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We are constantly being encouraged to buy local by environmentalists and community-minded people. But is it the best option for us, the general citizen? What are the benefits of buying local? How does buying local really help us? Here are some of the reasons why we should seriously consider buying local.
- When you support local businesses, you are ensuring that people within your community have a job. The more money you spend locally, the more local jobs there will be, even if the company they work for has its headquarters elsewhere.
- When local business is locally owned, the money you spend in that business stays in your local community. This means that more money is then spent within your community, making for increased jobs, opportunities and services.
- You support the local economy when you shop locally, keeping your town, suburb or local area viable and productive.
- Local businesses, owned and operated by local residents, tend to support the community in which they live. This means that they support the local sporting clubs and organizations, the schools and churches. Locally owned business help the community in many ways to make that community stronger and a better place to live.
- Local businesses have often been developed in answer to a specific need within their community; this need could be unique to that area. This ensures that the needs of the community are met and services and goods that are required are provided locally.
- Convenience is a big benefit of buying local. What you need is available right on your doorstep, when you need it. You do not have to travel in order to source what you need; you have it right there, close to where you live. As well as the time saving, you also save in travel costs and the associated stress of driving in traffic.
- Many people comment that they get better service from local businesses than they do in areas where they are not known. There is a greater sense of community in local businesses.
- Shopping locally also helps the environment. There is a huge saving in fuel consumption because people are not driving long distances to shop. Locally produced goods have not traveled huge food miles to get to their destination, saving the use of non-renewable petroleum which creates pollution to the natural environment.
- A strong local economy ensures the long-term viability of the area and attracts new residents. The influx of new residents means growth and prosperity for the community.
- When you buy locally grown produce the benefits are many. You are buying fresh from the grower, so the food is more nutritious. Also, most locally-grown produce has been grown organically, without the use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides, both so you and the environment benefit. Plus, the food has not traveled huge miles to get to you and so the saving on fuel consumption and greenhouse gas emissions is considerable.
- Shopping locally helps to create a cohesive local society, bringing together all sections of the community. People tend to be happier and more content when they feel part of a community and can contribute the success of that community.
Note: Buying local does not always ensure that you are buying locally-produced goods however. When you do buy local though, you can talk to the people selling the goods to find out where they have been produced and how far they have traveled allowing you to make informed buying decisions. Many multi-national companies have noticed the trend to local shopping and have developed their own smaller “local” enterprises to cash in on this trend. Talking to the sellers will uncover just how ‘local’ the goods are.
I can attest to all of the benefits I mentioned above because in our own household, we work hard at buying as many locally produced items as we can. Here are some of the things we do:
- We support a CSA every summer where we are supplied with organically grown produce that is grown only 2 hours away from home.
- We also buy Canadian grown fruit when we grocery shop. My central Canada climate isn’t the best for fruit production, however we do pretty well with berries. Hanging out in the local berry patches is a staple summer activity.
- If we do go out to eat we often dine and local restaurants that are not part of a chain. Not only do we like the fact that we are supporting one of our community members, but we also find the food is higher quality and better priced.
- We also pay for locally sourced electricity. This is huge because the revenue that is generated supports numerous initiatives that happen within the province.
Where you live will play a role in what you can buy local and what you can’t so the list of items will be different for everyone. However, everyone can work towards the same goal of buying local as much as they can. If you think about it- if everyone around the globe bought local, every country would be a first world country and things like poverty, starvation, etc. would be reduced, pollution would be cut drastically, and people would have a healthier mental state and live much happier lives. The question to ask then is “why would you NOT buy local?”
So readers, how much effort do you make to buy local? What kinds of things do you buy? What benefits have you found from supporting local producers?
Oh I so agree – buying from our local Pork Farmer *Puddledub Farm” what a fabulous name LOL
Or from our local “Buffalo Herd” – yes Scotland has Buffalo haven’t you heard???
Or my girlfriend who insists her husband plants a couple of rows of our favourite potatoes (they grow for a supermarket but that variety is not nearly so tasty)- that we just pop over and harvest by hand.
And the berries -Oh we are in the “berry triangle” and I swear in June to September there is a continual round of pick your own and marvellous eating as the different fruits come into season.
Local – all the way for me I’m afraid.
You sound like me Elaine. You almost get a high from buying local. This is GREAT!
We spend a lot of time in the berry patch ourselves. In June we will head out and pick a few dozen gallons.
We are fortunate to live in Central Texas, which is not far from the Rio Grande Valley. That doesn’t qualify exactly as “local”, but it does help to get “regional” items to our fridge when local isn’t available. Our particular part of CenTex has all of about 3 inches of poor soil til you hit limestone, but just east of I35? Black, rich soil, which helps local farmers make use of the extended growing season.
I don’t look for organic typically, but buying local sure makes veggies taste better simply because they don’t have to be picked so early.
I do, however, 100% support your notion of keeping money closer to home. It is simply more economical and has a greater local impact when that occurs.
On another note, there is a new WholeFoods not far from us. I haven’t shopped there much, but they certainly focus on local products. Are their “local” items genuinely local?
I don’t have a Whole Foods where I live so I am not sure. I would hope they sourced local stuff. If not they are hyporcrites.
Local geography can have an impact that is for sure just like you mentioned with the state of your soil. This is where growing your own stuff comes in handy. At least that is what I have found. Focusing regional or country wide helps too. It is still better than getting stuff from overseas if you ask me.
