Put your money where your heart is: The benefits of shopping local | SummitDaily.com

Put your money where your heart is: The benefits of shopping local

Eartha Steward
Special to the Daily

Honey on shelf in store

Dear Eartha,

I have been hearing a lot of talk about the "buy local, shop local" movement. Why is this beneficial?

— Chloe, Breckenridge

Thank you for your question this week, Chloe. Yes, it's true that the buy local movement has been spreading across the nation — and for good reason, too. Shopping local not only boosts the local economy, but buying from local businesses helps reduce carbon emissions and your overall ecological footprint.

To start off, let's take the example of grocery shopping. Living in such a harsh climate does affect the amount of produce available in winter months. However, at most grocery stores, there are signs available to help you make the best decision when it comes to buying locally. For instance, at City Market, there are signs usually hanging in the produce department that list what is in season for that particular month. While these items are not typically grown in our county, they are grown in Colorado. Choosing to purchase items that are grown in your area or region helps reduce food transportation emissions.

Think of it this way: The more people who are purchasing Colorado items, the less likely the stores are to stock up and order items that are transported from outside the state and even the nation. Just to give you an idea on food transportation distance, the Worldwatch Institute estimates that, on average, food travels 1,500 miles between the farm and the supermarket … Wow!

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As mentioned earlier, it is always beneficial to the local economy when you make a consumer decision to shop in your community. Several studies have shown that when you purchase from a locally owned businesses — (rather than nationally- or globally-owned business) more of your money is used to make purchases from other local businesses … thus, the cycle begins. Not only this, but the items you purchase typically come with a sincere conversation between you and the local business and are classically unique to the area and/or handcrafted.

Some may argue that they simply are looking for the "best value for their time and money," which may be one of the reasons behind continued purchases from chain super-stores. However, it is important to consider where the items you purchase are manufactured. When you are making a purchase, think about how that company treats their employees: Are employees paid a fair living wage? Do they receive health benefits? Are they required to work on holidays? You would be surprised how many companies have really poor track records in how they treat their employees.

For those of you still doing your Christmas shopping, consider some of the great boutiques and shops that are owned and operated locally. We all want the unique, fun and laid-back character of Summit County to sustain and thrive. Deciding to be a part of the "buy local, shop local" movement is just one way to keep the classic atmosphere alive while simultaneously benefiting the social, economic and natural environment.

One of the best ways to stay green this holiday season is to consider the type of gift you are giving. Look for gifts with the least amount of packaging and for items that are handmade, upcycled and recycled gifts are great for wrapping and putting under the tree. Or, if you would like to give a gift that has a greater impact, give something intangible like a charitable donation or something they can use in months to come, like a CSA membership to the Food Scrap recycling program here in Summit County.

We all want to give a little back to our local communities. One way to do this is to support your communities' local businesses and charities.

Ask Eartha Steward is written by the staff at the High Country Conservation Center, a nonprofit organization dedicated to waste reduction and resource conservation. Submit questions to Eartha at eartha@highcountryconservation.org.