“Think globally, act locally” is a motto that is slowly, but steadily, emerging as a world trend. It’s all about consumers moving towards locally-sourced products and is directly related to the movement of reconnecting with local traditions, foods and life in general.
In a fast-paced world where globalisation is seen as sucking the authenticity out of living, many are embracing the culture of supporting and buying local. And now this label – “local” – is gaining such a massive following it is becoming a stronger prerequisite for buying than even “organic”.
As consumers move away from large retailers, they are finding alternatives in the businesses within their own cities and communities. Farmers, clothing manufacturers, designers, ceramics studios, cosmetics producers – consumers are looking for artisans who produce their wares locally and sell them on a small scale.
I am an ardent supporter of the “support local, buy local” movement – and with the dire straits our economy finds itself in, I believe that encouraging this initiative is even more imperative for the coming years.
Why are local products desirable?
To my mind, there are two reasons they are becoming more desirable:
- A move towards ethical consumption that embraces concepts like human rights, animal welfare and organic food. Think of the “slow food” or “slow fashion” concepts. Think Fair Trade. All these social movements have contributed towards the movement away from mass consumption to a more “authentic” consumptive experience.
In 2007 the New Oxford American Dictionary chose “locavore” as its word of the year. Locavores are by definition “people who maintain a small carbon footprint by eating locally-produced food, emphasising freshness, taste and purity of food produce as well as taking care of the local environment”. This choice was influenced largely by the fact that more and more environmental groups, chefs, writers and bloggers are lauding the benefits of local, fresh, organic and good quality food, clothing or other artisanal goods.
- The high number of scandals we have been made aware of in the media has also caused consumers to sit back and take stock. The push to know where our food comes from has grown and now consumers are asking where their meat, eggs and fresh produce come from.
Similarly, we are hearing more and more stories of garment workers, producing highly coveted brands, burning in locked a locked factory in Bangladesh or being locked in buildings without toilet breaks in China. In a world where big brands are profiting at the cost of human lives and dignity, many of us are asking why and what can be done to halt this trend. In an attempt to hold brands accountable, consumers are asking questions like #WhoMadeMyClothes or are your products tested on animals.
What is “local” in SA?
In South Africa, local products are usually marked with a logo in the colours of the South African flag accompanied by the words “Proudly South African”. These products are mostly found in larger stores. Locally made or grown products from smaller businesses can be sourced online – I find Facebook and Instagram especially useful in this regard.
Of course, I am aware that we cannot buy everything that is locally made. Even I have a fridge made in South Korea, a phone from the US and a German-made motor vehicle. But, I strongly believe we can become more aware of what is made in South Africa by doing a little bit of research.
Where can you start buying local?
One of the hubs of the local shopping trend is the farmers’ market and flea market. Another source of local food is farm shops – not easily found in Durban, but a short drive north, south or west is sure to lead you to such shops. In Durban, the iHeart Market is just one market at which you can find well-priced and quality locally produced clothing, food and even alcohol. And if it’s fresh produce you’re after, why not head on to the Shongweni Farmers Market or Litchi Orchard.
Stroll through Rivertown Triangle and Station Road precinct for some fantastic clothing outlets. Fashion with a conscience is also a passion for me and I am an avid supporter of Fashion Revolution.
It may seem daunting to find these places at first, but a little patience, leg work and savvy will set you on the right path in a jiffy.
The love for all things local extends to the growing trend of people growing their own food. Vegetable and herb gardens at the very least can be found in almost every home in my neighbourhood, when a few years back we simply headed to the local supermarket for what we needed.
Why we should support local
- Buying local supports and strengthens small businesses and the local economy. When we buy local, a lot more of the money we spend stays in the community.
- It encourages job creation – by buying a locally-made bath mat, for example, you are ensuring the person making it has a job.
- It sustains local jobs – continued patronage at the business that sells that bath mat ensures that same person has a job for the foreseeable future.
- Buying local grows local investments.
- There is also the fact that by supporting smaller businesses you are encouraging creativity, innovation and entrepreneurship.
- Buying local encourages better quality of products. If a small business owner does not want to lose you to a larger store that sells a range of the same product for you to choose from, that person will strive to ensure the product on offer is of the highest quality.
- Better customer service – there is nothing more frustrating than dealing with large corporations. Much of our frustration stems from the fact that we are a single fish in a big sea and there is little concern that the company will lose us as a customer. Shopping locally is a different experience altogether. When you shop locally, that business owner is usually connected to every one of his/her employees – from the person making the product to the salesperson in the store. This makes the relationship between employer and employee, owner and customer more personal. And this often means any problem you have as a customer is taken seriously.
- It encourages us to be more patriotic and supportive of our country and its produce
- Knowing the people behind a business personally affords you a special connection with them. You celebrate their successes with them, you feel their losses too. It nurtures a sense of camaraderie no chain store will ever provide. I often buy my clothes from a little boutique that stocks only locally produced items. Shopping there was a pleasure because when I walked in, the salesperson knew me by name and pulled out exactly what I would like off the rails. My shopping experience was always more fun and less stressful. I never tried on anything that didn’t suit my frame because she knew exactly what my style and needs were. In the end, a shopping excursion to said boutique saw me leaving with two or three items instead of the required single purchase. This type of personalised service is what most of us prefer.
- Local businesses give a community its distinct flavour. Chain stores can be found anywhere in South Africa, and by extension – the world. But local businesses contribute to setting your little town or larger city apart from the rest. By supporting these local businesses, we are ensuring that we preserve that uniqueness.
- Buying local foods has many health benefits. When you buy from local, small-scale farmers you are gaining access to fruit and vegetables that you know are free of chemicals. Similarly, buying eggs and meat from local suppliers also allows you to ensure what you place on your table is as wholesome as possible.
- Local produce is believed to ensure higher nutritional values when compared with imported produce that has suffered from lengthy transport times.
As I embrace the culture of supporting local, I encourage you to join the “local” revolution. It’s a small way of honouring and sustaining the lives and the earth that sustains us.
Do you support local? I would love to hear about the businesses you support and why. Drop me a mail or comment below.
In an ongoing exercise of championing this worthy cause I am planning a number of blogs showcasing local businesses and why we should support them. If you have such a business, drop me a mail or comment below and I will be in touch.