Love What's Local to Save the World in 2018

by - Saturday, December 30, 2017

Turning the page on a fresh year gives us a brand new opportunity to be a better version of ourselves. That's pretty exciting, and it is the perfect opportunity to start making some eco-friendly changes. It's the kind of thing we all want to do, especially after the ecological terrors of 2017, but it can feel impossible to know where to start. That's where these posts come in.

Becoming eco-friendly seems like a huge, daunting commitment, but you can actually make a huge POSITIVE impact on the world just by making some easy small changes. New Year's Resolutions can be all about changing habits, so why not stick with the junk food and make the world better instead?

small town franklin, pa courthouse buy local

2. Learning to Love What is Local

Buying local has a very specific reputation. A bearded hipster buying poems and honey out of mason jars maybe? Buying American has specific connotations as well- someone with a booby silhouette on his mudflaps who votes for Trump and hates immigrants.

Both are completely untrue. Buying American and buying local should and can be a totally mainstream way to live life. These simple principles fit all sorts of ideologies and do all kinds of good. They feel like a thing that is nice when it happens, but you really have to be hardcore to go out of your way for.

Want to save the world in 2017? Buy Local. Buy American. Not when it jumps out at you. Not just by accident. But intentionally and often. This can be shopping at local stores, eating at local restaurants, buying from companies that manufacture nearby, or investing in local farming and produce. It can be going to the locally-owned movie theater or going to the local park or coffee place. It can be shopping on Etsy instead of Target. It can be so many things.

How it's Good for You

Living in healthy communities is incredibly important for our health and state of mind. W. H. Auden called it topophilia- love of the place you live in. In this globalized world, we can see places as interchangeable, but your life will be happier if you love and take care of the place where you live. The wellbeing of your community directly contributes to your own happiness. You can read a great article here about how our cities, communities, and environments directly contributes to our happiness.

Ok, easy enough. Investing in our communities is investing in our own happiness. But what does investing look like? First, we need to get involved and invest our time. Second, we need to stop sending our money away and fiscally invest in our communities.

No one can solve your community's problems like you can, because no one outside of your community can understand those problems like its residents do. The whole world is filled with complex problems, and it might feel overwhelming. The best place to start is always your own backyard.

I don't even want to tell you how often I have heard someone complain how there are no businesses in their small town or neighborhood, then gone on to tell me they didn't buy from a local business because they could get it cheaper at Walmart. I am from a place where business after business has left, and I understand the fear and frustration of living in a community that is dying. But no amount of "Make America Great Again" can help you if you are sending every dollar you make off to some billionaire instead of investing where you live.

Yes, it is cheaper at Walmart, but what is the true cost? When you send your money away to the Waltons, it is NEVER coming back to your community. Ever.

You can say somebody should come and help your local economy, but you screw over your own community every time you choose to send your money elsewhere. Over and over again.

There is no "somebody should." If you are saying "somebody should" then you should. If somebody should invest in your local economy in 2018, one of those somebodies can be you. That means letting go of big chains, of places like Walmart, of getting the cheap deal. Let those places be last resorts instead of first stops. Enjoy the uniqueness of where you live. Invest that time making things better, but think about how to keep your money where you live (and not in the Walton money gardens).

If you have to get it new (or it's food), find it local. If you can't find it local, find it American. If you can't find it American, get it used. It will make you feel happier about what you buy if you are using your money to contribute to the wellbeing of where you live and support your community members.

How it's Great for the Environment

Now, why is buying local better for the environment? First and foremost, the further you and your stuff travels, the more fossil fuels it burns through. Only 10% of what most Americans buy is made in America. That means 90% of your possessions are world travelers. If you buy 100 things, you have supported 90 trips across the globe. That's a lot of fuel.

Secondly, if you invest in companies that are investing in their communities, you are much more likely to keep your money where you live. To take care of the people where you live. Capitalism is designed to alienate us from the labor (and the waste) of our stuff. The more you prioritize the local, the more you actually know and appreciate about how something was made. You stop buying disposable junk when you know the hands that made your stuff.

