Should Buy Local When Trying to Reduce Consumption?

Why should one buy local? It has become an increasingly popular phrase in many areas of the United States and around the world. It is frequently shortened to “local buying” or “make local”, which mirrors the phrase “Think globally, act globally”, now popular in green politics. Local buying is a way to support local economic development and employment opportunities. It is an increasingly attractive alternative for consumers, who are becoming increasingly aware of the environmental impact of their shopping and are searching for more sustainable alternatives to conventional shopping.

As stated before, the term “vote local” itself is somewhat misleading, because while people are voting with their dollar and dollars to support local economies and local businesses, many independent businesses have been forced to flee from local markets to protect themselves from over-regulation. However, there are several areas where the Internet has provided an important bridge for small-scale businesses and independent entrepreneurs to reach potential customers, such as the area of agriculture. The Internet, through the World Wide Web, has allowed farmers and ranchers to increase their local customer base and expand their local economies. In addition to supporting local agriculture, Internet technology has also increased access to, and the availability of, land and acreage for cultivation and expanded farming opportunities.

According to some environmental groups, there is increasing evidence that supporting small-scale local agriculture through sales of green commodities such as locally produced foods, is more beneficial to our environment than traditional farming practices. For example, organic sales support more local farmers’ markets, lessening the demand for animal meat, dairy and poultry products. By promoting a local economy based on sustainable agriculture, the carbon footprint created by industrial food processing is reduced, because emissions from the traditional food processing processes are lessened. Many environmentalists are starting to view locavorism (farming and tourism at the same time) as not only socially and economically beneficial, but as an ethical superior to mass production.

Another major objection made by environmentalists is that many of these small-scale agricultural enterprises rely on imported food products, which deplete local food supplies. While imports may be required for some food, they can also provide a higher quality product at a lower price, something that many consumers are looking for. As a result, environmental objections have been raised over the practices of farmers importing food produced in other countries. While it is difficult to view agricultural practices in an abstract, by tracking the food produced at various locations throughout the United States, food sovereignty advocates can see the impact of agricultural activity on the environment and the impact of the larger consumption of imported food on the environment.

Two other objections made by environmental groups focus on the price of food items sold locally. One argument is that consumers pay a premium price for locally produced food items. Environmental groups argue that the price of locally grown produce is greater than the extra cost of buying foreign produce due to supply chain effects. Another concern is the transportation costs involved in shipping food items from one location to another across the state or even country lines. As a result, some consumers buy global and then use a local delivery service to get the food items where they are going.

The environmental groups’ main objection to locavorism is its effect on consumer choices. As more consumers turn to organic food and nonlocal foods for nutritional value and natural taste, this movement has had an impact on the increasing demand for organic produce. At the same time, environmental considerations make it difficult to sustainably produce the volume of food needed to meet consumer demand. By considering these factors, environmental groups support locavorism as an important way to improve food security around the world. Although these environmental objections don’t have the same influence with producers as do other concerns, they do represent legitimate reasons to oppose the practice when possible.