Shopping small and supporting local businesses boosts the economy and is good for the environment in a variety of ways. It also helps build a stronger fabric of connections with the community and makes our neighborhoods and towns more resilient. Read on for more about why it’s important to prioritize shopping locally where it’s available.
We moved into our current town six years ago. Shortly after moving in, I noticed a cute shopping center not far from where we lived. For years, I drove past the shops, sometimes almost daily, and never stopped in. I was always curious, but apparently never curious enough to check it out.
A couple of years ago, a friend passed on a recommendation mentioning I would probably like one of the stores in this small shopping center. I started following this company, Arden and James, on Instagram. My friend was right. I loved their bags, wallets, and other accessories.
However, I never really needed a new bag or wallet, and I try not to buy things just for the sake of purchasing them. I kept Arden and James on my radar and recently saw the owner post about a set of handmade and hand-painted business card holders she added to her collection. I loved it, and I was in the market for a new business card holder because my current one broke.
Finally, I messaged the owner on Instagram to inquire about purchasing one of the business card holders she shared. She dropped it off at the shop, and I made my way into our local quaint shopping center after admiring it from afar for so many years.
Isn’t this spot adorable? I love that it’s so unique and different from many of the standard strip malls that line our highways and byways. Supporting our local artisans and shop owners is a great way to boost our local economies and also take better care of our environment.
Since that initial visit, I’ve been back to the little shopping center several times, most notably for delicious scones from the new bakery, Oso Sweet. The lemon blueberry ones are my favorite, but you can’t go wrong with any of the flavors. It’s a great place to meet up with others in the community when I do things like interview local business owners for articles this feature on a specialty food company and this gem about an amazing local flower farm.
In addition to the economic and environmental benefits of shopping locally, there’s a satisfying feeling walking down the cute cobblestone walkway to the restored barn bakery that you just can’t get grabbing a muffin from the grocery store bakery counter or donut from that notable chain on which American runs. (If you live on the East Coast you know exactly what I’m talking about – and you probably have several within a stupid silly distance from your home).
Whether it’s the holiday shopping season or just a lazy Sunday morning in search of a cup of coffee, consider supporting your local community businesses and service providers. It feels good, makes your community stronger, and proves better for the planet.
9 Environmental and Economic Reasons To Support Local Businesses
Previously, I shared a dozen ways to avoid using Amazon. Supporting our local artisans and business owners is among the many ways to reduce our reliance on Amazon and a wonderful way to support our neighbors and build a more diverse and robust economy. Here are 9 environmental and economic reasons to support local businesses.
Local Spending Keeps More Money In The Local Economy
Money spent at local businesses remains in the local economy at a far greater rate than money spent at large big box stores, retail chains, and other multinational corporations. According to American Independent Business Alliance, local companies return nearly three times as much value back into the economy as their national chain counterparts. That’s a lot more money coming back to the community instead of being sent off to large corporate offices and shareholders outside the area. Large companies play important roles in our global economy, but our local communities thrive when we keep the money flowing close to home.
Local Spending Increases Velocity of Money
The velocity of money is the speed at which money moves through an economy. Higher velocity is generally good because it represents more people who have “earned” that money and benefited from whatever revenue, wares, or services to which it related.
Because money spent in local businesses stays close to home, it often has faster velocity within the community as well. More of the money you spend supporting local businesses goes back to the community to buy local supplies, pay local wages, use local professional services, and support local events and community organizations.
Local Businesses Support Community Development and Organizations
Local businesses benefit from strong community and active civic engagement of residents and other local organizations. Local business owners tend to be more engaged members of the community themselves than owners and managers of most large companies (who often don’t live in the area). Thus, local businesses tend to support community development activities and community organizations at a higher rate than large companies.
For example, we’ve seen local businesses support uniform purchases for sports teams, t-shirt purchases for school events, fundraising events for our school PTO, and so much more. The tendency for local business owners to be more engaged citizens within the local community is widespread and common in just about every community. Thus, when we support local businesses, we help them keep local money and business donations in our neighborhoods funding our important local organizations.
