Shop Local

The environmental impact of shopping local

Shopping at locally owned businesses benefits everyone from local business owners to the people they employ to the communities where they operate. As beneficial as shopping local can be for small business owners and the communities where they operate, the planet is perhaps the biggest beneficiary of consumers supporting locally owned small businesses.

The environmental impact of purchasing locally manufactured and sold products is significant. Consumers who choose to use their purchasing power to support local businesses may not realize just how much they're helping the planet in so doing.

• Shopping local reduces your "food miles." Large grocery stores get much of their inventory from producers in other countries. Even stores that rely heavily on domestic producers may not limit their domestic partners to local farms. That means products may be traveling thousands of miles before they end up on the shelves in local grocery stores. This is often referred to as "food miles," and the more consumers can reduce their food miles, the more they help the planet. The Center for Climate and Energy Solutions notes that transportation is the largest source of carbon emissions in the United States, so anything consumers can do to reduce the amount of fuel needed to get food from farm to table can greatly benefit the planet. Shopping local grocers who source their foods from local farms is a simple and effective way to help the planet.

• Shopping local conserves fuel. Much like shopping local reduces reliance on producers who must travel thousands of miles to get their products on shelves in your community, it also reduces the time consumers spend in their vehicles. That conserves fuel and helps to reduce air pollution. That's an easily overlooked benefit of shopping local, but one that should not be taken for granted. According to the Union of Concerned Scientists, an estimated 150 million Americans are living in areas that do not meet federal air quality standards. Emissions from automobiles are a major source of the pollution that's behind poor air quality, so anything consumers can do to reduce their fuel consumption, including shopping locally, can greatly benefit the planet.

• Shopping local protects land from developers. Another way shopping local benefits the planet is its link to preserving local farms. When local grocers get their foods from local farms, that increases the long-term sustainability of those farms. If farms are sustainable, they're more likely to remain in operation. Farms don't just grow foods, they also provide habitats for local wildlife that helps maintain local ecosystems. That domino effect begins with consumers who support local businesses by shopping local.

Shopping local pays numerous dividends, not the least of which are the many ways supporting local businesses benefits the environment.

The Richmond Register