Sustainable Living: Buy local

By Shawn Dell Joyce

“Think local for a stronger economy!”

Recently, we had a day where local merchants encouraged people to spend $25 at a local business. While that may seem like a small gesture, if we all do it, and make a habit of it, we could end the recession in the Wallkill Valley.

Economist Michael Shuman suggests that if every family spent just ten percent of its income at local businesses, it could add up to an infusion of millions of dollars into the local economy.  Where this happens, communities tend to have a higher quality of life, lower crime rates, and a friendlier, more neighborly attitude.

Local businesses are not shipping goods over thousands of miles and paying the higher fuel costs, also they tend to bank local, advertise in local papers, purchase local, use local contractors, and pay good wages and benefits to local people. That keeps money bouncing around longer in the local community. Each time that money passes through another pair of local hands, it improves the local economy a little more.

“About 42 percent of our economy is “place based” or created through small, locally-owned businesses,” notes Economist and author Michael Shuman. He estimates that we could expand this figure to 70 percent or more, by localizing some of our main expenditures. In the process, we would boost our local economy, and save money at the same time.

—–Local Food-Most of our urban areas are surrounded by farms that produce lots of local foods, that are shipped thousands of miles away. Ironically, 75 percent of fresh apples eaten in New York City come from Washington State, and foreign countries. Meanwhile, our farms grow 10 times more apples than the Big Apple consumes. If we all started eating closer to home; say within a 100 mile radius, eating in season, and lower on the food chain, we could localize our food system.

—–Local Electricity-The electricity for our houses and businesses most often flows through hundreds of miles of power lines from the source to our home. Imagine if cul-de-sac residents teamed up and purchased a communal wind turbine, or set up solar panels on all the southern-facing garage roofs. We could create a series of small-scale energy providers that could potentially meet their own power needs.

In Montgomery, a Taylor Biomass has found a way to generate electricity from bagged household garbage.  This would fill a huge leak in our local economy replacing fossil fuels with locally-generated electricity.

—–Suburban Renewal-If we relocalized our towns so that residents could walk to the farmer’s market, hardware store, library, and post office all in the same area, we wouldn’t have to drive so much. Driving is expensive, and environmentally devastating. When you walk or bicycle, you go slower, appreciate the architecture and history, wave to the neighbors, and possibly engage in conversation. This kind of walkable downtown encourages local spending and reinforces community bonds.

—–Business to Business-Part of what my business; The Wallkill River School does, is encourage our clientele to frequent other businesses. An example: We partner with Wildfire Grill to provide appetizers at our monthly receptions in exchange for advertising on our class brochures, and encouraging our reception guests to go for dinner at this fine local restaurant. This keeps the 50-75 people who come to our receptions in Montgomery spending money at more local places. When the tide comes in, all boats float!

Shawn Dell Joyce is an award-winning columnist and founder of the Wallkill River School in Montgomery.


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