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Local is Not What You Think

| Wednesday April 7th, 2010 | 1 Comment

At Happy Boy by Dave LeLocal is not about buying the same stuff at higher prices from a local vendor. Local is about happiness.

I believe that the concept of Local is not well communicated. When people suggest that we “buy local,” it comes off as preachy and turns many of us off. How many times have you gone into a corner store and left feeling like you’d been ripped off? The $2 Coke or $1.50 orange may as well be considered marketing for Target, Walmart, and Costco, which sell the same Coke and orange at lower prices. The math doesn’t work. And it should be said that these retailers aren’t inherently bad. But guess what? It doesn’t have to be this way.

So, what is Local?

Local is something that should be celebrated. We shouldn’t feel guilty, Local should invigorate us, inside and out.

Local is more choices. Endless choices, all with unique stories, people and artisanship.

Local is buying from friends. Just as it used to be, I know companies right here in the Bay Area who love to invite people to their factory for a tour, or even to their homes for a meal. When was the last time you were invited to fly in the private Boeing 787s of a company that you buy from or even invest in?

Local is learning and knowing more. I want to know where my food comes from, appreciating the subtle differences and varieties as we often do wine (rather than by brand). I don’t want to have to watch a documentary or read breaking news to find out what is hidden from my view.

Local is about relationships. I don’t know about you, but I’m not comfortable being considered a “consumer.” I am not a consumer, I am a person and I believe that our central role on our society is a hell of a lot more than to consume stuff.

Local is about slowing down and discovering our talents again. In our world of hyper productivity and endless information, is the goal to work every waking hour? A friend of mine, actually a successful CEO, has no TVs in his home, only music instruments and a garden. Perhaps we’ve lost something by having everything we could possibly want available to us in shopping aisles. Our parents or grandparents probably preserved their own jams, pickled their own pickles, and received more in return than just something for their sandwiches.

Local is making less of an impact. We all know that we are destroying our natural resources and that this can’t keep up. We’ve done a really good job at hiding the truth from ourselves, of the resources we are consuming and the endless waste we are creating. Yet, when you can look a local company owner in the eyes and ask them about the impact they (and we) are making, everything changes. We need to get back to that.

Local is reusing more. Nearly everything we buy is mostly packaging and a little of what we actually need or use. But when we buy local milk from Straus Family Creamery, for example, or local preserves from Happy Girl Kitchen, we can return the container, no waste, no recycling (as environmentalists will tell you, recycling isn’t nearly as effective as reuse).

Tomatoes by SeenyaRita on FlickrLocal is more delicious. When it comes to food, eating local means more variety and fresher food. Isn’t life about variety, not a burger that tastes exactly the same, made with exactly the same ingredients? A diet that changes with the seasons sounds fantastic to me, perhaps even a reminder that I’m still alive!

Local is more colorful. Not many of us look like the models on billboards, so why should we bother trying to look like them? I want what I wear to connect me to the culture, people and art around me.

Local is more balanced. We often read about entrepreneurial triumphs to richness, but I have been meeting more and more business owners who are challenging the 5 day workweek. Rather than chase world domination growth, they grow their businesses to an “optimal” size and outcome for themselves, their employees, the environment and the community.

There are some great initiatives in support of Local here in the Bay Area such as Oakland GrownBuy Local BerkeleyBuy Fresh Buy Local (California-wide), and SF Made (in support of SF manufacturing). However, I think that the Local is about completely reshape the way we live, and ultimately bring more happiness and purpose to our lives and our work. I must talk to someone new every day who escaped their cubicle to start a sustainable farm, brew kombucha, or import and roast coffee. Get ready for a new Local, full of flavor, color, and purpose.

What is Local to you?

Note: This was originally posted on Companiesandme, which curates the stories of inspiring, independent Bay Area companies.

Image credits: Dave Le (upper), SeenyaRita (lower)


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  • janetex

    I live in Sonoma County CA. To me buying local is buying produce from a small local farmer struggling to make ends meet, and not buying produce from many of the mega-buck wineries in our area who have decided having a vegetable garden is a great promotional opportunity. It's great landscaping for their winery, they don't have to make a profit, it's a promotional opportunity and they compete and undercut small local farmers. Most of our orchards and farms have long ago been plowed under to make way for vineyards. Now it seems the few small produce farmers left have to compete with multi-million dollar wineries who have gotten into “local produce” as a means to promote their wines.

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