By Adrienne Suhm
In a world of limitless product offerings, weekly discounts, and free shipping direct to your door, it can be easy to satisfy your shopping needs entirely through mass retailers. However, this approach gives little regard to the origins of each purchase and the ecological footprint involved with manufacturing and delivering merchandise. By contrast, there are a number of compelling reasons to consider purchasing from local artisans, a category that includes small business owners, craftspeople, or producers within your own community and economy. With 17.3% of the American population working for a small business that involves 19 or fewer employees, it is extremely likely that these vendors are right in your backyard and make a viable alternative to larger firms for most products and services. The next time you are ready to make a purchase, whether it be food, homegoods, clothing, or gifts, take a moment to consider these five motivations for shopping local.
Local products typically include more components manufactured in the region, meaning that the overall ecological footprint of the item is smaller. In the United States alone, $2.2 trillion worth of goods are transported and shipped each year, resulting in 1.1 billion gallons of fuel burned and 1 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide released into the atmosphere as a result of trade alone. Independent artisans cut down on industrial waste through every stage of the value chain simply through proximity to your home.
If your purchases include food from a local farmer’s market or grocery store, you will benefit from seasonal options that support the livelihood of local farmers and limit the emissions from shipping out-of-season food over long distances. Local food is native to your area and has spent less time traveling from farm to table, resulting in more nutrients and fewer unhealthy preservatives.
Circulate money in the local economy and support local entrepreneurs.
It may seem obvious, but a multitude of research suggests that spending money locally results in more dollars circulating through the local economy. Spending $100 at a local independent business will result in $68 of local economic activity, as compared with only $48 when the same amount of money is spent at a big box store. On average, money spent at a local business generates 3.5 times more wealth for the local economy than money spent in chain stores. Furthermore, business owners in your area are also active members of the community, meaning that they can immediately reinvest their earnings to continue supporting the local economy. Through their taxes, everyday purchases, and donations, your money will continue serving the community.
Receive personalized customer service and shop smarter.
Small business-owners have incredible knowledge and pride about the products they source or services they provide. Not only are staff likely to give you personal time and attention as you explore their stores, they also have information on where specific items are sourced, and may even know their suppliers personally. While it is often difficult to find specific details about purchases from a major retailer, a local vendor will know where products come from and who manufactures them, as he or she curates a smaller, specialty collection of inventory. Service providers such as spa owners and restauranteurs can also provide valuable insight on their services, allowing you to choose sustainably and ethically while remaining close to home. As an added bonus, when you become a repeat customer at a local shop, you may receive future discounts or free items as a result of your loyalty.
Find unique products.
Step into a local bookshop or toy store, and you are bound to find distinctive goods that reflect your personality and serve as a conversation piece. Small businesses cater to a local customer base with specific needs by offering different products from large-scale retailers.
Local goods and services make ideal gifts, as they are deeply personal and often hold some connection to the region they are located in. If you aren’t sure of what to buy, check whether your community offers gift cards to local vendors: individual stores usually have a gift card system, and in some neighborhoods, a group of businesses will collaborate to provide multi-store gift cards.
Help to build the community.
Simply put, vibrant communities are built on a variety of local businesses rather than a few international retail outlets. These businesses are created by family, friends, and co-workers who are also active participants in the area. Shops also hold community-building events: for example, local bookstores will often host authors from the area, giving you an opportunity to explore and support local artists and creators. Experiencing your local culture is a valuable way to become more connected with the community and meet new people.
Take a look at a few of the local artisanal brands we carry:
SCOSHA founder Scosha Woolridge was prompted to create her Signature Bracelet after selling handmade bracelets in Brazilian night markets. Crafted by an in-house production team in Brooklyn, NY, each bracelet is completely unique and features weaving techniques from exotic locations such as India, Thailand, or Turkey. In 2017, the brand won the Brooklyn Chamber of Commerce’s Brooklyn Made Award, reinforcing its impact on local economic development and community.
Modern Weaving’s collection of jewelry and handbags is designed and produced in Los Angeles by founder Tiffani Anne Williams and her team. As a self-taught ceramicist, Williams brings a tactile aesthetic to her handcrafted accessories. Each design is intended to reduce unnecessary waste in the production process and involves quality materials including metal, resin, acrylic, and porcelain sourced from trusted suppliers.
Since creating her first clothing line in 2012, Shaina Mote has designed, developed, and handmade sustainable apparel in Los Angeles. Mote and her team work with a small group of American craftsmen to ensure that all products are local and fairly produced. Materials are carefully curated for high quality and long-term wear to create essential pieces for any wardrobe.