With the abundance of online stores with a global presence, unlimited selections, and relatively low shipping costs, it’s easy to shop for whatever you need without ever leaving the house. The trouble is, relying on global corporations like these can have a negative impact on the environment—as well as the local economy. For this reason, the “shop local” movement has gained popularity.
As you likely already know, it’s better to shop local—but you might not realize just how many benefits there are to shopping locally, or the best way to go about building the habit.
Why Shop Local?
So what are the benefits of shopping local?
- Local people and local knowledge. Almost any business, from florists to law firms, is going to better serve your local population because they have local knowledge. They understand the demographics of your town, the laws and regulations of your area, and special considerations that global companies just won’t have access to. This ensures a level of personalized service that can’t be rivaled.
- Fuel costs during transportation. When you purchase groceries from a supermarket, there’s no telling how far those food items had to travel to get to your location. In some cases, the fuel and shipping costs far exceed the costs of harvesting the food. All this fuel expenditure also has an environmental impact. Shopping locally minimizes this shipping impact.
- Packaging impact. Though not always a rule, most local goods have less packaging than goods shipped vast distances; this is because local companies don’t have to protect their goods as much or as long as their global competitors. Local businesses may also be more inclined to offer foods and other products in their natural state.
- Local spending and local impact. Shopping locally is also good for your local economy. You’ll keep your income in the city, encouraging further economic development in your surroundings. Your money will support more jobs, and may support other entrepreneurs to create their own local businesses, driving the economy even further.
- Convenience (and more fuel costs). If you purchase something online, it may take days to weeks for it to make its way to your door. If you want to shop at the supermarket, you may have to drive out of your way to get there. Shopping locally introduces you to the stores and markets in your neighborhood, allowing you to walk or bike to run your errands and cutting down on the time it takes to finish them. Incidentally, you’ll be able to reduce your carbon footprint even further.
- Transparency. Though not always the case, most local businesses will offer more transparency than their global counterparts. You’ll be able to meet the farmer who grew your crops, or the artist who crafted your rug. This lets you understand the true nature and impact of all the goods and services you purchase, which will allow you to make more informed, less environmentally impactful decisions.
- Sustainability. Though there are plenty of global corporations with sustainability initiatives in place, in general, local businesses tend to be more sustainable than their global counterparts. They simply don’t have the footprint, reach, or resources necessary to exploit the environment (or their employees) destructively.
How to Make the Transition
If you’re used to buying things online or from big box stores, here are a few tips to make the transition:
- Get recommendations. If you have friends or family who are already committed to shopping local, ask them for recommendations. They’ll likely list some of their favorite stores for food, clothing, and other items. Referrals are a common way for local businesses to grow.
- Start with one store. You don’t have to switch to doing all your shopping with local businesses, nor do you have to do it all at once. Find one store you like which offers products you need, and start shopping there instead of at a less sustainable counterpart.
- Challenge yourself. The benefits of shopping locally aren’t always instant or obvious, so you may have to challenge yourself to get started. Set goals for what percentage of your spending you’d like to do locally, or strive to discover one new store per week.
When you shop local you might have to pay a slightly higher price, or face a slightly smaller selection of goods, but the good you’ll do for the environment and your community far outweigh those negligible costs. Be a part of the local shopping revolution, and you’ll almost instantly feel the impact you’re making.
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