There is one way people in Western New York can help their community, the environment and the local economy this holiday season: Go local. Shop at a neighborhood boutique, make your holiday dinners with local seasonal produce, entertain yourself at a local theater. The positive impacts are tremendous.
Shopping locally supports unique businesses that give Buffalo its one-of-a-kind character. Imagine what Buffalo would be like without signature places such as the Anchor Bar. Local business owners are from our community and, like all of us, want to see good things happen in Buffalo. Most have deep roots here and are less likely to leave when times are tough. Moreover, because local independent businesses are not accountable to shareholders, they have more leeway to make business decisions that consider such factors as the health of our neighborhoods.
Going local is also great for Mother Earth. The average plate of food in America travels more than 1,500 miles before reaching its destination, the equivalent of driving from Buffalo to the southern tip of Florida every time we eat. This does not include the miles that goods must travel in the worldwide supply chains that are the common production practice of today's mega-retailers. This wastes precious fossil fuels and contributes to global warming.
Local, independent foods come from small family farms just a few miles away. It is great for city and country: City folk get fresher, healthier food and country folk get needed funds that help keep family farms alive. With oil prices now more than $100 per barrel it helps to think short distance.
When someone spends money at a local independent shop versus a national chain, about three times more of their money is respent in Buffalo. This is because local businesses do their resourcing here, they pay taxes here and owners live here, so the money that we spend here gets recycled through our economy many times before it leaves our economy.
Local businesses use fewer tax subsidies and rely on fewer public resources. Also, local business ownership not only creates jobs, but wealth, which truly helps sustain neighborhood economies. With talk of a national recession looming, there is no better time for us to think about the importance of when, how and where we spend our money.
The 150 members who make up Buffalo First are in the midst of a "Buy Buffalo Week," which ends Saturday. This is the time when mall shops (90 percent of which are nationally owned) are packed relative to community shops.
Dozens of member businesses are offering specials to the public during this week to encourage us to think local first. Buffalo First will also be giving away prizes to those who shop at the most local independent businesses and the most diverse businesses throughout the holiday season. Please go to www.buffalofirst.org or call 913-1990 for specials and more details.
Amy Kedron is founding director of Buffalo First.