I have been advocating for locally produced food for the past decade. It not only supports our local growers, but it also supports the local economy and is better for the environment.
Lately I have been thinking that I’d like to do more to support my local community and businesses that are not food-related. With the news that Wal-Mart is planning on entering my city, I realized I haven’t done enough to support or encourage those local businesses.
It also struck me last month when I went to eat at my favorite local vegetarian restaurant, The Green Temple. It sits in a courtyard, surrounded by local, independent stores, and on one of the doors there was a sticker that says, “Thank You For Choosing Our Local Independent Business.”
It got me to thinking how tired I am of not having choices, or feeling that I could be in Any Town USA instead of the lovely seaside community I live in, and that I have to seek out unique spots to shop now for an enjoyable shopping experience. I wondered if there is anything I can do to help change that and to keep these local shops in business.
So, I did some research and found that buy-local campaigns have sprung up across the United States and Canada and more and more people are supporting them.
Two main organizations support buy-local campaigns: the American Independent Business Alliance and the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies, which has a searchable directory of buy local networks in the U.S. and Canada.
These buy local campaigns and networks are working to spread the word in their communities that buying locally means more money stays in the local community and that when you support local businesses you are supporting your community.
Next: Where to start buying local
Buying locally doesn’t just mean buying at retail stores; it also means the local restaurant, coffee house, hair salon, and even local services such as plumbers, accountants, and electricians.
Spending at local businesses, rather than at chain stores or online, helps local economies because these businesses are more likely to buy from local suppliers and hire these local service providers.
Some people argue that this isn’t the case, that there is no real economic benefit to a local area. But, there are other benefits that are just as important such as reviving downtown areas that provide a community with stores and businesses with history and charm, and a direct connection or relationship with business owners, things that can’t be found at big box stores.
If you are interested in helping your local business community, check out the Institute for Self-Reliance‘s Big Box Toolkit. It was designed to help communities counter the mega-retailers and rebuild local businesses.
Aside from finding a buy local campaign in your area through one of these organizations, there are several great websites that list the independents by business type. Here are some sites to get you started: