We’ve seen this before – something becomes popular, people run with it and the next thing we know, it’s all anyone is talking about.
Now we can all attest to the fact that 2020 was something else. When wild fires in Australia are just the tip of the iceberg, you know it’s going to be a doozy. And now we are dealing with one of the greatest economic downfalls any of us will see in our lifetimes (please let this be the worst one lol, too soon?).
This leads me to the actual topic at hand; supporting local. Well into the global pandemic crisis we all started to realize how imperative local business was to the economic climate. Now I’m not going to go deep into the details but I’ll simplify for arguments sake. Local businesses do many things, locally and beyond. It maintains employment rates, it keeps money local and circulating and it creates lifelines to communities. These are all important things but at the end of the day, superficially surface. When you buy local, do you actually know why you’re doing it or is it just a moral obligation? Controversial, I know!
I would like to preface this by saying ‘local’ means several different things, in my humble opinion. A store can be local because it started from scratch, the goods within are locally sourced and the overall revenue is staying in said community. But what if there is a franchised location that is run by a local and that person is providing people within the city jobs and a livelihood? And they spend their money locally? Is this still included in what has become a blurred line of exigency. I’ll leave this open for discussion and am genuinely curious on what the general thought is out there.
But for today, let’s evaluate the most well known version of ‘supporting local’ which is a business that is homegrown. For those of us that haven’t started a business, it’s a dauting task, obviously. You’re lucky if you move past the proof of concept stage, make a prototype that is tangible and someone likes it enough to invest. So by the time you bring your baby to life, either in brick and mortar or Ecommerce, it feels like a lifetime. And you haven’t even sold a thing to a customer yet. Which brings me to the actual product or service. What is the difference between buying a head of lettuce from a chain grocery store versus a local fruit and veg stand?
What took a really long time for me to understand is the impact that most of my beloved clothing, products, home goods, groceries etc. had on the environment. It wasn’t something that initially came to mind when sourcing local. I wasn’t like “Oh, if I go shopping at Nature’s Fare maybe the North Pole will stop melting”. But through working for a local company, buying local and doing some research, I educated myself on what the outcome was. The merchandise itself doesn’t travel as far, it doesn’t require as much packaging or labor. Also I’ve been watching a lot of movies about how we’re destroying earth and will have to eventually live on a spaceship, I think that may have sparked a little fire.
So other than wanting to keep this floating rock going a little longer, what is the sustainability of shopping local? Can a local community make/source enough to support humans in all their basic necessity and for how long? As I write down these questions I realize I’m opening up a proverbial can of worms and I definitely don’t have the answers but these are the thoughts that ‘keep me up at night’. If everyone changed one daily/weekly/monthly purchase to primarily local, can we see enough of a change to convince more of the population to do it.
The other (possibly more selfish side) is that when you shop local and create these relationships with owners, you have the chance to customize your goods. Imagine calling someone at *insert major clothing store here* and asking them to bring in an item that you want. Apart from the fact that there would be approximately 97 other people involved, you wouldn’t likely see that item. But when you curate relationships with our local owners you bet they would take that request seriously. They want you shopping, they want you happy and they want you telling your friends about it.
In conclusion, this is a grey area with room for improvement. However, I encourage you to think about a local business in your area that you’ve been to or have seen while out and go in! Talk to the people working, get their take on what it means to either work locally or own locally. Educate yourself on their reality and ask what helps them out.
Like I said up top, I’m curious to know what the thoughts are out there about shopping and supporting local, leave a comment down below!