I started this blog back when I was almost against the concept of buying locally. I remember writing a post, though I think it never left my draft folder, about how much I disliked my hometown's local business owners complaints about how no one shopped at their respective stores.
My how things change when you move to a town with more than 200 people. My complaint about my hometown owners was that they didn't provide a product that was worth the premium they were charging. The only competitive advantage I could see was proximity, and that didn't offset the cost savings that went with driving 60 miles to the "big" city of Williston, ND.
When I first moved here, I never paid attention to local, regional, national, or other tags. I bought what I wanted, usually the least expensive thing and was fine with that. Then I started paying attention to where my food came from. I tried to keep it local, and when I couldn't I attempted regional, and so on. I did this for various reasons that I won't get into in this post, but mainly because it made sense to me. It increased my grocery budget, but not by too much.
My local food fascination led to me becoming obsessed with Farmers Markets. Last summer I visited 2-3 a week regularly. This summer I mainly visited Uptown Market, but I hit up others on occasion as well. This put me in touch with local sellers. Artists and growers mostly, but then I decided to give this soap guy a try. I mainly bought his product because he was a lot of fun to talk to, but after giving his Honey Soap a try, I decided I was going to give local producers my entire soap budget. There were a few reasons for this. One, the soap made me smell like a man and not a neutered sheep dipped in flowers. Two, it was all natural, no Sodium Larythelalsm Sulfate(or whatever that junk is). Three, it didn't cost much more.
This switch has led to me trying to be more conscious in my buying decisions. Looking at the environmental impact, the economic impact, and even the social impact of my purchases.
So what does this actually mean?
- I want to buy from small and local businesses whenever possible
- When forced to purchase from non-local businesses, try to focus on smaller companies, avoid the mega corporations if possible
- Focus on quality over expense, it's better to spend twice as much today and have the product last four times as long
- Avoid spending money at places whose ethics I do not agree with
- Meet the owners if I can
- Consider the environmental impact of the product, during it's lifetime, it's production, and it's disposal
- Buy second hand when it makes sense, and donate when finished
One thing that I really want to focus on is quality. It makes no sense to me to purchase local products if that product isn't good. Minnesota wine is an example of this. Minnesota winemakers are getting better, but even now, it's hard to find a great bottle of Minnesota wine. This isn’t a dig at them, it’s just a really difficult thing to produce in our climate.
One thing about this whole shift for me is that I have more fun shopping. Walking into shops that focus on local goods is not as crazy. Again, food was the driver of this whole endeavor, and the first time I walked into a Cub after shopping at the Wedge exclusively for months, I had a small panic attack. How I navigated that clusterfuck for so long is a mystery I hope never to solve. When you have 40 choices of prepackaged cornbread, something is wrong. Plus, it’s also easier to ask questions when the seller is only one step removed from the person who made the product, and even easier to talk to the person who made the product.
Again, this isn’t me saying, “buy everything local or you’re killing our planet.” Instead, it’s just a post about why I’m making the slow transition to more local products, and with that higher quality, yet more expensive products. Local and small is just one way to do this, and it’s the path I’ve chosen. It might be cliché, but I think local products are “made with love” compared to those made in a factory, and that love aspect might just be why it rocks.
*It should be noted that I'm equating local with small. This obviously isn't true. Target, Cub, and others are local, but I'm trying to limit my purchases in these places. I didn't define small because I don't have a definition for it.