In distant times the only option people really had for shopping was to buy local. Our great grandparents ate the fruits that were produced on trees in their own state and filled the table with vegetable grown, if not in their own garden, at least in their own town. Today, our world has become so interconnected that even in the heart of Florida one is as likely to find an orange grown in California than within the Sunshine State itself. This ability to get anything anywhere is a testament to human ingenuity, but it also comes at a price. Thus, people have become to assert the need to “buy local.”
The phrase “buy local” has become something of a mantra for many people in today’s economically turbulent and environmentally unfriendly times. Often touted as the best way to be environmentally friendly and support your community, buying local means just that, purchasing items near your home (in your city or state), preferable things that were grown, assembled or manufactured nearby. Certainly there are many advantages to buying local. However, the concept is not without its potential disadvantages.
The Advantages of Buying Local Buying local has a number of very obvious advantages. By purchasing food and other goods that are produced locally you stimulate the economy in which you live. Jobs are created, or retained, the community earns money in taxes, and things thrive and grow. Additionally, when it comes to purchasing food items, it stands to reason that items which come from our own city or state are likely to be more fresh than items that must be shipped in hundreds, even thousands, of miles or items that have flown across the ocean.
Purchasing locally also means that you know a bit more about quality control; you know that certain foods have been grown or refined in a way that meets stringent United States requirements. When purchasing food from out of the country it can be difficult to know the quality of the water, the types of pesticides or other things which can impact the healthfulness of the food. When you buy locally it also means that you minimize the transportation costs associated with your goods; certainly it takes less gas, and thus puts fewer green house emissions into the air, to drive a bushel of apples from town to town than across the nation or globe. Despite these true advantages, buying local is not always the silver bullet to an improved economy and environmentally friendliness that some people like to think.
Think Responsibly It might be surprising to read, but buying local does actually have some possible disadvantages. First it is important to understand that just because something is locally made or grown does not mean that it is environmentally friendly. If equipment or supplies have to be shipped in to create the product, that can offset any benefit of creating or growing the product locally.
Energy and efficiency can be concerns as well, leading to more disadvantages to local business. Specifically, some areas of the country have more developed alternative energy sources, such as wind power and solar power. Local farms and manufacturers cannot always take advantage of this green energy, but other producers may be able to, making their products more green. Additionally, larger operations can function more effectively, adding to their greenness over small, local farms.
Shopping Green in a Complicated Economic Environment Buying locally can be a great way to encourage small business and promote economic growth in our own communities. However, buying locally is not always the perfect solution; it is not even always the greenest solution. Think responsibly before you make the decision!