We’ve all heard of “buying local,” but we’re suggesting a larger role for all of us: by thinking local we can make choices that have dramatic impact on our local communities, economies, and environments. Obviously it’s rarely possible to buy everything we need from local independent businesses—I’m writing this on a non-locally produced computer and will soon drive to Gardiner’s transfer station in a non-locally produced vehicle—but by first thinking locally we can maximize the impact of our daily actions and purchasing decisions.
So, what does “local” mean? Proximity is one factor. If you need something, start in Gardiner first. If it’s not available in Gardiner, think New Paltz or Walden. And if you have to go as far as Poughkeepsie or Kingston, consider the other factor: who owns the business you are considering doing business with? Does the majority of the ownership reside in the Hudson Valley? With a little thought we can get the majority of our needs met locally. Many local businesses have websites; supporting them with an internet purchase is acceptable, too.
The goal is to maximize the potential of local businesses, and transfer market share (business, government, and consumer purchases) from non-locally owned businesses to local, independently-owned businesses. Nations import goods and services, but so do communities and regions. In addition to increased self-reliance there are many economic and environmental benefits when a community reduces its imports.
As large companies struggle during this time of economic turmoil, independent businesses will be our future in terms of new job creation and innovation. And, unlike a homogenized Anyplace, USA, a community with vibrant independent businesses retains its character as a great place to live and visit.
Confused about how to get started? It’s simple: support your neighbor before you support a stranger from China or Arkansas. We all eat, so check out the local food article on this page. Locally produced food is a great place to start. Remember, none of us is perfect with our local purchasing. The point is to gradually develop the habit of trying to find it nearby first.
Additional resources: “Think Local First” a trademarked term developed by BALLE (Business Alliance for Local Living Economies), a national network of networks. It educates consumers about the economic and social ad-vantages that independent and local businesses bring to a community. Visit www.livingeconomies.org. The Sustainable Business Xchange (the regional Hudson Valley Balle Network) visit www.sustainablebusinessxchange.org