.5, and all show at least that) that gets recirculated back into the local economy. I’m talking buying locally grown/raised foods, going to local restaurants, supporting local small businesses of all sorts, artists and musicians of all sorts, supporting local radio and news, and trusting that you may actually know people who are indeed experts in particular fields: accountants; massage therapists, website designers; dress makers; stilt walkers: nutritionists, florists, etc, etc, etc. Help them find success, and you are also bringing success to the community. Forget the trickle down effect. This is how we help ourselves, and every little bit counts.
The “Carbon Footprint” is another consideration, and argument for shopping locally. It stands to reason that if an apple came from 5,000 miles away rather than 50, it’s got to have made a more negative environmental impact. That apple had to travel a very long way, gobbling up fossil fuels for the climate controlled trucking/storage, because it was picked weeks ago. What the heck did they put on it to keep it in apparent reasonable condition until our purchase and consumption? All that business can’t possibly make it more delicious or nutritious, so no thanks - I’ll take an apple picked down the road yesterday, thank you! I may even go to a pick-your-own farm!
This isn’t an attack on the desire for non-local, or exotic items to make life better in the ways that they can. I’m not talking about a major uprising, turning everyone into complete locavores. I’m talking about using informed thoughtfulness with your decisions. If the apple is available locally, then get local apples.
Sometimes these things can come with a bigger price tag, and that can be frustrating. You can go to a big box store and get a better price on certain items, often a result of arrangements made for bulk, unfair wages, loose labor laws & poor safety standards around the world. I’m trying to take the high road with this blog, highlighting positive reasons to go local, so we’ll leave that like that. Neighbors supporting neighbors - believe me, it comes back around. You make change with your choices in life, and where you put your money, it says a lot about who you are and what you care about.
Think of it… your neighborhood has this charming little cafe and book store. The tables were made by the guys down the road using reclaimed wood. The eggs were locally and humanely pasture raised by that nice couple that delivers. The bread was baked on-site fresh this morning, the locally roasted coffee is in-house ground, and the herbs came from out back. I can promise you that all of this makes for a tastier breakfast, and a more fulfilling life in your awesome, sustainable, and unique neighborhood!