You can’t go anywhere these days without reading something about “local”. Whether it’s Small Business Saturday, a #drinklocal tag on Twitter, or a news segment on how business owners are banding together against bigger companies, everyone seems to support the notion that supporting their local economy is beneficial to everyone.
Unfortunately, most of what you hear is empty rhetoric. Most people love to talk about community, but few really live it. Here are the top six reasons you might be one of these people:
6. You don’t know/get along with your neighbors.
What is community, really? Rather than a hive mind with its own consciousness, a community is simply a group of people living and working together with the common goal of bettering their lives. Their are also communities within communities, right? Your side of town, your neighborhood, or even your street may have it’s own sense of “self”. But how many of your neighbors do you actually know and care about? A handful? Weren’t you just complaining that Jim’s tree was shedding leaves over your property line? Or silently judging the Wilsons because their Christmas decorations were a bit too over the top? Shame on you.
5. Instead of taking action, you criticize.
When something happens in your community that you don’t agree with, what do you do? Organize a rational discussion around the issue on Facebook? Call your local government and suggest a solution? Get out there and do something yourself? Let’s be honest here. More than likely, you call your coworker and complain. Or maybe you leave an anonymous rant with your local newspaper. Your Facebook post: “Did you see what [X] said/did? #MajorFail”. The fact is, change only occurs when action is taken, and people who care take action.
4. You don’t volunteer when the opportunity arises.
Local causes and charities provide an integral service to communities, often focusing on the less fortunate, the economically depressed, and the forgotten. Remember, those people are part of your community, too. These organizations are feeling the economic crunch and rely on people like you to support them, whether it’s working at a soup kitchen, chaperoning a local youth group trip, or packing boxes to deliver to shut-ins. But, let’s face it – you’re busy. With your job, your kids’ activities, and what little time you have for personal relaxation, you don’t have any extra time for unpaid work. You’re aware of all of the local non-profits, but surely someone else will help, right?
3. You don’t donate to local causes.
Sure, you may donate to national causes, but most of that money doesn’t trickle down to your local community. If you want to see your donations really work, you need to donate locally. And you intend to – right after you finish paying for piano lessons, doing your Christmas shopping, or paying for that purse you’ve always had your eye on. But one day, definitely.
2. You don’t vote in local elections.
Let’s face it: most people simply don’t vote in local elections. Data shows that as little as 25% of voters may have participated in major mayor elections across the country over the last 20 or so years. ["Why Is Voter Turnout for Mayoral Elections So Abysmally Low?]. This is crazy talk. Local elections affect every aspect of our communities, including: the amount of money that will be spent on local initiatives, decisions about education, the maintenance of public structures, streets, and roads, the communication of community information, the levying of taxes, and much more. If you really cared about your community, you would make sure your voice was heard when it comes to these important issues.
1. You don’t buy locally.
Small businesses are the largest employer nationally and create every two out of three new jobs. ["Why Buy Local?"] Local businesses not only create most of the jobs, they also sell key local products, provide needed services, and most importantly give back to their communities. When you spend money locally, 2x as much money stays in your local community than it would if you had bought the same thing with a national chain. When you buy online, none of it stays. But you’re just acting rationally, right? That pair of running shoes is $20 cheaper on Amazon.com than it is at your local fitness store. And when you leave town on a beautiful Saturday to go shopping out of town, you’re really just doing it to get away for a bit. The next time you look online for a product you could buy locally, consider the impact each of those dollars would have on your community.
As we move into the holiday season, let’s step back a moment and ask ourselves what we can do better to become positive forces in our communities. Then, let’s start to take action. If this post motivates you to make a difference, we’d love to hear about it.