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What is Local? Expanding the Definition
Posted By Beth Terry On November 12, 2008 @ 10:52 am In Personal Musings | 10 Comments
The topic of this month’s APLS Carnival  is “buying local,” which seems to be an important factor in the sustainability movement. In the SF Bay Area, we have year-round farmer’s markets where local producers bring us their fresh crops all year. So for someone attempting to live plastic-free, it’s not hard to add “buying local” to the mix.
Except when it is hard.
Several months ago, I asked your opinion  about which was better environmentally — plastic-wrapped local cheese or waxed plastic-free cheese from Ireland. And surprisingly, most of you voted for the Irish cheese, saying that regardless of plastic, it’s probably just better.
So it seems that some folks make exceptions to the local rule when it comes to foods from “expert” regions of the world. But I have a few more exceptions and redefinitions to add to the mix. I get that buying local is better for the environment because it reduces fuel miles and because foods grown locally do not need as much in the way of chemicals and energy to keep them fresh. But there’s another reason: community. And sometimes community is not found within a 100-mile radius of where you live.
I had no qualms about ordering cloth napkins from Cat (who lives in New York), even though I could have bought some cloth napkins here in Oakland, for the following reasons:
1) Cat is my friend.
2) I knew that Cat wouldn’t send me any plastic packaging (including plastic tape!). She’s a Fake Plastic Fish reader and trying to reduce her own plastic waste.
3) Supporting Cat is supporting the environment because she’s likely to spend her money in ways that are environmentally-friendly. Right Cat?
4) Supporting Etsy sellers is a way to make sure that the cratspeople creating the products we purchase get a fair price for their creations because they set the prices themselves!
5) Supporting each other’s work creates community — even if we live many, many miles apart. It’s a different kind of local, isn’t it?
Oh, and when I told Cat I was going to post about her napkins (which are awesome) on Fake Plastic Fish, she wanted me to let you know that she’ll do some kind of discount for Fake Plastic Fish readers, so if you place an order, let her know you read about her shop here.
At the Green Bean, I can fill up my travel mug with fair trade organic coffee and have a sandwich made and placed into my reusable container. (Yes, the container is plastic. I haven’t found a better non-disposable alternative yet, but I’m working on it.) Better than supporting Starbucks, certainly. But more important to me, I’ve gotten to know Dan and his business partner Brett over the years, and I have a great time every time I visit the cafe.
Dan is one of the funniest guys in town. He and I don’t necessarily agree politically (as I discovered on election day) but we agree in other basic, human ways. In fact, he and Brett have set up a container at the shop for local folks to drop off used Brita filter cartridges instead of mailing them to us. And he gets really excited when people bring in their filters.
Besides the coffee, the food itself might not all be organic or local, but the spirit of the place creates community in a world where people too often find themselves separate from each other. These guys know pretty much everyone in the neighborhood, which is rare and precious in our disjointed world.
I had been buying soap from a local woman at the Ashby flea market. I was supporting her simply because she was local. I didn’t know her personally and I never asked about the ingredients she used in her soaps — fair trade? organic? I do believe they were free of synthetics.
But after reading the discussion on Burbanmom, I actually switched to the Dr. Bronner’s soap bars. They are 100% organic. 100% fair trade. The wrappers and containers are made from 100% post-consumer recycled materials. Here is a company trying in every way possible to be sustainable. They are not local to me, and I don’t have a personal relationship with them. But maybe those things don’t matter.
Or maybe Dr. Bronner’s creates a different kind of community — a meeting of like minds coming together at the organic foods shop to refill their peppermint soap bottles. This company has been around so long and created such good will in the green and “hippie” community that they maybe deserve to be honorary “locals” wherever you happen to find their products.
Article printed from My Plastic-free Life: http://myplasticfreelife.com
URL to article: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/11/what-is-local-expanding-definition/
URLs in this post:
 APLS Carnival: http://theaplsblog.blogspot.com
 Several months ago, I asked your opinion: http://myplasticfreelife.com/2008/04/dairy-wars-battle-of-milk-cheese/
 Cat Domiano, aka The Green Cat: http://www.etsy.com/shop.php?user_id=6004909
 Take Back The Filter campaign: http://www.takebackthefilter.org/
 The Green Bean Cafe: http://www.yelp.com/biz/green-bean-oakland
 discussion on Burbanmom’s blog: http://burbanmom.blogspot.com/2008/04/212-bah-bah-black-sheep.html
 Dr. Bronner’s castile soaps: http://www.drbronner.com/DBMS/LS.htm
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