If you care about ethics or how other human beings are treated (so hopefully, all Christians at the very least), buying local or American tells companies that you will not support how badly they treat other human beings. This is more important than we can comprehend, because this weight pulls on our Earth and our psyches.We hear again and again how incredibly poor conditions and compensation are for workers who are making our "Made in Elsewhere" clothing or toys or food. These are other human beings, with mothers and families and needs. But they are so far away from us, we just see "Made in China" tag and don't think of the mistreated person behind it.

So, shopping local makes your community healthier, your life happier, and it cuts down on your fossil fuel usage and overall waste.

How to Do It

Buying local is anything but mainstream, and it may seem like a pretty big "little" resolution, but trust me. It's doable. If this blog makes one argument with all of its shopping lits and links, it says that most things are still available made in America.

The more investment we feel in our own communities, the better we take care of them. We shouldn't just be buying locally, we should be aware of what's going on locally. What can we be making better locally? Don't like how it is where you are? The good thing is that the more local you are, the bigger a fish you are. So make a positive splash.

Want to change the world this year? Start small. Start local. These are my best little local resolutions. Let's do this.

Give up your Chains

This is SUCH a fun resolution. Give up chain restaurants for the year, and every time you go out to eat, try a locally-owned place instead. Another way to do it? You can only go to a chain restaurant once for the whole year, so you have to really think about when that would be. Get on Yelp and try everything in the top 30. Revisit something you know has changed hands.

Explore Local Food

 Sites like this one give you information on what produce is in season in what locale. You can find cool Etsy seasonal charts as well- Jessica Haas have my favorite ones.  Do the research and find out what is grown near you. Then use that.

Most communities, even the small ones, have local grocers. My hometown of 4,000 has one, and it is awesome. Start your grocery shopping there. What is there and how can you use it? This is a cool way to be inspired, and you can support more local growers. Look into Co-op or CSA boxes too.

Best the 10%

The average American buys only 10% American goods. Pick a happier, higher percentage. You can buy American-made for SO MANY THINGS. I have List Over List to help you. Truly, you could pick 100% and still be successful, but even 30% is huge. Set a high bar for yourself, and see every purchase as a fun challenge (or a trip to the secondhand store).

Pick 3

Think of the things you buy the absolute most. What 3 things do you always buy at the grocery store? Can you find out exactly where they come from? How about ways to recycle their packaging? By greening (and localizing) your most common purchases, you can maximize your positive impact without spending your whole life reading about this stuff (though we love your company here).

Take a Second

Before you hit "buy," read up first. Always read the tags! This blog is all about letting you know other options available, so no one ever has to say "Everything is made in China" again. Seriously, NOT TRUE. If you need something from your house, try the wedding registry. For baby stuff, I have a baby registry filled with Made in America and eco-friendly baby goodies. The information is out there. Just resolve to check up when you can!

Resolve to always try before you buy. Keep a list on your phone of things you want to buy and search them on here. I promise you, you will be surprised.

Make a Local Love List

 I write a series on 5 local businesses and companies people love where they are at. Can you make that list off the top of your head? Then I have a mission for you! Let 2018 be the year. Resolve to explore all the wonderfulness that is near you.

Join (or Start) a Buy Nothing Group

If you live in a city, joining a Buy Nothing group is one of the best ways to connect with your neighbors, save money, and share with them. If you live in a small town, it is a great way to support each other and save money. If your neighborhood or town doesn't have a Buy Nothing Group, one of the greatest things you could do in 2018 is get one started. Seriously. It is that important. If you want to learn more about the Buy Nothing Project (and see whether you have one), check here.

To Go Bigger- Make One Big Change in Your Little Corner

There are still so many cities and communities out there that don't realize their natural environment is their greatest asset. They still use plastic bags. They don't have recycling.  You may live in one of those places. Go big and do something to protect the environment right where you live. 

Annoyed that your city doesn't offer recycling? Organize and do something. Frustrated that your horrible state just outlawed outlawing plastics (I'm looking at you Michigan), time to get some grassroots boycotts going NOW. Knowing what is going on is your basic responsibility as a citizen where you are. Want to up your resolution this year? Change something. Start small and make big waves.

Woo! I am excited about this one. What are you going to buy local this year? If you missed the first set of resolutions, read up on how to reduce your meat intake in 2018!

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