Benefits of shopping local: keeping it close to home
Buying locally produced food and goods benefits you and your community in more ways than you think.
Next time you’re in a grocery store, look around. Everything you see had to come from somewhere to get to where you’re standing. Some things had to travel great distances to reach you. Others came from practically next door — grown or made right in your community.
What you might not realize is that buying the foods and things made closest to home can have a real impact on your health, the health of the environment, and the health of your friends and neighbors.
Local dollars mean local growth
There are some obvious economic reasons to buy items grown or made locally. When you buy food that is farmed locally, or beer that is brewed locally, or soaps and lotions and jams and cookies that are made locally, you’re supporting an entire infrastructure of jobs. You’re supporting growers and suppliers and makers who also happen to be your friends and neighbors. And you’re keeping more money and sales tax revenue in your community — dollars that get reinvested in the form of more jobs and public services for the community as a whole. (Think parks, schools, libraries, teachers, first responders, etc.) It’s estimated that for every $100 spent locally at least $45 stays in the community, according to Think Local Santa Cruz.
Nonprofits win, and the community wins
Nonprofits benefit when local businesses flourish. According to research from SCORE, a nonprofit that advocates for small business communities, local businesses donate 250% more than national competitors to community causes every year.
“Shopping local is a powerful way for people to directly support their community,” says Nikki Patterson, Development Coordinator at Life Lab, a garden-based educational nonprofit in Santa Cruz. She notes that programs like New Leaf Community Markets’ Envirotokens generate thousands of dollars for nonprofits annually, allowing customers to donate their reusable bag credits to support their favorite nonprofits at checkout. “It’s a way of ‘paying it forward’ that benefits everyone,” says Patterson.
Less carbon, better food
There are other reasons to shop from local producers that fan the benefits out to the community even further. One of the biggest is environmental. Buying locally produced food, wine, gifts, and personal care items dramatically reduces the carbon footprint those items carry — simply because they don’t require plane travel or excessive freeway miles to get to you.
Many of the conventional food items sold in grocery stores travel over 1,500 miles to reach your plate. This fuel-intensive, temperature-controlled, long-haul travel contributes to pollution, traffic congestion, and also greater food waste since food that travels long distances tends to go bad sooner.
Buying local produce has a direct effect on the community in terms of reducing the environmental impacts of large-scale food production.
— Forrest Gonsiewski, Vice President of New Leaf Community Markets
“Food that’s grown locally, especially here on the Central Coast, tends to be grown organically, without harmful pesticides that can pollute our air and water.” It also tends to taste better and generally be better for you, he adds. “Produce that is grown close to home is comparatively fresher. And the fresher the food, the more nutrients it contains.”
More choice & creativity
One of the best benefits of shopping locally is supporting small-scale food producers and artisans. By keeping local coffee roasters, bakeries, chocolatiers, breweries, wineries, and makers of home goods and specialty products in business, we support entrepreneurship and creativity right where we live.
Not only is shopping locally an investment in the local economy, it’s an investment in the community’s local culture, and a reflection of its priorities.
— Ginaia Kelly, Executive Director of the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary Foundation
Artisans and small-scale producers are generally not in it for the money, she points out. “These people are passionate about what they do,” echoes New Leaf’s Gonsiewski. “Sharing that passion and commitment to high quality, locally sourced ingredients, is what makes locally produced foods so special.”
Supporting that entrepreneurship and creativity also creates a rich palette of options for consumers who may be bored with more mainstream choices. And that, in turn, contributes to the uniqueness of our community.
Big benefits over time
Supporting local producers and growers may not seem like such a big deal. But it’s the little things we all do in our daily lives that build our collective future over time. So, the next time you’re standing in a store contemplating your options, think about the money you’re spending as a show of support for your local community — a micro-investment that pays dividends in the form of a thriving regional economy, stronger public services, cleaner air and water, and a vibrant local culture that benefits us all.
Indeed, prioritizing support for local producers may just be the one thing we can all do every day to show how much we love where we live.
Written by Claudia Graziano Burgin, copywriter for New Leaf Community Markets; with reporting by Robin Nardello, Community Relations Manager for New Leaf Community Markets.