Buying Local: More like the old adage, I know it when I see it.

Santa Fe, NM has a Buy Local campaign (buyintoit.org). This follows many other communities which have started similar initiatives. Most of these communities are known as progressive: Berkeley, Boulder, Burlington (Vt). But, this has a strong history, including civil rights efforts and historical black neighborhoods’ efforts to build economic strength.

Overall, I support and encourage such efforts, despite the fact that they aren’t perfect.
The Santa Fe campaign has brought together its local coalition of players that have not always been at the table together. The goal is to document $1 million being spent on the community. The intent is a good one. There are some members of the coalition that don’t fit under everyone’s definition of local. Logistically for the campaign, the need to go to a website to track information is cumbersome; it loses many in that step of the process. Among the marketing efforts, the one I like the most is beer coasters in bars with the logo.

A challenge becomes what is your line in the sand for what is ‘local’. There was a book in which a family attempts to eat food grown within 100 miles of their home. It turns out that wheat is rare in their region. In my region – the Southwest, agriculture relies on imports. If I were to only do seasonal offerings, I would surely get scurvy (okay maybe a bit melo-dramatic).

What is local ownership? Are franchises local? They are part of a national entity and suggest a chain effort. However, they have been key opportunities for local entrepreneurs to start businesses and build wealth. I once read that franchises have helped more people of color become millionaires than any other sector. I can believe it.

So, when I seek to buy local, decisions are not always clear cut. However, good intentions count for something, even though they also are known to pave the way to you know where. You have to start somewhere. Doing something is better than doing nothing.

Buy Local. As local as you can as you define it. Maybe I know it when I choose it.

Drew Tulchin is Managing Partner of Social Enterprise Associates, a triple bottom line consulting company specializing in financial performance, social impact, and environmental sustainability. Information available at www.SocialEnterprise.NET. He can be emailed at drew@SocialEnterprise.NET and welcomes comments.

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Comment by Brad Ewing on June 12, 2009 at 5:08am
Fully agree with you hear, it's a tough one. For me, I tend to purchase things like vegetables and fish locally, but it's easy for me as there is a market literally just down the road. I think it's easy to ask people to this and do that locally but if it's not made convenient for them, then it just won't work in the long run. At the end of the day, saving the world and making a difference needs to be made simple, it's just the way most people seems to be. Or maybe I'm just a pessimist?

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