The only reason I wouldn’t buy local is because it’s often more expensive – the downside of the workers making a living wage instead of pennies.
Back in university when I wasn’t paying attention to my spending, I was buying almost 100% of my groceries, locally. That ended up costing me about $800/month for two people. Nowadays I’m a bit more selective with what I buy locally:
I shop for regular grocery items (ketchup, olive oil, etc) at a local independent grocer.
I buy most of my veggies at a farmer’s vegetable stand on the side of the road – much cheaper than a farmer’s market.
I buy my meat in bulk meat boxes from a local farmer, by buying in bulk, he gives me a break on the price.
My local, independent pet supply store actually has cheaper prices, I assume because it’s run out of a garage and thus has low overhead.
Any time I need something, I try and find the local, independent option first.
Sounds like you have a good system in place and are trying to buy local in as many areas of your life as possible. This is huge. Many people only focus on one aspect, ie food when in reality we need to focus on more than that.
I know what you mean about things being more expensive sometimes due to wages. For me I just tell myself this is the more ethical way to shop where people are paid a fair wage. It costs a bit to do the right thing but it is worth it.
Hey! I wrote about the very same thing this morning! Great minds!
I saw that. It is nice to have company.
I think consumers can, if they choose, wield enormous power by spending consciously. One of my pet peeves are those who complain or feel sad about the decline of their community’s downtown or the closure of a long-time ‘mom & pop’ local business, then do all their shopping at Wal Mart. There’s much more to quality of life than getting the lowest possible price on every single thing one buys, I think. The impact my spending has on my community and neighbors is a strong consideration in where I shop and what I buy.
Cheers to that Kurt. I have the same pet peeve. I am not sure if people are ignorant or just selfish. Maybe a bit of both.
I too like to consider where I get things from. Like you said, there is much more to life and our stance on things than getting the cheapest price. To me making moral sound decisions that I can live with is huge.
We try out best to buy local. We frequent the local farmers market; while we live rather far away we plan on moving closer and this will help our trips.
We used to have a CSA membership and I imagine we’ll pick this up again in the near future. We try to do a little research on the farms we support because we do want to buy local but we also want to make sure they’re growing their crops and animals in a way that we endorse.
I like to do my research too. I actually found our CSA though a poster in a coffee shop. Just a young farmer starting up. We have been with him for three years now.
How the food is produced is huge to me too and as much as I like to buy local I would rather buy imported and sustainably grown than local and chemically grown.
Local businesses have always been an important fixture in the American way of life. There’s nothing that is more important to any local community than for its residents to support one another through supporting their local businesses. A great example for me in my youth was my friendly neighborhood barbershop. I loved it that the owner, employees, and customers all knew each other, and it was such a nice place to visit whether you were getting a haircut or just dropping by to say “hell”.
There is such a great feeling you get when you walk into a place that is family owned and has been around for generations. I love those kind of places. It is a shame though because many of them no longer exist. They have been shoved out by big commercial companies.
We do our best to hsop locally – and buy local produce. Have to say that in Manchester, UK it works better with meat and not so well with fruit and veg. I hear Elaine extolling the wonders of potatoes – I actually like potatoes – and the Scotish strawberries are not bad. But the tomatoes? Not good…but then I am a spoilde Bulgarian in Britain.
I think many of us more northern countries have issues with produce. I grow some of my own to make up for this. One thing that works is just getting used to eating what can be grown where you live. Or you can use things like grow lights etc. They are really cheap to run now that you can get LED’s.
I like buying local products and supporting local companies, especially when it comes to food. I like to know where my food comes from, so by buying local at a farmer’s market my food will be fresher because it’s more likely to be grown nearby.
I find the taste difference drastic. The stuff from my own garden and our CSA taste so much better than anything I can get in the store. Like you say, fresh picked tastes amazing.
I love to go to the local farmers market to buy fruits and vegetables. They’re fresher and taste better. Since they’re not picked so early, they last longer. We also buy local honey. I’ve always heard that it’s good for your allergies.
You are right. I find the stuff from my garden and from the markets lasts a long time. Makes you wonder what you are eating when you buy it from the store.
The closest I get is buying from the farmer’s market, which I’ll admit is the exception for us rather than the norm, because it requires getting up on a weekend morning and driving over! (We tend to do our grocery shopping on a weekend afternoon, in contrast.)
To each their own but to me the effort would be worth it. The stuff tastes so much better and it supports good practices. Plus it’s green. Have you tried growing your own stuff? That could be your solution.
I think we have all been there at different stages in life. We get in certain habits based on our finances, location, etc. The good thing is you are now aware that you can make some changes. That is huge.
I can’t agree more with the service benefits of buying local. The relationships you can build with local merchants can far exceed that of a typical service/product exchange.
Well said HH. I couldn’t agree more myself.
Eating out, although not frugal is a great way to support local businesses (if they are not a chain). Owning a restaurant is a fairly viable small business idea that many people can do and I love to support the people who are willing to take a risk and invest in the community like that. I don’t feel bad eating out at my local places at all, especially when in many cases I know the owners.
I am like you. I love eating at the one off places that are special to where I live. I often find the food is amazing and reasonably priced.
I don’t make nearly as much effort as I should. There is a farmer’s market near my work that I try to frequent as much as possible, but I know I can (and should) do better. This list gives me even more encouragement to do so! Lord knows this area needs an economic boost!