Local Business Are More Flexible and Agile
As companies grow, they often lose their agility. They are less equipped to make quick changes to respond to new circumstances or changes in the local markets. We saw this at the beginning of the pandemic a few years ago. Food companies struggled to keep grocery store shelves full because they couldn’t keep up with the changing customer habits and logistical dilemmas. We see this even more clearly as broad cultural shifts occur and multinational companies take years to catch up to consumer preferences.
Meanwhile, in our community, for example, local restaurants shifted their business models quite quickly to both replace revenue streams and fill gaps in the market. Many restaurants that weren’t using their bulk supplies to feed a full restaurant repackaged and sold raw ingredients in sizes appropriate for families to use at home.
These restaurants were able to generate some income despite empty dining rooms, help local residents keep their cabinets full, and reduce the waste of ingredients that might otherwise have gone bad. They flipped their business models in sometimes just a few days or weeks, and they change right back to feeding in their dining room as regulations allow.
Local Business Strengthens Local Economic Resiliency
This agility also leads to greater resilience of a market. Local and small businesses can change more rapidly to new and unforeseen circumstances. Further, while some small businesses will struggle when markets are tight, a variety of healthy small businesses helps ensure that one failure doesn’t compromise the only retailer in an area. This creates greater resiliency for the community, even if a particular vendor or company can’t withstand the difficult event.
On the other hand, when a community relies on just one big box store or one primary retailer in a particular market, the entire community is beholden to the decisions and welfare of that entity.
Local Businesses Offer Great Customer Service
When offering your support to a local business, you’re much more likely to make a significant impact on that person’s business and livelihood. They rely on each of their customers to pay the bills and put food on their table.
To ensure they retain their customers, local businesses typically make a concerted effort to provide good customer service. Referrals and recurring customers make or break many companies, so you’re likely to get better service from a local, dedicated business owner, who may even become a great resource or friend through repeat business.
Create More Jobs In Your Community
Local businesses create jobs right in your local community. According to research from the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, local, independent businesses create twice as many jobs compared to Amazon for the same amount of revenue. This contributes to keeping money in the local area and helping ensure local residents are employed and engaged members of the community.
Reduce Commutes and Transportation To Work For Local Workers
When residents and neighbors work locally, they also save time, money, and energy commuting to jobs that might otherwise be farther away. Depending on where you live, local jobs might enable neighbors to walk or bike to work instead of drive. They might be able to share one car with their family or take public transportation to work instead of driving their own car. This is beneficial to build better communities and reduce pollution from commuting.
Buy Local Food To Reduce Food Miles
Some food travels a really long distance to get to our tables. Produce and meat, for example, can come from other continents. This results in significant costs and environmental impacts from long-distance transportation, shipping, and storage that could otherwise be avoided by purchasing food from closer to home.
Fresher Produce From Local Farmers & Vendors
Further, food must be picked before it’s ripe in order to survive long-distance travel. Many foods are processed with chemicals to help them last longer and prevent them from rotting. When we buy local food, where available, we get healthier food that has been treated with fewer preservation chemicals and often has more nutrients because we eat it closer to the date it was picked.
Supporting local businesses is great for your community. Our local businesses provide so much value to our neighborhoods and local economies. Further, local economies protect the environment by reducing storage and transportation burdens, building the fabric of our communities, and reducing the strip mall sprawl that can overtake green spaces.
Also, it just feels great to support a local business owner and know they truly care about you spending your hard-earned dollars on their passion. For most local business owners, their company is their life’s work. It’s their sweat and tears, their stress, and their joy. They love sharing it with their neighbors and appreciate it when their neighbors support their work and their families.
Even though it was just a business card holder, I love it so much more than a run-of-the-mill alternative that may have come from Amazon or a big box store. I know who made it, and I know that it was made for me. I know that the owner was excited about the sale. I know that no one else has the same cardholder as me because it’s handmade and hand-painted.
After connecting with the owner, I asked for a second custom-made card holder for my sister to match her up-and-coming start-up company. Not only does she have a piece of my community now, but she also has a business card holder that matches her business brand and was thoughtfully picked out just for her.
There are so many reasons why shopping locally, when possible, is more rewarding, more beneficial for the local economy, and better protects the health of our people and our planet. What is your favorite purchase you’ve made from a local business in your town? How do you support local businesses? I’d love to hear in the comments!