I’ve done this before. In fact I’m deep into the local economy–I avoid the big boxes and shop at local garden centers and hardware stores. I get my clothes at resale or buy fabric from a locally owned fabric store. I grow a lot of my own food, canned in jars from that local True Value. I don’t go to chain restaurants, even the good ones, if that’s not an oxymoron. I don’t need gas, technically, because I have access to a large healthy public transportation system, and because cities can be oddly “small,” so that there aren’t many places I need to go that I couldn’t reach on foot, or by bike.
The point is, I can.
I live in a major metropolitan area that has a population and economy that supports choice.
What I learned when I first started exploring a locally-based lifestyle was that the farther you get from big urban centers the harder it is to buy from your neighbor.
Last summer we did a road trip to Western Illinois, on the trail of family names. (That is, we went to towns with the same name as members of our family. Geeky, I know.) In Elizabeth (sister-in-law), we found a well-preserved Main Street filled with charming 19th century buildings. Sadly, they were all home to art galleries, dentists, real estate agents, and other service-type tenants. No drug store. No grocer. (At least they have a local dentist. There are now national dental chains as well.) There was a little hardware store hanging on by its nails and two little restaurants, in keeping with the city’s obvious attempts to attract tourists like us to their historic sites. Nora, Illinois (daughter) had only a bar, and the headquarters of the fight against the CAFO they are trying to build just outside of town.
To get what you need to live in Elizabeth, you have to drive out of town (where they don’t have to pay local taxes) to the WalMart, Rexall, or Target. These places supposedly “create jobs” (yes, minimum wage, part time, retail sales clerk jobs). What they don’t do is nurture a thriving local economy of ownership, where fathers and mothers teach sons and daughters how to run a retail business, and people spend their money in town, so that the taxes they pay stay there, too.
There are things even I cannot easily purchase from locally-owned shops. Gas. Prescriptions (the last independent druggist near my home that I knew of closed two years ago). Large appliances (ditto, and right across the street from the drugstore, oddly) and most consumer electronics. But I’ll “try or not buy”. The google machine is my friend in this endeavor. I’ll be looking for one-off, independent gas stations, drug stores, et cetera, or “owner-operated” on the True Value model.
And I’ll let you know.
How far do you have to go to stay local?