"Money is like blood. It needs to keep moving around to keep the economy going… [and] when money is spent elsewhere—at big supermarkets, non-locally owned utilities and other services such as on-line retailers—it flows out, like a wound.” -David Boyle, The New Economics Foundation
These days, anyone living in a small community (or any community for that matter) knows the meaning of the phrase “buy local.” In fact, in some thriving towns residents go the extra mile to vote out big-box chains like Walmart and Costco. Saranac Lake, NY, for example, not only banned the Walmart mega-giant, but also formed a community-owned department store coop in response to its proposal to move in.
But while we all know it’s “right” to keep our dollars close and pass them with a handshake, is it really, honestly, imbedded in our purchasing mantra?
For some die-hards, the answer is “Absolutely, Yes!” while others may lie somewhere in the middle—supporting local businesses, but caving to the big-box when money is tight.
So this spring break, let’s #BeTheChange by not only supporting our local businesses, but also by patronizing the local businesses in the places we travel. How about foregoing a McCafe by adventuring farther off the interstate for a handcrafted brew instead? Or grab your last-minute camping supplies from the hometown shop. I bet they give you more insider info than the guy at Walmart ever could.
Why adopt this mindset?
Funny you ask. We prepared a few responses—just in case—that will surely reset your thinking.
- Buying local builds a sense of community. Casual encounters trump Facebook. So whether it’s your community or someone else’s, local meetings lend a feel-good vibe. By supporting a local entrepreneur, you may also get first-hand feedback on a product, learn about a timely community happening, or form a new relationship with like-minded folks.
- Buying local shapes a community’s character. Ask yourself, why do I live here? Or if you’re visiting another awesome place, why do others live here? It’s the community’s sense of character, of course! Local businesses make for a one-of-a-kind town. They shape the vibe. Think about your favorite local shop or café. How would your town suffer without it?
- Buying local enhances the "velocity" of money. Since money exchange is circular in nature, spending locally allows it to circulate more quickly because it passes through more local hands in your community. Conversely, if you buy from a big box, their enormous profits almost always leave the region. By passing money through more local hands, residents benefit from both the wealth and purchases.
- Buying local is good for your health. A town filled with independent stores and cafes supports a walkable center, has less traffic, and is less polluted. And most goods sold locally, such as produce from farmer’s markets, are sourced regionally from local farmers with sustainable practices.
- Buying local supports community groups. Did you know? Non-profit organizations, like the Teton Freedom Riders or Full Circle Education, receive an average of 250% more support from local owners than they do from large businesses. By supporting our entrepreneurs, we also support vital community organizations that enhance our culture and area’s livability.
While there are many more reasons to buy local, we thought this core few would be enough to tweak your mindset. So before you grab your bike or board and head off to points warmer, take inventory of what you need and from whom you’ll buy it. Spread a little love in your town’s center and also in the towns you visit. We’ll check back with you during the holidays to see if you passed the test …