Wednesday, 1 April 2009

The Importance of Living Locally

Melinda Briana Epler, One Green Generation

The Benefits Of Supporting A Local Economy

As the economy ebbs and flows - but mostly ebbs - many economists, politicians, bankers, and people like you and I are taking a step back to figure out not only how to survive this economic downturn, but also how to prevent being hit so hard in the future. There is a lot of talk about Wall Street versus Main Street, and where our stimulus money to should go, where our concentration of effort should lie.

In my neighborhood, I see businesses struggling. I see new condominium complexes empty. I see architects, planners, and restaurants closing their doors for good. And low-overhead businesses like "check cashing" moving into their place. It is a sad thing to see.

In the larger economy, for example, I see banks that made big mistakes with credit closing their doors, or being propped up by our tax money. Yet the local and regional banks that had better credit screening are doing ok. And that makes me think the larger companies were too out of touch with their customers and what was happening locally.

We live in a global system and I'm not saying we need to move completely from a global to a local economy, but it is, I think, worth moving a lot closer toward a local economic system. For one thing, I as a consumer have more control and more say over what happens in my neighborhood. My dollar means more to my local co-op than it does to a national grocery store chain. And as such, that local co-op works harder to provide the things I want. And they in turn support the local suppliers that bring high quality, seasonal items to their store.

Local businesses also tend to employ local workers, which also helps to bolster the local economy. Additionally, they are more likely to donate goods, services, and funds to local non-profits that benefit the local community.

This local economic system creates a positive feedback loop that allows each of us to have more control of what we buy and sell, and it keeps money going through our local economy. Studies have shown for every $100 spent at a global business, $14 remains in the local economy; where at a local business, $45 remains in the local economy. Three times as many dollars stay in our local economic system, to help make it more robust - even in tough global economic times.

The Importance Of Living Locally

There are many books and articles written about this subject - I've just scratched the surface here, but I wanted to move on, because living locally is not just about buying locally. For a community to sustain itself, we all need to become active in our communities.

Living Locally includes:
  1. Participating in local voting and politics,
  2. Gathering like-minded folks together to become more powerful - both culturally and politically,
  3. Working with our local schools to make them better,
  4. Helping those who are less well off financially or emotionally than we are,
  5. Supporting local businesses and services,
  6. Participating in local transportation systems,
  7. Utilizing the benefits of local programs provided for us,
  8. Rallying others to live locally - by word of mouth, writing, inspiring with our own actions,
  9. Getting to know our neighborhoods by becoming a part of them - walking, biking, noticing our surroundings, saying hello, being neighborly, attending events, and more,
  10. Working locally if you can,
  11. Volunteering locally,
  12. Participating in local economic systems like: bartering/trading, garage sales, giving things away to neighbors and local organizations that need them, and utilizing local currency systems if your neighborhood has them,
  13. Using, helping take care of, and helping increase the number of local parks and other green spaces,
  14. Supporting local farms and helping make them become more sustainable,
  15. If you own a local business, participating locally in these same ways - and any other way you can - and work in cooperation with other local businesses to your mutual benefit.
All of these steps create a higher quality of life for you and I, as they buffer us from global economic and climactic fluctuations.

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