This past Friday marked the beginning of the holiday shopping season. As flashy and sparkling advertisements of incredible sales and bargains flood the media and the internet, this year, I urge you to shop small and shop local. I urge you to shop for public health—and support our locally-owned businesses.
How can we impact public health by buying local?
Public health is economic development. Small businesses are the foundation of our local economies. When we buy local, we support the work of our friends and neighbors. We not only obtain products and services that we need from people that we know; we also support our neighbors and their families. They, in turn, support the livelihood of others—they hire local employees, purchase local supplies, and obtain local services needed to maintain their businesses. A study conducted by the Maine Center of Economic Policy found that every $100 spent at a locally-owned business resulted in an additional $58 added to the local community, whereas $100 spent at a big chain store resulted in only $33 added. Similar studies have been conducted in New Orleans, San Francisco, and other cities throughout the country. When we buy local, the money we spend is invested back into our local economy, improving the health of everyone in the community.
Public health is the environment. Locally-owned businesses are able to use less transportation to obtain their products, resulting in less pollution and congestion. Small businesses are also usually clustered in city and town centers, encouraging consumer walking over stop-and-go car travel. Farmers’ markets generally source from farms that are in the area, as opposed to large-chain grocery stores that transport fruit, vegetables, and other products from all over the world. Buying local reduces the environmental impact of shopping and promotes walkable communities.
Public health is our communities. Locally-owned businesses allow us to build relationships with business owners, allowing them to be more responsive to the community’s needs. It gives us the opportunity to get to know the artist who made the earrings, the farmer who raised the chickens, and the landscaper who pruned the trees. By strengthening the web of relationships of consumers, service providers, business-owners, and producers, buying local supports the health and well-being of the entire community.
Public health is buying local. Buying local supports our community’s ability to provide everyone with access to a living wage, meaningful work, and economic opportunities so we can all increase our income and improve our health.
Buy local. Shop small. Support health.