Buying local isn’t just an environmental issue, it’s an economic issue, a jobs issue and even a house value issue. I thought I knew all about the subject of buying local (my sister aptly nicknamed me The Authority on Nothing), but I was surprised at some things I learned when we interviewed Seth Winterton of Utah’s buy local program called “Utah’s Own”. Utah’s Own is a governmental program funded by our State Department of Agriculture. They certify all kinds of products from food to bikes to skis as being “local”. They have a website listing the products and they put their stickers on those products so you can’t miss them in the grocery store or elsewhere. If your State has a similar program, take advantage of it. If not, just buy everything you need from Utah!
This is my take on buying local and some unintended great consequences of doing so.
1. Maintain or Increase Your Home Value. Buying locally supports jobs in your community, which in turn, keeps workers from moving. The more employed people who live in your community, the more housing prices stabilize or even increase as demand increases. In addition, buying locally creates tax revenue that can help keep your property taxes from increasing to compensate for sales tax revenue lost through dollars leaving your community.
2. Support Your School System, The Arts & Parks. Buying locally keeps tax dollars in your community. This money, in turn, is used to support your local infrastructure, parks, the arts and schools.
3. Keep Jobs in Your Community. Buying locally keeps and may even create jobs in the community. Jobs. What a novel concept. I’ve long thought that the Obama Administration would be well served to start a giant Buy USA campaign to keep jobs in the U.S.. He rarely takes my advice, so in the meantime, you can start your own version of Buy USA by buying locally, or at least, within the U.S..
4. Oppose Blandness & Support Product Diversity. So many products are now made by giant corporate conglomerates, including products you may think of as green (ahem Burt’s Bees, Stonyfield Farm, Tom’s of Maine). When only a few manufacturers control our food production, it cuts back on diversity, creativity and that local feel. Only products that are big sellers continue getting made, while other products fall by the wayside. Buying locally means you’re supporting the ability of businesspeople to be creative and make unique products.
5. Vote for Entrepreneurial Spirit. Buying locally means you think small businesses and entrepreneurs matter. Our country was founded on the idea that anything is possible through hard work, determination and the ability to innovate. We’ve lost our way in that regard and it’s time to reclaim our heritage. Support others who are keeping this tradition alive by buying local.
6. Lower Your Carbon Footprint. Buying local means less shipping, frequently less packaging, fewer commercial pesticides and typically less processing (for food). At a time when we are in dire need of cleaner air and soils, buying local matters.
7. Keep Open Spaces Beautiful. Buying local supports local farmers, who in turn, can afford to keep their farms instead of selling them for development. If you love having farms near you, buy their products and help them survive.
8. Keep Your Healthcare & Food Costs Down. Buying local may mean spending a little more now, but you will save in other ways in terms of healthy soils, a healthy body, and long term food security. Having large corporations control the food chain gives them control over quality and price increases. These companies need to produce food cheaply in order to pay for advertising, packaging, shipping, marketing, etc. and still maintain the bottom line. Cutting corners to maintain profitability often ends in disaster such as health outbreaks like salmonella, unhealthy food additives such as food coloring or corn syrup, and a host of other ills. Agribusinesses deplete the soils and lead to systemic crop failure and vitamin deficient illnesses stemming from a lack of zinc, chromium and iodine to name a few.
Buying Local Matters. Really Matters. Be Conscious and Vote With Your Dollars. Don’t just wait for the Farmer’s Market or your local produce stand to open, look for local products year round or ask your grocer to carry them.
P.S. I’m dedicating this post to my sister who used our Plaster of Paris to make her own arm cast at the age of 8. If memory serves, somehow my Dad managed to saw it off without removing her arm with it. Her arm hair did not suffer a similar fate.