EDITORIAL | Buying local matters, it really does

Shop local! Not exactly an original topic, and one many are no doubt sick of hearing about.

For some, the mere mention prompts responses such as, “Yes, yes, it’s important to shop local — we know,” yet the concept is still being talked about, studied, and editorialized on an international level.

The reason is because it’s important. Buying local isn’t just a meaningless slogan or business pitch, it’s an economic, cultural and social investment into the communities we call home. And on the eve of the season’s first Clinton Thursday Market, which begins July 3, perhaps another reminder is due.

Civic Economics, a U.S.-based consulting firm, found in a 2012 study in Salt Lake City, Utah, that 52 percent of revenue from local retailers remained in the area’s economy. That stacked up to just 14 percent for chain retailers, such as Barnes & Noble, Home Depot, Office Max and Target. Restaurant returns were even higher — 79 percent — compared to chain eateries — 30 percent.

Similarly, The New Economics Foundation, a London-based economic think tank, found that twice as much money stays in the community when people buy produce at community supported agriculture programs versus supermarkets, according to a 2008 Time story, “Buying Local: How It Boosts the Economy.” Author and foundation researcher David Boyle was quoted, “That means those purchases are twice as efficient in terms of keeping the local economy alive.”

Of course are other obvious economic benefits, such as contributing to area employment rates. If the above studies are true, then supporting Whidbey businesses helps create jobs. Those workers get paychecks and spend that money here at home, contributing to the swirling pool that is a healthy community economy.

According to Boyle, money is like blood in that it needs to circulate regularly to keep the economy going. Buying at chains is counterproductive as the money “flows out, like a wound.”

Fortunately for South Whidbey, there’s a lot of opportunity to circulate blood, and the Clinton Thursday Market and Langley Friday Market are great places to start. Surely, no community south of Freeland needs the support more.

But buying local isn’t just about crispier broccoli or buying expensive art just because it’s “island-made” — it’s about community. We spend time with family, bump into friends and make memories that are as valuable as the money we’re trading.

Buying local matters.

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