There are lots of reasons why you should buy local.... but are they compelling? I reflect on supporting the little guy, with Tinker Designs as my case in point.
The economic argument for buying local is that doing so keeps money flowing through the people of local businesses which creates and sustains more jobs and a greater variety of businesses.
Yet in a modern economy, almost nothing is entirely local. For example, an apple may be grown on a tree locally but the bees may be imported to pollenate the fruit, the fertilizers to help grown the tree and the pallets to bring the apple to market may all be imported from elsewhere.
One particular example which I find hard is makeup - I am yet to hear of an awesome makeup company that is New Zealand made. This means you need to go back to MAC, Bobbi Brown or Revlon, no matter how much you'd love to buy makeup locally, in my experience.
Buying locally is what we’ve done for thousands of years - it's not until modern transportation took off that we ended up with a global village of choice. Today we utilize ideas from all over the world and use our purchasing power, which has increased variety and lowered the price through competition. Let's not pretend: we do rely on outside business, the biggest example being the wonderful expansion of specialist jobs that have evolved through an online market place. Now you can work for a US company as a designer, while basing yourself in the Bay of Islands. Win, right!
But in my eyes, buying local isn’t just about buying things in close proximity – it’s a whole range of other amazing things. Here are three reasons why I like looking for local products and services:
1. You're buying better quality
Everything I recommend on this blog I do not just because it is local, but because I think that the creator has designed a world class product. For instance, the box mirror in these pictures is made by a talented Wellington business, Tinker Design. Each piece is carefully hand crafted and uses solid timber. The grain of the wood is different from piece to piece because they are hand made. In fact, everything they made, from Chopping Boards to cute wooden robots and funny-punny little pictures for the home is hand crafted. Which leads to my second point...
2. You're buying smarter
Hand made, or smaller batch made goods are often better quality. On top of this, when we have a personal relationship with our local shop owner or manufacturer or service provider, we are likely to automatically imbue value it more, because we see the person behind the goods as having worked to provide something. When we buy something from a large chainstore, we may already un-consiously have a 'wear it, dump it' mind-frame. This is bad for mother earth., as well as your wallet.
Brands like Ikea, Top Shop or more locally somewhere like 'Valley Girl' (RIP) become disposable. They come to mean "wear it once" or "throw it away when moving houses". So if you buy locally, you will tend to look after the item better and appreciate the effort that went into making it by the individual behind the brand. I love that Daniel Santure, who is the designer behind Tinker, had to tell me he needed a few weeks before I got my mirror, because he was actually making it by hand. Sometimes, like the Mainland Cheese Ad says, good things take time.
3. You're buying a real story
Daniel makes his Tinker Design products himself, locally in Wellington. He also is a secondary school teacher at Scots College in Seatoun. The business sprung out of, literally, his tinkering around. With his partner, Sophie Taylor, the pair put love into everything that they make. To me, this story is part of the magic and why I would tell other people to seek Dan out, at a reasonable price, rather than going to Freedom Furniture to get some home-ware. It has a provenance - a story - and I think of that story each time I look at the mirror in my home.
Corporations are latching onto the story as a value adding marketing tool. Recently, Frucor, who are mass producers of commercial fruit juices and Pepsi products, developed a honey based soft drink called 'Humble' which gives a portion of profits back to the people taking care of bees. While that's lovely, it could also be seen a bit deceptive, a wolf in sheep's clothing if you will. While it's tricky to find out, Humble is not an independent brand despite the way it's marketed. It is actually owned by a big corporation and was released as a 'feel good' product, while Pepsi bottles fill landfills. This is a shame when there are amazing brands who give back, like Almighty Juice who work with local schools in Wellington, doing great work without the posturing. Similarly, years back L'Oreal bought The Body Shop (which famously never tested on animals), a once revolutionary skincare brand that now barely pays lip-service to the values of animal and human rights it once stood up for. Meanwhile, L'Oreal, which does test on animals, reaps the financial rewards. Why would you want to keep on giving them your money when there are incredible skin care brands made right here in Wellington?
The best way for us to keep supporting local is to create better quality services and products. We need to make sure we know what we are buying and who that brand belongs to. We need to actively seek out people like Dan and support them so that they earn a fair wage, and we get the real deal in our home. Yes, we do have to pick and choose but we can all educate ourselves a bit more, a think about what we are buying before voting with our wallet. After all, charity starts at home...so why not spend in your home-town?
Source for Frucor information: NZ Herald