Build community with a shopping spree: Joel Bassett of Buy Local WNC explains how you can help support the local economy while splurging for yourself at the same time.

Author:Bassett, Joel
Position:Buy local


The message of the new group Buy local WNC is clear: support locally owned, independently operated businesses of all shapes and sizes whenever you can.

Buy Local WNC is a group of business owners and workers in Western North Carolina who have educated themselves about Buy Local Campaigns and Independent Business Alliances. The group can help anyone anywhere in Western North Carolina who wants to begin a Buy Local Campaign or organize an Independent Business Alliance to do so.

I like to think of a local movement in another way, too: as a Righteous Business Movement (yes, I made that term up). One side of this movement is about fair trade practices, which is likely a familiar term, especially to you coffee drinkers! The other side, which may not be so familiar, is about local ownership and sustainable practices.

What does this mean? Why does it matter ff a business is owned locally and independently operated, and what does that have to do with sustainability? Put simply, locally owned and independently operated businesses are not going to go anywhere. Every year, it seems more jobs are being lost to other countries with fewer labor rights and less pay. Businesses that are owned by people who live in--and hire employees from--the same community that the business serves may be the only hope for an end to this "race to the bottom." Unlike most large corporations, independently operated businesses are not beholden to their shareholders to constantly lower the bottom line and cut down on labor costs. This is part of the active tension between Main Street and Wall Street.

Are local businesses inherently better than multinational chains? True, sometimes a local shop is just selling the same product made on the other side of the planet from someone who is earning only pennies a day. The trick is that if we demand fair trade and a living wage from our locally owned and independently operated businesses, how can they say no? If we, as consumers and community members, are actively shopping at local businesses for the very reason that they are local businesses, then it works as a mutual...

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