Keep It Local
By supporting local, independent businesses you are keeping money in your local community, giving it more chance to thrive and you’re helping local people keep secure jobs. What’s more, local businesses want the best result for you, not for shareholders. They want you to be happy and to keep your relationship strong, so they will provide you with better quality/fresher products as opposed to a large chain who try to cut corners at every opportunity to maximise profits for shareholder payouts.
Supporting local businesses doesn’t have to be just using them. Espousing their virtues to others can also be of great help by encouraging others to use them as well!
When To Not Go Local
Ok, it’s not always as simple as it seems. Supporting your local, specifically independent, businesses is invariably going to be a good thing. When it comes to food, however, opting for local produce does have some caveats. In general a lot more greenhouse gases are accounted for in the farming of a food than in its transport.
If anything is transported by air then its carbon footprint is going to be a problem. But travel via boat and on roads is less of an issue. Produce that has been grown in natural sunlight far away and transported via boat and/or roads can have less impact than produce from an energy-intense hothouses within a few miles. Take tomatoes: It is a lot more sustainable to buy them shipped from a sunny part of the world than from a local energy-intensive hothouse out of season.
As a rule of thumb anything that is flown should be avoided at all costs. With no signs on packaging to tell you whether it has or not the only way to work this out is to look at the country of origin and ask yourself if it’s the sort of food that would survive the journey by ship. Oranges and bananas are examples of foods that probably would. Asparagus, grapes and strawberries probably wouldn’t. The answer? Buy local asparagus when it is in season. Don’t buy local strawberries in winter.
Being active in your local community is one of the most powerful political actions you can take. Our existing political system and the seeming lack of impact we can make on it can leave us feeling disenfranchised and hopeless. Being actively involved in your local community and having a say on what goes on can restore that hope and reinvigorate your belief in the ability to make positive change.
You might not be interested in ‘politics’ per se, but just being involved in a local community group is what I mean by local politics. By being connected to the community you’re actively shaping it.
If you are interested in local government there are some fantastic resources on how to work positively in that sphere. None more-so than Flatpack Democracy and Flatpack Democracy 2.0 by Peter MacFadyen and other residents of Frome who took over their local council and effected a whole host of positive change.
Check out Local Futures who raise awareness about the power of ‘going local’ as a key strategy for restoring ecological, social and spiritual wellbeing. Their video, ‘LOCAL: A Story Of Hope’, puts it succinctly.
Watch their award-winning film, ‘The Economics of Happiness’, which spells out the social, spiritual, and ecological costs of today’s global economy while highlighting the multiple benefits of economic localisation. It showcases steps people are taking worldwide to rebuild their local economies and communities. Perhaps some of these will inspire you to do similar in your community.
Interactive Local Map
You can try Big Barn’s interactive map to see local outlets in the area you’re in, but be aware that only outlets who can afford to pay a not unsubstantial fee to be part of the map are listed, therefore a lot of the smaller, local outlets miss out. I’ve also seen a fair few chains on there, so it’s not perfect.
In There Is No Planet B, Mike Berners-Lee hits the nail on the head with this part of his wish list that he says everyone needs to cultivate as best they can:
“Appreciation of the simple, small and local. This skill is the art of slowing down, and savouring the people and things around us. This is learning a different strategy for achieving a sense of wonder about the world – to notice what we have already, rather than numbing ourselves with ever increasing overload of bigger, faster, newer and wilder stuff. This is the skill of simple gratitude. It is also an essential antidote to the great acceleration of which we are all currently part. This is the thinking skill that will allow us to be truly content not to grow the things that we know will harm us and every other sentient being. Since we can no longer, on the whole, expand our activities, we need to get better at appreciating what we already have in front of our noses. There is no point having more, doing more, and flying further if we don’t even notice any of it properly. This is the skill that will allow us to become satiated. This is the skill that will allow us to truly feel that ‘enough can be enough’.”