So there is no lack of evidence that the global economy is struggling, so what can we do to help our local economies? Many people will come back with the general ideas of buy local, support your farmers, and use small credit unions and local banks. How though, can we go above and beyond, and what are some alternative ideas? What are the specific things that matter?
The two main was of interaction in the business world are business to business and business to consumer. Both types of interaction can be extremely rewarding for both parties involved and have a great impact on your local economy as well as your community standing. I know for me, as a small business owner and mother of three, I cannot lend or donate much money to the causes and principles I believe in, on a consistent basis. I can however lend time, space, and knowledge to those around me. I always feel better knowing that I have made a difference in the life of someone around me.
As a business owner, supporting other local businesses is obviously something I want to do. I make sure that I spend a little more money at the local hardware store then going to a big box store (who is importing much of their inventory from other countries and paying the people doing most of the work close to nothing.) We buy our metal for the roofs we do from a local Amish community . I also like to make sure that I look for local growers in and outside of my grocery store, (like MOO Milk, Maine’s Own Organic Milk,) you don’t have to always shop at a farmers market to support local farmers.
Another great method of giving back, which is a bit more labor intensive, is volunteering your time. We try to help out by donating our time to replace windows, do some air sealing, or even re insulate space. Everyone has a specialty, and why not lend your talents to support other locals?
The Big Picture:
It takes a commitment from lots of people to sustain local economies, it takes educating people of the upsides and time to develop a method that works. We must be vigilant in creating a better place to live for ourselves and future generations.
Here is a list, and a few links, of some new ways and ideas to support your local economy:
- Commission local artists to build displays, design logos, or auction pieces at a benefit or gathering.
- Talk with local high schools and colleges to find local students to design your website.
- Volunteer your time at local farms, nursing homes, YMCA’s, or other non profit businesses
- Educate yourself on where your favorite products are made and possibly seek alternatives (or make your own!)
- Offer to lend space to local artisans, farmers, or businesses.
- Do you have great fertile ground but no time to grow crops? Why not let someone come in and plant.
- Do you have extra room now that children have moved out? Maybe at could be a great area for a working from home neighbor to set up shop, or an artist to be inspired.
- Participate in co-ops. Lots of Co-Ops are popping up now from farmers to healthcare.
- Donate time, resources and/or money to local businesses like a community theater, museum or school.
- Offer to teach a class at a community center- This is a great way to meet new people and give back!
- Help organize community fundraisers. – With tax burdens everywhere, schools especially are always in need of fundraising help and ideas.
The issues with many of our products coming from other companies does not end with jobs being shipped overseas.
My last idea could be a blog topic in itself, and maybe someday I will, but here is the quick and dirty of the best thing (in my opinion) you can do for your community….
Be involved with local government. Possibly one of the most important things we should be doing is paying attention to our local governments. How are they spending tax and grant money, are they supporting local businesses by accepting bids for road maintenance, building projects, waste management and water/sewer maintenance. As with any other operation, structure or idea – the base is the most important. Why is government any different? It’s not. We expect our federal government to be wise, accountable and effective – it all has to start somewhere.
Is your local government pro small business? Pro local economy? How are local policies affecting your local business owners? I think it is not only our right as residents and consumers to know these answers, but our duty.
Sustainability is not a new concept or an idea that only pertains to the environment. It is a core value that needs to be brought to the forefront of every activity we do. Leading a sustainable life does not mean the same thing for everyone, it does not mean you have to use recycled paper towels, grow your own food or build your home from trees harvested from your land with a moss roof. Sustainability is the capacity to endure. It is an action that we can all do differently, with respect for the ways other are sustaining as well.