The Impact of Buying Local

By Michael Kramer

Published July 4, 2012 in Big Island Weekly

HI buy local logoYou’ve probably seen the Think Local Buy Local logo in Big Island Weekly or in retail stores around the island. The Think Local Buy Local initiative was launched last year to raise awareness about how our spending choices can impact our families and communities. Think Local Buy Local is run by The Hawai‘i Alliance for a Local Economy (HALE) and is funded by the County of Hawai‘i, Department of Research and Development.

Hawai‘i Island’s consumers believe they are receiving greater value when they buy local. HALE recently asked over 200 shoppers about their most important purchasing criteria, and they indicated product quality, locally made products, price, and friendliness of staff, in that order. Hawai‘i island residents revealed in the survey that they feel a strong obligation to buy locally made products from retailers.

Purchasing locally made and grown products and services is better for the environment. Shipping things in and out of Hawai‘i burns carbon, which makes things more expensive here and heats up the planet — contributing to climate change, which threatens the ecosystems upon which life depends. Here in Hawai‘i, these changes damage our reefs and oceans, and the erratic weather patterns cause droughts that harm local agriculture. Building a local green economy can reduce the use of fossil fuels, decrease pollution and hopefully reverse global warming.

There is a quality of life aspect to “buy local,” as well.

What residents and visitors love about Hawai‘i is its special charm, and much of this is found in the spirit of the people and the uniqueness of the food, art, crafts and services here.

A healthy island economy also means job creation, and when businesses buy locally made products or procure services from local providers, more people can be employed doing what they love and deriving a living from what can be produced here, and in some cases the raw materials can be sourced here. The social and cultural implications of this are significant, as the economy can be based on the unique characteristics of the people and traditions. These aspects of Hawaiian life, derived from what the ‘aina can produce through its people, are born of this place and deserve to be preserved and passed down to future generations. The more we shift towards a sustainable, producer-based economy, we protect Hawaiian values, and improve the lives of local manufacturers, craftspeople, and growers.

The County of Hawai‘i recently identified about 400 businesses and community organizations working to cultivate the local green economy on the island. Research and Development’s Island of Hawaii Green Economy Report, illustrates the current momentum and the emerging potential of Hawaii‘ Island to become more self-sufficient. Doing so requires the commitment of everyone — consumers, businesses, community organizations, and government — to shift our habits and prioritize the production and consumption of as much of our food, energy, building materials, and other goods. Every dollar we spend is a reflection of our core values, so let’s remember that we can often choose to buy local and support the island economy. Shifting even 5 percent of your home or business budget can make a big difference.

Michael Kramer is a Managing Partner of Natural Investments, a sustainable and responsible investment advisor, co-founder of the Hawai‘i Alliance for a Local Economy, and Vice-President of the Sustainability Association of Hawai’i.

The article spurred a great online comment from County Council member James Weatherford:

Thanks, Michael. In a local economy, it is very true that “What comes around, goes around.” Local businesses hire local employees and buy goods and services from other local businesses. On an island, in an archipelago of other islands, this effect is amplified.

In every decision I make on the County Council, the impact on the local economy will be foremost in my mind.


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