How well do you know your local butcher, baker, or candlestick maker? I realize that local candlestick makers are less prevalent than they use to be, but if you had one in your community they would be just as important as your other local merchants. We have all heard that shopping local is important to the economy and the environment, but do we know exactly why? The tentacles of this decision, to keep your money in the community spread out farther, and reap more benefits, than you can ever imagine.
Spending money at local businesses will keep more money in the communities we reside in. Firstly, this happens by maintaining the existing employment of their workers and, with growth, creating new jobs. Employment levels are always a key factor in the economic evaluations of any territory under scrutiny. Secondly, there is a good chance that businesses employ people that reside in the same community. These employees, as well as the small business owners, are more likely to spend their money closer to home, than in other communities.
In comparison to large, big-box stores, small businesses tend to employ more people per unit of sale. Have you ever walked through a huge national chain store and found it difficult to locate someone to assist you? Their annual sales are massive, but yet per dollar, fewer people are needed to generate this income.
Another major impact that large national chain stores have made upon us, is the look of our neighbourhoods. Have you ever traveled from city to city lately and notice that many areas are beginning to look identical? The same brand name stores are dotted everywhere, and many of them in very similar groupings. This has not only taken away from small businesses succeeding but is also diminishing the uniqueness of each community. This in turn affects the local tourism industry as well.
For the most part, small businesses are more flexible at fulfilling our needs. They have the resources to provide the extra bit of service we may require, or the ability to bring in products that are out of the ordinary that we may desire. Large chain stores are more likely to be bound to contracts or procedures that keep their product offerings comparable.
Another fact to consider when choosing to shop local is the impact on the environment. This is focusing on the source of the products being offered rather than the type of ownership of the business. The less distance these products have to travel before coming in contact with the end consumer, usually means the less harm to the environment because of reduced transportation and packaging needed.
When considering fresh produce, one also should realize that many items are picked before they are fully ripe, so that they can ripen during transport. Fresh, direct, and fully ripe produce from the farm is always a better option for ultimate flavour and texture.
There is also a better chance that small local businesses will support fundraising and charities in the communities they are in. They are not bound to decision making rules set out by a corporate main office – they ARE the corporate office.
With all of this said however, there is a cost factor that comes into play with the decision to support our local merchants. The relevant benefits must far outweigh the costs involved, but also we need to be able to literally afford the decision to shop local. If the budget for your household is holding your purse strings ransom, then you can only do what you can afford to do. Every argument I have given you here may make perfect sense, and it is not my intention to make you feel guilty if you cannot sustain these ideas one hundred percent. Awareness is my objective here. The more knowledgeable and aware we are, the better we can adapt our actions within our means. Get informed about the happenings and discussions in your communities. Search out social media pages that are dedicated to your area and follow (or start) discussions about where to shop and the products/services being offered. Please keep in mind that I am not suggesting that it always costs more to shop local; in fact, in many occasions, it may cost less. The more investigative work you do, the more mindful of this you will become. Every community, and the products/services being offered within, are different.
Chef Dez is a Chef, Writer, & Culinary Instructor. Visit him at www.chefdez.com
Write to him at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 2674, Abbotsford, BC V2T 6R4