We have all heard it parroted countless times, buy local, support your community. Local products tend to cost a little more, what is all the fuss about, why should we support our local economy?
Simply put, buying local ensures money stays in places where it can benefit you and those in close proximity to you. It has ethical, environmental and economic benefits which have global impacts. As much as we don’t want to admit it, money is something of a life blood to us all, especially in a capitalistic society. In order for blood to be healthy it needs to circulate, the same can be said about money. When we help to support local business we are metaphorically circulating blood within our body, ensuring all extremities receive a healthy supply. When we buy from big chains stores we, for all intents and purposes, open up a wound and allow blood (or money) to freely flow out.
Buying local is not to be confused with self-serving economic reasons or xenophobic behavior, but rather a mutually beneficial paradigm shift in the way we think about business, especially in an economy where buying globally is becoming so convenient.
Environmental impact- When we buy local we are able to cut down on the footprint we impose on the environment.
- By having localized demands for produce we create a more biodiverse environment. Rather than having hundreds of miles of corn fields run by multinational corporations (Monsanto), whose concern is primarily profit, we could have a rich, thriving, diverse, mix of produce spawning a healthier eco system benefiting a plethora of crucial animals like bees for example.
- Avoid the drain on fresh water. Let’s take an item like flowers, in a warmer climate like South America they are able to grow gorgeous flowers, year round, whereas in Vancouver, we are not due to our climate. In order to grow these flowers in South America, one must provide them with large quantities of fresh water which, counter intuitively, contributes to the desertification of land. When you supply water to a plant, that plant retains much of the water and is then shipped to other sides of the planet, taking with it precious fresh water and slowly draining the supplier’s location of natural water.
- Human cost. In many developing countries there are fewer restriction on the application of toxic fungicides, insecticides, and herbicides, many of which are banned in the United States and Europe, this has an impact on both the consumer’s health and the farmer’s health.
- To ship these flowers, for instance, to Vancouver requires providing transportation, be it via Air, Road or Sea which burns fossil fuels. When in transit it is essential to chill the flowers, which has a massive energy drain, to make sure they withstand the arduous transportation process.
Some suggestions to avoid this and preserve the environment are: plant your own sustainable plants in a community garden like in Coquitlam.
Ignoring other’s best interests. When thinking about the global economy we often think about the cost saving we can have by utilizing poorer nations in order to feed our own needs. Yes, there is a savings; however, an aspect which cannot be overlooked is the personal impact this type of economy has on those in the poorer nations. One could argue that these poorer countries depend on exporting their goods at a cheaper rate, yet if you look at the issue of flowers again, for example, you can see that the best interest of the poor farmer is not considered. In addition to fewer health regulations there are more cases of children being used for labour. If these developing countries were less invested in supplying other nations with cheap alternative products they too could focus on developing their own local economy. Wealth is relative, if one’s local economy is strong and all corners of your daily needs are met from within would that nation continue to struggle financially?
Chance to influence our own best interest: When we buy from local farmers we are much more capable to interact with the source directly, have conversations with the farmers about what sorts of pesticides are being used, what hormones are used, what other growing practices are being implemented. It’s important to understand how our food is grown and perhaps even encourage the growers to use more green alternatives. In addition, locally grown, natural food tastes significantly better and is much healthier. This sort of interaction with local business also means you, as the customer, is going to be valued more. Local businesses tend to have more qualified, educated employees who are more capable while helping you or answering any questions about the products they are selling.
Buying local is often more expensive than chain stores, so why pay more?
When you buy local, the money tends to stay local. It has been said that money spent locally typically gets re-spent 7 times over in the community. By spending money at local businesses you are encouraging the creation of a small, recession resistant mini economy. Companies who run small local businesses tend to employ residents from that community which, in turn, increases the odds of the money remaining within the area. Studies have shown that local companies also tend to require more local employees per unit sold as opposed to big chains, this means more jobs and more productive citizens working together to build a community they want, filling gaps in their services when they are needed and working together to ensure all needs are met.
Buying local despite a global economy may seem like a step backwards; however, just because we now have the ability to shop globally doesn’t always mean that we should. Next time you are looking to make a purchase, regardless of how small do some research and determine if you would be better served buying from a local shop.