How to be a ‘Localist’ in the Delaware River Valley: Buy Local

This is the first in a six-part series on the connections between “going local” and living sustainably.

Are you a “localist”? The answer may be “yes” if you make an effort to buy food, gifts and necessities from businesses that are independent and locally owned.

Why buy local?

Imagine living in a part of the country where “shopping” involves pulling on and off busy highways and fighting for parking spots in strip malls just so you can peruse the aisles of mass-market chain stores where most of the merchandise comes from far-away lands. Of course, it’s easy to escape that fate here in the Delaware River Valley. You can buy your food from local farms, purchase gifts from independent boutiques, buy direct from artists and craft artisans at galleries and craft shows and even get some of life’s necessities (fall clothes, building supplies, greeting cards) at locally owned stores.

When you choose to buy locally, you’re being a localist. The benefits are many.

  1. A better shopping experience. Unlike the stressful journey described above, shopping in New Hope, Lambertville and other local towns rarely feels like a chore. In addition to letting you check out unique, quality merchandise at one-of-a-kind stores, shopping local may lead to entertaining conversations with shop owners, random meet-ups with friends or the discovery of upcoming events advertised on community bulletin boards or the occasional telephone pole.
  2. More farms – and farmland. Your farm-fresh food purchases help support independently owned family farms. That, in turn, assures that you will have continued access to fresh local food, that farms can stay in business and that their presence will help preserve the beautiful rural quality of our area for the next generation.
  3. Bustling downtowns. Your purchase of gifts and necessities from local independents helps keep those businesses in business, despite the weak economy. That helps preserve the quality of our local shopping districts, which brings in tourism dollars, which further supports local businesses. Best of all, it helps ensure you’ll never be reduced to doing all your shopping out on Route 1.
  4. A stronger local economy. That shopping local is good for business may seem obvious. But you may not realize it also triggers something called “the local multiplier effect.” The dollars you spend at local businesses circulate through the community many more times than they would at national stores. As shop owners buy meals, source supplies and pay local taxes, they set off a chain reaction that adds a surprising amount of economic activity to the community.
  5. Reduced carbon footprint. Shopping locally can be better for the environment in two key ways. It reduces the amount of gas needed to get to your destination. And it lets you choose items made locally or with locally sourced materials rather than products made outside the U.S. and shipped half-way around the globe.

What can you do?

As you tackle the grocery list, buy holiday gifts or stock up on whatever you need, keep these buy local ideas in mind.

1. Buy food from farmers at farmer’s markets, farm-owned groceries, farm stands or CSAs (community supported agriculture shares).

For information on ways to buy direct from local farmers, check out Local Resources: Farm Fresh Food.

2. Buy less online.The web is a great place to window shop and research items you plan to buy. But if the item in question can be found locally for a comparable price, consider making your purchase in a way that increases the local multiplier effect.

3. Buy from independent, locally owned stores. The best way to boost the local multiplier is to put money in the hands of locals. Put simply, if you love having access to a diversity of retailers that offer funky clothing, fabulous furnishings, great gift items and quirky novelties, think of local stores first when you head out to shop.

4. Buy locally made items. This is easy when it comes to food — produce, meats and dairy as well as jams, vinegar, beer and pies. But it’s also possible when you’re looking for original art and artisan crafts. You can find the work of the area’s many local artists at galleries and shops as well as at seasonal craft shows and exhibits.

5.  Celebrate locally. From Friday Night Fireworks to Shad Fest to Doylestown’s Arts Festival to Bastille Day in Frenchtown, local events make a big difference in the success of our communities. Sure, they’re designed to attract tourists and convince them to return to shop, dine and stay. But locals can help ensure these events succeed by boosting the size of crowds and acting as ambassadors on behalf of our towns.

Check out additional information about going local under the Fresh tabs: Local Stories, Local Food, Local Economy and Local & Green.