One of the things I have tried my best to sustain in my day to day life, is the act of buying things that are created as locally as possible. This practice makes sense more than ever now. With the economy being what it is and everyone striking out on their own to making a living, it is pretty much our civic duty to support each other and our communities. Purchasing locally made products keeps the money and, by proxy, the livelihood, around you. This eventually provides a better society and a neighborhood that is closer, more tight-knit. When you care for your community, they end up caring for you right back. Even if that equals just a smile walking by on the street.
In the case of food, it also benefits you greatly. Not only do you get something that is fresher and (often) healthier than anything you could get at a big box store, you also meet the cultivator of that food. When you shake your local farmer's hand, you are making a distinct emotional connection. One, I have noticed, that they often do not forget. In this deep electronically connected age, it is amazing how disconnected we have become to the immediate space around us. Everyone looking at screens on the street corner, on the bus, in the elevator, at the dinner in the restaurant... I'm guilty of it too! But the cool part is that it honestly doesn't need to be this way. At least not all of the time. There are a lot of ways we all can make a difference with minimal effort. Be it through our local farmer's market or food coop, a local music store, breweries, general stores, restaurants, clothing stores... there are a lot of options for us all to pitch in for very little to no additional cost.
I could go on about the ethics of this situation, but I think we can all agree: helping the people around you is a good thing.
One great use case scenario of this came from the last long weekend I took with Melinda in state. We were in a beer and wine shop and, being a local beer enthusiast (something North Carolina is quickly becoming renowned for), I was looking for a few bottles of something new to kick back and enjoy during the hot afternoon. There were dozens of domestics and imports but my eyes fell on on a new local beer I had not tried yet. In fact I had never even seen it before. I picked up a bottle and before I could even read where it was from, the person running the shop piped up and said that her husband brewed that beer right here in town and that it is bottled and distributed just south of where we were.
Sold! It was pretty much the freshest beer I would ever find outside of going to a brewery and drinking right from the tap (which is also immensely enjoyable!). I grabbed a six pack and thanked the kind lady for keying me into buying her husband's beer. It was the perfect situation! It was a product I knew I would enjoy, supporting a local craftsmen, putting money into a shop that only they owned, in their own home town.
Of course this is not possible for a lot of people. Depending on where you live, it may not be an option to get to a farmer's market (though they are popping up everywhere nowadays), or even into a town center that can provide any local options. If that is the case, buy regional, or even national. I guarantee you will not be able to do it every time you are out shopping. But if you can do it when you are able too, it always makes a difference.
This shouldn't be about national pride (though it certainly can be), or some latest fad (which would be something I could actually get behind). It should be about lending each other a hand and not ignoring the world around us. It could also be about living healthier as well.
All good things.
Not too long ago, in the grand scheme of things, this is how the human race took care of themselves and each other. We were all only as strong our communities. While I do not think we have forgotten that completely, I do think we have pulled way back from what we once were. Progress is always good, but not at the expense of complete isolation. The cost of constant convenience is common place now, especially with the current generation. Kids and young adults know so many things that I didn't even conceptualize when I was their age. I actually am in the camp that thinks this is a good thing. It is how we evolve as a society and it's amazing to see us all foster a global community through our technology.
But again, it is incredibly important that we keep that sense of local community as well. And we do this by supporting each other. Because while ones and zeroes can enhance our lives to unthinkable levels, they can not replace the reality that is "you" and "I" breathing in the same immediate space. They can not replace the reality of "us".
At least not yet anyway. ;)