Saturday, October 13, 2012

Buy American - Little or Big step to being a Locavore?


In recent years I have tried to grow myself into being a Locavore one step at a time. The Locavore movement started with food - trying to buy food as close to you (local) as possible. The benefits of this are many from getting better food, to reducing shipping costs and impacts (transport vehicle emissions), to supporting local businesses and people. At the store I try to buy as much as possible from the closest sources - local dairies such as Sassy Cow, local bakeries such as Brownberry bread, I was already a fan of local micro-breweries and vintners. I have signed up for a CSA - community supported agriculture - buying a share in a farm (that happens to be friends) to in turn get a weekly supply of produce during growing months. We started growing our own vegetables in raised bed gardens. I even just started brewing my own beer.

Initially this seems like a Green movement. And yes, it started there. Seeking to reduce the impact on the environment was a major impetus for the Locavore movement. But it is more than that. Being a Locavore can mean more than just food - it can mean any product. Just by food, and especially if we expand to other product, it also means supporting your local economy. Your local economy. Hmm. Isn't all of America a local economy? Compared to say China? Indeed.

I have been watching the ongoing report by World News on ABC called Made In America and it did make me think. In addition to making sure I buy locally as in Milwaukee and Wisconsin, I should do the same for other products to make sure at least from America. The website and the reporting has much more info and I recommend you check it out, but it is pretty simple - the benefits are many to all of us. I see three main benefits:

  • You are reducing the distance the product travels and thus reducing costs, emissions,and the need for fuel. To fly or ship products across the seas has immense impacts.
  • You are giving an American business, and thus (hopefully) American workers. This alone has huge effect on the economy - you give someone a job. They make money. That money is taxed adding to available money for services and hopefully reducing your taxes. That money is spent, and if those people follow this rule and spend on American products increases this cycle, creating jobs.
  • It means better confidence in your product. American manufacturers and food suppliers have stronger regulations than yes - of course going there again  -China. It seems every week at least I see a new report on issues with a product coming from there. So we send our money to China to get products which then harm us? How is that smart, or even frugal?
I am not naive and know the reasons for not-American, or shall we say Un-American, products, but we need to look beyond the immediate cost savings and realize what the benefits are of buying American. It goes right in line with one of the rules of a gentleman: You get what you pay for. How often do you keep buying a cheaper version of something, keep having to replace it or fix it, until you but the better one. Take a watch. You can buy a $15 to $20 one at a big box store. But you will probably buy one every year. You could buy a $100 watch, in five years when it lasts longer you juts made your money, if it lasts 10 years you doubled your money, and so on. How much do businesses spend on lawsuits for inferior or even damaging products they got overseas or across the border? Does it save them more than what they saved by paying people overseas rather than employing Americans? What is the worth of a child nor getting sick from lead compared to the difference in cost to employ an American?

We have control over this. We can decide what products we buy. If we refuse to buy, or at least look to but, products wholly made here, we force the businesses to provide those products.



My question is - is this the small step to being a Locavore, or the big step? Is it easier to start with local businesses then branch to American, or in the end is it actually easier just to make sure you are buying American and then moving closer and closer to your home. It is hypothetical, but in the end the answer should be both.

Please, try to support businesses as close to you as possible, both municipal and national. You will reap the benefits it provides to everyone.

Update: Just noticed that one of my favorite companies - Planet Dog - has an entire section of their store dedicated to Made in America products.