Supporting grassroots community development has always been something I have been very passionate about. As Social Media Team Leader for Oikocredit, I research, read, and write about these developmental issues and how we can support locally based microfinance organizations. For example, Oikocredit also uses employees on the ground so not only can we can hear directly from the community we are in, but also employ locally. These kinds of efforts are all a part of our mission to foster sustainable and economic development while building stronger communities.
However, my passion for grassroots community development doesn’t just stay in the office. In my day-to-day life, I strive to work within my local community to make it a better place or everyone to live in. One way I do this is by trying to strengthen my local economy as a consumer, so the community will become financially stronger. My favorite way to do this is through shopping locally.
There are many benefits that arise from shopping local, including the boost to one’s local economy. Local shops are much more tangibly tied to the local community in comparison to bigger chain stores. More people are employed by these local shops, and tend to make better wages than the big chain store counterparts. In addition, local store proportionately tend to give back to local community organizations or charities at a much higher rate than chain stores. For example, a study that was conducted in Austin, Texas showed that for 100 dollars spent at a local bookstore, 45 of those dollars went back into the local economy. Compare that to the local Borders, which only put $13 back into the local economy.
There’s also a perception that shopping local means more expensive products and limited selection. If you shop at your local grocery store, then you aren’t going to be able to buy your favorite products for the convenient price you would at a large chain store right outside of the town limits. This assumption, however, isn’t always true. In the neighborhood my mother lives in, there is a small, locally run grocery store that my mother frequently likes to visit. They have almost everything my mother needs for every day life. Sometimes she does have to go to a large grocery chain to find a certain item, but she likes shopping at her local store because they have great selections and competitive prices in order to keep up with the market, so that they are not only turning a profit but being a reliable source of goods for shoppers.
Another side effect of shopping local is that it leaves less of an environmental footprint. A lot of local shops tend to also buy food locally, which means the goods don’t travel as far, which in return has less of an impact on the environment. Not to mention, many local shops set up in town or city centers, which means that less people have to drive and more can use public transportation, and who doesn’t love saving money on gas? Let alone the positive impact that ride-sharing and using public transportation has on the environment.
Perhaps the best thing about buying local is that when you do, you build community. So much of the experience of shopping local is the personal exchange that happens between you and your fellow community members. And in the process, you are helping the economy grow and creating a better community
So, next time you want a cup of joe in the morning, why don’t you try the local coffee shop instead of that big name chain? Or go to a small grocer instead of the usual superstore? Not only are you going to be able to find some awesome new places, you’ll also be giving to your community and helping it grow.