At a local night club in early February the Young Professional Network (YPN) gathered their members for their Quarterly Connect Social. The mission of the YPN is to create a vibrant and connected young professional community in Nanaimo, so they plan to meet at a wide range of locations. That said, it was an odd place to meet so early in the evening (and while completely sober. Did I mention that the floors were still sticky from the previous night? Ew!)
The theme for this gathering was “Livin’ la Vida Local.” Speakers included Corry Hostetter: Executive Director of the DNBIA, Don Tamelin: Vice-President and General Manager of Wealth Management at Coastal Community Credit Union and Sarah Pachkowsky, Manager of Community Development at Coco Café. All great representatives for promoting the benefits of supporting local businesses as they deal with the challenges and realities of local business every day.
During her presentation, Corry shared that, “Every $100 spent locally, at least $46 of this is recirculated back into the local economy,” stressing the point that when we shop and do business locally, we’re supporting our neighbours, community members, and families.
I’m so pleased to hear this conversation is happening here on the island, since it’s one I heard quite a lot in Vancouver. I’ve been a member of LOCO BC (a non-profit organization made up of an alliance of local businesses focused on growing the local economy) since it’s inception. They promote the “buy local” message in the lower mainland and beyond using tools like this infographic poster I designed for them a couple years ago. Hearing Corry refer to statistics inspired by this poster, well, you can imagine, it’s pretty exciting to see something you’ve created come full circle.
Is ‘local’ considered sustainable?
Sustainability means the balancing of social, economic, and environmental impacts — all of which are improved when business is localized. Social impacts include things like job creation and other direct impacts employees and owners have on the community, many of which are hard to measure, but still important.
The most obvious economic impact is measured in wages: in a sustainable, local system, people get paid a fair wage for their work, which ends up recirculating back into the local economy 2.6x more. These resources from LOCO BC explain the economics in greater detail.
Environmental impacts: materials and products’ ecological footprints are greatly reduced when the distance between all elements / processes / steps along the way are as close together geographically as possible (as they use less resources in transportation which can also be a huge cost saving). In considering a product’s entire life cycle, we can see how the impacts of transportation can be greatly reduced if the pieces are closer to begin with.
So, for instance, if a product has 10 pieces, and they all come independently from various places, that product will have a huge footprint, because we need to add up the cost associated with transport, and the fuel, labour, and material cost of getting the pieces from one place to the other. And again, when the product is sold / distributed to someone far away, the footprint gets bigger and bigger.
Somewhere along the line we put efficiency and profit over health and community impact. The tides are turning as people realize that where they spend their money really does matter, not only as a means to give local people jobs but also from an environmental perspective. Life cycle analysis is a holistic way of thinking about the impacts of our consumption habits.
If you’re interested in learning more and have at least 20 minutes to spare, I highly recommend The Story of Stuff The Story of Stuff, created by Seattle-based Free Range Studios, as a very succinct way to dive right into life cycles.
HOW CAN I SUPPORT LOCAL BUSINESSES IN NANAIMO?
- Shop downtown Nanaimo and in the Old City Quarter
- Thriving Locally makes it convenient for people to shop locally by providing online shopping and delivery of locally made goods
- Shop at the farmers markets (this can be a great way to find out about local vendors and products)
- Join the YPN of Nanaimo to connect with other local businesses
- Become a member of LOCO BC (they’re based in Vancouver but their reach is province-wide)
If you’re trying to get into the habit, I’d suggest to try to take note of where you spend your money and choose one area at a time to find a local alternative. For instance, if you always get your cosmetics from a drugstore, look into alternatives like Panacea Herbs located on Gabriola Island (I met the owner Margo at this event and am now a fan). From my experience, local businesses are much more personally invested in their work, which leads to a superior product to the big-store competitors. And it terms of product footprint, 100% of her products are grown and made on Gabriola Island (a short ferry from downtown Nanaimo) which greatly reduces her environmental impacts and overall product footprint as ingredients don’t need to travel across great distances to get to her. Panacea Herbs are distributed locally to shops in Nanaimo or by mail order.
It can be hard to make changes but your neighbours and community will thank you!
The choices we make with our dollars are complex and there’s no one solution that works for everyone, everywhere. But I’d like to think by discussing it, we can help understand a little more and at very least, start a conversation. What do you find most challenging about shopping locally?